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Photographer and fashion icon gets loving tribute in ‘Love, Cecil’ documentary

Nuart presents the story of a revolutionary

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Beaton in the late 1910’s. (Photo courtesy of the Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s)

Cecil Beaton had one goal in life – to be more than “just an ordinary, anonymous person.”
In pursuit of it, he became not only one of the 20
th century’s most influential photographers, but also a Tony and Oscar-winning visual designer, a writer and a celebrated taste-maker whose influence continues to be felt in fashion and visual art today.

As chronicled in “Love, Cecil,” a new documentary by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, he was born into a prosperous but decidedly middle-class family in Hampstead, a suburb of London, and wanted nothing more than to mingle with the rich and beautiful.

His storied career took him there.  His decade-long stint taking iconic photos for Vogue yielded images that defined and dictated the “look” of the 1930s, and celebrities and socialites clamored to be photographed by him, even England’s royal family; in mid-life, he turned his attention to the stagecraft that had inspired him in his youth, designing sets and costumes for Broadway shows and Hollywood blockbusters that introduced his audacious sense of style to a new generation; and in his later years, he continued to explore horizons, documenting the changing tastes of the times and championing younger artists whose ideas he found exciting.

Through it all, he kept diaries.  Volumes of personal thoughts and memories, not just about himself, but about all the famous figures who passed through his life.  He published those in his lifetime (though he left out some of the more poisonous parts – he was known for the sharpness of his tongue towards those whom he found objectionable, and there were many), allowing readers an insight into a classic world of fame and glamour that he himself had helped to immortalize.

Key passages from these diaries (as read by Rupert Everett) provide the narration for Vreeland’s film, which is less concerned with conveying the factual specifics of biography – though it does so – than it is with finding the cohesive thread that ties it together.  Like her previous documentaries, “The Eye Has to Travel” (about her own grandmother-in-law, Diana Vreeland, who was also one of Beaton’s closest friends) and “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict,” her exploration of Beaton’s life focuses on his artistic vision, his desire to create around himself the world he in which he wanted to live.  It’s something she clearly comprehends; she succeeds at finding depth in the artist’s obsessions with style and beauty – concerns which many might have dismissed as shallow – and helping her audience find the same importance in them as he clearly did.

With archival footage (some of it never seen before), stills, and interviews, she gives us a long and loving look at Beaton himself, both in his own words and in those of many of his contemporaries and colleagues.  These segments capture the man’s eloquence, wit and the enigmatic blend of vanity and self-criticism that drove him throughout his life to keep striving for more.  They also present a glorious look at a long-gone era that has shaped the aesthetic sensibilities of our culture for generations.

There are, of course, the expected revelations. There is discussion of Beaton’s sexuality – he was, by his own admission, mostly interested in “homosexualism” – and his love affairs, such as they were, with art collector Peter Watson and Olympic fencer Kinmont Hoitsma.  There is also some exploration of his supposed romance with Greta Garbo, along with hints of his more private sex life from his former butler.  More salacious, perhaps, are the deliciously catty remarks that emerge from the unpublished portions of his diaries, about celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn, which are sure to satisfy those with a taste for dishing dirt.

Most of all, though, Vreeland’s movie lets Beaton’s own work do the talking.  Her loving presentation of so many of the glorious images he captured conveys his gifts more eloquently than spoken words could ever accomplish.  Brimming with detail, composed against visually arresting backgrounds, with a flair for the dramatic and hints of eroticism and sly humor, these unparalleled photographs not only reveal Beaton’s flawless understanding of style and beauty but his knack for capturing something essential about his subjects – no matter how fantastical their setting may be.

The most intriguing photos of the bunch, though, may be Beaton’s pictures of himself.  Throughout his life, he used the camera to help create his own persona, his style, his very self-image and the image of the world he wished to create around him.  Long before the era of cell phone cameras, he was taking “selfies,” paving the way for today’s army of Instagram “influencers” – but the only brand he was promoting was his own.

Indeed, mid-way through the film one of its commentators (Vogue editor Hamish Bowles) speculates that Beaton would have relished the opportunities afforded by today’s social media culture.  “I would love to see a Beaton portrait of Kim Kardashian,” he wryly observes.

After seeing “Love, Cecil,” with the insight it brings about Beaton’s ability to reveal “the unvarnished truth” in his work, it’s safe to say that Mr. Bowles speaks for us all.

 

“Love, Cecil” can be seen at the Landmark Nuart Theatre (11272 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles) from July 20 – 26.  Tickets and more information are available here.

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Television

Ellen signs off after 19 seasons

In her final monologue DeGeneres reflected on the journey across the years then took a moment to dance through the audience with Twitch

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Screenshot/YouTube

BURBANK – The lights went dark forever at the Warner Brothers Stage 1 complex on the lot at Warner Brothers Studio, home to the Ellen show, as comedian Ellen DeGeneres ended her daytime talk show after a 19 season run Thursday.

In a highly charged emotional hour, DeGeneres paid tribute to her staff, executive producers and a global audience of loyal viewers. Highlighting the end run of the show DeGeneres brought on guest Jennifer Aniston, the actress having been the comedian’s very first guest on the first show.

In her final monologue DeGeneres reflected on the journey across the years and she then took a moment to dance through the audience with her ‘DJ’ Twitch. During the course of the hour she discussed the progress that had been made since the series premiered in 2003, noting that she “couldn’t say ‘gay’ on the show” when it started or make a reference to her wife, Portia de Rossi, because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal.

“Now I say ‘wife’ all the time,” she said.  Noting that there was resistance to the show and that few gave it a chance of surviving, DeGeneres promised that she wouldn’t be gone for long. “Today is not the end of a relationship, it’s more of a little break,” she said. “You can see other talk shows now.”

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Celebrity News

Crown Prosecution Service UK charges Kevin Spacey with sexual assault

The CPS told the BBC it could not confirm or deny whether or not Spacey will need to be extradited to the UK

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Screenshot/Sky News UK

LONDON – The Crown Prosecution Service announced Thursday that actor Kevin Spacey has been charged with five counts including three complaints relating to sexual abuse, which is alleged to have taken place in London, and one in Gloucestershire during the time period between 2005 and 2013.

Crown prosecutors told media outlets that the decision to move forward was based on a lengthy investigation by the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Directorate at Scotland Yard. The Directorate is a national police agency which handles specialist crime investigations such as e-crime, sex crimes (paedophile unit) or kidnappings.

In its reporting Thursday, the BBC outlined the cases against the actor.

The first two charges relate to alleged sexual assaults on a man, now in his 40s, in London in March 2005, while a second alleged victim, a man now in his 30s, is claimed to have been assaulted in London in August 2008.

The serious sexual offence charge – causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent – also relates to the second alleged victim.

The third complainant relates to an alleged assault on a man who is now in his 30s in Gloucestershire in April 2013.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS Special Crime Division, told the BBC that following the Met’s review of evidence the CPS had “authorised criminal charges against Kevin Spacey, 62, for four counts of sexual assault against three men”.

She added: “The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Spacey are active and that he has the right to a fair trial.”

The CPS told the BBC it could not confirm or deny whether or not Spacey will need to be extradited to the UK.

Spacey’s alleged sexual assaults occurred while he was living in London and employed as the renowned Old Vic Theatre’s artistic director in London between 2004 and 2015.

Spacey has been embroiled publicly and later in court over sexual assault allegations since October of 2017 when Out actor Anthony Rapp told the world that the Oscar-winning actor had tried to “seduced” him when Rapp was 14 years old. 

Rumours about Spacey’s behaviour had circulated in film and theatre circles for a considerable length of time previous to Rapp’s allegation.

Spacey’s response was immediate. He apologized and came out. “I’m beyond horrified to hear his story. I honestly do not remember the encounter, it would have been over 30 years ago. But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior, and I am sorry for the feelings he describes having carried with him all these years,” Spacey wrote on Twitter.

“This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are stories out there about me, and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my own privacy,” Spacey said, adding “I now chose to live as a gay man.”

In July of 2019, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe announced that a charge against Spacey which accused the actor of sexually assaulting an 18-year-old boy in a Nantucket, Mass. bar had been dropped.

In court documents, Cape and Island District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said the charge was dropped “due to an unavailability of the complaining witness.”

News anchor Heather Unruh accused Spacey of getting her son, William Little, drunk at the Club Car, a bar in Nantucket, Mass., and groping him in July 2016 when Little was 18 years old.

In October of 2019, the office of then Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that prosecutors have declined to move forward in a sexual battery case against the actor because the accuser had died.

That case, one of several involving accusations of sexual misconduct and assault by the Oscar winning actor, allegedly occurred after an October 2016 incident. A masseur had claimed that Spacey had inappropriately touched him in a sexual manor at a private home in Malibu as he was giving Spacey a massage.

A statement released by the LADA’s office notes that the masseur’s allegations against could not be proven without his participation in court proceedings. The alleged victim had also civil suit pending in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Spacey for the same incident.

Kevin Spacey charged with sexual assault:

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Notables

Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith named to Time’s Top 100 list for 2022

“In the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith”

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Courtesy of Equality Florida

ST. PETERSBURG, FL. – Time magazine released its annual 100 most influential people list and this year one of the honorees was Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith. In the biographical sketch accompanying Smith’s listing, Time writer Kristen Arnett noted “in the fight for equality in Florida, there has perhaps been no greater advocate for LGBTQ people than Nadine Smith.”

“I am deeply honored to be included in the TIME100,” said Smith, a Black, queer woman. “This recognizes decades of work not only by me, but by the dedicated team of volunteers, staff and supporters I’ve had the privilege to work with at Equality Florida.  Our work is far from done as Florida, once again, stands at the center of the fight against extremism and hate.  We are bearing the brunt of a governor willing to sacrifice the safety of children and destroy our most basic liberties in his desperate bid to be President. But this is not simply Florida’s fight. The wave of anti-LGBTQ, racist, freedom-destroying bills sweeping the country calls each of us to fight for our rights and, indeed, our democracy.”

The list, now in its nineteenth year, recognizes the impact, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals. 

Smith comes from a long line of activists and barrier breakers. Her grandparents helped form the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to fight for the rights of sharecroppers. While in college, Smith co-founded IGLYO, the world’s largest LGBTQ youth and student organization. She co-chaired the 1993 March on Washington that drew a million marchers and she was part of the first Oval Office meeting between a sitting President and LGBTQ leaders. In the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, Smith and her team coordinated a national response including raising millions in direct resources for survivors and families of the 49 killed. 

Smith’s recognition comes as Florida has taken center stage in the right wing, anti-freedom agenda aimed at erasing LGBTQ people from classrooms, propagandizing curriculum, censoring history, banning books, and putting politicians in control of personal medical decisions.

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential ambitions have fueled bills like Don’t Say Gay, the Stop WOKE Act, a 15-week abortion ban, and dangerous national rhetoric that seeks to dehumanize LGBTQ people in service to the most extreme segment of his base,” Equality Florida stated in a press release Monday.

The 2022 TIME100, and its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, with related tributes appear in the June 6/June 13 double issue of TIME, available on newsstands on Friday, May 27, and online now at time.com/time100.

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