But the Siren realized this week that there are several very famous remarks made by famous movie people that she never wants to hear again, although she will, she will. In reverse order, here they are, starting with the one that triggered this post:
5. "After 40 you must choose between your face and your ass."
This is usually attributed to Catherine Deneuve, but the Siren thinks Zsa Zsa Gabor is a more likely source. We have it on Brian Aherne's authority that Zsa Zsa is quite funny when she wants to be and she was always making remarks like this. One reason to hate this quote is that the age at which you must make this decision is always changing. In this month's InStyle it's pegged at 30. Thirty!! So Amy Adams, currently igniting newstands everywhere on the cover of Vanity Fair, chose one or the other four years ago? Rubbish. Mere mortal women figure on losing both the face and the ass at some point (a point well past 30, thankyouverymuch) unless we're blessed with superb genes and/or an unlimited plastic surgery budget. But for most actresses it isn't true at 40, or even 50. The Siren's favorite example is Diane Lane...
but there's plenty of others. Please, let's not pull out this tired old saying every time we see a woman who's dieted too much or has a face that's been injected too often with the scary stuff du jour. And one last thing. This quote is always applied to a woman.
If that's fair, then tell me, which did Mickey Rourke choose?
4. "For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his fingers through it once a day..."
Usually attributed to Audrey Hepburn. There's more like that afterward but it always turns the Siren into a version of Daffy Duck, muttering "Easy stomach, don't turn over now," so that's all you're getting. Reason number one to hate this "poem" is that it's insipid nonsense. The Siren feeds hungry children every day and they run their fingers through her hair, as well as anything else that's less than five feet off the ground, but the Siren assures her readers that it has no effect on her looks one way or another. The second reason is that although Hepburn apparently liked this tripe and used to quote the whole thing, in public even (which we will let slide because Hepburn really was a generous lady with otherwise impeccable taste), she didn't write it. It was written by someone named Sam Levenson.
If we are going to talk sensible beauty quotes, let's talk about the wonderful Bette Davis vehicle, Mr. Skeffington. Claude Rains, in the title role, tells his vain, selfish wife that a woman is beautiful when she's loved. Davis retorts, as only Davis can, "A woman is beautiful when she has eight hours' sleep and goes to the beauty parlor every day. And bone structure has a lot to do with it, too."
3. "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, backwards and in high heels."
Often attributed to Ann Richards, but it predates the late, great Texas gov by some years. Rogers included Bob Thaves' Frank and Ernest comic strip, which appears to be the source, in the photos for her autobiography. The Siren cited Ginger for The Performance That Changed My Life, and will defend her abilities against all comers. But as for this quote--it's cute and all, but again, not true. She wore high heels, sure, although take a good look below--compared to today's skyscrapers they're practically flats.
Rogers also rehearsed on slippery Bakelite floors until her feet bled and she probably fantasized about stuffing Fred's top hat up his nose. But she did not do everything Astaire did. Together they were dazzling, but he was self-evidently the greater dancer, which Ginger herself probably would have admitted if you asked her nicely enough. Plus, their duets, carefully designed for maximum beauty on camera, use a lot of forward and side-by-side steps. The Siren is no choreographer, but she's seen these movies over and over, and Ginger doesn't move backwards all that much. Check out "Cheek to Cheek", and see who's moving backwards during most of the first part.
2. "Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul."
Oh boo hoo hoo, Marilyn. After the past few months of watching our economy do a face-plant, the Siren thinks a thousand dollars for a kiss is a darned good price, even without adjusting for inflation. And meanie-weenie Hollywood sold your soul for cheap, huh. The people standing by the clothing racks and saying "Can I help you?" to grumpy, dead-broke customers, and the ones getting repetitive-motion injuries at their keyboards and jumping every time the boss calls them in the office for fear they're getting the old pre-Christmas pink slip--they all got a much better rate for their souls.
Most irritating is when this quote is used to illustrate how Marilyn Monroe suffered. She was charming and funny, really good in several movies, certainly she was beautiful, and you could say she had a hard time. Though, it seems to the Siren, not as hard as her colleagues did, standing around on the set waiting for Marilyn to get her act together. But you want suffering, real suffering, the kind to make Melpomene weep? Without Googling: Clara Bow. D.W. Griffith. Orson Welles. Gene Tierney. John Garfield. Dorothy Dandridge. Rita Hayworth. Canada Lee. Charles Boyer. Wallace Reid. Montgomery Clift. Lou Costello. Roscoe Arbuckle. Erich von Stroheim.
1. "He gives her class. She gives him sex."
Oh, Katharine. The Siren hasn't been able to track down exactly when and where Hepburn said this (anyone know?) but it was probably a fairly casual observation, not one supposed to substitute for any other analysis of the all-time greatest dancing team. Even when people don't invoke the quote itself, as David Thomson mercifully did not in his well-written but dead-wrong Astaire piece last Sunday, they regurgitate its assumptions. Astaire was plenty sexy. The routines themselves, as often noted, echo the rhythms of seduction and even the sex act itself, and that ain't possible with a sexless male.
As for Ginger needing more class, the Siren wonders if that was somehow a leftover bit of cattiness because Rogers stole Stage Door right out from under Hepburn. Rogers had a wonderful common-girl persona in the 1930s, but her movies relied on her self-confidence and grace. Check out something like Gregory La Cava's charmingly subversive 5th Avenue Girl, in which Rogers poses as a millionaire's mistress without losing a shred of her honor. The point to Ginger Rogers, and what made her such a perfect on-screen American woman, was that she constantly proved class is a state of mind and not birth.
The Siren has a suggestion for anyone itching to use the above-listed quotes. Look up Tallulah Bankhead instead. Now there's someone who could give you an evergreen yarn. The Siren winds this up with Tallulah, from A Southern Album, on the perils of stardom and election season:
"Be careful how you quote me. No swearing, no naughty cracks. This is a campaign year, you know, and I must be discreet. If I'm not, I'll have the whole goddamn Bankhead family on my neck."