Dueling divas at Martha's Vineyard Museum
On Saturday, March 7, Chilmark seasonal resident Arnie Reisman, an award-winning writer and film producer, will preview his documentary, "The Powder and the Glory." It is part of Martha's Vineyard Museum's (MVM) opening festivities for its new oral history exhibit, "Voices of Island Women."
The film, which has appeared at film festivals and special screenings, including one last summer at the Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center, focuses on cosmetics tycoons Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. Both "Vogue" and "Boston Magazine" will feature articles about the film in their issues this month.
Photos courtesy of powderandglory.com
It is scheduled to air on PBS on March 23 at 10 pm, but this Saturday, Mr. Reisman, who co-wrote, co-directed, and co-produced "The Powder and the Glory" with Ann Carol Grossman, will preview and discuss how the two women built a $150-billion business empire and influenced American culture in the process.
The multi-talented Mr. Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, an executive media coach, journalist, and former consumer reporter for WBZ-TV, are probably best known for their roles as panelists on the nationally syndicated quiz show, "Says You!" (WGBH and WCAI). Mr. Reisman has earned his reputation as a film and TV documentarian with credits like the Oscar-nominated "Hollywood on Trial," PBS' "AIDS Quarterly" with Peter Jennings, and as co-producer for "The Other Side of the Moon."
The project on the cosmetic dynasty began in 2003, when Mr. Reisman and Ms. Lyons were in New York to see an exhibit of the work of another summer Vineyarder, Jules Feiffer, at the New York Historical Society. They stopped to view another exhibit there, "Enterprising Women: 250 Years of American Business," which included Ms. Arden and Ms. Rubenstein, and the experience inspired Mr. Reisman.
"There wasn't a cosmetics industry before them," he says. "Women didn't wear make-up. You pinched your cheeks, or you walked outside." Mr. Reisman quickly learned that nobody had made a documentary about these two remarkable women.
Mr. Reisman describes how Elizabeth Arden (whose voice in the film is dubbed by Ms. Lyons) joined a 1912 women's suffrage march in New York, and when the marchers whipped out lipstick, applying it as an act of defiance, she recognized it as a marketing idea. Four years later, Helena Rubinstein arrived in New York from Australia and opened a shop with her own line of cosmetics.
Until their arrival, cosmetics were used surreptitiously, if at all. Mr. Reisman suggests that as women saw movie stars wearing make-up and looking good in it, they began using it themselves. "Arden and Rubinstein didn't break the mold, but after them it certainly was broken," he says.