A Real Bright Road For a Beautiful Butterfly

Otto Preminger was familiar with Dorothy Dandridge but felt she was incapable of exuding the sultry sex appeal the role of Carmen demanded, particularly after having seen Dandridge’s performance as a demure schoolteacher opposite Harry Belafonte in Bright Road (Gerald Mayer, 1953). Her agent’s office was in the same building where Preminger’s brother Ingo worked, and he asked Ingo to intercede on his client’s behalf.

At his first meeting with <Dandridge, Preminger told her she was "lovely" and looked like a "model" or "a beautiful butterfly," but not Carmen, and suggested she audition for the role of Cindy Lou. Dandridge took the script and left, and when she returned she was dressed and behaved exactly as Preminger envisioned Carmen.The director was impressed enough to schedule a screen test for mid-May, after Dandridge completed a singing engagement in St. Louis. In the interim he cast Juilliard School graduate Olga James as Cindy Lou.

On May 21, Preminger announced Dandridge had been cast as Carmen. Initially thrilled by the prospect of playing one of the best film roles ever offered an African American female, Dandridge quickly began to doubt her ability to do it justice. After several days, she told her agent to advise Preminger she was backing out of the project. The director drove to her apartment to reassure her and assuage her fears, and the two unexpectedly began a passionate affair.

 
 

Dandridge was the first African American woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her leading role in the 1954 movie Carmen Jones (Otto Preminger, 1954)

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Channeling Carmen Jones

Theatrical poster for the film Carmen Jones(Otto Preminger, 1954). Design by Scott McKowen

 
 

Dorothy Dandridge strikes a pose in a scene from the film Carmen Jones. Costume design by Mary Ann Nyberg

 
 

Janet Jackson

 
 

-scura_1-700x501Halle Berry in the television film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (Martha Coolidge, 1999)

 
 

Beyoncé Knowles

 
 

Rihanna

The First African American Sex Symbol

Twenty Foreplay is a song by American singer-songwriter Janet Jackson from her first greatest hits album, Design of a Decade 1986/1996. It was released as the album’s second and final single on January 8, 1996. The title is a play on the word “foreplay” and “24 hours a day”.

 
 

 
 

The 1950s look of the video, directed by Directed by Keir McFarlane, was inspired by Dorothy Dandridge, whom Jackson considers to be America’s first African American sex symbol. The video was shot in black-and-white and depicts Jackson in the glamorous Hollywood life such as movie premiere, press conference, and videotaping of her on the backlot of a movie set. The video has never been released commercially. McFarlane is best known for Sheryl Crow‘s If it Makes You Happy (2004) music video

 
 

To watch the music video, please take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

Ruth Ansel And a Man on a Women’s World

“I chose Bazaar because I liked it much better than Vogue– graphically, it was more sophisticated. I called cold and asked to talk to an editor. It turned out there was an opening in the art department, and Marvin Israel, the director, took a big chance on me. He wanted somebody that didn’t have to unlearn graphic design clichés. Bea Feitler, his protégé and star pupil from Parsons, had been hired a month earlier. My first few months were a disaster.”

“In 1962 Marvin was fired, and Bea and I became the art directors. We were pioneers in a way– not only were we young women but we were working as graphic design partners. Then in 1971, a new editor came in to make Bazaar more newsy and we were both fired– almost simultaneously.”

Ruth Ansel

 
 

When Ruth Ansel put Steve McQueen, photographed by Richard Avedon (also the guest editor), on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in 1965, it was the first time a male appeared on the cover of a women’s fashion magazine.

 
 

At first look there are obvious reasons to love this February, 1965 cover of Harper’s Bazaar magazine: Steve McQueen of course, and the amazing photography of the legendary Richard Avedon. But there is another visionary manifested here, not often spoken of, especially back when this was on the newsstand: Ruth Ansel, a female pioneer in the world of graphic design.

An interesting footnote: 22 year old Ali MacGraw (pre-McQueen days) worked under Diana Vreeland at Harper’s Bazaar until she was finally convinced by a bevy of photographers to get out from behind the camera and strike a pose. And the rest is history, as they say…

“Point to an iconic magazine cover of the last 40 years, and chances are it was designed by Ruth Ansel. Since 1961, when she talked her way into the art department at Harper’s Bazaar, Ansel has defined the look of some of America’s visually influential publications. In the 1960s, her work for Bazaar captured a transitional moment in fashion and society. In the 1970s, she became the first female art director of The New York Times Magazine and in the 1980s she created the look of Vanity Fair.”

Carol Kino

 
 

Model Jean Shrimpton & actor Steve McQueen