Having just celebrated International Women’s Day, we thought we’d take a look at some of history’s most memorable females that set the bar for silver-screen eminence high. In her introduction to the book The Power of Glamour, Annette Tapert cites one particular decade and a half as a time of true glamour in America: “It came from Hollywood, starting in the silent era and lasting until the start of World War II,” she wrote, adding that at its most vivid, which she deemed was during the 1930s, it will always be known as the golden age of cinema. It was a time when glamour “took the drabness of the Depression and simply overwhelmed it, casting a magical spell over the American public.”
The Power of Glamour
The women she chose to include in the book were icons: Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Carole Lombard, Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich are the seven we are highlighting today, each one a perfect lens through which to view some of our most sophisticated offerings.
About Gloria Swanson, Tapert said, “She seized her opportunities as they presented themselves and when they had played themselves out, she cut her losses and moved on, consistently reinventing herself as she went along.” Tapert quoted Cecil B. DeMille as saying, “When you put them all together and add them up, Gloria Swanson comes out the movie star of all movie stars. She had something that none of the rest of them had.” Tapert went on to say, “What Gloria Swanson had was glamour, written in big capital letters in large sparkling lights. And it was Swanson’s dazzling persona in the 1920s that put ‘glamour’—then a rarely used word—into common usage, making it synonymous with Hollywood.”
We were inspired by the jeweled ornamentation on her cloche to choose the Galliard Chandelier for Swanson. The serpentine undulations flowing along the surface of the shade feel resonant in their decorative intricacy. Made of wrought iron in a silver ice finish, the curlicues are covered in rhinestones and crystals. The sparkling stones make the crystal chandelier the perfect accessory for a formal room with an abundance of glamour.
Tapert proclaimed Joan Crawford a true chameleon. “She had massive, sustained success as she redefined and reinvented herself with every era so that her career spanned five decades,” she wrote. During one of her metamorphoses, Crawford began transforming a ten-room Georgian-style house as a stage set for a more confident self. “She decorated it in what she called the ‘apotheosis of taste’ with green and gold brocades, French reproduction furniture, a gilt grand piano presiding in the living room.” Her friend William Haines, a former actor who had become a decorator, wouldn’t have it; he convinced her to toss it all and allow him to create an all-white interior, which was the rage in Hollywood at the time.
We chose for Crawford the Tirtoff Chandelier, which is the perfect juxtaposition of shapes and hues just like her gown in the photo above. Made of wrought iron in a mix of satin black and sugar white finishes, the black and white chandelier lifts perfect white discs that hide the illumination. The shape, and the black and white color combo, give this chandelier a slight Art Deco air that inspired us to name it after the famous artist Romain de Tirtoff. We also offer the Tirtoff as a wall sconce.
“Norma Shearer was the glittering third link in the MGM triumvirate that also included Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo,” Tapert wrote. “Though her screen persona has not remained as indelible as theirs, she brought as much radiance, beauty, and individuality to the screen as her two colleagues.” One possible reason for her lessening of fame is that film historians have dismissed her success because she was the wife of MGM’s head of production as the years have progressed. Tapert sees this as irrelevant “You have only to see her films to know that she was well cast in those parts and that she deserved whatever opportunities came her way.”
As an homage to her flowing gown, we chose our Hadley Chandelier for Shearer, which is made of wrought iron and composite in a gesso white finish to look like a tassel. The white chandelier with its striated bell shape is beautifully feminine, the very definition of glamour. We also offer the Hadley as a pendant and a semi-flush.
When she was tapped to star in Twentieth Century, Tapert described Carole Lombard as “having been featured as an elegant clothes-horse in routine romantic films” up until that point. What made her a media favorite, she added, was Lombard’s madcap off-screen shenanigans. The director of the film that cemented her success was Howard Hawks, who was Lombard’s second cousin. He called her “a marvelous gal, crazy as a bedbug,” and almost fired her for woodenly over-acting when she began shooting with the movie star John Barrymore. He told her to stop; to be herself. “The experience of being turned lose by a director was a watershed event for Lombard,” Tapert explained. “And so, after ten years of ‘acting,’ Lombard relaxed and reinvented herself as the queen of screwball comedy.”
We chose our Mirador Chandelier for this glamourous star because it is up to the task of representing her. Strung with crystal swags that ornament the wrought iron bands in a contemporary gold finish, the chandelier is one of our most sophisticated designs. The six lights will set the beaded chandelier ablaze when the statuesque fixture is switched on.
Katherine Hepburn’s first screen appearance was in 1932 in Bill of Divorcement. It is at this point when Tapert noted Hepburn developed her “Rock of Gibraltar attitude combined with her sporty, man-tailored taste in clothes that has always given her an air of unstudied glamour.” The author claimed it was the sheer force of her own personality that made Hepburn a star. “Self-possessed, strong-willed, independent, an indomitable spirit, Hepburn the woman always transcended Hepburn the actress,” Tapert added, quoting the actress as saying, “I was brought up by two extremely intelligent people who gave me the greatest gift that man can give anyone, and that is freedom from fear.”
We tapped our Ledoux Chandelier for Ms. Hepburn for its tailored profile. Surprisingly, it isn’t fitted with panes of frosted glass but has off-white linen stitched within the wrought iron frame in a blacksmith finish. Lighting designer Tom Caldwell created this combination with great intention, inspired by a canvas and iron lantern he’d seen made of utilitarian tarpaulins, metal eyelets, and turnbuckles. Though the Ledoux has these humble beginnings to thank for its flair, it far outdistances them.
About Greta Garbo, Tapert wrote, “How the world’s most enigmatic screen star was different has been analyzed and dissected since 1926 when she arrived in Hollywood under contract to MGM. Decades later she’s still an enigma.” The author pointed out that no matter how many photographs you see of her or how often you have watched her films, looking at the actress is like looking at the Mona Lisa. “Garbo’s face haunts you, holds you,” Tapert added. “Her beauty put her in a class by herself.”
For this reason, we chose the Firebird Chandelier for Garbo, which is also in a class all its own. The handcrafted metal body forms a structure onto which our skilled artisans attached graduated crystals that form glinting ribs. Ian Thornton, who designed the silver chandelier, says the fixture was made to have a “tromp l’oeil” effect in that the arms seem to pass in front of and behind each other like crystal ribbons. The contemporary silver leaf finish adds to the luminous sheen of the Firebird.
“Marlene Dietrich was a bohemian, a free-thinker, a world-class self-promoter,” wrote Tapert. “In the best sense of the word, she was an adventuress—so much so that, of all her talents, acting was the smallest.” Paramount brought Dietrich to Hollywood in 1930 to compete with Greta Garbo. “The key to Dietrich is her discipline, a commitment to professionalism and glamour so complete that her only rival was Joan Crawford,” Tapert added, quoting the actress as saying, “I grew up with discipline. I knew nothing else in my life.”
The above photo that we chose to represent the femme fatale inspired us to pair her with the Coquette Chandelier, a modern iteration of Art Deco artistry made of slices of optic crystal and metal in an antique brass finish. The crystal blades that line the brass chandelier read like half-moon slivers to bring the fixture a luminous warm-cool sense of glamour.
In wrapping up her introduction to these women, Tapert wrote, “All these actresses lived the part in a way that suggested there was more than an anecdotal congruence between the fashion and glamour they displayed on the screen and the fashion and glamour of their private lives.” The photos of them in this post certainly prove her point. Did you have a favorite pairing in this exploration today? Would you have chosen a different fixture to illustrate any of the glamourous gals?