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The Influence of Movie Stars: Mae West and John Engtead Photos

MaewetitudeMy friend Christopher sent me a stack of books his grandmother had before she passed away. One of them was a thin book on the movies of Mae West. Immediately I recognized something about Cher in Mae West, a sort of Mae-Westitude. Did Cher borrowed anything from Mae West? It's an interesting idea. 

BreastdressFirst it was the dress from the movie I’m No Angel with the looks-more-revealing-than-it-is with its skin-tone material (so similar to Bob Mackie's dresses for Cher) and the cut-out breast plates similar to Cher's Take Me Home album cover.

Then it was Cher's Sadie Thompson but really Mae West impersonations (3:05).

It's also Cher's own sexual self confidence and personality.

Mae was said to be immediately recognizable and confident in her dresses, wigs and with her “insinuating sneer.”

Oh yes, and the wigs!

West is described in the book as tough, resilient, bold, self-mocking and good natured, all synonyms for Cher too.

Mae was also noted for her androgyny. Fans called her “Queen of the World.” The verb vamping was literally used in the book. So much in common.

Here are some other similar outfits...

Belle

Town

West

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



West in Belle of the Nineties / Going to Town / Go West Young Man 

Pretty provocative.

Mae West also had a multi-faceted career from vaudeville to Broadway to Hollywood. And for those who bemoan Cher’s lack of commitment to any one facet of show business, Mae had something to say about that, too: "It wasn’t what I did but how I did it.” 

West was credited with bringing “an entirely new attitude toward sex on the silver screen. Before Mae, the Hollywood siren had been heavy and sinister, a wrench in spangles or clinging black velvet gown who lured men to their doom. With Mae, sex became breezy and humorous, a light-hearted activity without guilt, recriminations, or emotional involvement of any kind.”

I also recently found a book called “Movie Star Portraits of the 1940s” and there were some photos there by John Engstead. You might remember his photos of Cher photos circa 1975, when her promotional materials were black and white, very soft focus, glamorous and hearkening back to this very Hollywood era. 

Eng1 Cher-75

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black and whites with light and shadow, soft makeup similar to his work stars like Lana Turner, Marlene Dietrick and Loretta Young, whose photo with flowers reminded me of his portraits for Cher in 1975. 

Bergman-eng Bergman-eng Bergman-eng

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingrid Bergman / Loretta Young / Lauren Bacall

There's something about these images that is not weak or vulnerable seeming, but headstrong…just straight on, and as the book states these images contain “allure and glamour imbued with intelligence.”


Watch Moonstruck for Christmas

XmasmoonMeg Sheilds has a great article about Moonstruck and why it's a great holiday movie.

Although it's not about the holidays per se, it's good a holiday vibe. She calls it a “glorious late-80s comfort food” and she likes Cher’s “frumpy chic.”

First, there's the sense of cold and warmth in the movie, scenes of insight are "bathed in cold, lunar spotlight that gives [them] a chilled supernatural feeling." Alternatively, the ”inviting domesticity of the interior spaces…radiate a warmth [both] physical and emotional with coloring of “dark cherry, rosy glows and deep crimsons."

Secondly, there's an emotional abandon about the movie, “the willingness to be emotional, both in bombast ('CHRISSY BRING ME THE BIG KNIFE') and in subtler, gentler ways ('I love him awful')…”tapping into that special kind of existential upheaval that runs rampant during the holidays when your routine is shaken and you discover new parts of yourself.”

She says, “Moonstruck loves it’s characters and refuses to reduce them to punchlines.” The movie has dark, wintery parts “of hard ground, dead trees, and precipitous existential dread.”

MoonstruckeggsFinally, there's family, a family which “feels terribly, terribly real…homey as those eggs that Rose makes.”

Oooh. I love that fried egg scene. I also love how the dish formerly known as Eggs in a Hole is now very often called Moonstruck Eggs.

Cher just gets into the cracks of culture, even the food. 

Which reminds me, why isn't there a Sonny cookbook out yet?

 


The Clinger Sisters on The Danny Kaye Show

Clinger1The Christmas season is upon us. And this reminds me that two years ago my friend Natalie spent Christmas in New Mexico. We watched one of her favorite movies, White Christmas with Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby. Natalie, turns out, is a big Danny Kaye fan. So we watched a lot of his clips on YouTube that month, including one with some young girls named The Clinger Sisters on Danny Kaye's variety TV show (1963-67).

I don't know why, but I looked them up on Wikipedia to see what became of them. Well, Peggy Clinger became a songwriter and wrote a song for Cher on her 1971 album, the song "I Hate to Sleep Alone."

Cherlp

 

In other news, check out this cool Christmas photo shoot with a Cher doll.


The Definition of Kibitz

KibbitzRemember this scene in the movie Good Times? Sonny is playing chess with their pet monkey? This is shortly after Cher orders out for "chicken delight" while saying, "You knew when you met me I wasn't the domestic type." 

I often say this phrase at home.

Anyway, Sonny, Cher and the monkey are waiting for their takeout and Cher is watching the chess game and making suggestions for Sonny, who is losing the game to the monkey. This annoys Sonny and he complains to her, "Don't kibitz."

Well, I've always wondered what that word meant. Like from the year 1981 when I first saw this movie at age 11 until this year. So for like 38 years I've been sitting here wondering. 

Recently I was listening to a Way with Words podcast and they explained this was a Yiddish word meaning "meddlesome bird." This is awesome because I love Yiddish.

Practically, it's defined as "to speak informally, chat, kibitz with friends" or alternatively "to look on and offer unwelcome advice, especially at a card game." (Google)

Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino also use the word in a recent GQ interview:

GQ: I wonder if you guys are friends in part because so few other people can really relate to your respective life experiences.

Pacino: We get together. And there’s a trust there. There just is. We understand this thing together a little bit better. And you go there sometimes just to get some feedback. We talk about things.

De Niro: Kibitz. I don’t know if you know that word.

GQ: I do.

Pacino: We kibitz.

They kibitz. That's adorable.


Bob Etsy RIP

TakemehomeOne of Cher's major producers from the late 1970s recently passed away.

Bob Etsy also produced big disco classics such as Donna Summers' "Last Dance." Here's his obit in the Hollywood Reporter.

And here's an interview where he talks about working with Cher.

Bob Etsy was a big part of the two 1979 Casablanca albums, Take Me Home and Prisoner.  He produced Prisoner entirely and shared production of Take Me Home with Ron Dante.

From Take Me Home he and with Michelle Aller wrote "Take Me Home," "Wasn't It Good," "Say the Word," and "Git Down (Guitar Groupie)." FromPrisoner Prisoner he and Michelle Aller wrote "Shoppin'," "Hell on Wheels," "Holy Smoke," and "Outrageous." He also co-wrote "Mirror Image" with Michael Brooks.

These Prisoner songs contained one-of-a-kind biographical lyrics meant to give people a view of Cher's life at the time. 

 

 

 


New Perfume Just in Time for Christmas

Eau

So as you may know, Cher's new perfume is available in time for all your $$$ stocking-stuffer needs, Eau du Couture. Does the name have to have so many vowels in it...so hard to spell. 

You can buy it here: https://scentbeauty.com/products/cher-eau-de-couture

I really like mine, which isn't a big surprise (and yet it kinda was when I opened it) because I liked Uninhibited and this smells very, very similar. My friend Christopher remarked that this is comforting, the idea that Cher has a one-stop smell and not a perfume opportunist like other celebrities. 

I'm not alone in my assessment either. Early reviews from frangrantica are making similar comparisons. And to remind you, here are the old reviews of Uninhibited. Or current reviews of it, as the perfume is still selling on eBay used. 

The commercial isn't quite as romantic as the last one from the 1980s and they lack her son Elijah or current boyfriend in them, but this making of the commercial was very lovely. 

MakeupHere's also an interview to go with the launch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkM8REYt6Iw.  I love the tour they take her through the decades.

Cher-side-stareHave you seen those videos of people quietly doing things on YouTube? They're called ASMR videos and they tap into our audio sensory fetishes. Here's an article explaining ASMR. There's a subset of Youtubes around opening boxes. A Cher fan gets into the act in this video of hands opening the bottle. We didn't have that in the time of Uninhibited. It's oddly addictive. 

And here's the straight-out commercial which I've only seen online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voRq6jdl6FE

At one part of the making-of video, we get the very intense Cher Stare (eek!) albeit a side-glance one. The Cher stare always makes me feel like I'm trouble for something, like in this case only buying one bottle of Eau de Couture so far!

I promise Cher, I'll buy the gift set when it comes out!! I swear!