Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chica Chica Boom Chic! Excerpt from The Maybelline Story featuring Fox Star, Betty Grable

Betty Grable featured in 20th Century Fox Pictures, Down Argentine Way.

the ad said. Arnold had thoroughly retouched the before and after photos—producing illustration more than photography—to convey a smooth and beautiful complexion. The tiny before shot revealed a pretty girl with pale brows and lashes, while the after showed a lushly made-up young beauty. Tiny print mentioned that Betty Grable was featured in the film Down Argentine Way. This way, Tom Lyle reasoned, even if the movie tanked, the ad would still work since it didn't play up the film’s title. In the ad, Betty was quoted as saying, “It’s easy to have lovely alluring eyes…The magic secret is Maybelline eye make-up.” Emery’s copy gave step by step application instructions, ending with: “Then, the joyful climax…when you form your brows in graceful, classic lines with Maybelline smooth-marking Eyebrow Pencil.”

Tom Lyle wasn't the only one taking a risk on the film; so was Daryl Zanuck. Twentieth Century Fox studios had been counting on Alice Faye’s box office power to help solve their financial woes. Would a goofy, light-hearted romp set in Argentina appeal to Americans in a year when dramatic films like The Philadelphia Story and The Grapes of Wrath would take most of the credits? A few westerns had done well, and Ginger and Fred were still dancing. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour had starred in the popular Road to Singapore—which had nothing to do with Singapore and was oblivious to Japanese imperialism in the Pacific.

 Fox wanted something fresh, and if they couldn’t cavort in Europe or the Pacific, they’d take their fun and games elsewhere. South America seemed like a pretty safe bet. With that lively Brazilian music, movie-goers could transport themselves to a place where war didn’t exist.
The gamble paid off. In October of 1940, FDR relieved everyone by saying, “I have said this before, and I’ll say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”  The film opened that same month, and the public adored Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda in her outrageous costumes. Revelers everywhere, like Evelyn’s crowd at the Biltmore, learned to samba to tunes like “Bambu Bambu.” The age of Carmen Miranda movies and music had begun. Chica Chica Boom Chic!

At the same time, teens and young women in their twenties identified with Grable’s saucy blond beauty and lively spirit. In droves and busloads they crowded into dime stores to buy Maybelline. Tom Lyle immediately parlayed his new bombshell into another full-page color ad. Alice Faye had worked out her contract differences with Zanuck and signed along with Betty Grable to do Tin Pan Alley, another light-hearted musical, but Alice didn’t want to do business with friends, including Tom Lyle. Arnold got around this by developing an ambiguous photo-illustration that resembled both Alice and Betty. The caption read, “Adorable with Maybelline,” and audiences weren’t sure if the model was Faye or Grable--which was exactly what Tom Lyle wanted.

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