Powered by Blogger.

THE SEWING CIRCLE, AN INTRODUCTION.


THE SEWING CIRCLE IS A LABEL GIVEN TO THE GROUP OF LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, OR BI-CURIOUS HOLLYWOOD LADIES, THIS ALSO INCLUDES DIRECTORS, WRITERS, AND OTHER WOMEN WITHIN OR AROUND FILM HISTORY.

I.

MARLENE DIETRICH lights a cigarette. She straightens her bowtie and adjusts her black top hat. She wears a black tailcoat, and before walking onto a simple stage she blows a stream of smoke through her confident lips. She is met with a roar of curiosity. She waits for the quite as the camera lingers on her hallow-cheek face, with sharp eyebrows and an ironic smile. She leans on a railing and starts to sing. Soon after the song is finished, she accepts champagnes from a male admirer, though she is more interested in the man's date. What comes next is a delicious form of sexuality that hasn't been produced since. She looks that woman up and down; as the woman nervously shuffles her weight, Dietrich then plucks a flower out of the woman's hair, lifts it slowly to her face and smells it, then she leans down and cups the woman's chin in her palm and kisses her firmly on the mouth. The reaction is a mix of glee and laughter, as the woman hides her face in pleased embarrassment, and as Dietrich, with a walk that lingers with the camera, smiles and flicks up the brim of her hat. Her hand lifts with her hat, as she accepts the applause. A freeing moment that was made to not single out one of the sexes, but to please both, sexually. 

This was from a scene from the nineteen-thirty, Paramount picture MOROCCO. It's perhaps one of the most famous cross-dressing scenes in film history. Along with that of Katharine Hepburn, in the title role of SYLVIA SCARLETT and that of Greta Garbo's QUEEN CHRISTINA, who proudly proclaims, "I SHALL DIE A BACHELOR." All with a smug smirk on her iconic Garbo lips. 


GRETA GARBO AND JENNY HASSELQUIST IN THE SAGA OF GOSTA BERLING, NINETEEN-TWENTY FOUR.

II.

The term "sewing circle" was said to originate from that of Russian-American actress, Alla Nazimova. She was one of the first in film history to have openly known relationships with women, and her Sunset Boulevard mansion, named "The Garden of Alla" was said to have hosted hundreds of outlandish parties. 

She held lots of power in Hollywood during the early years of her career, from nineteen-seventeen to nineteen-twenty two. She was also known for helps the careers of both of Rudolph Valentino's wives, Jean Acker and Natacha Rambova. An affair with Acker was known throughout the business, but an affair with Rambova was simply rumored. Others that have been confirmed are with director Dorothy Arzner, Oscar Wilde's niece, Dolly Wilde, and writer Mercedes de Acosta. The painter Bridget Bate Tichenor was rumored to be one of Nazimova's more favored lovers of the list. Though the age between them was forty-years and some dispell this rumor, art collector and poet Edward James, who introduced the two women to one another said it was very much a real affair, one that angered Nazimova's longtime partner, Glesca Marshall, who she would live with from nineteen-twenty nine until Nazimova's death in nineteen-forty-five.

She created the term for the actresses that hid their curiosities or true sexual nature. 

III.

WHEN GARBO AND DIETRICH HAD ENOUGH OF MEN, they found comfort within female-companionship. Women such as Tallulah Bankhead, Greta Garbo, and Alla Nazimova, all thought of themselves as two halves, one male and one female. And in the nineteen-twenties and thirties, lesbians were simply men trapped in women's bodies. Garbo, out of all of them, questioned these natures. She felt that her drive to succeed in all she did and the need to love women came from her male side.

The sewing circle was more than a coverup. A night of freedom. It was denial, in the strongest form. Trust of sisterhood. Fascination, like that of an artist with a muse. And above all, a deeper attraction and need, greater than physical pleasure. 


GLADY BENTLEY

IN THIS SERIES, the sewing circle, I WILL DIVE INTO THE STORIES OF WOMEN LOVING WOMEN AND THE FILMS THAT SHOWED IT, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. THIS ALSO INCLUDES SOME PIECES OF HISTORY THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE MAKING OF THE MOTION PICTURE CAMERA. SUCH AS THE VICTORIAN ERA. I WILL ALSO REVIEW BOOKS THAT TOUCH UPON THESE SUBJECTS.

SEWING CIRCLE, playlist.

i. liza less - the boswell sisters.
ii. dinah - ethel waters.
iii. mary - annette hanshaw.
iv. hard to get gertie - esther walker.
v. bd woman's blues - lucille bogan
vi. when i take my sugar to tea - the boswell sisters.
vii. red hot mama - the brox sisters.

LESBIANS IN MAINSTREAM CINEMA HAVE BEEN ALTERNATELY VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE SINCE THE NINETEEN-TENS. - Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures by Bonnie Zimmerman.

R.