Glamour: A History

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"The aura of celebrity, the style of the fashion world, the vanity of the rich and beautiful, and the publicity-driven rites of cafe society are all imbued with its irresistible magnetism. But what exactly is glamour? Where does it come from? How old is it? And can anyone quite capture its magic?" Stephen Gundle answers all these questions and more in this first ever history of the phenomenon, from Paris in the tumultuous final decades of the eighteenth century through to Hollywood, New York, and Monte Carlo in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from Napoleon's Paris to Paris Hilton, from Beau Brummell to Gianni Versace.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Herwitz (humanities, Univ. of Michigan; Aesthetics: Key Concepts in Philosophy) examines some complex explanations for the role of celebrity in popular culture. Referring to numerous examples of celebrity icons (e.g., Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly), he pays particular attention to Princess Diana, who embodied many of the divergent facets of an icon in modern society-eliciting high public admiration yet prompting a media obsession with her personal problems and tragedies. Herwitz skillfully analyzes the tightly interwoven components of this pattern, citing relationships to television, film, and escalating consumerism-all playing a role in the building up and tearing down of icons, a process that loses sight of the celebrity as an individual. Herwitz approaches the subject with intelligence and fine scholarship and offers much to think about.

Yet another tantalizing element of the celebrity mystique is glamour-a maddeningly indefinable quality sought by many but seemingly attainable by only a few. Gundle (film & television studies, Warwick Univ.; Bellissima: Feminine Beauty and the Idea of Italy) takes an expansive look at glamour from past to present in a narrative rich with captivating details and commentary. He examines the many categories in which glamour is measured-wealth, sex appeal, beauty, spectacle, daring, urban sophistication, professions, and products. He discusses its arbiters-photographers, major magazines, writers-and some of its diverse symbols through time such as Marie Antoinette, Marlene Dietrich, Gianni Versace, and Princess Diana, setting their historical context and discussing their eccentricities, excesses, and style-setting trends. Gundlesums up glamour as a look, action, or way of life more fascinating and colorful than that of its audience. Both of these books are essential for those with a keen interest in the sociology of popular culture and stardom.
—Carol J. Binkowski

From the Publisher

"This book captures the tantalizing appeal of glamour while exposing its sleazy underside."--The Standard

"Well researched and thoughtfully written, this book manages to be an excellent read and will appeal to anyone interested in popular culture."--Sarah Jenkins, The Guardian

"Gundle is brilliant at the old razzle-dazzle."--Veronica Horwell, Saturday Guardian

"This book is a thoroughly comprehensive and meticulously researched history of glamour."--Times Literary Supplement

"A narrative rich with captivating details and commentary.... Essential for those with a keen interest in the sociology of popular culture and stardom."--Library Journal

"A substantial book about an insubstantial, yet somehow fascinating, topic."--The Independent

"Well-researched and thoughtfully written, this book manages to be an excellent read and will to anyone interested in popular culture."--Books Quarterly

"Glamour: A History is on the whole a wonderfully engaging read."--Otago Daily Times

"The book captures the excitement and sex appeal of glamour while exposing its mechanisms and exploring its sleazy and sometimes tragic underside. As Gundle shows, while glamour is exciting and magnetic, its promise is ultimately an illusion that can only ever be partially fulfilled."--Irish Mail on Sunday

"[A] pathbreaking study...Gundle has written the first general history of what has become a central drive of our contemporary consumer culture and its expressions in the popular culture that accompanies it." -- Journal of Social History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199569786
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Gundle is Professor of Film and Television Studies at Warwick University.

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Table of Contents

List of Plates

Introduction 1

1 Glamour and Modernity 18

2 Urban Enchantments 51

3 The Birth of Sex Appeal 78

4 Wealth, Style, and Spectacle 109

5 Cafe Society and Publicity 140

6 The Hollywood Star System 172

7 Paris, Rome, and the Riviera 199

8 Glamour and Mass Consumption 231

9 Photography and the Female Image 267

10 Style, Pastiche, and Excess 306

11 Contemporary Glamour 347

Conclusion 388

Notes 397

Photographic Acknowledgements 456

Index 457

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2008

    the history of celebrity and its dimensions

    Social history at its most engaging and topical, Grundle gets to the essence of glamour and its fascination for modern-day publics, especially democratic ones. Although published by a leading academic publisher and in stretches written in a somewhat academic style (Grundle is a professor of film and television studies), with its frequent references to and often vignettes about top celebrities and to a lesser extent, familiar historical figures, the work reaches into the popular vein. Behind the readily comprehensible analyses and particularly cogent summarizations usually tying together mixed or opposing elements is extensive scholarship and long reflection guided by an interest in popular culture. The book 'maps the origins of glamour and investigates the forms that it took in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries...The book captures the excitement and sex appeal of glamour while exposing its mechanisms and exploring its sleazy and sometimes tragic underside... (from the Introduction). Elsewhere, 'From its origins, glamour has been associated with dreaming. The yearning for a better, richer, more exciting, and materially lavish life accompanying the development of modern consumerism and fueled innumerable fantasies and fictions.' And near the end, 'Glamour links the rare, the remote, and the desirable with the accessible.' The text is filled with such embracing, insightful views. Leading up to these is abundant colorful material of portraits and vignettes of Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Hugh Hefner, Paris Hilton, and many other actors, rock stars, etc. But Grundle begins with early 1800s figures such as Napoleon whose campaigns toppled the old sociopolitical order Lord Byron and other Romantics who represented the new individualism and it mutability along the lines of desire and aspiration and Walter Scott who romanticized individuality and in some ways showiness. The origination of the word 'glamour' is attributed to Scott. The word is an Anglicized versions of the Low Scottish word 'glamer' meaning 'the supposed influence of a charm on the eye, causing it to see objects differently from what they really are.' With its myriad examples of celebrity and pregnant summations, Gundle's Glamour brings much of contemporary society into perspective. Neither celebrating nor lamenting the culture of celebrity, the author paints a full picture of this centralized characteristic which is simultaneously seductive and formulative.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2009

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