What does it mean to be a bona fide movie star? Does it mean awards, like Oscars and Golden Globes? Does it mean riches, like mansions and couture? Or does it mean possessing raw, enviable talent? For women, it often means appearing to be perfect: perfect hair, perfect makeup, perfect skin, perfect partner — the list goes on. If you thought Kim Kardashian wearing 5-inch heels while eight months pregnant was a lot, you should see the lengths to which early Hollywood actresses went to maintain the illusion of perfection and youthfulness.
Now, with FX's addicting new drama,
Feud: Bette and Joan, highlighting the remarkable relationship between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, we're finally seeing accurate depictions of what these iconic women's beauty routines were really like. We also get a glance at the biggest (and most treacherous) feud of all: age versus beauty.
Let's look at the most surprising moments we've seen on the show so far.
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Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
Here, Crawford, as phenomenally played by Jessica Lange, is being doused in luxurious lotion by her personal beauty technician. She runs her hands in upward strokes, attempting to work against gravity and lift Crawford's neckline. In her book,
My Way of Life, Crawford said that beyond products, a woman's demeanor played a huge part in her appearance. "All the beauty products in the world can't disguise a disagreeable expression," she wrote, obviously never having heard of resting bitch face. "Have you ever noticed that when you say 'no' you begin to resemble a prune-faced schoolmarm?" More
While this seems pretty relaxing (like a front neck massage?) the obsession with turning back the clock is so real that later in the series, Crawford's house keeper (and confidant) Mamacita, helps her tape back her neck to enhance her neckline. Ouch.
Use your ice for more than just a cold one.
An ice-cold midday drink was part of the normal routine for Crawford (as well as Davis, and nearly every other character on the show). In addition to an icy flask, Old Hollywood actresses also used to incorporate ice into their beauty routines. After washing her face at night, Crawford would apparently splash her face with
frigid icy water 25 times! It's said to help tone and tighten your skin as well as shrink pores. More
Hair caps and cold cream are a requirement.
Women in the first half of the 20th century didn't use makeup remover wipes or the foaming cleanser most of us use today. Instead, they used cold creams to remove their makeup (like the mounds of it put on during a lengthy Broadway play, as seen in this scene). Many of the stage actresses are also seen wearing hair caps in order to don wigs for their roles.
Crawford herself maintains that she never wore too much makeup, which may be a dig at her co-star Davis, who infamously caked on white powder to transform her appearance for her role in
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. In her advice book, Crawford wrote "Men hate too much makeup. They're afraid it will rub off on them. And you know something? It does.” More
When life gives you lemons, rub them on your elbows.
In a fascinating scene, Crawford vents about her day while intensely and meticuously rubbing lemons halves on her bare elbows. She did it to
brighten the skin tone and soften their appearance (which seems a little aggressive considering no one looks at people's elbows, but that's Crawford for you). More
Rub a dub.
Rub lemon, rinse, repeat.
Davis also used to utilize a common produce item in her nightly beauty routine. Her expressive and emotive eyes, for which she would come to be known, were maintained by placing cucumber slices on her
eyes each evening before bed with a layer of petroleum jelly. More
A little weight work.
Gyms weren't really a thing in the '50s and '60s. It was more diet pills (yikes) and cigarettes (double yikes). But in her later years, Crawford pumped some iron in her own chic way — in a living room, while barking orders to Mamacita. Plus, the weights look to be about 2 pounds.
At-home manicures were a Thing.
I need an at-home manicurist, ASAP. Hedda Hopper (played by Judy Davis) knew what was up.
Playing with hair color.
Crawford famously showed up for the 1962 Oscars in all silver — dress, jewels, and even her raven-black hair. She felt the color complemented the gold of the Oscar award itself. Basically, she wanted to stand out, and stand out she did. The hair stylists used a gray powder to sit on her hair giving her the metallic glow she so desired. Her opulent appearance was in stark contrast to how young Hollywood approached beauty at the time, which was more Twiggy than traditional.
Shellac everything into place.
Hairspray isn't nearly as dominate as it used to be in the makeover arena. I myself haven't used it since I got an up-do for prom many, many moons ago. Aqua Net has always been one of the most iconic names for hairspray, and it is still made today (get yours for only $1.97). All that stiff hairspray, uncomfortable hair clips, and shimmering gray powder is the stuff of legends.
Beauty teams were essential.
Did we really think that these glamorous women did anything alone? No way. In the Oscars episode of the series, Crawford is seen getting pampered by a team of young makeup artists and hair stylists in her private beauty parlor. They do her nails, hair, and makeup, making her even more done up than she is on a movie set. As she tells one makeup consultant on the set of
Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, "the brows are hers" and "the mouth, too." She knows what parts of her face need to be left untouched in order to maintain their Joan Crawfordness. More
So while the women of Hollywood were lifting weights, putting gray powdered sugar on their hair, and rubbing citrus fruits all over their bodies... what were the men doing?
Oh, just relaxing.
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