Diary re­veals pho­tog­ra­pher’s feel­ings

Ce­cil Beaton’s notes a portrait of celebri­ties, roy­als

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Books - MI­RANDA PRYNNE

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.”

For the Cal­gary Her­ald

Ce­cil Beaton, seen in 1963, pho­tographed an ar­ray of celebri­ties.

Ce­cil Beaton

The pho­tog­ra­pher cap­tured Queen El­iz­a­beth with her daugh­ters Princess El­iz­a­beth, the future queen, stand­ing, and Princess Mar­garet in the early 1940s.

Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images

Em­ploy­ees of the Chris Bee­tles gallery in Lon­don move pho­to­graphs of Bri­tish pho­tog­ra­pher Ce­cil Beaton, in­clud­ing one of Marilyn Mon­roe.

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