Thursday, August 13, 2009

Further Shame for Rosebud

The below image is an actual postcard that people at one point could send to their relatives.

marion_davis_postcard

It depicts what today is known as the Annenberg Community Beach House but at one point was simply the house William Randolph Hearst built for Marion Davies, whom may be familiar to some as the “singer” from Citizen Kane. But ignore all that for a moment, because I feel a deep-down need to discuss this image.

First off: Her pose. If that indeed is Marion herself sprawled on the sand in front of her home — and the postcard states this to be the case — then one has to wonder what photographer and postcard company director she pissed off to the point that this was the image of her that was selected to be the one mailed cross-country and, possibly, across the world as well. She either looks like she’s forcing a smile after being kicked in the gut while exercising or she just plain fell mid-workout and is inexplicably trying to reach for a medicine ball to regain her balance. And sure, the fact that she has thrust one leg into the air might be deliberate, but the reminder that she’s only famous because she had an affair probably isn’t.

And then there’s the color. This looks to me like a monochromatic photo that was given the gift of color through after-the-fact painting, hence Marion’s blonde hair but curiously pallid face. It’s very nice, overall, save for the screwed-up American flag, which was probably not even part of the original photo. Why the hell would the touch-up artist bother to make enough white dots to suggest the appropriate number of stars and not bother to paint in the white stripes? The flag has none, just red stripes flapping against the sky. It looks like a steampunk Photoshop fuck up.

All in all, a bit perplexing. Of course, I’ve already given it more thought than I do most postcards I’ve actually received in the mail and held in my hand, so I guess it’s not a complete failure.

Previous assertions of my alleged visual literacy:

1 comment:

  1. OK, there's no defending the flag here, but I feel I have to stick up for the ever put upon Marion Davies. That's Welles' biggest offense in Citizen Kane, turning Davies into the execrable singer Susan Alexander Kane. Davies actually did have talent, particularly for comedy, but Hearst wanted her to do more "dignified" work. So it's entirely possible this postcard was her joke back at Hearst--"see me while I take a pratfall, folks!" Davies also was great with money, and at one point had to bail Hearst out during the Depression.

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