L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Correcting a grievous cosmetic injustice

Recently, G and I felt like wallowing in extreme camp and got out our copy of Mommie Dearest; you'll have to agree that it more than fits that particular bill.  One of the worst directed and acted A-pictures of all time, in my opinion.  Sadly, I can't truly enjoy the wretchedness of the thing because, while watching nearly every scene, I'm distracted and obsessed by one thing - OK, two things:  the eyebrows.  The misbegotten, misshapen blobs of make-up that were applied to the forehead of Miss Faye Dunaway in a botched attempt to recreate the celebrated eyebrows of Miss Joan Crawford.

The Crawford eyebrows?  You set out to make a biopic of Joan Crawford and that's what you screw up?  Because there are so few pictures of Miss Crawford to work from?  Say what?  Her brows are the most recognizable thing about her appearance; even her shoulder pads have to take second place to the eyebrows.  (The taut and precise mouth comes in third.)  I'm veering clear of her very inspired performance, but at the time this film was made Faye Dunaway was physically pretty much perfect casting for Crawford.  It isn't Crawford's bone structure, honestly, but it really works.  And though I would have given her a darker red lip color in most of the scenes, they got the hair and wardrobe generally, close to... adequate.  Not embarrassing, anyway.  But how did they manage to mangle her eyebrows so badly? 

Early in her career, Crawford had as many variations in eyebrow shape and heft as she did hairstyle and hair color but, by the early forties when Mommie Dearest commences, the two little items had settled into their iconic pattern; with time they colonized more territory, but the shape remained the same: a fairly straight, un-arched line angling slightly up from the bridge of the nose, and then tilting down toward the temple.  (The right eyebrow was usually set a little higher and slightly more rounded; they got more exactly symmetrical as she got older and they got bigger.)  Dunaway's imposter brows are set way too high, start off curved where Crawford's are fairly blunt, and have an immediate big round arch.  (They also make them too heavy too early in the story, so one loses the impact of their ever onward and upward expansion upon her aging face.)  And to make matters infinitely worse, they're hard-edged and shiny with unpowdered eyebrow pencil, pointing out the fact that they're hair-free and completely bogus.  And, goddammit, the real Crawford eyebrows were quite obviously grown.

This level of artistic failure and professional incompetence on the part of Dunaway's make-up people and all others responsible deserves nothing less than the patented Crawford bitch-slap - something along the lines of the specific wailing she gives to Osa Massen toward the beginning of "A Woman's Face" would be appropriate, I think.  But since those responsible for this great cosmetic fiasco are not anywhere at hand, I have resorted to the corrective and healing powers of Photoshop.

 The Genuine Joan:
 The False Joan:
 The Revised False Joan:


In choosing the images, I went with some of the posed "publicity photos" that were created for the film, then tried to find pictures of Crawford that were similar.  I arranged both sets in some some of chronological order but, in my own defense, I don't know what period they were going for with (from left) the fourth and fifth pictures of Miss Faye, so I aimed at somewhere between the fifties and sixties.

As an added bonus, in the lightbox you can click back and forth between the second two images and watch Faye's eyebrows wiggle.  One of life's unexpected pleasures....


  1. this post is tremendously and divinely excellent. i bow at your feet and kiss your hand.

  2. OMGoodness - fabulous post!!