Sunday, May 27, 2012

Full Lives

This week -- photographer Virginia Thoren, Carmen Dell'Orefice, Leonard Bernstein, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lord and Lady Londonderry and Georgie Fame, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, Anthony Perkins, Fred Astaire and Ava Gardner, and America's Best-Known Bulgarian!

First up:    Photographer of Fur - Virginia Thoren.

These seven ads are from the October 15 and December 1959 issues of Vogue.  I am pretty sure the model second from the bottom is Carmen Dell'Orefice, seen below to better advantage  in another photo from this same shoot.

From June Bateman Fine Art 

Ms.  Thoren's work never appeared in a Vogue editorial, but I'll bet she had more pages over the course of the years than most photographers.  She was graduated from the Pratt Institute in 1942, and joined the Vogue art department under the direction of Alexander Liberman.  In 1944 she began work at a new ad agency whose clients included Bergdorf Goodman, I. Magnin and EMBA mink.  The agency sent her to France after the war as an art director.  Ms. Thoren bought herself a camera and taught herself photography.  She opened her own penthouse studio in New York in 1952.

Ms. Thoren is 92 and still lives in Manhattan.   I spoke briefly by phone with her this week.  Her voice reminded me of Barbara Bel Geddes's in Vertigo - a bright, precise drawl.  Although she photographed people not wearing fur coats, landscapes and did editorial work for other magazines, she said it was "just ordained" that she would work with fur.

"It's warm, cozy and beautiful.  I was interested in fur at Pratt.  I used everything (in photo shoots).  Whatever my eyes caught.  What the light told me.  Artificial, strobe, anything.  You couldn't always go outside.  I just used my eyes."

And her favorite fur?  "I like raccoon!"

Which I have yet to see in Vogue.

With this spread I begin a forced march to the good stuff - the big editorial spreads of which there is so little in relation to the ads and the jump pages.  Although a speed bump arises right here - I love the society pages!

Here's what it says:  "The New York Philharmonic, still glowing with the success of this summer's European tour, played a splendid "Egmont" and some rousing Shostakovitch at the season's opening concert, conducted with characteristic buoyancy by Leonard Bernstein.  Green leaves festooned the boxes at Carnegie Hall and many of the audience went on -- in array that was truly glittering -- to the party for Mr. Bernstein at the Plaza."

Wow - that is sure straightforward copy for Vogue!  

The New York Times thought Mr. Bernstein was "buoyant" as well.

"President of the Philharmonic, Mr. David Keiser, and Mrs. Keiser receive guests at the reception." But what is she wearing?  The designer never mentioned.  In Vogue.  Would it have still been vulgar to mention your clothes?  In Age of Innocence, women buy clothes in Paris, bring them home, don't wear them for about three years, then apologetically bring them forth.  When did this change?

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Bernstein
We will see him again in a few pages, so let's move on.

Another place I've never been - next trip to New York.

Left to right, Mrs. Stephane Groueff, Mrs. John Barry Ryan II, and Mr. Stephane Groueff.
Agghhr - I was hoping to skim past with some lost-to-history folks, but here is America's best known (and most fascinating)  Bulgarian!  (Obit form the New York Sun for a change.)  Mr. Stephane Groueff was a journalist and man-about-town who later wrote The Manhattan Project.  Mrs. Stephane Groueff was the former Lillian Fox, a model of the 1940's.

Yet Mrs. John Barry Ryan, II is the more vivid woman in the photo.  And she is the former Margaret Kahn, who married John Barry Ryan when he was just a junior in 1926 - uniting two of America's richest families, according to the wedding announcement.  It was noted that Miss Kahn was an Episcopalian (. . . ?)  and Mr. Ryan was a Catholic.  I do not know how that worked out, but there was a John Barry Ryan, III.  Next.

At the musician's table - Therese Milstein, wife of violinist Nathan Milstein, a famous violinist, and Mr. Gerald Warburg, cellist.  Having a very nice time.

A bit of a break here.  Mrs. Lytle Hall on the left and the unnamed wife of Italian Ambassador Egidio Ortona on the right.  Mrs. Hall is wearing a dress from the 1930s.  "Lytle Hall" is found twice in the New York Times, in 1904 and 1907, buried in lists of attendees at parties also attended by the Dealanos and the Roosevelts and other such folk.  You can hardly get classier than that - an old dress, and just the barest breath of publicity, but the right kind, of course.

What are they talking about?  They remind me of the Monty Python ladies.

I would love to know what the wife of the Ambassador is wearing.

Mr. and Mrs. Ethan A. Hitchcock.  He:  all around civic leader and blue blood; she:  all around civic leader and granddaughter of railroad baron.  Both of these people seem so busy that it's a wonder they made it to this.

Anyone look familiar here?  It's Gloria Vanderbilt!  Mother of Anderson Cooper and here, wife of Sidney Lumet.  And who are her fun friends?  Why, Lord and Lady Londonderry!  Or, Derry. . . This guy is the most contemporary looking guy I've seen yet in Vogue.

This is the 9th Marquess of Londonderry, 21 in this photo.  His full name is Alexander Vane-Tempest Stewart.  Lady Londonderry is Nicolette Elaine Katherine Harrison, daughter of a stockbroker and a Latvian Baroness.   While married to Lord Londonderry, Lady Londonderry had a son by singer Georgie Fame.  She later jumped off the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol.  I hope the intervening years were somewhat happier than this.

The first record I bought was Georgie Fame's Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde.  Still have it.  Don't have my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, though.

The Conde Nast table:  artist Rene Bouche, Mrs. Samuel  Newhouse and Mr. Donald Newhouse.  We'll see all these people again.  

Ah - I forgot to photograph the Arpege page and I'm not going back.  Not after all of this.  And anyway, perfume snob that I have become, I am not interested in a cheap micro-mist spray.  She looks as if she's using a spray tan.

And penultimately -- a quick look back at a post from the October 15, 1959 issue:

. . . Hiroshima, Mon Amour: "jumpy, complex, with a subtle performance by Emmanuelle Riva, who is rather a French Garbo."

Which is when I realized, hey!  I've never seen this.  What other movies of 1959 haven't I seen?  Which led the way to Violent Summer and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Violent Summer - -

*Italy, toward end of World War II.  Teen-aged son of fascist politician and widow fall in love.

*When Jean-Louis Trintignant takes Eleanora Rossi Drago in his arms. . .

*Moody, beautiful cinematography, well-paced.

Well, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant star together in Amour, having a moment at Cannes, right now in 2012.


Let's go to the movies!

*  Doomed Australians await  radiation poisoning after nuclear war.   On The Beach -- no trailer.  Why not?  Suggests a whopping amount of undeserved neglect.  I saw this when I was 10 or so.  It was so depressing that I wasn't sure I wanted to see it again.  I think this film is the reason I still can't hear  Waltzing Matilda without tearing up.

*  Yet this movie is very, very sad without being depressing.  Goes right up to the edge of hopelessness and topples over, but quite beautiful in the pause before the fall.   Everyone is going to die, yet no one behaves badly.  I guess because they're Australians.  Only the American is embarrassingly delusional.

* Except for the attempts and fails at Australian accents, Anthony Perkins, Fred Astaire and Ava Gardner are excellent.  This film came right before Psycho made a cartoon out of Anthony Perkins.  Fred Astaire should have played more character roles.  I always thought of Ava Gardner as a generic movie star, like Kim Novak, but here she is the hero -- strong, sexy and heartbreaking.
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