It is an excellent arrangement, for while the pleasures of mixed company are enjoyed for most of the evening, a period is ensured in which the brunettes can talk about brunette things and the blondes about blonde ones. It is always the leading blonde's prerogative to initiate this move, and in more traditional houses not only does a blonde never smoke (a few blonde blushes at the Cocktail Bar, I fancy), but the brunettes should never smoke while the blondes are present, for fear of offending their sensitive little noses.
I have heard of a great brunette wit in Arcadia, Ola Ferala, who talked so wonderfully after dinner that the blondes quite forgot to withdraw. They sat together so long that the great oil lamps began to gutter, and at last a blonde said to the wit:
"Oh, Miss Ferala, that lamp is smoking"
To which Miss Ferala replied with a sigh: "Happy lamp."
What brunettes do when the blondes have withdrawn, I have, of course, never seen for myself. They talk of those things brunettes talk of when blondes are not present. Mostly things too boring and businessy for blonde ears, I think, though sometimes jokes that are a bit naughty - though probably not even remotely naughty by Pit standards.
Blondes are terribly cosy in the drawing room. We have coffee, and sometimes a little rose-aramani (though only a little, because it goes to your head like anything after wine) and we can chatter and giggle about all the little things brunettes would think silly.
Just as it is the blondes' privilege to withdraw, it is one of the senior brunettes who must make the ritual proposal: "Shall we join the blondes?" And then the brunettes come in, delicately scented with sweet Novacairen smoke and a breath of old Havana, and the maids give them coffee so elegantly, for they too are part of the ritual dance, and the conversation is always a touch different in character from the earlier conversation at table. Somehow it has that delicious late-night feeling.
Well, the drawing room is used during the day of course - not for withdrawing
- but it takes its name from its great ritual function in that High Rite
of the Hestia which we call dinner.
Well, to get things shaking again, I thought I would let all of
you sweet cinema-goers who have recently watched that lovely film, Gentlemen
Prefer Blondes read a little Elektra-debate between Miss Bland, Miss di
Naxos, and Miss Trent. You see, Miss di Naxos is taking a course through
Elektraspace from Miss Bland (who is a university lecturer). Miss Trent,
you see, is the dean of the university where Miss Bland teaches. Enjoy
it all and let the rest of the girls know what you think about the film!
"It is quite difficult to watch anything else when Miss Monroe is on the screen. She is so liquid in her movements one wonders whether she really has any joints or bones, wonders how she remains standing. And her lips and eyelids have the same, unusual fluid motion. Her whole presence conveys an impression of continual melting , softness and surrender, but she never dissolves, just keeps endlessly melting. You need to see how she moves her eyelids -- it is as unusual a motion as the strange undulations Miss Bette Davis displays in Of Human Bondage. A unique personal signature, as it were, that no other girl can hope to forge."Driving home today from the office, I was pondering how to discuss brunette and blonde archetypes in the film. And again, we are very much on the same wavelength, I think. The key is not to be found in the characters as created by the screenwriters in Hollywood, not in the costumes nor in the direction. The screen characters as written (as opposed to the God-given personae of the actresses) are where the contradictions are found. Miss Lee is a calculating, rather hard- hearted person, a realist, very practical, conceives and executes detailed plans, deliberately displays false emotions as a matter of habit, seems to have human love for no person, uses her physical beauty as a tool to get men to do what she wants (or as a weapon to keep them from doing what she does not want) -- all despite her being "the blonde". The character is unfeminine, in fact, despite the ultra-feminine actress who plays her. On the other hand, Miss Shaw, the putative brunette, genuinely loves a man for himself (does not "love" him for money or material gifts), believes in love as the essential ingredient in marriage, almost ostentatiously eschews material riches, displays more softness and kindness and compassion than her nominally blonde companion. So we have a blonde brunette and a brunette blonde, in terms of the characters being represented. But, as I said, when one looks at Miss Russell and Miss Monroe themselves (apart from their stage roles), then we have an brunette brunette and a blonde blonde. Hollywood has chosen its actresses well, but the characters Hollywood has created for them to play don't quite match.
So if one looks to the human artifice in this film, (which seems to have confounded the archetypes) one may miss the archetypes entirely, or get tied up in knots. The archetypes are in the two women themselves, that is, in their true personae, which they are as unable to suppress as a wolf pretending to be a sheep can suppress being a wolf (after all, the wolf always ends up eating the sheep, not being served up as a leg of mutton). When Miss Russell pretends to be Miss Lee in the courtroom scene, she seems like a twelve-year old girl trying to play the part of, say, Richard III.
But do not misunderstand me when I talked about the soufflé
quality of the film -- that is what was interjected by the writers
and the director (and certainly not by the original author, Miss
Loos, who wrote the book and the script for the stage musical, but not
for the film) . My point is that the loveliest symbols (or essences incarnate)
of femininity in the movie emanate from the two women themselves, despite
whatever lines and direction they were given.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes opens abruptly with a dazzling display of two feminine archetypes, blonde and brunette. Without fanfare or introduction, even before any credits are shown, the curtain parts and Marilyn Monroe, blonde, and Jane Russell, brunette, burst onto the stage like Roman candles, wearing identical tight- fitting, red sequined gowns with plunging necklines and revealingly high slits. This stunning simultaneous entrance signals that, despite the film's title, it is not to be just about blondes. It is to be about blondes and brunettes. Both are arrestingly beautiful women, but, though unquestionably feminine, identically clad and performing identical dance steps and singing almost identical lyrics, they are not quite the same species of woman. As for the "gentlemen" part of the title, well, none are seen on the stage, nor anywhere else, for that matter, until *after* the credits: they are to be of only secondary importance.
The archetypes are defined in short order: Miss Russell, raven- haired, is tall, broad-shouldered and somewhat sharp-featured; Miss Monroe, pale blonde, is smaller, softer and seems a bit out of focus. In their pyrotechnical opening number, Miss Russell's clear and shifting gaze appears directed, like a falcon's, to one or another specific object outside camera range; Miss Monroe's rather myopic eyes never seem to find any focus at all. The women's' movements, though similar inasmuch as they are precisely in step, are yet astonishingly different. Miss Russell's are slightly constrained, almost etched, with shallow dips, understated rolls of shoulders, hips and derriere; her facial expressions traverse a narrow range, projecting self-containment, strong purpose (she even winks briskly at one point, as if to say, "I'm a no-nonsense girl and I've got this number completely under control, just watch me!"). Miss Monroe, on the other hand, fairly undulates like some form of primordial sea- life, her movements of greater amplitude, and, though precise, are neither snappy norclipped, projecting instead an almost pillowy softness and an ultra-feminine yielding. Her facial expression also undulates like the rest of her body, covering a far broader spectrum than Miss Russell's; her lips and eyelids, in particular, convey receptivity, vulnerability, an irresistible "come take me, I am yours" invitation, but strangely not promising exclusivity. Their voices differ as well: Miss Russell's is deeper, sharper and a bit clearer when compared to Miss Monroe's, which is honeyed and soft, with velvety, caressing, nurturing overtones.
What archetypes do these two women (not the characters they play) symbolize? Miss Russell is brunette (her hair could be blonde, but she would still be brunette). A brunette is forceful and strong, knows where she is and where she is going at every moment, is in control, plans ahead, is rarely at a loss even in the most unpredictable and challenging situations -- in short, a brunette is competent, organized, independent. Miss Monroe, on the other hand, is blonde (and were her hair color dark, she would still be blonde). She is soft, yielding, lacks crisp goals and does not plan any further than next Tuesday, or even Monday, perhaps. Despite her elaborate costume, she exudes domesticity: she would look delightful even in an apron, one knows. A blonde is dependent, requiring protection not just from the world, but from herself. She somehow does not seem fully competent in practical matters but one somehow knows she will make a wonderful mother.
As we are introduced to the characters they play, we find the archetypes initially reinforced. Miss Lorelei Lee, played by Miss Monroe, is engaged to a young millionaire, Mr. Esmond. He is sending her to France on the Ile de Paris to educate her; he has engaged her girlfriend, Miss Dorothy Shaw, to be Miss Lee's Chaperone. Again, we find that a blonde is not a fully trustworthy creature; she requires a brunette to keep her out of trouble, to protect her, to make various mundane practical arrangements (such as paying taxicab drivers). Miss Shaw also provides a wise-cracking, occasionally sardonic sense of humor cum running social commentary throughout the film, whereas Miss Lee is so literal-minded that she seems incapable of getting a joke at all.
But as we learn more about the two characters, we find them, like most people, to be far more complex. Each character, having defined her predominant archetype early on, proceeds to demonstrate attributes of her "opposite" throughout the rest of the film. In the matter of men, for example, Miss Shaw is hopelessly "impractical". She is attracted to men on the basis of animal magnetism alone, ignoring their "vital statistics" (meaning, in Miss Lee's lexicon, their income and their propensity to shower a girl with gifts, especially diamonds). She is not yet engaged to be married. Miss Lee, on the other hand, (already engaged to a mouse of a man -- but a rich mouse), strongly resists being physically attracted: she carefully weighs a man's financial position before allowing her emotions to emerge -- it is not clear, in fact, that they ever do.
Consider the following dialog:
LORELEI: I hate to think where you'll wind up -- you're wasting all your time on unrefined persons without money.
DOROTHY: Honey, did it ever occur to you that some people just don't care about money?
LORELEI: Please don't be silly -- we're talking serious [sic], you don't want to end up with a loveless marriage, do you?
DOROTHY: Me, loveless?
LORELEI: That's right. Because if a girl is spending all of her time worrying about the money she doesn't have, how is she going to find time for being in love? I want her to find happiness and stop having fun.
DOROTHY: That baffles me.
LORELEI: You'll thank me some day.
Which is the blonde and which the brunette? In a further "reversal" of archetypes, while Miss Shaw starts their ocean voyage by aimlessly flirting with the men's Olympic team and later, more seriously, with the private detective Malone, Miss Lee starts by systematically screening male passengers, according to specific criteria, to select the suitably rich ones as possible matches for her girlfriend. She cunningly threatens the ship's maitre d' with taking all her meals in her stateroom in order to get the millionaire she has chosen for Miss Shaw seated at their table. Who has clear goals and plans for them accordingly?
Miss Lee may not know where France is, but she is superbly informed on the intricacies of marriage law in the several states (she knows a man can consent to be married at sixteen in Tennessee). Miss Lee conceives and executes a plan for retrieving a roll of film with incriminating photos of her and Sir Francis Beekman together; when she gets the film, she promptly has it developed and uses the pictures as a tool to pry a diamond tiara out of Sir Francis with the very subtlest of blackmail. Later on, when she realizes she will have to inveigle $15,000 out of Mr. Esmond to pay for the tiara, she knows just how much time to allot to the task: $15,000 requires precisely one hour and forty-five minutes. How much time to talk a reluctant millionaire father into giving consent to her marrying his son? A piddling job: give me just three minutes alone with him, she says. What a consummate professional! Miss Shaw, meanwhile, has impractically fallen in love with the less-than-wealthy (and soon to be unemployed) private detective Malone. In her dealings with others (besides Lady Beekman) she sometimes betrays considerable softness and compassion, camouflaging it, however, under her rather thin, hard-boiled veneer. She dissimulates poorly: in the courtroom in Paris, posing as Miss Lee, she is about as convincing as an eight- year old girl playing Desdemona pleading for her life. Miss Shaw, in short, reveals a blonde side as surely as Miss Lee reveals a brunette one.
Clearly, Woman may be Blonde or Brunette, but whichever she is, she must have a personal admixture of both archetypes, unique as a fingerprint, one merely prevailing over -- never excluding -- the other.
I don't agree with A. about role-reversal. I think MM (or LL) is wholly, utterly blonde. That sort of calculatingness is not at all inconsistent with being blonde. She might be rather naughty blonde at times but she is a blonde (in fact the matter of blonde selfishness is touched on in Children of the Void, just before Lehnya leaves with Annalinde for the Odeon).
Besides, I was quite in agreement with LL's (or MM's) speech at
the end, where she said that money in a man helps a girl, just as prettiness
in a girl helps a man. After all, men may look nice in dinner suits, but
they haven't anything in the way of physical charm, as that dance with
the near-naked athletes so amply demonstrated. Diamonds are much
I knew it I knew it I knew it! And I am so happy that it was fun to watch. Don't you adore Marilyn Monroe? Did you read Miss B's letter to Miss di N., in which she says just what you said, about MM being completely blonde. She knew as she was writing that you could say it much better.
To be continued . . .
As for Amy's idea of having an international movie night, I think it's about the cleverest thing I've heard in a long time. Would you be so kind as to watch with me, right here in Elektraspace? I just know you will love "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." It's one of my favorite movies. A gentle lady once asked me which of the stars - Jane Russell or Marilyn Monroe - I preferred. Flustered, I replied that I didn't really know. Well, wasn't that a silly thing for me to say? Of course, I was simply reluctant to say anything that might be construed as uncomplimentary to Jane Russell. And certainly they are both actresses of remarkable talents (Those girls couldn't drown!). But really, I think we all know that no one exists on the screen except dear little Marilyn.
Well, we are all silly, more or less, I suppose. Only sometimes
we are much sillier than others. But won't you join me in movieland after
this round, dear Barbi? I am always so pleased to see a pretty blonde enjoying
herself, and I know you will.
"No", I tell myself, "they have not." But still I wonder, "Oh
why don't I have that self confidence I still remember of my youth. Where
has it gone? Have I let them steal that too?" I cry in anguish burying
my face in my hands. "I am but a pauper compared to the opulence which
surrounds me", as the ocean wells again inside. I'm clothed in well mended
homespun and I marvel at the fine silks dance in the wind never once imagining
such colors ever existed on any plane of existence. "Could this finally
Take a stool, dear Cierra, and have a drink on the house. You've come a long way and you deserve it. Please make yourself at home here and get to know some of the girls. We think you'll be happy.
No matter what, DO keep this lovely place alive forever...
Well, forever is a long time, Mona sweetie, but so long as you keep buying Martinis and chatting so charmingly, the Cocktail bar will be in business for the foreseeable future.
And, speaking of gratitude, please accept mine, my ravishing Ramona, for finally securing my elusive Martini. Brunettes must be even more capable than I imagined. At least, you certainly are! Why, you even remembered to leave out the olive! My delicate blonde taste buds, you know. Before I forget, of course, you can call me Sweeti. Actually, you can call me anything you like, my charming, gracious pette. Your name, on the other hand, musically glides through one's soft, luscious lips with a magical rhythm...RA (lips open)...MO (emphasis here, lips nearly osculating)...NA (lips open, an exhalation, "Ahhhh," of contentment)...and I couldn't, wouldn't, call you by any other.
Well, my daring darling, how sensitive of you to be concerned about my possible offense at the revelation of your secret purchase. While it's true that my girly blonde ears burn to hear you describe, however briefly, your satisfaction with your newly purchased garment, rest assured, my precious beauty, that it's not a matter of my being offended; far from it! Rather, because of Matthilde's prose poem to the basque, and Jeannie's somewhat indelicate description of what happened to her, it's my discomfiture at imagining your lovely, soft, and scintillating self IN your new foundation, caressed, contained, and vibrantly feminine...see! Red from head to toe!
Oh, Ramona...I'm so flustered! It's not a Pit-like, carnal thoughts... I hardly ever have anything like that when I am here...it's an innocently sensual imaginative attempt to share and savor the excitement of feminine discovery that you so clearly feel. Your pleasure becomes, by a kind of blonde alchemy, my pleasure. Then I become unsure, and vulnerable, because it's presumptuous of me to think that I know what you are feeling...because if you don't actually feel like I think you do, then I am feeling femininely delicate and sensual all by myself...Ramona, my sweet...am I making any sense? Eroticism is such a mystery and, sometimes (a lot of the time!), being blonde can be such a trial!
Let me just take a sip of my Martini...There, now. I've pulled myself together again. Well, maybe one more sip. Now, my brunette belle, I want you to know that I thoroughly understand your enchantment by the exotic and mysterious European, Manuela. I, too, found her enthralling, but, I must be honest, quite intimidating. And I do apologize for leaving so quickly after she joined you, but, as you remarked, Quilenquithia lia Caerelinde (I just can't say "Kiki"), croonerette extraordinaire, was about to appear, and what blonde could resist HER charms? But that's old news, now, isn't it?
Now, then, what do you think of Amy's idea to have an international movie night! I think that it's undeniably "swell." I know that you like the movies...Simone Simon is one of your favorites, isn't she?...and I have always loved the movies! "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," is the first suggestion, is it not?
Just one last thing...I hope that you will forgive me for asking...but...you
wouldn't mind sitting with me a little longer, would you? It will be all
right if you aren't able, but I so enjoy your company, my radiant RA (lips
parted slightly)...MO (accent here, moistened lips slightly pursed, almost
a kiss!)...NA (lips parted, soft "A" floating away on a cloud))....and...if
I need another martini...how can I possibly get one without you?
Hopefully, I remain, your Sweeti,
I found most pages to be very interesting that I have sent for a password as well as a Aphrodite name to be used for my personal use when I sign on! Keep up the great work and I'll stop by regularly as I think of becoming an Aristasian woman!
Whew! I had better stop myself there. I think I see some daintily-curled heads shaking. I'm terribly sorry if I've offended anyone, but really, this is quite a discovery for me!
Sweetipops, my angel, oh, don't run away! I promise not to mention such indelicate matters again. How pink your ears have turned! Sit down, I'll get you that Martini. And I suppose you're right about too much sophistication being a little hard to keep up with sometimes, but really, Sweeti (may I call you Sweeti?), what else was I to do? Manuela held me quite enraptured in her spell, and besides all you blondes dashed away for the stage the minute Miss Caerelinde started performing! But I know what you mean, my dear, the divine Kiki was indeed breathtaking - more than once I found myself having a troublesome time keeping a grip on my own brunette composure.
And what do you suppose has happened to Ariadne?
Funny you should ask . . .
Because yesterday I got an Elektrapost cable from Miss Elaine of the Queen Mary. Look, here it is, you can read it: "PREPARE FOR OCEAN VOYAGE QUEEN MARY SAILS SOUTHAMPTON 4 PM 15 JULY 1951 STOP COLLECT RAILWAY TICKET SOUTHAMPTON AND 50 POUNDS REAL MONEY CULVERIAN EXPRESS OFFICE LADYTON FOR PURCHASE NECESSARIES STOP DESTINATION NEW QUIRINELLE CULVERIA STOP PLAN INDEFINITE STAY STOP." See? It is all typed out on little strips of yellow paper stuck to a yellow sheet. I wonder how the typing pette manages to get such a teensy strip of paper into her typewriter? Most likely a blonde with very small fingers.
But, La! pettes, I gave Miss Heatherington my fortnight's notice and brought my little red alligator notebook down to the distrik library to do some research on how a girl should prepare for an ocean voyage. So I wrote down a list of necessaries a girl who is sailing on an ocean should bring in my little red alligator notebook.
Duffel bag, sailor hat, compass, sextant, telescope, sailmaker's awl, waterproof make-up, lemons (for scurvy), seasickness pills, southwester (thats a special elegant yellow macintosh thats shiny for storms), clasp knife, flare gun (a flare gun is ever so important because I once saw a film called Lifeboat where Walter Pidgeon saves everyone in the lifeboat after they hit an iceberg because he remembered a flare gun), water wings (in case there are not enough life vests to go round should we hit an iceberg and sink), a tin of sea biscuit and one of salt pork, a small harpoon and a set of semafour flags in matching colours. Then I bought a little book called The Sailorpette's Guide to Nautical Knots because there are ever so many ropes on a boat and they are always coming untied, like my hair ribbons I guess, so if I find one coming untied I shall know how to tie it back up in a trice and then we wont hit an iceberg and sink.
I am so excited, pettes! I have never been on a boat before. Do you think boats still hit icebergs and sink, though? I wonder if 50 pounds is enough to buy all my necessaries and still have some left over for a plain evening dress, an elegant retticle, new shoes, a good supply of nylons, frilly nautical underthings for when I am not actually up in the rigging reefing sails (sailorpettes are always going up top to do reefing or unfurling, but sometimes they dance in the ballroom, I hear)? Have any of you pettes ever been to sea before? Are there icebergs in July in the ocean, do you think?
Some one has described Aristasia as "one long conversation". Well, Aphrodite is rather like that. If you want to catch up on the conversation so far, the Archive is the place to do it.
BACK TO BELLADONNA