A bit of fashion history at the Cinema Museum
Saturday, June 8, 2013 at 07:45AM
Joyatri in 1930s, Cecil Beaton, Cinema Museum, Fashion, Travel, Valentina, Video

With the Queen’s 60th Coronation anniversary just past, it seems fitting that I was able to learn more about the photographer of the official Coronation photo, Cecil Beaton.

Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton, 2 June 1953, Museum no. PH.311-1987 © V&A Images A. and I went back to the Cinema Museum to hear a talk about Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) by Hugo Vickers. Beaton appointed Vickers as his biographer and died after they had met just twice. But with complete access to all of his letters and papers, Vickers was able to document Beaton’s extraordinary life.

Beaton started as photographer but also did set and costume design for theater productions while still at university. Before PhotoShop, he was retouching photos of his upper-class clientele, nipping in a waist or removing wrinkles. For the most part, his subjects were pleased; only the Queen Mother (when she was a young woman) asked that he remove the retouching.

As a young man Beaton sought out aristocratic “bright young things” and created a niche for himself amongst them. It was only natural that he moved on to the most glamorous subjects of the time--Hollywood film stars--and also royal subjects. He worked for Vanity Fair and Vogue as a fashion and society photographer, and when assigned to document the home front during the Second World War, created haunting images. The Home Front 1940 -1941: The western bell towers of St Paul's Cathedral in London seen through an archway after the heavy incendiary raid of 29 December 1940 © IWM (MH 2718)His portraits had life and immediacy.

Queen Elizabeth II; Prince Charles by Cecil Beaton vintage bromide print, December 1948 8 1/8 in. x 7 3/4 in. (205 mm x 196 mm) acquired Cecil Beaton, 1977 NPG x29597 © V&A ImagesVickers showed a short clip of the Ascot scene from the 1964 film 'My Fair Lady,' for which Beaton did the costume and set design. I’ve seen snippets of this film but can’t believe I’ve never seen the whole thing—something I plan to rectify very soon.

Valentina, in a hat of her own designOf course, there was some discussion of Beaton’s affair with Greta Garbo, but I was more interested in hearing about Valentina, the fashion designer wife of Garbo’s friend/bodyguard/assistant. She was the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. This video features the show's curator speaking about Valentina's designs.

The Cinema Museum is housed in the administration block for Lambeth’s former Victorian Workhouse which coincidentally sheltered a very young Charlie Chaplin in the 1890s.

Timetables, movie marquees, and even seats and lengths of carpeting from old movie theaters.The Museum contains all manner of cinema artifacts including projectors, interior furnishings, movie posters, film star stills and even usher uniforms.

Drinks offered at the film screening There is a corridor devoted to Charlie Chaplin. The grand hall, where films are screened, includes a café, bar, and book shop. There's a bit of a homey 'clubhouse' feel to events there as I get the feeling that it is frequented by a regular group of very serious film buffs.

Hanging out with Charlie Chaplain in the stairwell of the Cinema MuseumMust run over to the library to get the DVD of 'My Fair Lady' now.


Article originally appeared on (http://www.joyatri.com/).
See website for complete article licensing information.