Showing posts with label garbo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label garbo. Show all posts

Friday, August 26, 2016


I like to think that comedic models will become common in future figure drawing sessions. I further fantasize that the best models...i.e. the funniest ones, the most fun to draw...will become much sought after on the art school circuit. I predict that we'll see a lot of certain types of characters. I'll mention a few of them here. 

Well, there's the Mr. Meek type (above). 

With costume changes the very same model could, in the same session, be a flamboyant dandy...

...a dancer or a singer...

...a snob...

...or a goofball...

...or a villain like Captain Hook.

As with male models you'll want female models who, with a costume change, could play different kinds of roles.  Skinny Olive Oyl-types (above) would be fun to draw and could probably do double duty in the same session.

She could also be a dancer (above)...

 ...or a funny melodramatic actor.

I don't mean to give the impression that one model could handle all the women's parts. For other sessions you'll also need a big-boned model (above).

With a couple of pillows tucked into her clothes she could be a hefty post-middle age woman.

You'll obviously need a sexy bathing suit model (above). This requires someone funny who's voluptuous and curvy, not thin like a super model.

You'll also need a dramatic actress who can parody actresses like Garbo or Bette Davis.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Here's (above) one of my favorite Basil Wolverton caricatures. I assume it's Greta Garbo. She was famous for her profile shots and Basil probably referenced one of them when he sketched this.

Maybe it was this one (above).

Garbo must have had a lot of imitators because after a point a lot of actresses (above) tried it. Most of the photos I've seen failed...neck shots must be harder than they look.

 This girl (above) succeeded on technical grounds, but didn't have the personality to pull it off.  Garbo was sickly. This actress disappoints by radiating health. How boring!

Dietrich (above) had no problem with sickly...she was a master at sickly... she just couldn't get the steep angle.

Katherine Hepburn came close (above), cigar. She just looks too doggone healthy.

It's possible that other actresses (above), unable to compete with Garbo in the profile department, settled on a high-chin frontal version that showed them to better advantage.

After a point you see a lot of these photos. Looking down your eyes was the in thing to do.

Maybe being snooty became fashionable. Maybe it was discovered that frontal necks took well to underlighting. Maybe more parts were written for snooty women...I don't know.

I guess that high chin look was overdone in the 40s. Now it's underdone. Even when it fits, Hollywood won't use it. The "Maleficent" poster cried out for it and it was denied. If the two types of poses above were under consideration for that movie which would you choose?

Thursday, August 29, 2013


The cigarette girl (above) is Garbo, the famous Swedish American actress of the 30s and 40s. I've blogged about her before but this time I'd like to focus on her feet. She's reputed to have walked on what amounts to kayaks. You'd think this would be a career-ending flaw for a dramatic actress, but the public forgave it. They were all focused on her face.

'Lest you've forgotten, this...

...this is the famous face.

Some of my favorite Garbo films were the ones where she appeared to be studying the face of the person she talked to. Humanity was a puzzle to Garbo, something to be figured out.

Bye the way, how did she come up with that flat-on-the-sides hair style? It looked like her hair was carved out of wood and lowered onto her skull with chains.

Artists loved her. 

Men went nuts over her. She was so...mysterious!

Even the great Barrymore (above) fell for her. Look at that indecipherable look on her face. Fans clamoured to know, "For God's Sake, what is she thinking!!!???"

Maybe she was just bored, or maybe she had judged the human race and found us wanting. I prefer to think she was developing some great thought...some idea of cosmic significance that had the power to change the world if only she would divulge it.

Anyway, about the feet...She was a boon to women with big feet. She made it seem downright fashionable.

According to this artist (above) she had feet you could surf with.

It was a great look. Even fish tried to imitate it.

Who knows what influence she might have had on fashion had not WWII intervened?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Has anyone, except maybe Peter Lorre, ever taken as many sickly pictures as Marlena Dietrich? There are a ton of them! Even her happy pictures like the one above, have an eerie, just-back-from-the-dead quality. This isn't a criticism, I like these pictures, I just think they're funny.

Here's (above) Marlena in what appears to be a picture of a dead person poured into a chair. Her hat is a crow, ready to feast on the carrion.

Dietrich's face (above) is a skull.

Here (above) Dietrich looks up at us like one of the pit characters in Dante's "Inferno." It's a beautifully executed picture. I wonder who made it. Maybe Steichen. 

Lots of pictures show her hanging on things, so as not to fall on the floor.

Oops! Too late! Here (above) she catches herself in mid-fall, while her other tortured self looks on.

This time (above) she clings to a pillar.  

Above, the just-poured corpse again.

I wonder why the death motiff was so popular in Dietrich's time. Was it a product of WWI or the Spanish Flu? Maybe it came out of the over-the-top pulps.

Here (above) she appears to be seconds from death.

Garbo also sat for a lot of sickly pictures, except Garbo seemed to exemplify severe depression rather than death. 

During the WWII years sickly was out and the healthy, wholesome look was in. 

Sunday, January 25, 2009


This is all about one of my favorite actresses: the infinitely mysterious and intriguingly unknowable Greta Garbo. For years I only knew her through "Ninotchka" and "Queen Christina," which are fine films, but are not the ones you want to see if you want to understand the famous Garbo mystique.

If you want to understand the mystique, if you want to know why she was the subject of so many caricatures and parodies, you'll have to dig deeper than Ninotchka. 

You'll have to watch films like "Romance," "Grand Hotel," "Anna Christie," and "Camille."

Garbo was one of a kind, but she wasn't always like that. When she started she was just another pretty face who could act a little. When she came to Hollywood from Sweden she paniced because she realized the studios were loaded to the gills with pretty faces, who would all be obsolete the day they flashed their first wrinkle.

A documentary I saw credited her manager with the breakthrough idea that she should separate herself from the pack by carving a niche for herself as a mysterious vamp. I think a manager might have helped Marylin Monroe to create her identity. Boy, the right manager is worth his weight in gold!

She began to dress differently than the other girls, even differently than the other vamps. She picked a hair style that would emphasize her big forehead, rather than compensate for it. 

It was a big risk. If she failed she wouldn't even get the pretty young thing roles. 

Early on she developed the idea that she looked good in aspirational poses, and she liked to be photographed looking up, into the light. 

Somewhere along the line she got the idea that she looked good when brooding, so she brooded and brooded. She brooded so much that whole of Sweden started to brood in imitation. The Swedish film director, Ingmar Bergman made a career out of brooding. Now everybody expects Swedes to brood, and are disappointed when they discover they're mostly happy. 

I love her brooding poses.  She was the first of the great brooders like Peter Lorre and Brando. 

The idea is that life is pointless and horrific, and can only be answered with silent anguish. Garbo raised brooding to an art form.

Her look seemed to say, "How shallow happy people are! Look at them all, running around and laughing!! If they had any brains, if they realized how stupid the world really is, they'd brood just like I do!"

Actually she wasn't quite as one-dimensional as I portray her here. Her films are full of exquisitely happy moments too, even if the happiness is always crushed. 

Sometimes her brooding made her look sickly. Maybe that's what got her cast in the ultimate sickly film...

..."Camille!" Camille is a film about a dying woman who heroically declines to tell her fiance about her condition, for fear of depressing him.

She was always collapsing in his arms, and he thought she was just being emotional.

No matter how many times she dropped her food and fell like a rag doll to the floor, he thought it was because she was being refined and lady-like. Her boyfriend wasn't the brightest bulb in the box. 

Sickly and heroic: stars love roles like that! As Jennifer said in the comments, this is a flawed film that's only good when Garbo is in it. Even then, she was a little too restrained, a little too reluctant to take it over the top. I'll bet that was the director's doing. I like the film because I can easily imagine the performance that might have been, and because the plot is one of the funniest I've ever seen. I'd love to do a short cartoon parody of this!

Garbo also experimented with roles where the girls were too existential, too serious to dally with the silly men who pursued them.

At first Garbo preferred that her leading men take her in their arms and give her "The Look." Eventually she decided that it was better if she took them in her arms, and gave them the look!

Yes, Garbo picked her men! Unfortunately as she neared retirement she started to lose her confidence in the persona she'd so carefully cultivated, and attempted to play more conventional, less over-the-top roles.  Peter Lorre did the same thing. I wonder what it is about age that makes actors do that?