Personalities | 1950 | Sound | B/W
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An interview with Cecil Beaton, the photographer and artist
Film is introduced by line drawings by Felix Topolski well-known individual artist of the 1950s. Head and shoulders sketches but always wearing an impresssive hat.
Close-up of Cecil Beaton's face. Freeman asks which of his many activities is his main profession. Answer 'I wish I knew'. He doesn't know his real vocation. Profile of Beaton sitting in period chair cross legged. Camera pans to his head and shows hat which appears to be an adapted trilby.Talks about his art and the need to be creative. The visual guides his life. He had an idyllic childhood 'until I became' stops and says 'until I reached the age of puberty shall we say.' His mother was a great influence on his early childhood. He found it difficult getting on with his father. Beaton went against many of the things his father stood for. Side three-quarter length view sitting cross legged. He wears a suit jacket with a neatly folded handkerchief in top pocket. Later he changed his view of his father. Camera angle from other side of chair. At school he was occasionally bullied but not persecuted. Left home for boarding school. Took time to make friends. Went on to Harrow School. Wasn't hard-up. Went to Cambridge and joined the Aesthetic group. Was bowled over by people who gave up their lives to aestheticism. He dressed in 'peculiar garb' He doesn't usually wear a hat indoors. Likes the one he is wearing because it has 'a certain Edwardian bravura.' Also wears hat because he is going bald. Freeman: 'You have written that you are effeminate and have an undulating walk.' He was self-concious as a youth. Adopted bizarre dress. He was insecure when he left Cambridge.
He talks of Evelyn Waugh as an enemy. They detest each other.intensely. Among his friends were Cyril Connelly although he was not influenced by him. Other influences were the Sitwells and Diaghalev, Aldous Huxley, Cocteau. Father disapproved of him becoming a photographer but helped him with money to set up his studio. His way of photographing famous people against exotic backgrounds was new. He wasn't interested in the sitters themselves but wanted to make pictures that didn't really look like a photograph. He created a sort of dream world. The style was a bit gimicky.
Greta Garbo, the Swedish 1920 - 30s film actress was the most beautiful women he ever phtographed. Camera angle to under his chin, very close to his face. Garbo had influenced his life to a great degree. (He does not mention his affair with her.) 'Does he get paid by his sitter or by selling the pictures to the press etc? He has a specified charge for photographs of the Royal Family. He does not take photos of anyone. Only those he wants to photograph. He doesn't charge a fixed fee as a portrait painter would. He tailors the charge to the capacity of the client. Men are easier to photograph than women. He has no nostalgia for the 1920's and 30's. Does he have any religious views? He rubs his chin with his hand and shows his lower teeth (all neat and even) and his tongue. He has his own private religion which he does not want to talk about. Does he have any ambition left? He has a full schedule and cannot think beyond the next 2 years. He has not achieved satisfaction in his artistic life but is not pursuing some 'holy grail'. He is still looking for the end of the rainbow. 'What sort of man do you think you are?' He is appalled by some of the entries in his early diaries. In his diaries he wrote he wanted to ride bikes and fight. 'I often despised people who did these sort of things but I wanted to be able to do them.'
'I always have to do things that are too difficult for me - that is what keeps me going.'
I feel I am not an intellectual but need the company of intellectuals to stimulate me.
He has a cold shower each morning because it is a challege. He is willing to take on any job that makes him a better person. Smiles - fade to a final head and shoulder Topolski drawing of Beaton in hat.
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