10 May 2010

Screen Icons: Betty Grable (A Blitz Party special!)

"There are two main reasons why I am successful in show business, and I am standing on both of them."

This is just the sort of cheeky and humble comment that can be attributed time and again to the brilliant Hollywood star Betty Grable, the proud owner of a winning, girl-next-door style smile as well as a certifiably
perfect pair of pins!

Betty Grable starred in a number of films that American and international cinema goers genuinely loved, from her big break in the musical Down Argentine Way (1940) to the comedy Coney Island (1943) and, my personal favourite, How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), alongside Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall.

Betty also gained public recognition when she married the actor Jackie Coogan, made famous in his youth by his role in The Kid with Charlie Chaplin, though the two divorced after just three years together.

Considering all of these notable successes, it was not an acting role that really made Betty Grable an icon – it was a photograph. The public already loved Betty thanks to her fun personality and strikingly pretty looks, so it was no wonder that when a pin-up photo of her was released during WWII showing off her fabulous legs, she became the sweetheart of the nation, and, historically, of the armed forces.

The beautiful and all American girl Betty clearly reminded soldiers of what they were fighting for at home and her pose swiftly adorned barracks around the world. Betty herself was clearly flattered by this and took on the mantle of the forces pin-up with gusto, commenting: “I'm strictly an enlisted man's girl.”

It was this popularity that really fired up Betty's film career, with the treasury department noting that in the year 1946-47 that she was the highest paid actress in Hollywood, earning $300,000 a year. It was at this stage in her career that 20th Century Fox famously insured Betty's lusted-after legs for a quarter million dollars, a wise move considering that she was so in demand!

On screen Betty was an enlivening presence, using her talents as a trained dancer to perform with energy and warmth, which perfectly offset her enviable physique.

These attributes were obviously noted by costume designers as the outfits that were chosen for Betty were usually sleek and sparkling for glamorous roles, sporty-chic for her more light hearted appearances, and still slim fitting for parts in war films such as A Yank in the R.A.F (1941), though room was always understandably made to show a bit of leg!

This classically American styling carried through to Betty's publicity shots and personal attire, indicating either a canny awareness of her public image or just good old fashioned taste for clean lines, vibrant colours and flattering shapes.

In the shops this season the sporty American look and military styling that Betty is associated with can be easily found, largely thanks to the fact that shorts are everywhere right now, much to the delight of Vanity and Kid!

Super small shorts in an array of bright colours that can be paired with simple t-shirts or vests will jump out at you in H&M or Uniqlo, whilst shops such as River Island, Zara, New Look and even M&S are sure to have some great basic shorts in khaki, brown or sandy tones to achieve an army surplus look, which I am gearing up to try.

Just like Betty, accessorise with a slim belt around your waist, cracking pins, high heels and a smile!

Apollonia Gish x

If you like this, check out Style Cramp at the Blitz Party

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