A Colorful and Controversial Man
Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s “Love Cecil” gives us a wonderful profile of English photographer and designer Cecil Beaton. Beaton won 3 Academy Awards and 4 Tony Awards and was knighted by the Queen after having been the Royal Family’s photographer for years. However, only the older movie going public know who he is and the gorgeous costumes he created for the Ascot scene in the movie version of ”My Fair Lady” are a tribute to him. Unfortunately he has been mostly forgotten by the general public. Perhaps seeing this film will make people want to know more about the man who did so much for film, stage, photography and fashion which hopefully will be corrected now by this new documentary.
Beaton was born in 1904 in London into a wealthy middle-class family. He styled his two younger sisters and mother and made them pose for him for pictures he took with a Brownie camera he borrowed from his nanny. He would send the photographs to the society page editors of newspapers and magazines often under a pseudonym. Back then it was possible to buy a place at University, so Beaton went to Cambridge and brags he didn’t attend a single lecture. He also devoted himself to amateur dramatics where he could dress up in drag and indulge in his own outrageous highly stylized fashion sense. At Cambridge he had the first of a string of male lovers and ultimately left without a degree.
He was a gifted writer he wrote many diaries throughout his life that were published (in this film they are read by Rupert Everett). He managed a photography job at Vogue where he really started to make a name for himself. He had quite a unique perspective on fashion. However, while working for Vogue in New York as one of their top photographers, his career came to a rapid halt when some anti-Semitic graffiti was included in one of his pieces and the entire edition had of the magazine had to be recalled and shredded, and Beaton fired from his job had to return to London under a cloud.
His earlier work photographing London society got him a summons from Buckingham Palace to photograph the king’s wife who later became the Queen Mother). She loved the results and Beaton became the photographer that the Royal Family called on for all their major occasions for the next few decades. He also photographed the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor who were persona non grata by the Queen and her family, but this it didn’t effect Beaton’s position at the Palace.
Beaton was a restless and frustrated person because he says that he was not able to do all that he wanted to. Vreeland was lucky enough to be able to include l archival footage of Beaton himself from several points throughout his life and we see this in the footage, which confirmed the great man’s restless and frustration with not being to do everything he wanted too. He possessed wonderful wit that we see through the examples of his even though he has doubts about himself.
His choice of lovers all left him in the end quite unfulfilled romantically. Beaton emphatically states he never ever wanted to be just an ordinary, anonymous person, and looking at his life, no one could ever accuse him of being anything like that. He was outrageous and the quintessential English snob that was always the center of attention wherever he went. He will always be linked to Hollywood musicals “Gigi” and “My Fair Lady” for which he designed magnificent costumes. His was a life well lived and this film shows us the full range of Beaton’s talents as” author, designer, dandy, painter and photographer.”
Vreeland digs deep into Beaton’s diaries that are supported by many interviews from later in life. Most younger audience members probably won’t have any idea who Cecil Beaton is and that is their loss.
“Love Cecil” opens at the Nuart in Los Angeles on July 20, 2018.