Think Pink, Part One

The NY Times tells us that Kay Thompson, the creator of Eloise and general entertainer, is the subject of a new biography.  She had a troubled but exciting and multi-faceted career from author to cabaret singer, movie actress and adviser to other stars.  In her time at least, she was considered magnetic.  In the film clip below, she is immersed in a culture most of us and are readers are happy is gone, and so her power may be hidden.  Nonetheless, the NY Times tries to explain it in this remarkable passage:

The things that made Thompson magnetic are difficult to get across, the society photographer Cecil Beaton observed in 1950. But Beaton’s description of Thompson is shrewder than most. “The facts about her are that she sings and prances in cabaret between Los Angeles and Istanbul; that she is skeletal, hatchet-faced, blonde and American; that she wears tight, tapering slacks and moves like a mountain goat,” he wrote. “The proper language in which to review her is not English at all but Esperanto. Or possibly Morse code.”

Why, we can wonder, did the NYT consider Beaton’s comments as shrewd, rather than shrewish?

In the clip below, Thompson is the fashion editor with the advice, “Think Pink.” 

 

The clip raises a lot of questions for me about that time.  One of them is whether pink was as omnipresent in girls’ culture as it is now.  Dim memory suggests not.  Another more vivid sense is the horror of the demeanor of these women being a very dominant model for women. 

What do you think?

8 thoughts on “Think Pink, Part One

  1. I read somewhere that some psychological research indicates that pink walls have a calming effect, giving reason for painting the walls of psychiatric centers with pink. Here’s someone else who read the same research: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,294030,00.html
    Of course, there’s more than one problem that popped up with this prison director’s decision. Both my sister and I have memories of being traumatized by being forced into scratchy pink dresses. To this day, there’s nothing pink in my closet.

  2. For some reason this clip reminds me of Gigi. Maybe it’s the idea of patriarchal behavior being enforced by other women? I’m not sure.

    I can’t figure our what moving like a mountain goat is supposed to look like.

  3. I think in the context of the movie, pink is chosen (not entirely at random, but without the strict gender associations that come with it now) as a vibrant counterpoint to the chic, sophisticated, intelligent world of Paris.

    Basically: Paris – cool, but grey and boring. America – daft, but colourful and fun. This mirrors the two main love interests exactly: the drab and dessicated bluestocking, the brash and superficial marketing man, coming together in a synergistic way, their very flaws working to bring out the best in each other.

    I don’t think the movie actually works that way, there’s too much American anti-intellectualism and patriarchal dogma in it, but I think that, seen in context, that is the story’s idealised message.

    I also thought as I watched it that as artificial and patently performative as those notions of femininity seem to us now, watching a movie from the oughts in fifty years’ time would probably seem exactly the same. I mean, who actually walks like Megan Fox, or smiles like Gwyneth Paltrow? Nobody, that’s who. We just don’t see it as sharply as we do in 50’s era movies – fish and water etc.

  4. That’s an interesting assessment, Marina. Compared to the fads of the time they were doing something “liberating”? Like some of Drew Barrymore’s “bad”–but not TOO bad–characters now?

    Kathryn, I think “moves like a mountain goat” means something along the lines of flamboyant, exaggerated and slightly forceful, the kind of woman that old-school drag divas love to emulate. Think Bette Midler or Liza Minelli.

    Yeah, the video was pretty cheesy, but I’d still love to see Danny Kaye’s impersonation of her. Roflmao at The Inspector General, especially the wrestling class. Nobody does slapstick like that anymore. I love the way those old comedians used to make the human body look so funny without resorting to sex or bullying. The humour was so CLEAN.

  5. Xena, I don’t know that “liberating” is what I was getting at; at the end of the day the romance in the movie does center around taking a gainfully employed intellectual woman and turning her into a clothes hanger! But it’s not a negative or objectionable message about relationships in general – that sometimes it’s our imperfections that make us so perfect for each other, as Mr. Darcy said to Elizabeth Bennett. =)

  6. I’d just like to comment on the theme of genderized colour. It seems in North America that the colour pink is linked inevitably with gender. Girls are pink and boys are blue. Living here in Asia, though, pink has no gender. Men and boys often wear pink (and it looks beautiful on them!) but no one would say anything insulting to them about their sexuality just for wearing what we westerners would call a “girl” colour. That being said, I do find the language in the clip to be very old fashioned and patriarchal, but given the era I can be somewhat forgiving because I also think it’s important to look at these things as a cultural record so we can see that things have changed, whether for better or worse.

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