Glamour of the Gods night at the National Portrait Gallery of London - the report

On Friday night I went to the free special evening organized by the National Portrait Gallery Late Shift Extra: The Glamour Factory around their Photo Exhibition Glamour of The Gods. 

The stakes were high: you could have a retro hairdo & make up and then be photographed in a star pose, hear talks about Beauty, watch Top Hat, a Black & White movie with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, etc. 

Being in love with all things retro, my main draw for coming was the 30's hairdo & make-up which I wasn't able to do at the last Vintage Festival held in August at SouthBank Centre due to the never ending queue of like-minded women dying to look like a cinema star. So there I was, starting to queue for my long awaited retro make up and hair-do at the National Portrait Gallery when the staff told us there was no point queuing, because all the "free" tickets had been sold out. 

Right. I wasn't going to let that ruin the evening so I decided instead to go for a talk entitled "What is Beauty?". 

Danny Rees from the Wellcome Library explained how large eyes and high eyebrows helped considerably in perceiving people as beautiful (which I guess also explains why so many women spend fortunes on making them seem bigger with make up AND why actresses at the time always had their eyebrows reshaped with a pencil). He also explained why smiling is so important and important it is to master faking it for stars. Basically a smile on a face is something you see from afar. So if you don't know the person in front of you, and they start smiling, it sends us the message: "I'm no threat to you". You can tell if someone is genuinely smiling if their eyes crease as they smile. If they're forcing a smile, only the mouth smiles and the eyes remain static. Then he went on observing that in movies generally the bad guy is always ugly and the good guy is always good-looking which could be an interpretation of something much older. Greek Philosophers Sapho & Plato thought that if you're beautiful inside, you're beautiful outside. But then I kind of remember Manson was not too bad and still was the serial killer everyone knows. So there goes Plato. 

Then I went to hear a talk by Dr David Gems (Institute of Healthy Aging, UCL) entitled the Immortality tour. He was taking the example of a son who couldn't deal with his mother's death and decided to freeze her. After all f you bury someone you're sure they will decay whereas if you "freeze" them you keep the tiny hope that science will be sufficiently advanced to revive your loved ones while you're still alive... I didn't see the rest as I had to meet a friend of mine. And off we went to watch the movie Top Hat. I had personally never seen a Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers movie. Top Hat is one of these intrigues à la Marivaux where someone is mistaken for someone else and everybody finds out at the end their error... I marveled at the dance, the moves, the singing, the incredible decorum of the Italian scenes & also the clothes. Ginger Rogers is wearing magnificent dresses (Gosh, that white feather dress!) all along the movie which made me wonder how she could manage to dance in them. But all seems effortless. And it's a great comedy. 

In the end a nice evening even though I will have to find yet another retro event to have my hair and make up done in a Glamour of the Gods way! 

June Caravel.