Greta Garbo did not inhabit this earth. She flitted about in the celluloid heavens, showing her face and, later, offering her voice at sporadic intervals. Her skin was flawless, the arch of her eyebrow was perfection. She was never a child, she never aged. She didn’t cry, and laughed so rarely that when it happened onscreen, the studio focused entire publicity campaigns around it.
She was never Greta; she was always Garbo. And she must be seen — projected, larger-than-life, on the big screen — to be believed.
Garbo is one of the remaining enigmas of Hollywood history: did she love men? Women? Both? Did she turn her back [...]
Dorothy Dandridge was a fighter. Growing up in The Depression and making her way through Hollywood in the ‘40s, she encountered resistance — to her skin color, to her refusal to play demeaning roles — at every turn. She was assailed in the press for dating white men, and blamed herself for her husband’s philandering and her daughter’s brain damage. Nearly every societal convention was against her. And yet she managed to make a handful of gorgeous, invigorating films — films that offer a glimpse at the superstar she would have become if the studios knew what to do with with a beautiful black woman.
Her beauty was [...]
Marlene Dietrich was glamorous in a way we can’t quite understand. Like Greta Garbo, the woman to whom she is so often compared, Dietrich was otherworldly, her face a mask across which emotion flitted and fought. Her every move seemed an exercise in control, a sort of beautifully molded artifice. But Dietrich was no confection: she was a masterpiece. Her formidable sexual appeal stemmed from a stunning androgyny, and an ability to simultaneously embody the passive and the dominating, the masculine and the feminine, the demure and the suggestive. While other Hollywood stars worked to make themselves seem “Just Like Us,” Dietrich was never like us. Her slinking accent, [...]