Category Archives: 1920s

Who Remembers Louise Brooks?

Louise Brooks was an American dancer, model, showgirl and silent film actress. She starred in 17 silent films. She started her career as a dancer in a dance company. In her second year with the company she danced in a starring role, but because of a conflict with one of the founders of the company, she was fired from the troupe. She quickly got a job as a chorus girl, and then was a featured dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies. In this position she was noticed by the producer of Paramount Pictures, and he signed her to a five year contract.

Louise Brooks

Over the next few years she had the leading role in many silent comedies and flapper films. It is felt that her best American film was Beggars of Life, a story of a young girl running away from home and riding the rails. She was now rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, and was often a guest at San Simeon, the Hearst estate. By then she was sick of the Hollywood scene, and miffed at not receiving a promised raise, she left Paramount and moved to Europe.

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While in Germany she starred in Pandora’s Box, a controversial film that frankly handled sexuality, including the portrayal of a lesbian, and Diary of a Lost Girl, equally shocking to most people. These films were very adult and were heavily censored.

Two years later when she returned to Hollywood, she was cast in two more modest roles. But they didn’t bring her recognition. When she left Paramount she was put on a sort of blacklist, and she received very few offers. Then her director for Beggars of Life offered her the female lead in his new film, The Public Enemy, starring James Cagney.

Louise Brooks

It could be the role to put her back on top, but she turned it down. Instead she went off to New York to be with her lover, and the role was given to Jean Harlow. She explained later that she hated making pictures because she hated Hollywood. Turning down this role was what really ended her film career, as she had few serious roles after that. For the rest of the time that she was in movies, she played bit parts and roles in B pictures.

Her last bit of glory was the last film she made before retiring. It was in a western with John Wayne. It was a romantic lead, and one of the most noticeable things about it was her dark, long flowing hair. She was hardly recognizable, because her trademark had been her closely fitting bob, which was sometimes called a black helmet. That was her last concession to Hollywood.

Louise Brooks Zeigfeld

When she retired from films she tried opening a dance studio that failed. She moved to New York and did some radio acting and worked as a gossip columnist, and then as a sales girl in Saks Fifth Avenue. It was a long fall from the heights of her film career.

Louise Brooks died of a heart attack in 1985.

History of Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Gordon Bow (July 29, 1905 – September 27, 1965), was known as the “it girl” in Hollywood during the 1920s for her stardom in silent movies. Her flamboyant nature and bohemian image cast her as the original flapper girl and it’s most recognizable sex symbol.

This glowing star rose from the shadows of poverty and the hardship of caring for her mother who suffered from seizures and psychotic episodes, and a father who struggled to support his family and often abandoned the family for long stretches. There are stories that her father was both mentally and physically abusive, which may have included rape, but Clara never abandoned her father and eventually brought him to Hollywood to keep him by her side. Her mother died just before Clara’s first lead role, and after attempting to cut Clara’s throat when she told her mother she was becoming an actor.

Impoverished life in the Brooklyn New York tenements at the beginning of the century was a hard and unforgiving life. There were no social programs or aid. People either survived any way they could or died. Clara told stories of her mother sometimes working as a prostitute and “entertaining” men while she hid in a closest.

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During her entire career and even for decades after her death Clara Bow’s public reputation was soiled by outlandish stories of lurid behavior, most of which was later proved to be false.

The two contributing factors to this was the mindset of the Hollywood elite at the time and her openness about her horrendous childhood and flamboyance. Most of her fellow stars in Hollywood of the 1920s also came from similar backgrounds, but as they became established in their careers they took on the persona of aristocrats.

Clara Bow

They hid or denied their lowly beginnings. To talk openly to the press and public about family mental illness, abuse and poverty was abhorrent to these people and Hollywood society shunned her.

Tabloids began pumping out rumors and torrid stories about wild sexual orgies, lesbian relationships, bestiality, and in one instance attempted to blackmail her. The tabloid publisher was arrested by federal officers and sent to prison for eight years.

Long after her death Clara Bow was again maligned first in a book called Hollywood Babylon by avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger. The book details the scandals of Hollywood personalities from the 1900s to the 1950s.

First published in the US in 1965, it suggests that Bow took on the entire USC Trojan football team in a wild orgy. In another book her morality was thoroughly questioned by Budd Schulberg, son of the powerful producer B.P. Schulberg who exploited her sexually and held control of her early film career.

In his book Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince (Stein and Day, 1981) Schulberg says “Clara Bow, no matter how great her popularity, was a low-life and a disgrace to the community”. The football team story has been proven false several times over the years and was put to rest by biographer David Stern.

Clara Bow appeared in 56 movies from 1922 to 1933. She won a photo beauty contest that launched her career in Hollywood and her last movie was Hoop-la in 1933. Bow and cowboy actor Rex Bell (real name George F. Beldam) who later became a Lieutenant Governor of Nevada, married in 1932 and had two sons, Tony Beldam (born 1934, changed name to Rex Anthony Bell, Jr.) and George Beldam, Jr. (born 1938).

Clara Bow

Bow spent her last years living modestly under the care of a live in nurse, from an estate worth about $500,000 at the time of her death. She died on September 27, 1965, age 60, of a heart attack while watching a Gary Cooper movie.

The autopsy revealed that Bow suffered from atherosclerosis, a heart disease established in early adolescence and had suffered from an undiagnosed heart attack years prior. She is buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Josephine Baker

Josephine_Baker

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker, born in San Francisco, was an exotic black woman who loved to dance and make people laugh. She wore what was called “barely there” dresses when she performed and her dancing was uninhibited. Because of racism in the United States during the 20’s, she had a hard time to get any kind of work, especially on stage. When caring for children of rich white people she was cautioned, “Be sure not to kiss the babies.” She was refused a part in a stage show because she was a skinny black woman.

Because of this racism, she moved to France and took the stage by storm. Patrons loved her sensual dance routines mixed with humor. She was inundated with expensive gifts and numerous proposals of marriage. She maintained her career for fifty years until she died in 1975. Sadly, it wasn’t until 1973 that she really caught on in the United States.

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In 1936 she Josephine Baker performed in the Ziegfeld Follies, and it was a humiliating experience. American audiences weren’t ready to accept a powerful sophisticated black woman. Newspapers often reviled her. It would be a long time before she would try American audiences again.

josephine Baker

In the 50’s and 60’s she returned to the United States determined to fight racism. When she was refused service at the Stork Club it fueled her drive for integration, taking on columnist Walter Winchell as an opponent.

Finally in 1973 during a trip to the United States, she agreed to appear in Carnegie Hall. Recalling her previous experience, she was reluctant to try again. But attitudes had changed and she received a standing ovation when she walked onto the stage. This acceptance touched her deeply.

About this time she started adopting children with different ethnic and religious backgrounds. She called them the Rainbow Tribe, all the colors of the rainbow. She wanted people to know that children of different backgrounds could be brothers – one family. They often traveled with her, and it was evident that they were a happy family.

She had just divorced from her fourth husband, and yearned for a relationship that was purely platonic. She met a man that was looking for the same thing. They walked into an empty church and exchanged vows. They were never legally married, but it was a bond that lasted for the rest of her life.

Josephine_Baker1

On April 8, 1975 she was 68 but going strong. She opened in Paris, with many celebrities in attendance. She did parts of routines that she had performed in her fifty- year career. The reviews were among the best she’d received, and it was a fitting end to an illustrious career. A few days later she went into a coma and died.

More than 20,000 people lined the streets to pay their respects. The French government ordered a 21-gun salute that made her the first American woman to be buried in France with military honors. Today her memory lives on.

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Who was Anita Loos?

Anita Loos

Anita Loos had a long career as an American screenwriter, playwright and author. She knew from the time that she was six years old that she wanted to write. Her father managed a theater company, and wrote several one act plays. Anita had graduated from high school, and her father encouraged her to write some herself. She wrote her first play entitled The Ink Well, which turned out to be successful and for which she received royalties.

She next tried a one reel screenplay called The New York Hat and received $25. The play starred Mary Pickford and Lionel Barrymore, and it really started her on her successful career. She wrote her plays from real life situations, getting ideas from all her experiences. Within three years she wrote 105 scripts, and only four were not made into a play.

She joined a film colony in Hollywood and was put on the payroll for $75 with a bonus for every script that was produced as a play. She later wrote five screenplays for Douglas Fairbanks that made him a star.

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Loos and John Emerson, a director, had become partners to produce plays. Loos became very attracted to Emerson. He was a self-proclaimed philanderer, but Loos was sure he would find her different than other women and they were married. But it proved to be an unfortunate union from the start.

They wrote two books, and their scripts had both their names, but Loos did most of the work. When one of their contracts was not renewed, Emerson blamed it on her scripts, even though he had taken the credit for them. Loos herself later declared that Emerson took all the money and credit, even though he just watched her work.

Loos was urged to write a book from a collection of short stories, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” Sensing that this would be an overwhelming success, Emerson tried to sabotage its publication because he was afraid of losing his control over Loos. But in the end he settled for a dedication in the book.

As years passed, Loos became more and more successful. After “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” came “But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes.” A musical version of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” ran on Broadway for 90 weeks with then unknown Carol Channing.

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She and Emerson often lived apart, but he would show up at inopportune times to take advantage of her success. She was always faithful and at one time paid for an apartment of his own.

Loos and Helen Hayes had been good friends, but when their husbands died within a few weeks of each other, the two women formed an even greater bond. They collaborated to write a book entitled Twice Over Lightly: New York Then and Now, and Loos wrote several memoirs and biographies. She was a constant contributor to magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker.

After suffering for several weeks with a lung infection, she died in New York City at the age of 93.

For more flapper costume ideas, read about Isadora Duncan.

Flapper Costumes

Flapper Costumes

If you are looking for flapper costume ideas, then this is the place to be!

Before the 1920’s the established standard for properly dressed and feminine looking ladies was that of being totally covered from neck to feet. It was scandalous to show any bare skin. But all that changed with the emergence of the Flappers, young women who defied long-held rules of conduct. As a flapper girl, hemlines shot up to slightly below the knees, and heavy cotton stockings were replaced with transparent rayon material that showed off their legs. In 1920’s fashion, burlesque costumes were in. For eveningwear, dresses were still long but backless with low necklines. Its the roaring twenties!

The paradox was that although they flaunted their bodies, the new fashion made them less feminine. With these sexy costumes, waistlines dropped to the hip, causing an effect of a dress straight up and down from shoulder to hemline, eliminating contours and de-emphasizing the bust and waist. To further the effect, Flappers wrapped their chests with cotton strips to flatten their breasts and keep them from jiggling when they danced. Otherwise, anything that restricted movement was shunned for greater freedom. Pantaloons and corsets were exchanged for step-in undergarments that allowed more freedom of movement. Are you looking for a daisy from the great gatsby costume?

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Flapper costumes accessories are easy to do! Anything colorful and outlandish was the vogue. Dresses were lavishly decorated with feathers, beads and fringes. They liked wearing colorful scarves, necklaces made of layers of beads, and other pieces of jewelry that were art deco pieces. Horn-rimmed glasses and a cloche hat for daytime wear were also popular as a fashion statement. High heel shoes that were two to three inches high became very popular.

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As extreme as these fashions were, it was only a small part of the “new look.” Previous to this, the Gibson girl look, the model for the proper female, was long hair flowing loosely around their shoulders. One of the first things the Flapper did to show her independence was to get a “bob” – a very short boyish haircut. Other cuts followed, including a “shingle,” that were even shorter. When they got a shingle cut, they slicked it down and wore a curl on either side of their face that covered their ears. Some waved their hair, which was completely unheard of. If you want to know how to create a flapper costume, we have flapper 1920’s fashion for women for sale, and great gatsby party attire for men.

One of the most daring things the ladies did was to start wearing makeup. It was thought that only prostitutes and very loose women wore makeup. And they weren’t demure about it either. The more garish the better. Excessive use of bright red lipstick created a “bee stung” look that became very popular. Heavily applied black eyeliner made a dark outline around their eyes. Rouge was applied liberally, although not to their knees as some people believed. And then powder finished their look. Dressing for halloween?

Even their skin was a part of their look. Pale skin had always been considered to be the most womanly look, but after Coco Chanel, a well-known fashion designer, sported a tan after spending time in the sun during a holiday, it became all the rage as a healthy look. It represented the ideal of a leisurely lifestyle where women didn’t need to work.

Flapper costumes, all-in-all, even though it was a short-lived period in American history, flapper fashions had a tremendous impact on American culture.

Why be a Flapper?

The flapper is one of the most popular Halloween and theme party costumes ever and it’s easy to tell why. Whether you’re attending a Roaring Twenties party, a cops and mobsters party, a guys-and-gals party, or countless other themes, a properly done flapper costume will put you in the limelight every single time.

The flapper was the quintessential sex symbol of the Roaring Twenties. Her bobbed hair, sharp wit, and less than appropriate language told the rest of the world that she was her own woman. And, if the look didn’t get the message across, you’d understand when she out-danced you on the dance floor, drank you under the table, or leveled you if you couldn’t take “no” for an answer.

Many women and men want to look their sexy best for Halloween. Think about it – how many times have you seen the sexy nurse or the sexy cat at a party? Let that run wild with a flapper costume at your next event. Why just dress the part when you can actually adopt an entirely different persona? Fashion in the 1920s? Use this site as a guide for your do it yourself flapper costume!

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See, being a flapper meant more than just wearing the clothes. It was an attitude. The flapper could have nearly any man she wanted and she knew it. She’d drink if she wanted, smoke if she wanted, and say what she wanted. This was the girl that you probably didn’t bring home to mom but she’d show you the time of your life if you could keep up with her. Make your own flapper costume if you want to make a flapper costume easy. These are the best halloween costume ideas.

Listen doll, I know you’re looking for easy halloween costumes, but why stop at just a costume? Your next Halloween or theme party is your chance to break free of your day to day life and be someone else for a while. Times are busy and we could all use a break. Take the opportunity to be the bad girl you want to be and give being a flapper a try.

This site is a wealth of information for doing just that. See, it only starts with the costume and 1920s fashion. To fully embrace your role as a flapper we’re giving you insight into their entire world: the social and economic motivations that gave rise to their movement, their hair, their makeup, their dress, even down to the way they spoke. And, if that wasn’t enough, we’ve even touched on some of the key cultural aspects of the time like art, design, and architecture.

To truly be a flapper, you need to understand why they did what they did. You need to understand their world before they took control of it, what they wanted, and how they got it. Making a statement as a flapper was so much more than simply dressing in a way that society at the time frowned upon. It was an almost complete rejection of the restrictions of the time and a commitment to life life in your own way. Look around the site for great ideas on homemade halloween costumes, or just click the pics for quick easy flapper costume ideas.

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While they probably didn’t think of it so deeply at the time, imagine the feeling of being at the front of a complete cultural revolution! Today’s modern woman is what she is largely because of the changes that her flapper sisters brought about over 80 years ago.

This was no small load to bear. Some bore it well, others, not so much. But, in the end, the world was a drastically different place for the American woman. Have you ever asked yourself what do you need for a flapper costume? We’ll tell you how to create your own flapper costume. Or jus click any of the flapper pictures for great Halloween

Costume Ideas!

Take yourself back to that time with a flapper costume or even a speakeasy costume. Study the attitude and the language. Become a part of the glitz and glamour of the time. No matter if you do it for fun or to pay a little homage to the women who actually lived it, with these flappers costumes, you’ll be reminding those around you of an incredible time in American history. Looking for dresses from movies? Click the pics for a daisy great gatsby halloween costume.