Street Style 1

Danielle, Brighton

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Recently whilst taking a stroll down Brighton Pier I was transported into another era, when I spotted this gorgeous wartime get-up. Student Danielle Cameron has managed to piece together the perfect vintage look, as we all know how hard it can be to get ahold of genuine vintage garments for a reasonable price I found out where Danielle found these items; The dress is from Etsy, jacket from Ebay, shoes; Primark and the hat & picnic basket are both from a Car boot sale. Experimenting with vintage fashion can be great fun, look into eras that appeal to you and try to recreate styles of the day, or mix and match different decades to create your own unique look. To achieve this go and have a browse through your local jumble sales, vintage boutiques, charity shops or vintage fashion fairs, such as the Hammersmith Vintage Fair this coming Sunday.

London Burlesque

The art of Burlesque has a rich and fabulous history. With early roots in nineteenth century nightclubs of Paris, when Toulouse Lautrec painted the dancing girls of the Moulin Rouge such as Jane Avril, and the Victorian music-halls of London where performers like Marie Lloyd sang risque, raunchy songs to titilize and tease the audience.

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Burlesque had another re-birth in the twenties and thirties, when frolicking flappers charlestoned through smoke-filled cabaret halls of Berlin and Chicago. Sultry temptresses such as Dorothy Knapp (pictured) and Sally Rand made names for themselves with their seductive fan dances and art-deco costumes.

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Then, what many may call the golden era of burlesque; the forties & fifties. Gypsy Rose Lee, Lili st Cyr and Sherry Britton perfected the image and style of burlesque we all recognise today.

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Now, in cities across the world a sexy underground scene of neo-burlesque is emerging. Dita Von Teese is leading the worldwide phenomena, the vintage art of strip-tease is being celebrated throughout the city of London with classes, shows and venues popping up all over the city.

Miss Odelia Opium is a London based burlesque performer, who takes her inspiration from the Jazz age. With the aesthetics and costumes of Ziegfield girls she encapsulates the fun, glamorous allure of vintage burlesque.

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Odelia was kind enough to answer a few questions for me and shed some sparkling light on the often mysterious, cloaked world of burlesque.

How did you get into burlesque performing? I got into Burlesque in late 2010 – just woke up with the idea one day!  I decided to book a class with a local burlesque school and kept going until the graduation show. Never thought I’d perform in public really, but it happened naturally!

What would you say about the London Burlesque scene?  The London scene is one of the friendliest and most supportive scenes! There is so much creativity and talent, plus everyone is given a fair chance, no matter what age or body type you are!

Do you have any favourite London venues? The prettiest stage I’ve ever seen must be Hoxton Hall, though sadly I never performed on it myself. For club venues I quite like Volupte and various theatre venues, places with a lot of history in them!

Who are your biggest influences? My influences come from all over history, which comes natural to me cause I’m a costume designer by day. A lot of my acts have themes from the 18th and 19th century up to the 1920s. I am inspired by Alphonse Mucha, Erte and Gainsborough. I love silent movies and the original 19th century music hall culture! I’m fascinated by people like Marie Lloyd with her saucy songs and beautiful costumes! There are a few burlesquers there today who capture the essence of bygone eras very well, such as Vicky Butterfly, Billie Rae and french performer Sucre d’Orge. Their creativity is very inspiring!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career in burlesque? My advice would be: be unique in every aspect and find your niche.There’s already plenty of performers doing the same thing so you would want to stand out from the crowd! And most of all be polite and humble and you will go far.

Odelia has many upcoming gigs, you will be able find information and details on her official website and facebook page. You can also catch her perform at the following London shows:

Miss Odelia’s Opium Den, 30th March

Someone Call Me a Cabaret, 26th April

London Burlesque Festival; Crown Jewels, 11th May

Agent Burlieque, 7th June

the Cheeky Devil’s Club, 29th June

I will definitely be in attendance for some of these fabulous evenings, and you’d be crazy not to be too! If you’re lucky enough to live in London, and have a love for vintage eras & styles then get involved with the new wave of Burlesque hitting the city. For glamorous dinner and shows, visit the Wam Bam club, Volupte Lounge or Proud Cabaret. For a night on the town with drinks, dancers and debauchery go down to Madame Jojo’s where you can watch shows or even get involved yourself! For the seedy, Berlin cabaret vibe have a night down the Royal Vauxhall Tavern or Bethnal Green Woking Men’s Club.

The list could go on for hours, new, exciting venues and performers, each with their own niche are just waiting to be discovered all across the darkest corners of London.

Maya Angelou’s Welcome Table

“Her lemon pie could make a rabbit hug a hound, make a preacher throw his bible down”

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Poet/ author Maya Angelou is one of those iconic legends whom it seems has been around since the dawn of time. Perhaps because her renowned autobiographies begin documenting her fascinating life at such a young age, it feels as though we have been with her since her impoverished childhood in 1930s Arkansas.

In fact, her first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969 and is a life-changing, inspirational read. Writers rarely conjure up atmosphere for an audience as vividly as Maya Angelou can and her life story (with her list of occupations including; pimp, prostitute, chef, nightclub dancer, singer, co-ordinator for Martin Luther King and many more) is just as vibrant and exciting as the sights, smells and sounds of the old Deep South she so beautifully describes throughout the prose of her numerous works.

One such publication is her 2006 cookery book Hallelujah! The Welcome Table. A delightful read as well as a good collection of recipes, each section of the book is introduced with anecdotes and memories of how the recipe was at one time, intricately entwined with her life. We all have food that re-awakens long forgotten sensory memories, and through this book we share Maya Angelou’s, as she transports us through a world of nostalgia, fondly remembered around a bustling dinner table.

Some of the recipes were too good to not attempt. Realistically, South London in 2013 couldn’t be further removed from Stamps, Arkansas in 1938 so whilst I would love to imagine my cooking aroused aromas of crackling corn-bread wafting through Southern cypress trees or an apple pie cooling on a Mississippi window ledge, this effect is not so easily achieved when the ingredients were purchased from Camberwell Morissons.

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Cooking with Ross

None the less, I made fried chicken, red rice, fried squash served with baby corn and coconut cake for desert and here are the recipes from the book:

Fried chicken                                                  

One 2-pound chicken

1 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup flour

2 cups oil

Wash and pat dry chicken. Cut into pieces, place in a container, and add lemon juice. Put in refrigerator, covered, for 1 hour. Rinse, dry and season with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour. In a large pot, heat oil. Add chicken and cover. Fry on high heat until brown all over. Reduce heat to low medium, cover and cook for thirty minutes.

Fried Yellow Summer Squash

5 yellow squash

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup diced onions

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary leaves

Slice squash. In large skillet, saute squash in oil and butter. When slightly brown, add onions. Season with salt and popper. Cook over medium heat 3 more minutes, but do not allow squash to become mushy. Sprinkle with rosemary and keep warm until served.

Red Rice

1 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers

2 cups canned tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

Dash of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups cooked white rice

2 cups of water

Fry onions and peppers. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove lid and add remaining ingredients; mix well. Bring to boil, about 3 minutes. Stir vigorously, cover again, and cook over very low heat for about 15 minutes until rice and liquid are totally mixed.

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Ross eating his meal.

Coconut Cake

2/3 cup soft butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 cups sifted flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup milk

4 large eggs

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coconut flavouring

1 cup shredded coconut

1 pint whipping cream

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat ovn to 350F. Line two cake pans with greased wax paper. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, beating until light and fluffy. In light mixing bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Add to cream mixture alternating with milk. In seperate, medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Beat again for 2 minutes. Fold in salt and cream of tartar. Set aside. In another medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks. Add yolks to cake batter then fold in whites, vanilla extract and coconut flavouring. Pour batter into cake pans. Bake to 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake springs back when center is pressed gently with forefinger. Cool in pans for ten minutes then turn out onto rack, and remove wax paper. Let cakes cool. Whip cream, powdered sugar and coconut flavouring together until stiff. Spread over cake and sprinkle some coconut on top of frosting.

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Ross and Samuel taking the first bite of coconut cake.

Rockalily Cuts

On special nights out it’s nice to go and get your hair professionally styled rather than stick to your every-day beauty regime. As this was was my birthday night out I decided to go slightly more glamorous than usual, and as I am yet to be thrilled by any form of glamour that has appeared in the 21st century, where better to go than a vintage specialised hairdressers?

I usually avoid going to hair salons at all costs, I can’t stand the white luminous lighting and bitchy atmosphere. However, this couldn’t be more contrasting to the environment of the delightful Rockalily Cuts in Shoreditch. Specialising in retro hair, the salon is small and intimate with friendly staff, filled with antique trinkets and walls littered with vintage photography, this establishment is a real treat.

When I want 1940s curls I normally sleep in rollers or pin-curls and the effect is nice, but I have never acheived the fabulousness of Rita or Dita.

At Rockalily, my stylist curled and sculpted my hair surprisingly quickly and created a look worthy of screen sirens of yesteryear. Overall, I was so happy with my trip and for only £39 it was well worth it. I would suggest an appointment at Rockalily to anyone wanting to feel fabulous for the night or day ahead!

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Man Ray Portraits

The raucous, debauched glamour of the wild 1920s is best epitomised for me by the surrealism & dadaist art movements that flourished during this era; unprecedented, unpredictable and absurd, much like the  flapper fashions and lifestyles. One of the most well-known dadaist artists of the vintage era was the enigmatic, fascinating character; Man Ray.

I have always been a huge fan so I was delighted to discover that the National Portrait Gallery is showing an exhibition of Man Ray’s work. He was best known for his surrealist art, but this exhibit displays his lesser known ventures into portraiture.

I loved this exhibit because Man Ray photographed the wonderful characters who socialised within his fashionable circle between the 1910s and sixties, creating a very personal feel as you look through intimate portraits of the fabulous lovers and intriguing celebrities such as Pablo Picasso, Barbette and Helen Tamiris, with exciting, experimental photographic techniques.

My personal favourite pictures were Le Violon d’Ingres; a stunning image of his muse, KiKi de Montparnasse, the dozens of portraits of his great love; Lee Miller in which the world of photography was introduced to Miller & Man Ray’s revolutionary technique of solarisation. I was also excited to see a portrait of twenties jazz composer Henry Crowder, pictured with the instantly recognisable, African bangle-clad arms of his iconic lover (and my favourite celebrity of the twentieth century); Nancy Cunard.

This is a wonderful exhibit, that captures the avant-garde zeitgeist of the early twentieth century, and the amazing world of Man Ray. It is on at the National Portrait Gallery until the 27th of May, and I would suggest it to anyone looking for a unique, enlightening day out in London. Find out more here.

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Le Violon d’Ingres; exotically alluring picture of Kiki de Montparnasse

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This 1930 portrait of Lee Miller was very advanced for the time.

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Henry Crowder &  Nancy Cunard, recognisable by her tribal bracelets.

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Very contemporary looking picture of dancer/model, Helen Tamaris.

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Portrait of female impersonator and performer, Barbette.

These examples of some of the pictures at the exhibition are not mine

 

Summary:

Decade – 1920′s – 1960′s

Worth seeing – 8/10

Price – 9/10. Not too expensive, full price tickets are £12.70 check for student concessions and other discounts!

Availability – Until the 27th of May

Five Fabulous Blogs

Silent London - The place to find out where silent films are being screened in London. Not as rare a treat as you would imagine, their calendar of film listings is surprisingly full. This blog has introduced me to the wonderful and thriving world of silent cinema in London, and thanks to them I have just booked tickets to a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s modern times accompanied by the Philharmonia orchestra, which I’m very excited about.

Leah Loverich – The face behind the 1940sthrowback tumblr and Etsy store always looks perfect, and her personal blog is wonderful to read and yearn after one of the most glorious wardrobes of this day and age, complete with vintage hair, make up and style tips to point anyone in the right direction.

The Tourist that Never Travels – My blog focuses on exploring the vintage world within London, but if I had the funds to travel the world then it would most definitely be a worldwide rather than city-specific endeavour. The delightful Ross Bennett-Cook also has a empty pockets and a passion for travel, but instead of feeling sorry for himself like every other penniless student, he has intuitively made a blog where he explores the world from the comfort of his London home.

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POC in Classic Film – Anyone with a passion for vintage cinema should make the effort to explore the less remembered stars of bygone movies, and unfortunately in the racist days of old Hollywood it was often ethnic minority stars who were ignored or forgotten. This is a really interesting blog for discovering the beautiful and talented movie-stars who never quite reached the heights of Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley fame, in an era when not being white was a career obstacle in itself.

Bitter and Single – The fabulous, yet eccentric spinster was an often seen character throughout vintage films and literature. Crazy cat ladies swathed in fur and pearls were a regular feature, from Mrs Havisham to Norma Desmond and Little Edie Beale. It is nice to see that this archetype has not completely faded out, and now takes the form of bitter, gay boy Samuel Ward as he documents his disdain for romance and life in general, with acerbic wit & sardonicism.

The Diner

When creating a vintage Americana themed Diner in contemporary London, I imagine it could very easily go wrong and end up being more S Club go Back to the 50s than American Graffiti. However, The Diner in Soho gets the balance between themed eatery and kitsch cliche just right.

Unlike rockabilly styled diners across London, there is nothing cheesy about this establishment. The staff are not wearing sweater and petticoat sets, there is no jukebox playing Buddy Holly & Bobby Darin. The atmosphere and cuisine feels about as near to authentic, classic American dining as we are likely to get. The decor evokes the imagery of Edward Hopper’s famous painting; Nighthawks. Small details strive to remind you of the old-time US motif, such as the food in baskets, the napkin dispensers and the rowed seating at the bar, amongst others.

The menu is, of course, filled with hot dogs, burgers, milkshakes and other meals last seen on the lunch-time menu in the cafeteria of Rydell High School; such as baby back ribs, meatloaf and sloppy Joes. I opted for the ‘Diner Po Boy’ which was amazing, as were the sweet potato fries. A Long Island iced tea washes it all down to get you into an All-Americana mood. All of the staff looked fabulous, our Bettie Page-esque waitress was extremely friendly and efficient, contributing to an overall pleasant dining experience.

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 Newberry Diner, Florida, 1941                         The Diner,  Soho

The Diner, 18 Ganton Street, Soho, Greater London

Arabian Nights

Fashion and Film’s ‘Eastern obsession’ in the twenties and thirties.

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The early twentieth century was a flourishing period for the economy of Europe and America, this was shown in the culture’s obsession with lavish and luxurious lifestyles. Clothes became more extravagant and recherche than they had been for centuries, and it is no wonder that great inspiration and interest was placed on the styles of the Middle East and South Asia. The 1910s and 20s were besotted by the romance of maharajahs, harems, exotic palaces and Nubian princesses. Many aspects of the flapper era drew heavily on these themes and the  aesthetics of the day were a pantomime of crudely stereotypical Arab and Indian imagery. It introduced previously unheard of allure and dazzle into fashions of the day, and created iconic styles for celebrities like Mata Hari.

One of the first people to bring this into popular fashion was the visionary French designer Paul Poiret; a whimsical eccentric in life who regularly threw wildly glamorous fancy dress parties, this was reflected in his designs (pictured below). Never before had European women been laced with rubies, peacock feathers, turbans, saris, harem pants, and flowing pashminas. These unique styles suited the radical and unhinged flappers perfectly.

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“Ladies come to me for a gown as they go to a distinguished painter to get their portrait put on canvas. I am an artist, not a dressmaker.” –  Paul Poiret

It wasn’t just in fashion that the Eastern infatuation took hold. On the stage, Wilson, Keppel and Betty performed their world famous and adored ‘Sand Dance’ amongst sarcophaguses, sphynxes and faux deserts. Lawrence of Arabia caught the zeitgeist and attention of a charmed 1920s public.

On the screen actors with any vague resemblance to ethnic ambiguity were snatched up by the studios, given a mysteriously exotic stage name and cast as Egyptian princes and Persian Queens. The biggest star in the world, Rudolph Valentino would usually don a turban or Keffiyeh for his roles in films such as; ‘The Sheik’, ‘Blood and Sand’, ‘The Young Rajah’ and ‘Cobra’. Another huge star of the silent screen was Theda Bara (whose name is an anagram of Death Arab) She rose to fame adorned in snake headdresses, exquisite jalabiyas and bejeweled bangles for her role in ‘Cleopatra’. It was in this film that the role of ‘The Vamp’ was created and would remain a firm favourite with audiences, played in other ‘films of the desert’ by actresses such as  Nita Naldi, Pola Negri and Alla Nazimova (seen here performing ‘the Dance of Seven Veils’ from Salome).

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Rudolph Valentino                                            Theda Bara

The public were encapsulated in the 1930s when Princess Kouka; the beautiful daughter of a Sudanese Sheik, came to London to make her name as a movie actress. This article entitled ‘Princess found camels tasty’ relishes describing her Sudanese finery of “scarlet silk sweeping from a high waist to the curved up toes of her Eastern shoes”, “three inch gold ear-hoops”, and the “veil of gold lace threaded with blue silk bound around her black, center parted hair”.

These costumes and characters, looking back were of course inauthentic stereotypes and would never be accepted as accurate depictions of Arabic life today, other than in a Daily Mail article. However, it is undeniable that these cliched images of belly-dancers, Sheiks and Sultans made for some absolutely stunning garments, the likes of which we would very rarely be lucky enough to admire this day and age. In tribute to this very vintage love for all things Levantine, I have put together an outfit that celebrates Art Deco’s overly theatrical view of Arabic and Asian culture.

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The dress I am wearing is from an Indian stall at Camden market, the bag is from Afra shopping mall in Sudan, I have also added a gold Tiger brooch to a velvet turban from Beyond Retro.

Soundies

Soundies are the now all-but-forgotten predecessor to modern music videos. They were ‘song and dance’ short films made in the 1940s which were projected into night clubs, bars and pool halls. These mini-musicals were unique, entertaining, wonderfully choreographed and visually stunning.

The most popular genre of music portrayed in Soundies was jazz, blues and R&B. They were a break into fame for many emerging African-American artists of the 1940s such as the delightful Dorothy Dandridge.

A lot of female jazz and blues singers from the era of the Soundies chose to have their hair in very eye catching, extremely polished up-do’s styled with elaborate flower arrangements. Perhaps most well known for this image was Billie Holiday (pictured)Image

Variations of the style were also worn by two popular Soundies stars from the forties; Mabel Lee  and June Richmond (below)

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I tried to create a hairstyle influenced by the fabulous women of the Soundies. In particular, Vanita Smythe, seen in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qu84tD5UhiM

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I put the front of my hair into a large victory roll like the one worn by Vanita Smythe. I am also wearing the Penelope Oversized Floral Crown from Rocknrose.co.uk

Sunset Boulevard

“We Had Faces Then”

“Old films” are often lumped together as one genre. I have seen many inaccurate descriptions of Marilyn Monroe as a flapper girl of the silent screen, or of Clara Bow as a pin up bombshell. Obviously, past decades are completely diverse and unique from one another in their fashion, celebrities, films and culture.

One film that proves this point is the dark, dramatic comedy of 1950; Sunset Boulevard. This film was made as an exploration of legendary writer/director Billy Wilder’s fascination with Old Hollywood. The film deals with a story line that would still be extremely relevant today, a huge, celebrity movie star who as she aged has fell from fame, struggling to cope with the change of being adored by millions to ignored by the world.

The film starts in typical late forties Film-Noir style. With a dramatic narrator reminiscing on the story; speaking in a now archaic, fast-paced American idiolect, strewn with quick, Vaudevillian wit which flourished in vintage Hollywood when risque jokes and suggestive romance had to be subtly disguised amongst more socially acceptable language.

Even the music and the shots are over the top. The whole film feels like a comically camp build up to the moment we are introduced to the character of Norma Desmond. The black and white cinematography is draped in shade and long, black shadows. The music is brooding and melodramatic.

Norma Desmond is introduced in a suitably eccentric and unsettling scene, where she mistakes the protagonist as an undertaker come to bury her pet monkey. She lives in a crumbling mansion, once lavish and extravagant now decaying and empty. Much like the flamboyant, exquisitely glamorous Hollywood that thrived throughout the roaring twenties when Norma Desmond was in her prime. Her staunch unwillingness to change is portrayed through her still very twenties wardrobe. Wearing feathered headdresses, long beaded gowns and other fabulously recherche attire when the other women in the film are in grey war-time skirt suits gives the character a melancholy nostalgia and creates a similar sinister glamour as Charles Dickens’s Mrs Havisham.

The film is laced with subtle insider jokes. Norma Desmond is played by the Goddess of the silent screen, Gloria Swanson who herself had fell from the heights of fame to being cast in low budget films and was on the verge of being forgotten by the public. The character is rather conspicuously based on Gloria Swanson’s once rival, Norma Talmadge who completely lost her career once talking pictures came in. Other cameos are played by faded 1920′s superstars and directors throughout the film and in one scene, aged stars such as Buster Keaton sit around playing cards with Norma in a sad shot of faded grandeur.

The film is wonderfully acted throughout. Norma’s desperation to land herself a starring role in a new film and the doomed romance between her and the protagonist, Joe is tragic, clever and thrilling to watch. Memorable one liners stand out in the script such as “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small”.

The film climaxes in a fitting conclusion, a theatrical fight culminating in a murder. In an odd way, the character of Norma Desmond concludes her story by finding the fame she longed for. When the police and press storm her house after she has committed murder, it brings her the attention she craved for so long and she fantasizes that it is all taking place on the set of a hit movie, as the police lead her down the stairs she says the most famous line in the film, “Alright, Mr De-Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

It is easy to see why Sunset Boulevard was nominated for ten Oscars (it won three) and why it is always featured on American Film Institutes top 20 lists. It is a legendary and unique piece of cinematic history from which we can learn about Hollywood culture of years gone by, but also recognise  patterns in today’s celebrity culture.

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