serpentinemagazine:

PRETTY BOYS AND PATHOS: An IntroductionA column exploring the men of classic Hollywood.By Angelica Jade Bastién
The obsession always begins with an image:
Paul Newman’s eyes, such an impossible shade of blue, as he glowers at Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Bette Davis’s face contorting with anger, using a cigarette to punctuate every insult in All About Eve; Orson Welles framed by shadows in The Third Man; Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara wearing a dress made of curtains the color of spring grass and fresh earth; Garbo’s cool, detached gaze as she studies her object of desire in Flesh and the Devil. 
Then it gains a voice:
Cary Grant’s mid-Atlantic speech moving at an impossible speed in His Girl Friday; Marilyn Monroe’s voice, soft as a kitten’s purr and twice as fragile in The Misfits; the overheated game of masochistic lust that turns Barbara Stanwyck’s voice from cool silk to a jolting gunshot in Double Indemnity; Elizabeth Taylor’s shrill, almost childlike, voice that seems born of a different body entirely.
Then it becomes a way of seeing the world:
I was sixteen when I saw my first classic films—The Sting, The Third Man, and To Have and Have Not—within the span of one week. While, as a black woman, I didn’t have examples of my flesh and blood self on screen, I did see something deeper, more essential that captured my imagination—my emotional landscape.
[…]
“Pretty Boys and Pathos” is primarily concerned with the men who occupied classic Hollywood from the 1920s to the 1960s. It will place their star images next to their real selves, delving into how they related to women on screen and off and what this all says about Hollywood (as an industry, its films, and the myths it believes about itself) then and now. There will be occasional excursions beyond the realm of classic Hollywood, but the underlying questions will remain the same: What are the states of being for men, on screen and off, within the structures of celebrity? How do these men relate to women, each other, and themselves? How does film reflect or forecast certain cultural shifts in gender dynamics? What does the fascination and repulsion toward certain stars and star images say about all the wonderful people looking up at these bright screens in the hushed darkness? 

READ MORE.
Pretty Boys and Pathos is my new ongoing column from Serpentine Magazine about masculinity and the leading men of Old Hollywood.
Below are some pictures of upcoming subjects. Dig it…

serpentinemagazine:

PRETTY BOYS AND PATHOS: An Introduction
A column exploring the men of classic Hollywood.
By Angelica Jade Bastién

The obsession always begins with an image:

Paul Newman’s eyes, such an impossible shade of blue, as he glowers at Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Bette Davis’s face contorting with anger, using a cigarette to punctuate every insult in All About Eve; Orson Welles framed by shadows in The Third Man; Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara wearing a dress made of curtains the color of spring grass and fresh earth; Garbo’s cool, detached gaze as she studies her object of desire in Flesh and the Devil. 

Then it gains a voice:

Cary Grant’s mid-Atlantic speech moving at an impossible speed in His Girl Friday; Marilyn Monroe’s voice, soft as a kitten’s purr and twice as fragile in The Misfits; the overheated game of masochistic lust that turns Barbara Stanwyck’s voice from cool silk to a jolting gunshot in Double Indemnity; Elizabeth Taylor’s shrill, almost childlike, voice that seems born of a different body entirely.

Then it becomes a way of seeing the world:

I was sixteen when I saw my first classic films—The Sting, The Third Man, and To Have and Have Not—within the span of one week. While, as a black woman, I didn’t have examples of my flesh and blood self on screen, I did see something deeper, more essential that captured my imagination—my emotional landscape.

[…]

“Pretty Boys and Pathos” is primarily concerned with the men who occupied classic Hollywood from the 1920s to the 1960s. It will place their star images next to their real selves, delving into how they related to women on screen and off and what this all says about Hollywood (as an industry, its films, and the myths it believes about itself) then and now. There will be occasional excursions beyond the realm of classic Hollywood, but the underlying questions will remain the same: What are the states of being for men, on screen and off, within the structures of celebrity? How do these men relate to women, each other, and themselves? How does film reflect or forecast certain cultural shifts in gender dynamics? What does the fascination and repulsion toward certain stars and star images say about all the wonderful people looking up at these bright screens in the hushed darkness?

READ MORE.

Pretty Boys and Pathos is my new ongoing column from Serpentine Magazine about masculinity and the leading men of Old Hollywood.

Below are some pictures of upcoming subjects. Dig it…

The 1957 film Sweet Smell of Success

Posted 2 weeks ago
October 04 2014
2 notes

Flash Fiction: I Miss You

My heart is a place of ruins.


Do you know about trouble dolls? I think they’re Guatemalan, and they’ve been given to me a lot over the years. The years in Peru, the years in Santa Fe—the floors and the ledges and the shelves were littered with trouble dolls, and my life was littered with trouble. Supposedly, you can pick up these little, handmade, beautiful dolls and tell them your worries, your troubles, then place them in their box and they will worry for you. So you can get some sleep. Well, I put all my troubles in cocaine and booze and heroine and pot and guns and pussy. Those were my trouble dolls. I should have confided in the dolls—the little, handmade ones—more often. I have a point. I swear I do. Marilyn was like a trouble doll for a lot of people: A lot of people needed her because she was beautiful and she was sweet and she was pretty much what a lot of people believed was a perfect woman—a sexual machine with a heart. And a lot of people needed her because they wanted her to fail or to cry or to die, because they wanted to believe that all of her gifts—physical and otherwise—wouldn’t save her or make her happy. So the ugly and the mean-spirited could feel better about their lives and their various lacks. And a lot of people looked at her and saw money and sex and power and an evil sort of joy that comes from getting off. She was a product, a commodity to them. And a lot of people needed her because she so clearly needed a friend, needed some love, and a lot of people really wanted to give this to her. So Marilyn Monroe was this creamy, sweet, beautiful trouble doll for a lot of people, and we whispered to her image or her memory and told her what we needed, what we desired, and then we believed that things would happen or change. And she got put in her box and was put on an eternal shelf, where we can continue to ask of her what we need.-Dennis Hopper in an interview with James Grissom [x]
Do you know about trouble dolls? I think they’re Guatemalan, and they’ve been given to me a lot over the years. The years in Peru, the years in Santa Fe—the floors and the ledges and the shelves were littered with trouble dolls, and my life was littered with trouble. Supposedly, you can pick up these little, handmade, beautiful dolls and tell them your worries, your troubles, then place them in their box and they will worry for you. So you can get some sleep. Well, I put all my troubles in cocaine and booze and heroine and pot and guns and pussy. Those were my trouble dolls. I should have confided in the dolls—the little, handmade ones—more often.

I have a point. I swear I do.

Marilyn was like a trouble doll for a lot of people: A lot of people needed her because she was beautiful and she was sweet and she was pretty much what a lot of people believed was a perfect woman—a sexual machine with a heart. And a lot of people needed her because they wanted her to fail or to cry or to die, because they wanted to believe that all of her gifts—physical and otherwise—wouldn’t save her or make her happy. So the ugly and the mean-spirited could feel better about their lives and their various lacks. And a lot of people looked at her and saw money and sex and power and an evil sort of joy that comes from getting off. She was a product, a commodity to them. And a lot of people needed her because she so clearly needed a friend, needed some love, and a lot of people really wanted to give this to her.

So Marilyn Monroe was this creamy, sweet, beautiful trouble doll for a lot of people, and we whispered to her image or her memory and told her what we needed, what we desired, and then we believed that things would happen or change.

And she got put in her box and was put on an eternal shelf, where we can continue to ask of her what we need.

-Dennis Hopper in an interview with James Grissom [x]
Posted 3 weeks ago
September 27 2014
2 notes

Living In Her Shadow

image

Not only is true love rare and true rebellion rare, real love is itself a radical form of rebellion—engagement, thinking, and being—-Masha Tupitsyn

I’ve been living in the shadow of a woman named Rebecca. At night, I can feel her presence at the edges of the room or the tip of his tongue. His ex-wife. His first love. Rebecca. The one he never wanted to leave but whom left him because her desires went in directions he couldn’t satisfy. There are parts of him I feel will always be hidden from me that her eyes have gazed.

I told him recently that I didn’t want something nebulous. Where I give give give until I’m a fucking husk, just tears and futile anger. I want something concrete and true. I want someone I can create a home with. He’s not ready, of course. And I can respect that. But he says he cares and I feel he cares. So I say I’ll stay even though I feel like I am unspooling already. I feel him pulling away. Yes, let’s take our time and chart the origins of our scars, let’s learn the texture of each other’s laughter. But it has become clear in the last month (so devoid of passion) that I am the only one imagining a future for us, I am the only one really, deeply wanting this to be more than what it has been recently. Dinner and drinks and an occasional fuck. 

Sometimes I feel I have so much love to give, I could burst.

Earlier in the relationship I would take pictures of the bruises I earned. When we fuck it is (was?) an almost violent act. It was the first time I felt like I wasn’t restraining myself. That I was fully present. 

There are a lot of things he doesn’t know about me and I of him. He knows only in brief flashes, like aged polaroids pinned to corkboard, about my thorny family life. He knows nothing about the two headed beast coiling in the pit of my mind I call madness. I take especially great pains to hide my anger from people especially him. And yet IT still bleeds out.

Sometimes I feel I stain people with my presence.

The color of poppies.
The color of open wounds.
The color of my madness.

I know (intellectually) he doesn’t feel like that. And yet I wonder…

Because his kisses taste like a Sunday afternoon but he fucks like a Saturday night.

Because he has a smile so warm, so inviting I know it can’t only reveal itself for me. Because I am censoring myself already. I’m writing him poems I’ll never slip into his pocket. Because I make up such a tiny part of his life and he is already devouring mine.

This all gets me thinking about Joan Fontaine, the cinematic martyr sacrificing herself upon the altar of love again and again. I always turn to Joan Fontaine when my romantic life is going to shit. I think she is the most human of the Old Hollywood stars. Fontaine won’t be reclaimed by feminists or become the sort of Old Hollywood star to be configured as a modern woman, someone to look up to. Her roles are primarily that of women in painful states of becoming brought upon by love. Not just any kind of love but tragic love. Poisonous Love. The kind of love that cuts you to the marrow. The kind of love that pains you and forgets you. Unrequited yet delicious all the same.

She’s constantly in the shadow of something (a memory, a wish) or someone (a first wife, a dead lover).

Even when she plays bad (see: Born to be Bad) eschewing the constraints of her martyrdom she exists in the shadows…of the woman she truly is and the woman she’s pretending to be. She still wants love but doesn’t know what to do with it.

There are whole universes in the way she looks at a man. Universes born of a longing I know all too well.

In an act of masochistic melancholy I watched Rebecca for the first time in years. Even though I am unlike the second, unnamed Mrs. de Winter I see myself in her. She is soft and yielding and naive, where I pretend to be more tough than I really am and have cut my teeth with a healthy amount of cynicism. But we both yearn and love too deeply. We’re both living in the shadow of a woman named Rebecca. We both fucking deserve better. 

In text messages with my friend Michelle we discussed relationship fantasies. And how we’re coming to accept we do want families. I have begun indexing these fantasies, usually while listening to Fiona Apple or Fontaine’s warm voice fluttering in the background. I don’t want to live with my partner (most likely). I am not interested in having children. I dream of being with a man who is a fellow artist I can collaborate with. Or maybe he isn’t an artist but a muse. Someone who is more easy going and stable than I am. Someone who doesn’t mask their true emotions with anger and fear and bitchy comebacks. For a brief moment I thought the man I am still murkily, somewhat with could be this for me. That we could be what we need for each other. He is the first man I have been with that I have ever imagined a future with. That I could see easily fitting into my life for years to come. But he’s too afraid and I’m too damaged. The music of our relationship is just out of key. And then there’s his ex-wife always in the margins. 

Rebecca. Rebecca. Rebecca. I wonder how he says your name in the dark when I’m not around. I wonder if it sounds anything like the way he says mine. 

classicladiesofcolor:


Anna May Wong's Certificate of Identity, August 18, 1924, National Archives at San Francisco.

She was born Wong Liu Tsong in 1905 in Los Angeles to a Cantonese-American family that had lived in America since at least 1855. However, being an American didn’t matter in a time when people of Chinese descent were being heavily legislated against. Beginning in 1909, any people of Chinese descent entering or residing in the US, regardless of the country of their birth, had to carry a Certificate of Identity with them at all times. Even at the peak of her fame, Wong still had to carry papers like the one above to prove she was allowed to be here. Read the rest of the article.

classicladiesofcolor:

Anna May Wong's Certificate of Identity, August 18, 1924, National Archives at San Francisco.

She was born Wong Liu Tsong in 1905 in Los Angeles to a Cantonese-American family that had lived in America since at least 1855. However, being an American didn’t matter in a time when people of Chinese descent were being heavily legislated against. Beginning in 1909, any people of Chinese descent entering or residing in the US, regardless of the country of their birth, had to carry a Certificate of Identity with them at all times. Even at the peak of her fame, Wong still had to carry papers like the one above to prove she was allowed to be here. Read the rest of the article.

oldfilmsflicker:

An Unmarried Woman, 1978 (dir. Paul Mazursky)

oldfilmsflicker:

An Unmarried Woman, 1978 (dir. Paul Mazursky)


Elizabeth Taylor holding the Best Actress Award for her performance in Butterfield 8 at the 1961 Academy Awards.

Elizabeth Taylor holding the Best Actress Award for her performance in Butterfield 8 at the 1961 Academy Awards.

Posted 2 months ago
August 16 2014
1,185 notes

How to Marry a Millionaire may not be a good movie but I have an extreme fondness for it.


© Richard Avedon; Elizabeth Taylor for the Look magazine, 1956.
© Richard Avedon; Elizabeth Taylor for the Look magazine, 1956.