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Pretty Things: The Last Generation of American Burlesque Queens Hardcover – October 24, 2006

4.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A search for second-hand garments-"pretty things"-first prompted filmmaker Liz Goldwyn's lifelong fascination with the burlesque queens of the 1930s, '40s and '50s. After amassing a museum-worthy collection of their wardrobes and dancing paraphernalia, the enthusiastic young woman grew "convinced that every garment holds undiscovered revelations about its past lives." To learn more, she began contacting long-retired dancers and "through ten years of letters, visits, interviews and striptease lessons" documented their colorful-and sometimes tragic-stories. Tracing the evolution of this form of dancing from the Belle Époque to burlesque's mid-century heyday (which boasted such luminaries as Gypsy Rose Lee, Lily St. Cyr and Zorita), Goldwyn makes a convincing case for recognizing both the choreography and costume-making of this bygone era as a true art form. Fully illustrated with design notes, media clippings and hundreds of photos, this coffee table treasure serves as a companion book to the documentary film of the same name, which Goldwyn premiered on HBO in 2005. Ultimately, Goldwyn's contagious enthusiasm for her subject makes a fitting paean to this once-forgotten generation of women who led lives on the periphery of artistry and respectability.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The spectacularly illustrated book complementing Goldwyn's HBO documentary of the same name focuses on the early--twentieth-century heyday of burlesque in America, especially its stars. The granddaughter of Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn rationalizes that although "raised in the wake of women's lib, schooled to be independent and to downplay sexuality[,] . . . many women [feel] a strong attraction to the burlesque queen persona of self-aware sexuality," and photos of her in vintage stripper costumes bespeak her own attraction. But she sees "burlesque queens as artists and their costumes as examples of great craftsmanship." Book and documentary call attention to the era and the performers "so that their role in entertainment history can be reexamined and 'legitimized.'" Including details on such vital matters as costume construction for the sake of quick, easy divestment; a wealth of pertinent illustrations; great stories of such stars as Betty Rowland, Zorita, and June St. Clair; and snippets on the likes of Gypsy Rose Lee and Mai Ling, this package gives said reexamination a jump start. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; 1 edition (October 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060889446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060889449
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 9.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,111,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
An artistic design layout provides the reader with lots of photos and scrapbook pages of original costume sketches, fabric swatches, letters, postcards, and lots more. This visual collage is a wonderful piece of film toward understanding the life these women lived. Their attitude and sex appeal as we know it only disguised the reality of their life, tough working conditions and a career contingent of youth and beauty eventually leading these women to fall on hard times and in the end forgotten.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the history of burlesque, theater history or costume design. I actually found this book while searching for information on Gypsy Rose Lee. I have never seen the documentary, but the book stands on its own merits.
Not only are the stories of the performers interesting - and sometimes heartbreaking - but the photos are amazing. There are candid shots of costume fittings, fabric swatches, original sketches and, in one case, photos of the inside construction of the costume. I work with costumes and it was interesting to see the rigging used in the "pre-velcro" days. I have done plenty of quick change rigging over the years and enjoyed seeing the skill and imagination used in the construction of these costumes.
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Format: Hardcover
An enlightening look at a largely misunderstood/misinterpreted art form, this book combines rigorous scholarship, engaging narrative, rare photos, and well-executed design. Liz Goldwyn's love of the subject matter is clear and infectious. Highly recommended, as is the author's HBO special of the same name.
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Format: Hardcover
The scholarly introduction is the first dropped shoulder strap promising all the pretty things to come. And we are carried away to behold the depths and heights and endless invention of the fine art of burlesque by the ladies who are never at a loss for a loss; creative and subtle. This book belongs in every library in every home because it is about all the things that make life worth while and it deserves recognition for its artistic and educational merit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful iconic scrap book of striptease artists. It gives information about the lives of the girls, their costumes, their admirers. It is a feast for people interested in this art, not just for the eyes but for the mind and heart. I understand the author did a documentary, as well, and I would love to see it. Please someone release it on DVD.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this is an excellent book. super nice pictures. its very helpful for anyone interested in vintage costumes. my only problem with the book is that no pictures or information was provided about the beautiful sherry britton, whom was featured in the documentatry and I would have loved to have some pics of her amazing costumes! all in all, wonderful book. I also recommend Dita von Teese's "Burlesque And The Art Of The Teese" and "Les Girls". both have amazing pictures of vintage burlesque outfits.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love Burlesque and this was a nice introduction to the history of that subject. Well written, good background history of the subject, and lots of pictures. I wish that Burlesque was around today. If you like beautiful women being creative and entertaining then you will enjoy this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a Christmas gift for my son as he is Executive Director of the Burlesque Museum here in Las Vegas. Thought he could donate it to the museum after enjoying it. He was impressed and loved it!
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