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How They Stay Glamorous After Forty
(NOTE: Only sections of the article pertaining to Joan Crawford are included here.)
The most popular actresses in Hollywood today -- and certainly among the highest paid -- are nine woman who will never see forty again. They are, in carefully scrambled order: Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Gertrude Lawrence, Gloria Swanson, Greer Garson, Bette Davis and Irene Dunne.
Three of these forty-plus ladies -- Marlene, Gertrude and Gloria -- are grandmothers, and only one of the nine has ever indicated the slightest irritation at being made a vital statistic in the over-forty class.
Movie audiences in recent years have become more adult. And, as night follows day, so have the stars. Audiences are demanding more mature, intelligent films -- not just the bit of wet fluff once called a movie.
Frankly, I've always thought the public was way ahead of us.
With what amounts to a mandate from their fans to act their age, Hollywood's fortyish stars are no longer squeamish about accepting older-woman roles. And one one of them -- Joan Crawford -- ever balked at being labeled forty. Joan was in a snarling mood a year so ago because someone wrote that she was forty. I think it's more important to be forty and not look it (and Joan doesn't) than to be thirty and look older.
Joan probably is sensitive about her age because she works harder at being a movie star than almost anybody else. She does everything her fans would like her to do. You never see her with her hair uncombed, in a soiled dress or sloppy slacks. She's always done up in best party fashion.
Joan is a great sun bather. She watches her weight with the determination of a prize fighter. I know for a fact that all during the time she was under contract to Metro she never ate white bread or cake. And she never added an ounce. "It's easier," she always said, "to keep it off than take it off." Her way of "keeping it off" is to juggle a career, four children and a big house. "As for dieting -- that's just a matter of self-discipline, sanity and refusing that extra helping," she told an interviewer recently. For exercise, Joan swims, plays tennis and walks. She never permits herself to veer from her slim-waisted 130-pound figure, and, if called upon, she can still run through the leg-kicking routines of her early film career.
How long can Claudette and all the other plus-forty girls go on acting? Believe me, they have no intention of retiring. Barbara Stanwyck has told me, "The only way they'll ever get me to stop making pictures is to shoot me." And Irene Dunne once said, "I guess I'll go on acting until I'm old and feeble and nobody wants to look at me anymore." Bette Davis frankly says that she has every intention of being the Grand Old lady of Hollywood -- "even if they wheel me in on the sound stage. Darned horrifying, isn't it?"
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