I was so excited to see this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition is a beautiful set of photographs from the archive of the John Kobal Foundation of the stars of the golden age of cinema. Those featured in the portraits are the legends of the big screen, famous not just for their acting but for their glamorous images and lifestyles, all of them retaining a myth and aura about them that most actors today could never achieve.
The beautiful black and white photos included promotional shots from famous films, like the Marx Brothers for Duck Soup and Boris Karloff for The Mask of Fu Manchu, and the classic beauty shots of stunners like Rita Hayworth and even a nude of Marilyn Monroe. All radiated the sheen of perfection and elegance, which is why I love watching films from that era anyway! My friend Ms O who came with me is a huge Vivien Leigh fan, and I have a small (possibly medium, maybe verging on large) obsession with Audrey Hepburn and we both found photos that that played to our adorations.
The exhibition also had a small display on how photos were retouched by hand. I’m really naive as I thought that this only started happening much later in time, and was kind of disappointed to know that it wasn’t just soft focus creating beautiful portraits. Not that that change my opinion of the stars, in my eyes they’re effortlessly fabulous. People like Grace Kelly, Buster Keaton and James Stewart have created some of the best films ever made and they deserved to be appreciated in such a fitting setting.
It turns out that the whole Gallery was open late so we got to have a quick look at other portraits as well. There was a great section featuring portraits of the some of the most famous comedians which allowed Ms O and I to reminisce and quote all our favourites (which included myself having to fend off a laughing fit just thinking about Les Dawson’s rendition of ‘Feelings’ – watch it here if you’ve never seen it!). We also saw the bizarre self portrait 3D sculpture by Marc Quinn that’s made from his own blood (yes, really), a fabulous painting of Anna Wintour that made her look a lot more soft than she comes across in the media (!), and a small exhibition of Julian Opie works. He’s the guy who did the famous Blur: Best Of front cover, and also has a self portrait that blinks and breathes on a TV screen. It all looks like it should be in A Scanner Darkly; very strange.
To top it off, we went for a quick drink in a pub opposite called The Chandos, and discovered it was a Sam Smith’s pub! For those who don’t know, I used to work in a Sam Smith’s pub during my student days and it’s a great chain that provides nice beer at much cheaper prices than a crappy Wetherspoons or another chain. They’re very basic, but definitely worth a try!
Glamour of the Gods is on until 23rd October. http://www.npg.org.uk/glamour/
*All photos featured belong to me. Please do not reproduce without my permission!