In this BBC Four Christmas special, Arena: Screen Goddesses charts the Hollywood studio era from its beginning through to its collapse in the early 1960s, and through the meteoric rise and fall of the screen goddesses that made it.
With the beginning of Hollywood around 1910, the star system was born, with an archetypal bad girl - the vampish Theda Bara - and the good girl – the blazingly sincere Lillian Gish. From the 1920s, the female stars most remembered today are the vivacious ‘It’ Girl Clara Bow and the seductive siren Louise Brooks; but none made the impact of German born, Marlene Dietrich, an icon of mystery or the ‘Great Garbo’ with perfect features and gloomy introspection.
From the power of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis to the beauty and seductiveness of Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner, Hollywood studios produced their own brand of beautiful, sassy and confident women. But it wasn’t to last.
Arena: Screen Goddesses uses film extracts and archive footage to chronicle an era that drew to a close with the supreme fame of Elizabeth Taylor and the tragic death of Marilyn Monroe. It will chart those final days of the reign of the goddess on the big screen - screen queens whose images will last forever.
Clara Bow - Hollywood's Lost Screen Goddess
Clara Bow: Hollywood's Lost Screen Goddess tells the story of one of the greatest stars of the silent era.
Clara Bow is almost forgotten today, but as a silent film star, her level of fame was unparalleled. Lauded as the first ever sex symbol, for a while she was box office gold. She was a trailblazer, whose natural acting style hadn't been seen before.
Biographer David Stenn asserts: “Billy Wilder called it ‘flesh impact’ … and the only people he ever saw who had that were Clara Bow and Marilyn Monroe.”
But in just a few short years everything had changed. Clara Bow’s public fall from grace into virtual obscurity reflects a turbulent period for Hollywood as a whole. It came at a time when one of the most significant changes in cinematic history took place, the switch from the hugely popular silent films to the talkies.
This documentary tells the life story of an actress born on the wrong side of the tracks who, for a while, became Hollywood royalty. The film is a rediscovery of a significant talent destroyed by hypocrisy and fame.
In the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures: The Modern Alchemist, Dr Peter Worthers unpicks the chemistry of the world around us. In three interactive lectures, he looks at how Air, Water and Earth - three of the original ancient Greek ‘elements' - tantalised alchemists for centuries and how our more modern understanding of them is helping us understand the world around us.
Len Goodman takes us on a twirl around the ballroom in Len Goodman’s Dancing Feet: The British Ballroom Story.
For the music lovers, BBC Four hosts the Richest Songs In The World, Vienna New Year’s Day Concert and Placido Domingo’s Gala Concert from the Royal Opera House.