Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ten Tips on Stardom

1.  Have an instinctive understanding of exactly how to hit your key light - something that never failed the Divine Josephine, even when the spotlight was all she had...

2.  Let Joan Blondell be your guide:  always have a positive approach to your grueling glamour regimen (and never, ever be seen without eye makeup, bangles, pumps, and, when situationally appropriate, an adoring attendant).

3.  Develop a trademark expression; extra credit if it can be variously read as vulnerable and alluring at the same time.  You may not hit the heights that Marilyn reached in no small part thanks to hers, but you have to start somewhere...

4.  Equally, however, you mustn't neglect the more ferocious aspect of divalicity; nothing so incites the fans to adoration as an affect just this side of disdain.  Dame Joan, despite an off-stage attitude of almost superhuman cosiness, was no slouch in this regard on stage.

5.  Never pass up an opportunity to let the boys in the stills gallery have a little fun.  If you can't face the prospect of yet another Arbor Day photo spread, at least don't hesitate to show off your hobbies, however implausible.  I don't for a moment believe that Mary Boland was a devoted ping-pong enthusiast, but it made a nice snap for the weekend rotogravures, no?

6.  However, never forget that glamour is job one.  Audiences forgave Lana everything for the better part of four decades, just because she could so reliably give that look.  It takes practice, kids, especially when you're balancing as much off stage as our Miss Turner here.

7.  Keep good company.  Peers and counterparts always make good press - that's why Jerry was almost always seen with one or preferably more of his girls...

8.  ...and at a certain point, cultivate the next generation.  Joan was smart enough to know that she could get away with that hat as long as she was standing next to the ravishing young Mr. Chamberlain.  Do you suppose she's goosing him even as the picture was snapped? (On a side note, I always think of this particular expression of Joan's as her "Mommie's had her vodka" look - it's her own special version of "Keep it together, Minnelli," as you can practically see the self-will that it's taking to keep her upright.)

9.  Never forget that you're Queen of the Lot, even if that lot is only Universal.  It takes a special moxie to wave at your minions and drive your own personal go-kart, but Doris takes it all in stride.

10.  Finally, and when all else fails - endure.


  1. It's not just Joan's expression, which you so perfectly describe, it's the look of blank, deer-in-the-headlights terror of Richard. He knows Joan plans to make him do Things, Terrible Things.

  2. I've been through Herbert and J Edgar Hoover....

    1. As usual, Bill, you frighten me - it was in fact watching versions of this very song (by Elaine Stritch, Ann Miller, and Dolores Gray, no less) that led to this post. Well, that and a backlog of images that all of a sudden as a set made sense...

      I've decided the real test of performing "I'm Still Here" (now that, unless Luise Rainer makes an unexpected comeback, there is no one who can get by on autobiography alone) is whether you can successfully get a laugh out of "Brenda Frazier" while also making it clear that it's not a problem that no one anymore fully understands the concept of having heebie-jeebies for Beebe's bathysphere. Trying too hard on either, though, is fatal.

  3. It helps not only to do these things, but to be these women.

    1. Ah, but Thom, we all must start somewhere. No one - not even you and I, truly - are born fabulous. Well, maybe Josephine Baker and Mary Boland. Everybody else has to work for it.

    2. Muscato, Thombeau - YOU WERE! Jx

  4. it seems i have ten things to read, learn and memorize.