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The Unexpurgated Beaton: The Cecil Beaton Diaries as He Wrote Them, 1970-1980 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 28, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
As a photographer and stage designer, Beaton's propensity for self-promotion had already brought him a fair measure of renown in his native England. But the serial publication over the years of his diaries brought him notoriety, particularly the passages revealing his affair with Greta Garbo-bisexual in practice, Beaton's sensibility was swish. The years republished here, 1970-1980, are perhaps the least eventful of Beaton's life, concerned largely with his declining health, loss of sex drive and the shoring up of his artistic reputation: "To the younger generation I have become an old master," he writes. Yet this unflinching portrait of the artist's increasing debility is touching-all the more so coming from a man who spent much of his life capturing life from its most flattering angle. Pathos aside, the diaries gain a jolt of interest from Beaton's catty assessments of his circle (Noël Coward, John Gielgud and the Queen Mother are all acquaintances) and celebrity subjects, whom he continued to photograph for Vogue well into his 70s. Beaton's graceful writing is most perceptive when capturing others' physical appearance. Though his descriptions of women often border on the misogynistic (Grace Kelly is a "big bull puppy"), the dressing-down he gives Katharine Hepburn, with whom he worked unhappily on the Broadway show Coco, is a bracing astringent to the recent, gauzy hagiography of the screen legend. Though fiercely opinionated, Beaton never appears the crotchety old fart; encounters with Andy Warhol and David Bailey, a swingin' 1960s fashion photographer who filmed a documentary on Beaton, occasion frissons of mutual admiration between the old guard and new. After a stroke in 1974, Beaton declared there would be no more diaries. Yet he quietly carried on writing, and the few entries Vickers includes give a fascinating glimpse at Beaton's damaged linguistic faculty; there is an accidental, Gertrude Stein-like poetry in their throttled syntax. 40 photographs and heavy, if erratic footnotes.
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Cecil Beaton (1904-80) was a famous British photographer, artist, writer, and stage and screen designer, as well as a society figure whose word on style carried considerable weight. During his career, he maintained secure footing in the world of the high-placed and well-born, rubbing elbows with celebrities in the arts and society, from Katharine Hepburn to the Queen Mother. Beaton kept a record of what he thought of all of them in a diary, which this volume draws from, covering the last two decades of his life. Of course, it's gossipy and juicy--and irresistible. Names are dropped by the dozens on every page. But leaving aside the diary's telling-tales-out-of-school aspect, it also serves as an important social document of Britain in the 1960s and 1970s. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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This book won't improve your mind but, if you like peeks into the private lives and thoughts of many entertainers in the U. S. and Great Britain in the 1930s-1990s, read this book.
For mere mortals like me it is interesting to learn the attitudes and mores, and to have conveyed the exactitudes of his judgements -- which are quite harsh. He expected more of the super-rich; i.e., He was shocked by the Baroness de Rothschild's habit of referring to surrealist masterpieces by their current owners, and rightly so. I think it is only he among a select few, who could level such abuses at these exalted personages, and we should be thankful we can read them. Of course he can be outrageous and camp and cruel to the point of being ludicrous, as in his famous passage about Elizabeth Taylor looking "like a peasant in Peru suckling her young." But this is why I bought the book! He does have some good things to say about some people. He has wonderful things to say about nature, about gardens, about birds. Truly, references to flowers throughout the tome were always scintillating. Flowers were the true superstars of his world and it was good to see something deeply pleased him; blooms, well-drawn gardens were the utlimate chic to him, usually beyond reproach (except some showy flowers Queen Mary would have rolled over in her grave to see). Yes, a very good read for the snob at heart. Chockablock with culture and 20's 30's 40's and 50s references. He could have said more about Vreeland, Dali and Warhol. He didn't give Diana half as much attention as I thought she'd get. Oh well.