Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Vicomtesse of the Bizarre

Marie-Laure de Noailles, Vicomtesse de Noailles was one of the 20th century's most daring and influential patrons of the arts, noted for her associations with Salvador Dalí, Balthus, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel, Francis Poulenc, Jean Hugo, Jean-Michel Frank and others as well as her tempestuous life and eccentric personality. She and her husband financed Ray's film Les Mystères du Château de Dé (1929), Poulenc's Aubade (1929), Buñuel and Dalí's film L'Âge d'Or (1930), and Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet (1930).

Marie-Laure de Noailles and her husband lived in the fabled hôtel particulier at 11 Place des États-Unis in Paris, which was built by her grandfather Bischoffsheim. Its interiors were redecorated in the 1920s by French minimalist designer Jean-Michel Frank. The house is now the Musée Baccarat and the headquarters of Baccarat, the crystal company.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ski High Altitude Society

Gstaad, in Switzerland, is perhaps more famous for its international high society than for it’s skiing. It’s located in the German-speaking section of the Canton of Berne in the southwestern part of the country. Valentino has a house there, as did the Buckley’s. King Juan Carlos of Spain famously broke his pelvis there. He broke it skiing.

Cortina, or more precisely Cortina d'Ampezzo, nestled in the Dolomites in the Italian Alps, is another famous ski destination known for its après-ski scene. The town hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics and was used in a scene from the James Bond picture, For Your Eyes Only.

St. Moritz, in Switzerland, is arguably more famous, if a bit more common. One of the oldest ski resorts in Europe, it hosted the Winter Olympics in both 1928 and 1948. It is also home to the Cartier Polo World Cup on Snow; an annual high-goal tournament featuring many of the world's finest teams. The tournament lasts four days and is played on a specially marked field located on a frozen lake.

Megève, in France, started its development as a ski resort in the 1910s when the Rothschild family started to spend their winter vacations there after becoming disenchanted with St. Moritz. In 1921, Baronne Noémie de Rothschild opened a hotel which boosted the resort's development. By the 1950s Megève was one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe, and was featured in the opening scenes of Charade with Audrey Hepburn, where her character meets Cary Grant.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Beau of the Ball

Charles de Beistegui was an eccentric multi-millionaire art collector and interior decorator and one of the most flamboyant characters of mid-20th century European life, whose passport was Spanish and whose wealth came from his family's Mexican silver mines. The cash reservoir allowed de Beistegui to indulge himself in the homes he decorated, such as his Chateau de Groussay and the 17th century Palace Labia in Venice.

In 1951 Beistegui held a masked costume ball in Venice, which he called Le Bal Oriental. It was one of the last truly spectacular events in that famous palazzo, and it was one of the largest and most lavish social events of the 20th century. The truly upper crust of international society attended in costumes custom made for the event. The host wore scarlet robes and a long curling wig, and his normal height was raised a full 16 inches by platform soles. Cecil Beaton's photographs of the ball display an almost surreal society, reminiscent of Venetian life immediately before the fall of the republic at the end of the 18th century.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School - Most Stylish Films

The American Films -

Laura, with Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews

The Thomas Crown Affair, with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway

Bonnie and Clyde, with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty

The Hunger, with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie

American Gigolo, with Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman

Charade, with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant

Arabesque, with Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck

Mahogany, with Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams

The Eyes of Laura Mars, with Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones

Shanghai Express, with Marlene Deitrich and Anna May Wong

The Foreign Films -

Breathless, with Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Seburg

Purple Noon, with Alain Delon

La Dolce Vita, with Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, and Anouk Aimee

8 ½, with Marcello Mastroianni

The Leopard, with Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale, and Alain Delon

In The Mood For Love, with Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung Chui Wai

A Death in Venice, with Dirk Bogarde

Blowup, with David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave

Belle du Jour, with Catherine Deneuve

Last Year at Marienbad

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Everyone's Favorite Sister

Sister Parish was an American interior decorator and socialite. She was the first interior designer brought in to decorate the Kennedy White House. Parish's influence can still be seen, particularly in the Family Dining Room and Yellow Oval Room.

A stately and occasionally eccentric white-haired lady, Parish was the design partner of Albert Hadley, a Tennessee-born decorator, with whom she co-founded Parish-Hadley Associates in 1962. Parish was known for her homey, cluttered traditionalism and passion for patchwork quilts, painted furniture, and red-lacquer secretaries.

She was partial to the understated English country house look, and her combinations of Colefax and Fowler chintzes, overstuffed armchairs, and brocade sofas with such unexpected items as patchwork quilts, four-poster beds, knitted throws, and rag rugs led to her being credited with ushering in what became known as American country style during the 1960s.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The True Swan

Gianni Agnelli was the head of the rich, powerful, and much speculated-about Fiat clan. But no one has personified that family's enduring elegance better than Marella Agnelli, Gianni’s wife. In 1953, Richard Avedon shot and hand-altered a famous portrait of the half-American, half-Neopolitan princess to emphasize the extraordinary length of what renowned fashion illustrator Joe Eula called "the most gorgeous neck in the world." She was also a member of writer Truman Capote's elite colony of society "swans." Comparing Agnelli to that other rare bird, Babe Paley, he said with characteristic tartness, "If they were both in Tiffany's window, Marella would be more expensive."

Tall and lithe, with classical features, Agnelli was one of the BP's (beautiful people) often found in Diana Vreeland's aristo-chic Vogue. Admitted to the International Best Dressed List in 1963, she eventually became a Hall of Fame member.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"More shoes, but you're already bought be dozens."

Arabesque is a 1966 thriller starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren. The movie is based on Gordon Cotler's novel The Cypher and directed by Stanley Donen, who also directed Charade, Indiscreet, and Funny Face.

The plot, involving an evil Arab industrialist, and assassination attempt, and Loren as an Arab double agent and Peck as a bumbling Oxford professor, is not important. What stands out in this movie is Loren’s Marc Bohan designed Christian Dior wardrobe and a pivotal scene in her dressing room with dozen’s of pairs of Roger Vivier shoes. Vivier also designed the shoes for Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour.