The History of A Scoundrel

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (Albert Lewin, 1947) is an American drama film which stars George Sanders as a ruthless cad who uses women to rise in Parisian society. It was based on the Guy de Maupassant novel Bel Ami.

 
 

The film was the swan song of the actor Warren William due to his health continuing to deteriorate. He was unable to work for most of 1947, the year the filming of The Private Affairs of Bel Ami finished. This was the first role of Susan Douglas Rubes who had to sign a seven-year contact or else she could not act in any more films. Signing actors and actresses for seven years was a common thing for studios to do at the time. Due to restrictions imposed by the Motion Picture Production Code, certain scenes needed to be censored.

 
 

Drawing by Ferdinand Bac, engraving by G. Lemoine

 
 

Bel Ami is the second novel by French author Guy de Maupassant, published in 1885; an English translation titled Bel Ami, or, The History of a Scoundrel: A Novel, first appeared in 1903.

The story chronicles journalist Georges Duroy’s corrupt rise to power from a poor ex-Non-commissioned officer to one of the most successful men in Paris, most of which he achieves by manipulating a series of powerful, intelligent, and wealthy mistresses.

 
 

 
 

The novel was adapted into film several times, including Bel Ami (Willi Forst, 1939). A Swedish pornographic version For Men Only (Mac Ahlberg, 1976) which had the tagline “Harry Reems‘ Last Adult Film”, and Bel Ami (Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, 2012) the drama film starring Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci and Colm Meaney.

In the film Bei dir war es immer so schön (Hans Wolff, 1954) Willi Forst plays a film director who together with two musicians (played by Georg Thomalla and Heinz Drache), composes the lyrics of the hit song Bel Ami, which finally he sings.

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A Bar at The Folies-Bergère

 
 

Painted and exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1882, Un bar aux Folies Bergère was the last major work by French painter Édouard Manet. It depicts a scene in the Folies Bergère nightclub in Paris. It originally belonged to the composer Emmanuel Chabrier, who was Manet’s neighbor, and hung over his piano. By the way, the 1934 ballet Bar aux Folies-Bergère with choreography by Ninette de Valois and music of Chabrier was created from and based around Manet’s painting.

The painting exemplifies Manet’s commitment to Realism in its detailed representation of a contemporary scene. Many features have puzzled critics but almost all of them have been shown to have a rationale, and the painting has been the subject of numerous popular and scholarly articles.

Asserting the presence of the mirror has been crucial for many modern interpreters. It provides a meaningful parallel with Las Meninas, a masterpiece by an artist Manet admired, Diego Velázquez. There has been a considerable development of this topic since Michel Foucault broached it in his book The Order of Things (1966).

 
 

The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (George Sanders, 1947) faithfully references A Bar at the Folies-Bergère twenty nine minutes into the film with a look-alike actress, set and props as the main characters enter the establishment

 
 

The painting The Bar (1954) by Australian painter John Brack, which depicts a comparatively grim Antipodean bar-room scene, is an ironic reference to A Bar at the Folies-Bergère

Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving

The Four Freedoms theme was derived from the 1941 State of the Union Address by United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941. During the speech he identified four essential human rights (Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom From Want and Freedom From Fear) that should be universally protected. Roosevelt’s message was as follows: “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.”

This series is a cornerstone of a retrospective of the career of Rockwell,who was the most widely known contemporary commercial artist of the mid 20th century, but who failed to achieve critical acclaim commensurate with his popularity. These are perhaps Rockwell’s most well-known works of art, and they were the most widely distributed paintings ever produced by some accounts. At one time they were commonly displayed in post offices, schools, clubs, railroad stations, and a variety of public and semi-public buildings. Critical review of these images, like most of Rockwell’s work, has not been entirely positive. Rockwell’s idyllic and nostalgic approach to regionalism made him a popular illustrator but a lightly regarded fine artist during his lifetime. These paintings generally are viewed with this sentiment. However, he has created a niche in the enduring social fabric with the Freedom from Want image which is emblematic of what is now known as the “Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.”

 
 

Freedom From Want, Normal Rockwell.  Published in the March 6, 1943, issue of The Saturday Evening Post with a matching essay by Carlos Bulosan as part of the Four Freedoms series.

 
 

Poster Version

 
 

The painting was included as the cover image of the 1946 book Norman Rockwell, Illustrator, written when Rockwell was “at the height of his fame as America’s most popular illustrator.” Although the image was popular in the United States it caused resentment in Europe where the masses were enduring hardship at the time.

Rockwell had sketched the Four Freedoms in charcoal and sought a commission from the Office of War Information, but was denied, “The last war you illustrators did the posters. This war we’re going to use fine artists men, real artists.” However, Saturday Evening Post editor, Ben Hibbs, recognized the potential of the set and encouraged him to produce them right away. Rockwell claimed to have painted the turkey on Thanksgiving Day, and said that unlike Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Worship, this painting was not difficult to execute. He depicted the setting of his own living room with the painting and relied on neighbors for advice as well as critical commentary and their service as his models.

 
 

 In The Walt Disney Company film Lilo & Stitch (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, 2002) , a montage of images prior to the end credits includes an homage of Freedom from Want featuring the characters of the film

Photographing Poetry

Elsa Dorfman’s Influences:

Richard Avedon, an absolute genius. Mary Ellen Mark. Bill Cunningham, another genius whose work looks sooo simple and it surely isn’t. See him in every Sunday in New York Times style section. Photojournalists. Diane Arbus of course, Sanders, Lee Friedlander, a real hero of mine. He keeps on going. I adore photography books and looking at images on the web. I go to galleries as much as I can, considering my hermit tendencies. I look at everyone’s portraits. I also like architectural photographs. Of course I think they are portraits… just of buildings not persons.”

 
 

Elsa Dorfman and the Giant Polaroid Camera

 
 

“I picked up a camera, a Hasselblad, on my job as an assistant science teacher in 1964.  I was taught by a wonderful gifted teacher George Cope who had worked with Berenice Abbott. So there was some romance and a science of history in the air.

“Photo” offered me a path to the world. I was 27 and till then cdnt figure out what I would do, how I would live, who I would be friends w. I was very soulful and very confused. Typical for that time in history. I was ambitious. But ambitious about WHAT? I learned that I had great curiosity. That I had a sense of narrative.  That I had empathy. And that I liked a certain amount of adventure.”

 
 

Self-portrait

 
 

Jorge Luis Borges

 
 

Borges photographed by Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon respectively

 
 

Bob Creely

 
 

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 
 

Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso

 
 

“Allen and Peter, who I knew better than I knew Gregory, always made me feel I could do things, that I could / should try things. In the early sixties in the US women didn’t have much opportunity and they didn’t believe in themselves. I know that is a trite expression.  Anyhow, I was very conventional, or at least I felt I should be conventional. And they made me feel I was OK and could be the way I felt like being, whatever that was. So I tried things. And the camera was what I stuck with.  But I do love to write.”

 
 

Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky

 
 

Ginsberg and Orlovsky by Richard Avedon

 
 

“I started using the polaroid 20×24 on feb.8, 1980. The studio was in an old building at 20 Ames Street in Cambridge. The bldg is now the site of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology art museum. I visited the studio the day before to see what the set up was and to get a sense of the camera. Poets Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky were visiting me and Polaroid allowed me a free session on the camera in exchange for my giving them a few original prints. I was allotted ten shots and I went over the allotted number because I got so caught up in the excitement of the camera. As Allen and Peter and I were leaving for the studio I grabbed a red amaryllis that my husband had bought me and brought it with us for the session. I had no idea how I would use the amaryllis. Here are three images from the session.”

 
 

Dorfman met Ginsberg in 1959, when she was a secretary for his publisher, Grove Press.  He “never doubted he would be a great man,” she recalls. “And he had the feeling that all his friends were equally genius.”

 
 

Ginsberg and Bob Dylan

 
 

“He (Dylan) asked me if I knew where Poe was born in Boston, and I didn’t. He had an idea where it was and wanted to go there. Amazingly right now, fifty years later or so, Boston is putting up a statue at Poe’s birthplace. Also, the security guards had taken my camera. But when Allen and I told Bob that I would love to take a picture of them together but I didn’t have my camera, Bob asked his security guy to get my camera!  I have Bob to thank for that picture.  And I gave Bob a copy of the Housebook.”

 
 

Bod Dylan

 
 

Anne Sexton