Diary reveals photographer’s feelings
Cecil Beaton’s notes a portrait of celebrities, royals
He spent 50 years charming the rich and famous from behind the camera to produce an array of iconic portraits.
But now Cecil Beaton’s true and often scathing opinions on stars from Mick Jagger to Marilyn Monroe have been revealed in a new book.
The U.K. photographer claimed the Rolling Stones star “could be a eunuch,” described half of Grace Kelly’s face as “like a bull calf ” and branded Elizabeth Taylor vulgar and unladylike.
Displaying disconcerting foresight, he said of Marilyn Monroe: “It will probably end in tears.”
But the photographer was full of praise for the Queen, whom he described as “serene, magnetic” and “meltingly sympathetic” and her “very pretty” sister, Princess Margaret.
Cecil Beaton: Portraits & Profiles, published next month, combines his personal diaries with a selection of his most famous images, offering witty, observant and brutally honest descriptions of his subjects.
Writing about the Queen, whom he photographed in the early 1940s and seven years later with a young Prince Charles, he said: “Her real charm, like her mother’s, does not carry across in her photographs, and each time one sees her, one is delighted how much more serene, magnetic, and at the same time meltingly sympathetic, she is than one had imagined.”
He also writes of her “dazzlingly fresh complexion, the clear regard from the glass-blue eyes, and the gentle, all-pervading sweetness of her smile.”
The photographer, who died in 1980, aged 76, likened Marilyn Monroe to a naive child playing at being an adult. He wrote: “She is an urchin pretending to be grown up, having the time of her life in Mother’s moth-eaten finery, tottering about in highheeled shoes and sipping ginger ale as though it were a champagne cocktail.
“She romps, she squeals with delight, she leaps on to the sofa. It is an artless, impromptu, highspirited, infectiously gay performance. It will probably end in tears.”
Beaton photographed Mick Jagger with Anita Pallenberg in 1968 and found the musician a mass of contradictions.
“He is very gentle, and with perfect manners. I was fascinated with the thin concave lines of his body, legs, arms,” he wrote. “His figure, his hands and arms were incredibly feminine … He is sexy, yet completely sexless. He could be a eunuch. As a model, he is a natural.”
He was more critical of Grace Kelly, writing: “If she did not photograph well, we would scarcely stop to look at her on the street … If both sides of her face were the same as the right half, she wouldn’t be on the screen. That side is very heavy, like a bull calf, but the left side is intensely feminine and creates the counterpoint.”
However, his real venom was reserved for Elizabeth Taylor.
“I have always loathed the Burtons for their vulgarity, commonness and crass bad taste, she combining the worst of U.S. and English taste,” he wrote.
“I treated her with authority, told her not to powder her nose, to come in front of the cameras with it shining. She wanted compliments. She got none.”
Cecil Beaton, seen in 1963, photographed an array of celebrities.
The photographer captured Queen Elizabeth with her daughters Princess Elizabeth, the future queen, standing, and Princess Margaret in the early 1940s.
Employees of the Chris Beetles gallery in London move photographs of British photographer Cecil Beaton, including one of Marilyn Monroe.