Monday, July 26, 2010

Avedon, Stars, and Style

I think that I'm predisposed towards interiors, fashion, food, celebrities, and the cognoscenti of yesteryear. Perhaps it's genetics, or maybe I was born in the wrong era. I don't know, but it really does seem that style- an individual sense of style, that is- was more prevalent "back then". Seeing an actress today, for example, schlepping her Starbucks cup while wearing Uggs just kind of ruins it for me. You know what I mean?

A book that seems to drive this point home is one that a
photographer friend gave me recently- Performance: Richard Avedon, a compilation of his photos of performers. Noel Coward is in it as well as Diana Vreeland (if blog posts are any indication, we still revere this woman today.) Hepburn (both of them), Porter, Nureyev, and Capote also make appearances.

So, without further ado, here are a few images that caught my eye. And as I couldn't resist adding a design twist to this post, I'm also including a few images of their respective homes- just to help prove my point that these luminaries did have quite a sense of style.

Was there anyone with as much flair as Cole Porter?

Well, yes, but it wasn't a "who" but rather a "what": his Billy Baldwin designed apartment in Waldorf Towers.

If there was anyone who could give Porter a run for his money in terms of wit and a way with words, it was Noel Coward.

One might have expected his London home (shown here in 1937) to be frothy, but instead it's a bit rustic around the edges.

We all remember Edward G. Robinson as the cinema's ultimate mobster.

But did you know that he also had a renowned collection of Impressionist paintings, shown off to great effect in his Beverly Hills home? His home, by the way, was the handiwork of Samuel Marx and Frances Elkins. I bet that Little Caesar would never had had such elegant digs.

Rex Harrison. Leave it to "Sexy Rexy"... have such a sexy dining room courtesy of Keith Irvine.

They say that Marlene Dietrich was the ultimate hausfrau. You certainly would not have known that by looking at this photograph.

You wouldn't have known it by her palatial Beverly Hills home, either.

(All portraits from Performance: Richard Avedon. Porter home photo from Billy Baldwin Decorates; Coward home photo from a 1937 issue of Arts & Decoration. Robinson home from UltraModern: Samuel Marx Architect, Designer, Art Collector; Harrison dining room shot from Keith Irvine: A Life in Decoration. Dietrich photo from House Beautiful, 9/2001.)


  1. Oh, great post!! Love seeing the homes of these famous people...very interesting!!

  2. I'm in the same boat as you!
    Thanks for such a thoughtful and well put together post! This starts my week out right foot forward!

  3. Great post!! I could not agree more regarding current celebrities...pretty boring compared to the mid-century giants of glamor.

  4. Jen - We're on the same wavelength. You picked MY favorites from this marvelous Avedon book... love that Rex Harrison shot while in the barber's chair and your keenly pairing it with a glimpse of his dining room library.

    You've got quite an eye. Ever think of using your obvious talent and sharp eye behind the lens more?

    Hmm... maybe you are a future Avedon?

    But whatever your destiny, you must always keep up this fab blog!

    Denis Reggie


  5. Jennifer, such great iconic figures from the past! There was such an elegance and flair during that era!

    Art by Karena

  6. Anonymous2:43 PM

    Dietrich lived in a series of furnished rented homes and they all came. Marlene also called Porter’s flat at the Waldorf “Ever so hired decorator chic”
    She loved Noel…

  7. Most enjoyable!

    When I see images like these and remember movies from the 30s and 40s I wholeheartedly agree with you on wanting have lived during those times, putting a certain lack of freedom and certain prejudices aside.

    No Uggs or Crocs have ever touched me feet.



  8. Great post. I have often thought I was born in the wrong era fashion era. And those Olsen twins! Sheesh!