If truth be told, these are not recent photos at all, but rather from winter 2012 which I have never got around to sharing. I had already given up my other Berlin blog and in fact, writing anything altogether. So I hope you won’t mind me sharing them now. It’s a pity that many of my most vivid impressions of this wonderful city have now been lost but the pictures help to remind me what I love about being there. It was a very beautiful, crisp November when I visited with brilliant sunshine every day which made walking a pleasure. I also achieved a couple of my dreams – namely, returning to the Kunsthistorishes Museum to see Tintoretto’s Portrait of a White Bearded Man which features so prominently in Thomas Bernhard’s Alte Meister, one of my favourite books and the first one I ever read in German, watching The Third Man at the charming Burg Kino which shows it every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, and also taking a ride on the famous Prater ferris wheel like Holly Martins and Harry Lime so many years before.
A friend of mine once criticised me for being as obsessed with the costumes and look of Mad Men as I was with the plot developments but it’s hard to ignore them when they’re such a key part of what made the series so compelling, almost becoming a character in their own right. The show raised the bar on stylishness and though others might now follow suit, it’s difficult to overestimate its influence. So let’s revisit some of the key makeup looks and products used on the main female characters throughout the seven series. The costumes deserve a post in their own right so I’ll be returning to them soon.
The makeup artist Lana Horochowski is an absolute stickler for historical accuracy and mainly based her research on vintage ads to create an authentic feel. I’ll focus specifically on the looks she created for each character in a moment but here are some of the products she used on set.
Base – Koh Gen Do Aqua foundation. Actually, when the show begins in the ’60s, there was no such thing as water based foundation and the products around then tended to be much heavier and matte. However, for a more flattering and buildable finish, I’d opt for a modern base like this one.
Eyebrows – brows are super important for this period. They need to be really well groomed and defined. Forget the natural look. Lana used Anastasia Perfect Brow pencil to get the shape, then filled them in with the Brow Powder Duo.
Lips – I’ll look at specific colours used below but matte is definitely preferable over gloss. Nars, Tom Ford and Revlon lip colours were the main ones used apparently. Lana doesn’t specify exactly which character wore them but I do know that Revlon Really Red and Cherries in the Snow were definitely used throughout the series for as they’re so highly pigmented and true retro colours.
Most women I know would love to be Joan Holloway/Harris. Maybe it’s because of her amazing figure or stunning red hair but for me, it’s because of her extraordinary pale skin which positively glows.
Despite what you might think, Joan rarely has a red lip. Apparently Christina Hendricks has naturally bright lips and normally wore Laura Mercier’s Baby Lips or MAC Fanfare. I also know for a fact that Joan often wears Tom Ford’s True Coral which is the ultimate retro colour and a great favourite of mine. She also often wears Nars Dolce Vita blush.
I also love the flashback scene with her and Roger in the hotel when he gives her a fur coat. Joan’s makeup is classic ’50s with stunning red lips and pin curled hair.
When Don and Betty take a trip to Rome, Betty tries out the beauty parlour at the Hilton and emerges looking absolutely incredible. Lana used Kevyn Aucoin’s Snow/Coal Duo Shadow on her eyes and did the perfect flick with Smashbox Limitless liner pen. Apparently, the lipstick used was Besamé Debutante Pink which no longer seems to be available but their Portrait Pink looks similar and any nude lipstick will do.
For her everyday look at home, Nars eyeshadow duo in Madrague and Nars lipstick in Barbarella were used. Betty is a classic Grace Kelly type and her cool look reflects this.
Peggy’s look is very minimal and barely there. And when she does wear makeup, it’s deliberately applied to be imperfect so that we know that her career comes before her image. She’s bang on trend with her colours but doesn’t quite know how to apply them properly. Lots of mascara was used though, particularly Lancôme Hypnose. For the episode where she decides to seduce Ted and wears this dress with the huge pink bow, Nars Velvet Matte lip pencil in Pop Life was on her lips.
Megan’s transformation at the beginning of Season 5 is one of my all time favourite moments. As much as I love the classic ’50s red lips and flicky eyeliner, there’s something so sexy about a smokey eye with a nude lip. Lana applied Nars eyeshadow in Heart of Glass (sadly now discontinued) which is a beautiful pale blue and then Nars Thunderball was used in the crease. A thick line of NARS Nuits Blanches Eyeliner Stylo (this shade seems to have been discontinued but the eyeliner is still available) was applied, followed by lots of Lancôme mascara and false eyelashes top and bottom (I suspect MAC or Shu Uemura). Nars blush in Desire and the velvet matte lip pencil in Belle De Jour added the finishing touches.
For her more natural office look, Megan’s makeup is kept to a minimum – NARS Madrague Duo Eyeshadow (see above for link) on the eyes or NARS Lili Marlene Cream Eyeshadow with Nuits Blanches Eyeliner Stylo and Nars Velvet Matte lip pencil in Dolce Vita.
For her honeymoon look, Megan seems to be wearing no makeup at all but Nars Velvet Matte Lip pencil was applied to give her that lovely touch of colour.
I hope you’ve enjoyed thinking about the makeup as much as I have and that you’ll feel inspired to try out some of the looks yourself.
So as today’s my birthday, I hope you will excuse this rather self-indulgent post (and the title reference to The Sound of Music) with some of my favourite people/things.
Proust – I can’t imagine a time without his words. Reading La Recherche in French took me almost a decade, and yet I’m always keen to start over again because there is so much I’ve missed and still need to understand.
Venice – my obsession since I visited it in 2009. I constantly dream of returning there and will get my chance in October. Photo by Dmitri Kessel, 1952.
Gloria Grahame – one of my favourite actresses who was born to play film noir. She enriched even the smallest role and made it interesting and I love her voice. It still breaks my heart how she never felt she beautiful enough and turned to plastic surgery which left her upper lip paralysed. Still very underrated today.
Le feu follet – this film actually brings together quite a few of my favourite things – Louis Malle, Maurice Ronet, Satie, Paris and the Café de Flore.
Evelyn Waugh – author of some of my favourite books which can be in turn hilarious and then bitingly cruel. Brideshead Revisited is one of the greatest novels ever written.
Film noir – easily my favourite film genre and even a mediocre noir is still worth watching. Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum in Jacques Tourneur’s ‘Out of the past’, one of the finest films ever made.
Henry James in the famous portrait by John Singer Sergeant. I know that many people are put off by his reputation for being difficult to read but as a master of the English language, I think he is unparalleled. ‘The portrait of a lady’ and ‘The Aspern papers’ are more accessible works than the later ones but equally brilliant.
Red lipstick – this one needs no explanation
Scott Fitzgerald – a genius with a prose style as glittering as his characters who also wrote the best book ever about Hollywood, The last tycoon.
Night time photos – as a noir lover, it won’t surprise you to learn that I love these kinds of photos, particularly of New York in the 1950s, like this one taken by Everett.
1920s fashion and make-up, as seen on the fabulous Clara Bow. If I could travel back in time to any period, this would be it, particularly Paris in this decade, if only to pick up some of those Picassos cheap.
Anna Karina simply because she’s Anna. Photos of her gorgeous face make me want to put on eyeliner and smoke a cigarette.
I love many films but Marcel Carné’s Les enfants du paradis has a special place in my heart, quite simply because it is one of the most beautiful ever made. The fact that its creator is now a rather forgotten figure and that the film does not appear in the Sight and Sound Top 50 of all time is a terrible oversight, in my opinion. At least in France it was voted “the best film ever” in a poll back in 1995. There are many reasons why you should see it; for a start, you enter into 19th century Paris with its boulevards, street shows and most importantly, the world of the theatre. Scripted by Jacques Prévert and with music by Joseph Kosma, it’s a magnificent, sweeping canvas which manages to keep all characters in sight over three hours.
There is the beautiful Garance, comme une fleur, played to perfection by Arletty who was once herself an artist’s muse, and the four men who love her, apparently all based on real figures from this time. The most famous is Frédéric Lemaître, the great actor who can be seen in Daumier’s lithographs in his legendary role as Robert Macaire. In the film he is played to perfection by Pierre Brasseur. Then there is the magnificent Jean-Louis Barrault as the tragic pierrot whose every gesture and facial expression is a work of art. His love for Garance and terrible jealousy will break your heart. The most enigmatic figure is perhaps the criminal Jean-François Lacenaire whose ruthlessness will seal Garance’s fate. And of course, we must not forget the wonderful supporting cast, including Gaston Modot and Maria Casares as Natalie with her voice full of tears. François Truffaut once said that he would give up his films in exchange for Les Enfants du Paradis. It’s a film that truly transcends the medium to become a true work of art and stays with you, not least because its ending is one of the saddest I have ever seen.
Regular readers of this blog and those who follow me on Instagram will know I’m something of a noir glutton – femmes fatales, crisp black and white photography, jazzy scores and a scheme or heist that you know can only end badly – I just can’t get enough. But I also have a thing for neo-noir, the genre that takes elements from film noir but transports them to later periods and have more modern aspects. So here are some of my favourites, in no particular order:
L.A. Confidential (Curtis, Hanson, 1997)
2. The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973)
3. The Grifters (1990, Stephen Frears)
4. Drive (2011, Nicolas Winding Refn) A bit too gory for me in places but a terrific film, nonetheless
5. Chinatown (1973, Roman Polanski)
6. The Last Seduction (1994, John Dahl)
7. Basic Instinct (1992, Paul Verhoeven) Again too much blood, but a gripping story
8. Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch)
9. Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch)
10. Brick (2005, Rian Johnson)
11.Body Heat (1981, Laurence Kasdan)
12. The Consequences of Love (2004, Paolo Sorrentino)