Saturday, 29 September 2012

beaton & luxembourg

Do you know the feeling when you hold a book in your hand for the first time, start reading it and you just know that you and that book are about to have a fabulous time together? That's how I felt on the train on my way home from the city on Thursday, after going to the library and borrowing The Unexpurgated Beaton, Cecil Beaton's diaries from 1970-1980, as he wrote them. They have not been edited in any way but Hugo Vickers writes introduction and footnotes (he wrote Beaton's authorised biography). So far, the book has been a pure delight.

The Luxembourg photos were taken last Saturday, when I went into the city with my daughters. All the photos, except the above one to the left taken on Rue de la Congrégation, were taken on the Avenue de la Liberté. We had crossed the Adolphe Bridge and were on our way to the train station to head back home.

Beaton's sketch above of Katharine Hepburn is in his first entry, called 'Coco and Katharine Hepburn in Retrospect'. Beaton had designed a musical called Coco based on the life of the fashion icon and it was Hepburn who played Chanel. (Beaton wanted Rosalind Russell to play her.) In the intro to the first entry, Vickers says that Beaton and Hepburn 'were not soulmates' (p. 20). He had e.g. written about her earlier that she had 'rocking-horse nostrils' so Hepburn made sure that in her contract it stated that Beaton was forbidden to publish anything about her. Well, what he wrote in his own diary was his business and here is a little extract for you to enjoy ... or not:

She is the egomaniac of all time and her whole life is devised to receive the standing ovation that she has had at the end of her great personality performance. As the play nears its end and she is sure of her success, she becomes raged, the years roll off her, and she becomes a young schoolmistress. Up till then she has, to my way of thinking, been as unlike Chanel as anyone could be. With the manners of an old sea salt, spreading her ugly piano-calved legs in the most indecent positions, even kicking her protégée with her foot in the "London" scene, standing with her huge legs wide apart and being in every gesture as unfeminine and unlike the fascinating Chanel as anyone could be. Her performance is just one long series of personal mannerisms.

I would not have thought audiences could react so admiringly, yet the first time I saw a run-through rehearsal, I was impressed and even touched. But ever since I've found her performance mechanical, inept (her timing is erratic), she stops and laughs, she falters over words, she is maladroit, and she is ugly. (p. 21)

He goes on and on and the entry ends with these words: 'I hope I never have to see her again' (p. 23).

Saying that Beaton was frank is perhaps an understatement.

Have a wonderful weekend dear readers and blog friends!

photo credit:
Lisa Hjalt


  1. A good book - a wonderful town - and the time to read - and something good to eat :-)

    is a perfect weekend!

    ♥ Franka

  2. haha, sounds like a hilarious read. I love autobiographies and diaries. I might need to get my hands on this one!

    happy sunday xxx

  3. Sounds like a fabulous book!

  4. Beautiful photos Lisa! I will be sure to keep my eyes open for a copy of this book when I next visit my library!

  5. Absolutely nice photos. Seems that you had a wonderful time ...and weather, hmmmm. Well, this book (wich is getting me curious) has beautiful illustrations.

  6. I love this. The notion of knowing you're about to have a love affair with that book and the outcome is a good one:))

    Beautifully put.
    Your pictures are fab!

    Great post.


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