Friday, May 13, 2016

Beaton by Bailey

I recently found my new favorite Roku channel: M2M, or Made to Measure, the video channel of IMG, which, among other services, produces fashion weeks around the world. The channel's programming focuses on fashion, of course, and includes such documentaries as Valentino: The Last Emperor, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, and Battle at Versailles. One of the featured documentaries, which I had never before seen, was Beaton by Bailey, the 1971 documentary on Cecil Beaton. Produced by famed fashion photographer David Bailey, the documentary is fascinating, but not for the reasons one might expect. Although I found Beaton's reflections and commentary interesting, I really did not discover anything new about the man.  Once you've read his diaries, you know Beaton and his personality well- sometimes, too well.

But what did interest me in this film were the glimpses into rooms whose photographed interiors we've studied for years.  There is a memorable scene in which Beaton is interviewed in his winter garden at Reddish House, his Wiltshire estate:

The winter garden at Reddish House

There is also a party scene in Beaton's black-velvet clad London drawing room:

Different views of Beaton's London drawing room

A few of the notable party guests included photographer Patrick Lichfield and artist David Hockney.  Once the party was over, Bailey interviewed Beaton's cook, who declared the party a success because the guests enjoyed the Chili con carne that was served to them.

What is also fun about the documentary are the scenes with Beaton's friends and colleagues.  They include friend and former schoolmate, Cyril Connolly, who joins Beaton for lunch at The Ritz, as well as Beaton's sisters, Nancy and Baba, who animatedly recall the old days.  We've seen so many glamorous photos of the sisters in their youth, so it's interesting to see them as mature women.

Nancy and Baba Beaton, photographed by their brother in 1925

But my favorite scene in the documentary has to be the interview with Diana Vreeland and Truman Capote, who were filmed in Vreeland's famous "Garden in Hell" living room.  It's worth watching this documentary for these scenes alone.

Diana Vreeland's Garden in Hell Living Room

Although Vreeland appeared to put a positive spin on Beaton's sometime-insufferable personality, Capote made no effort to do so.  His waspish comments include this quip about Beaton's penchant for making enemies:  "He gathers enemies the way others gather roses."  Now imagine that comment uttered in Capote's babyish drawl, and you'll understand why I found this scene, and the rest of the documentary, delectable.

If you'd like to watch it yourself (and I strongly urge you to do so), check out M2M on Roku and Apple TV.  You can also watch the documentary on the channel's website.


  1. Cote de Texas did a great post on Beaton's home. Very fun. I wasn't familiar with Roku, but it looks like it's available in France. So thank you!

  2. Many thanks for this tip. It's a free download and I'm all set to watch it on my iPad.

  3. This is great! Thank you, Jennifer.

  4. Oh, came across this on M2M a little while ago! It was fun watching David Bailey charm the pants of his gifted elders too.