Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stephen Gundle's "Glamour: A History"

Stephen Gundle is Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick. His books include Between Hollywood and Moscow: The Italian Communists and the Challenge of Mass Culture, 1943-91 and Bellissima: Feminine Beauty and the Idea of Italy.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Glamour: A History (Oxford University Press, 2008), and reported the following:
Page 99 of Glamour: A History is mainly devoted to Carolina Otero, a Spanish-born dancer and courtesan otherwise known as ‘La belle Otero’. The highest-paid performer at the legendary Folies Bergère in Paris in the 1890s, Otero had no formal training as a dancer and, to judge by contemporary photographs, was not even especially beautiful. But her ability to captivate male audiences with her passionate and sensual renditions of Spanish and Latin American dances was unparalleled. Aristocrats and even monarchs pledged their devotion to her (she claimed that no fewer than five future or actual kings had been her lovers) and showered her with priceless jewels. She gambled at the casinos of Cannes and Monte Carlo and engaged in a bitter rivalry with the refined courtesan Liane de Pougy. I argue that glamour is an enticing and seductive image that is woven around people places and things to make them seem more magnificent than they really are. It rests on a series of values including beauty, wealth, sex appeal, mobility, theatricality, dynamism and leisure. The most effective bearers of glamour in the last two hundred years have not been aristocrats or the established rich, but those, like Otero, who were outsiders who rose from nothing by sheer determination and force of personality. They captured the dreams of the masses with an aura that combined exclusivity with accessibility. In the twentieth century the major motion picture studios would learn how to manufacture this aura as a corporate product linked to consumption.
Learn more about Glamour: A History at the Oxford University Press website.

Visit Stephen Gundle's faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue