The glamour, fantasy and tease of Tinsel Town’s festive dream world.
There is nothing that celebrities like better than to make out that they are just like the rest of us, while at the same time reminding us that they have much more glamorous lives than we could ever conceive of, and that’s never more true than at Christmas when there is a sparkle in the air and everyone is celebrating. For many years, when Hollywood stars were designed to be untouchable, aspirational, better versions of ourselves, the Christmas photo was a must, a magical moment of festive glitter that the rest of us could only dream of, even as they reassured us that these Gods and Goddesses of the Silver Screen were still ordinary people – look, we could marvel, Joan Crawford decorates her own Christmas tree (sadly not with little coathangers, but still). Their trees might look more immaculately designed than the haphazard affair that adorns our living room, their gifts more perfectly wrapped, but still… it was a moment of bonding.
Festive Hollywood images emphasised the glamour – in the case of the sex goddesses, in a rather provocative manner with skimpy outfits and coquettish pouts, as if to say “wouldn’t you like to find me under your tree?”. Male stars were expected to be more comedic or rugged, the sort of husband who could sort of the Christmas lights in no time and would have no qualms about dressing up as Santa to delight the kids. These photos, aimed at magazines and sent out to eager fans who wrote in requesting autographs, are charming reminders of a world that never really existed – the addicts, the monsters who beat or abused their children, the starlets ready to be disposed of once the wrinkles set in, the premature deaths just around the corner. None of that is here in these images, even if some smiles look a tad too forced and some jollity appears rather unconvincing. But we don’t want reality in these pictures, we want glamour and style and a reminder of a time when movie stars were mysterious figures who didn’t spill their ill-informed opinions across social media in a desperate cry for attention. These photos were the Christmas tinsel of Tinseltown, and no one wants to think about the new year come down when the decorations come down and the trees become landfill.
There are still festive Hollywood photo shoots, but like the rest of the entertainment industry, they are a tawdry, crass and cheap fifth-rate copy of the past. Treat them with the same contempt that they treat you.
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