The Perfumed Dandy approached me with the wonderful idea of both of us reviewing 1932 at the same time and posting both reviews on each other’s blogs. Without letting on what we each thought of the perfume we dove right in and had a ball doing it. So here they are. 1932 times two.
DIAMONDS AND RHINESTONES ~ Les Exclusifs de Chanel 1932
The rest of the world is broke and going to hell but here in this town, well baby were in the money. From all over the country they come every day, young hopeful ex-homecoming rodeo queens and the not so young but just as hopeful. From the dust bowl and impossible impoverishment, from Mobile and Milwaukee and points further east they blow into town with cardboard suitcases filled with celluloid dreams. On that first walk down the Boulevard they wear a smile they can’t hide and stick out to the initiated as fresh meat for the glamour grinder. Mecca of the movies calls to them in the form of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. They always end up there that first day to kneel and press there hands into the cement prints of someone who had all the right breaks. This is where the prayers begin. Welcome to Hollywoodland.
At Warner Brothers someone new to town with soon to be gone platinum hair and eyes one could sing about is carving her place in the system. She is all seriousness as she stands on the porch of a cabin in the cotton conferring with the director. She would love to kiss you but Miss Bette Davis has just washed her hair.
At Paramount a blonde Venus is surrounded by as much smoke and mirrors as she is by hair and makeup people. Waiting to board the Shanghai Express she knows already from somewhere in her gut and the slight change of temperature on her face that the lighting is not quite right. Marlene Dietrich looks up above the false walls erected around her and sees that her key light has burnt out.
Too the south miles from Hollywood on a stage at RKO she stands at the top of the stairs all angles and Bryn Mawr bearing looking down upon the great Barrymore. Her big break has happened on Broadway and she is about to make it even bigger in the movies. George Cukor calls for “action”, Katherine Hepburn’s star is about to be born.
To the West on Washington Blvd. more stars have fallen from heaven to walk among the mortals at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer than any other studio in town. A shop girl is trying to make good as a secretary in the lobby of a grand hotel; she has made herself over and will again and again. It has been a long road from Lucille Fay LeSueur to Joan Crawford and she made her own breaks to get here. There is still a long way to go.
Across the sound stage in a portable dressing room sits the Swede, the hated high heels kicked off she is waiting for her call to “action”. Perhaps she is the luckiest of all who came here to the edge of America. Greta Garbo doesn’t seem to care about being a star and thus shines the brightest of them all because of it. If she really does care she is not letting on. All she will say is, she doesn’t want to be alone, just left alone.
On stage 18 sitting in a rain barrel as if she is going to wash off the red dust of a rubber plantation, Jean Harlow laughs and jokes with Clark Gable. She is loved by the crew as just one of the boys. She rocks back and forth in the barrel sloshing water on Gable and the boys in the rafters look down from above and smile. This girl is a platinum bombshell of a shooting star made for the movies. She will leave the limelight much too soon.
On the western edge of Beverly Hills at Fox the biggest break of all for the tiniest star in Hollywood is about to happen. She will be a symbol of hope to a nation and save the studio from going under singing of lollypops and good ships. But now, on this day in 1932 she is working on a one reeler spoof of “What Price Glory” called War Babies. Just a baby herself Shirley Temple is about to steal the show.
They all would be in their time the diamonds of the golden age of Hollywood, the ones who got the breaks and made it big in this town that eats people alive in order to make flickering dreams for the masses. No rhinestones for these women. These ladies are the real jewels of 1932.
When the police found Peg Entwistle lying smeared with blood and dust at the bottom of the big H at the foot of Hollwoodland sign she was wearing her fake diamond earrings. As broken and dead as her futile movie career she was a never was star that failed to ignite above the town she, like countless others had come to conquer. No big break ever came her way. It ended with her swan dive off the sign in the Hollywood hills that brought a merciful end to the belly flop that was her career and sad life. As Peg’s body was loaded into the back of an ambulance the morning sun ricocheted through the fractured facets of the rhinestone earrings. They still gave off a flicker of glitter as the doors to the ambulance closed.
And the busses and the trains still came loaded with the dreamers that day in 1932. They never stopped and they never will. Welcome to Hollywoodland.
1932 by Chanel was released in the Exclusifs line as homage to the year that Coco Chanel debut her diamond jewelry collection. Not a zircon or rhinestone was to be seen in that magnificent presentation of stones which Mademoiselle gave to the world in the worst year of the Great Depression. But we are not so lucky with the premiere of this new perfume.
1932 is not a star shimmering in diamonds from the silver screen. This is only paste in a beautiful setting, faux beauty made of mirrored glass and presented as glamour only to be outshone by the real stars that have come before from this house. No.5, Cristalle, No.19, Sycomore, Coromandel, Cuir de Russie are but a few of the stars of Chanel. 1932 is something brought in from Central Casting, a day player, an extra that fades quickly into the scenery. At her very best she is a stand in for a star like No.19, a pale refection of the real thing.
This Floral Woody Musk has all the right notes that have created great stars before. Aldehydes, bergamot, and Neroli open fast and then are gone. The have cleared the sound stage for the arrival of Jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lilac and carnation. This mid note arrangement is really dominated by the Jasmine, the ever familiar studio style of Chanel. Somehow none of these notes have the ability to present themselves in a mature manner. Then in the base it goes all wrong and too sweet with the notes of sandalwood, orris root, opopanax, iris, violet, incense and a heavy vanilla. Too much is going on! It is slathered with a strong vanilla that buries the vetiver and musk that might have helped to keep this from going to the prom instead of the red carpet premiere. 1932 is immature, a teenaged powdery sweet fragrance that may find admirers in girls under the age of 21. At Les Exclusifs prices they are going to have to be teens with their own sit-coms filming on the Fox lot.
1932 is depressed and failing to deliver the dreams its publicity department promised. Not even a feature length presentation comes from this effort, like Shirley Temple’s early films, it is a short subject. In an hour it is gone and like so many never were stars 1932 ends up for me to be just another broken heart in the shadow of the great stars of Chanel.
TWO SWAROVSKI CRYSTAL STARS **
Who was she?
No one it turned out had thought of her for years. Everyone remembered her, but no one remembered a thing about her. Not one of them could even recall her name.
And yet there she was in nearly every photograph, almost hidden, somewhere towards the back, elegant, understated, almost, but not quite beautiful. Never looking directly at the camera, never, it seemed, talking or laughing or even, he realized now, even smiling. But then everyone said that no one had looked at those pictures for years. In his case it was true, very nearly exactly twenty years. Graduation shots, something to be taken, registered and filed away with a degree diploma and never looked at again.
Not until the day they thought of a reunion.
Of course they didn’t need a reunion for themselves, as thick as thieves those four from the class of 1992, lunch or dinner at least once a week, holidays together, married around the same time, parallel career paths. Settled.
It was at lunch: a hotel restaurant, in a conservatory, perhaps it was meant to be an orangery? Somewhere near the river? He was certain it was at lunch, over one glass too many of champagne, a birthday, a business deal? Yes, It was definitely at lunch that one of them suggested getting ‘everyone’ back together. The ones who weren’t in touch, the so and so’s who went to work abroad, or into teaching, who married and divorced young, who fell out of favour. Yes, it was time for a stock take, they would all be forty soon.
So he, with his forensic mind, was called upon to track them all down, all the missing so and so’s, all the loose ends and the dead ends and bring them back together again. And it was easy you know, a few feelers on facebook, half a dozen mutual friends, the notice in the alumni magazine and that was it, everyone accounted for. Dead or alive, willing or indifferent or opposed to the idea of a meeting. Everyone except for her.
And no one knew her name. The others said it didn’t matter. Who was she anyway? But he would not be put off. He was determined that she would not be the only thing to elude him. The University wouldn’t help, couldn’t help, data protection they said. The protection fell away after a donation just large enough to the correct charity. Of course he would be welcome to have a look at the registry archives on the afternoon after he presented the cheque to the capital development fund.
No one had told the archive assistant, fine boned, grey haired, though only in her forties he guessed, somehow too done up: smelling of expensive make up, all powder lilacs and buttermilk irises, no one had told her to make him welcome. She thought it all very irregular and made no bones about telling him so as she led him to the files and back through the years: 2007, 2002, 1997, 1992.
Proper paper files he thought, though not for much longer: she assured him that all this would be hard disk within weeks. She seemed satisfied. Happy to be free of the smell he imagined: the slightly bleached smoke and wax of the copy paper, the incense-like dust collecting on files. No more paper chases he reflected.
She handed him one of those files and he noticed her hands: they were young hands, in fact, despite that grey hair he could see now that she was no older than him, younger perhaps. He started to look through the dossier, every student, their names, their applications, their academic records, exam results and all – so that’s what they had really got – and photographs on enrolment day.
Arranged alphabetically, he went from A to Z without seeing her face. Then, at the end, a file under separate cover. There she was, staring out blankly at him, that memorably unmemorable face. At that moment he realized that it wasn’t her face at all, not her face that he or anyone else remembered.
What they all remembered was her necklace: a striking piece of costume jewellery they had all supposed, a falling star set with crystals and a jeweled train behind it. There it was, sparkling at him through time, wrapped around her shoulders.
He looked down to where her name should be. Nothing.
No name or address, no test results or school references. Nothing.
Just a candidate number for her finals:
One. Nine. Three. Two.
He shook the file in anger more than hope. How was this possible? How could she, of all people, escape him? A piece of card fell to the floor and he grabbed at it, an invitation, in French, to an exhibition at 29, Faubourg St Honore, Paris. And in neat, flawless hand on the back:
“I am going away, I may be some time. I may return, perhaps not.”
No name or address, no signature or date, except that of the exhibition:
7 au 19 Novembre, 1932.
For Chanel, 1932 is most remembered as the year in which the house unveiled its first mesmerizing collection of jewellery. The scent that bears the same name is unlikely to do anything to change that fact. This is a peerless example of a perfume with perfect poise, little personality and no apparent passion.
A practised opening of adroit aledhydes with sharp bergamot and neroli feels disconcertingly level headed, almost flat. The transformation into powder and wax floral heart is as seamless as it is soulless. Both the iris and a less latent than had been expected lilac are exemplary in their execution, but somehow fail to engender excitement.
The drydown is to a feint and faintly elegant smoke and sandalwood, with elements of the heart persisting. With a wave of jasmine and an undercurrent of wild grass, there is more depth to the conclusion that some may have you believe. In fact the formal structure is more than adequate but it is also simply unmoving.
For all the evident quality of the ingredients and the considerable consideration that has clearly gone into its composition, this aroma never catches alight. It might possibly have been a very slow burner, but to achieve this status the longevity must be massively improved. It is like something really quite good by a so so scent maker. It doesn’t feel like a Chanel. But it is.
Chanel 1932 is a beautifully made perfume, but it is not a beautiful perfume.
The perfumes in the ironically named ‘Exclusifs’ range to which 1932 belongs are the least exclusively male or female of any of those made by Chanel.
Whilst this might not be the most obviously ready to wear for men, if the cut fits, why not?
There are better reasons than gender alone to give this fragrance a miss.
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