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Sex, Lies, Makeup?

June 16, 1996

In her article "The Starlets Next Door" (June 9), Irene Lacher quotes critic and author Michael Medved as saying, "The public's response to 'Last Dance' indicates that people like their female sex symbols to do glamorous stuff and not necessarily to be in hard-hitting, depressing dramas where they don't wear makeup."

The reason "Last Dance" was a failure was simply because it was a bad film and not because the usually glamorous Sharon Stone was makeup-less. Perhaps Medved should take another look at Jessica Lange in "Frances," Michelle Pfeiffer in "Frankie & Johnny," Olivia de Havilland in "The Snake Pit," Joanne Woodward (in her glamour years) in "The Three Faces of Eve" or Sally Field in "Sybil" and "Norma Rae."

In other words, put the makeup-less Stone in a worthy film, and they will come. The public generally does like to see glamour stars succeed in vehicles other than what they are known for.


Los Angeles


At 20th Century Fox from 1948 to 1961, I worked as a publicist with Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Gene Tierney, Deborah Kerr, Jayne Mansfield, Sheree North, Alice Faye, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Susan Hayward, Shelley Winters, Jean Simmons, Diane Baker, Claudette Colbert, Patricia Neal, Bette Davis, Ava Gardner, Suzy Parker, Millie Perkins, Stella Stevens, Jeanne Crain, Joanne Woodward, Shirley Temple, Christine Carrere, Leslie Caron, Ethel Merman, Mitzi Gaynor, Jean Peters, Anne Francis, Juliet Prowse, Anne Baxter, Barbara Bates, Shirley Jones, Barbara Ruick, Carol Christensen, May Britt, Rita Moreno, Katharine Hepburn, Jane Russell, Sonja Henie, Shirley MacLaine, Gwen Verdon, Dorothy Dandridge, Joan Collins and many, many other attractive young ladies.

Most were shapely, pleasant and accessible. None had extraordinary sex appeal.

However, all 27 of us male publicists working there for the late, legendary department head Harry Brand (husband of Sybil Brand) were turned on when a certain plain-looking secretary in the adjoining legal department walked by. We seldom talked with her, because she didn't have much to say. Her name was Roxie Douris. She was easily, we agreed, the sexiest woman (except for our wives, then and now) any of us ever saw.

Sex appeal? Can't be manufactured or successfully simulated. Marilyn Monroe--whom I had to get out of bed twice to go on personal appearances--had some. But Roxie Douris! And that was almost half a century ago.


Century City


Lacher's otherwise excellent analysis of cinematic female archetypes past and present is scarred by one semantic mistake: The vast majority of the new star-actresses are not sex symbols but strictly sex objects !

While true symbols like Dietrich and Moreau serve as metaphors for facets of femininity, most newcomers "symbolize" little more than Anglo-Saxon faces atop designer body parts, the prime reason Barb Wire is not fit to slap leather against even Honey West--and also why Sandra Bullock should endure far longer than starlets with less (or no) subtext.


Hong Kong


What is so terrible about being a woman?

Is it that Hollywood--and men call the shots--is searching for immortality? Or is society still wanting desperately to hold onto the notion that only the young, virginal and innocent are sexy and need to be protected and rescued from the big, bad world before they grow up to be women and thus become tainted?

Your article once again reaffirmed society's view of women. It wants the ideal of being untouched in order to be tantalizing.



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