When I was a child growing up during the 50’s and 60’s, there really was an Easter parade up and down the streets of my beloved Brooklyn neighborhood. Off to church went our Christian neighbors, the working class men tugging uncomfortably at their ties, the little girls skipping along in their shiny Mary Janes. But it was the grown women, resplendent in their new and colorful Easter bonnets, that stole the show.
Indeed, there was a time when a well dressed lady would never leave home without proper chapeau and gloves.
Hollywood stars of the Golden Age, were acutely aware that they were part of a dream machine. Thus, even when not in front of the camera they worked hard at projecting a glamorous and refined image. Let’s step into the Seraphic Secret time machine and look at a few stars posing in memorable hats.
Madge Bellamy seems to be channeling Napoleon. A huge Hollywood star in the early 20’s, most of Bellamy’s early, silent work has been lost. But you can still see her in starring roles in John Ford’s Iron Horse (1924) and Maurice Tourneur’s Lorna Doon (1922). In the sound era, Madge’s most famous role is as Madeleine Parker, in White Zombie, with Bela Lugosi (1932), a cult classic. Tragically, Madge was one of the most self-destructive Hollywood stars of all time. In 1943 Madge shot her lover, Stanwood Murphy. The massive publicity and resulting scandal destroyed her already sputtering career. Regarding the shooting Madge said: “I only winged him, which is what I meant to do. Believe me, I’m a crack shot.”
Of Norma Shearer, arch-rival Joan Crawford said: “If you’re sleeping with the boss you get the best roles.” Crawford was referring to Shearer’s marriage to MGM’s resident genius Irving Thalberg. It is true that Shearer pursued and finally landed Thalberg. But Shearer was a talented actress who worked hard at her craft and though not really beautiful, managed to project great poise and beauty in spite of a milky cast in one eye and unusually thick legs. Shearer loved hats and ordered them by the dozen. When I greet my granddaughter Ma’ayan Ariel, I say: “Come on, put ’em around me.” Ma’ayan then hugs me tight, unaware that I’m quoting Shearer from her Oscar winning role in The Divorce, 1930.
The military vibe is evident in this lovely hat worn by the petite Veronica Lake. One of the most beautiful women in 1940’s Hollywood, it was also her smoky voice with a shimmering pitch that catapulted her to major stardom. She was equally adept at comedy, Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and drama, co-starring in a series of noir thrillers with equally petite Alan Ladd. Tragically, Lake suffered bi-polar disorder, self-medicated with massive quantities of Vodka, entered into abusive relationships with men, lost her fortune, and ended her days, age 50, as a waitress in a cheap waterfront dive. Her signature peek-a-boo hairstyle is, in Seraphic Secret’s opinion, due for a revival.
Photo by Bridget Fleming
Beyond Hollywood stardom, Barbie is in a class all her own. In the mid 1950’s, Jewish mother Ruth Handler noticed that her daughter Barbara assigned her paper dolls adult roles. At the time, most little girl’s toys were infant dolls. Handler suggested the idea of a mature-figured doll to her husband Elliot, co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He didn’t get it. Ruth persisted and Barbie was born. Offspring #2 and #3, as little girls, played for hours with Barbie. They dressed her, talked to and through her, playing within a Barbie universe that was wholesome and ladylike. When so-called feminists attacked Barbie as sexist, patriarchal, blah, blah, blah, my good opinion of Barbie was solidified. Naturally, there are hundreds of wonderful Barbie hats. Seraphic Secret is pleased to report that Barbie is not an alcoholic or a drug addict. Nor is she a trendy single mother. Barbie is free of STD’s, and does not suffer any mental illness. So far Barbie has not spent a single day in Dr. Drew’s rehab. Let’s hope her very unPC healthy streak continues.
Crossposted on Big Hollywood.
Karen and I wish all our Christian friends an inspiring Easter.