This post comes to you direct from Old Hollywood Glamour.
The original Spider Eyes.
Now that you’ve mastered the Hollywood eyebrow, let’s move on to the next item of hairy adornments on our face: eyelashes. If you’re looking for someone to curse the next time your eyelash glue drips into the corner of your eye, blame Hollywood. It’s no surprise that the widespread use of false eyelashes started here: they’d been in use in the theater for some time, to make actresses’ eyes visible from the back row.
However, as with many other beauty tricks, Hollywood soon appropriated the false eyelashes as its own, and began experimenting. Women around the country began the agonizing practice of gluing eyelashes into their…eyelashes. I don’t know why they didn’t name them eye-weaves, but whatever.
The thing about false eyelashes on-screen is that they have to be dramatic enough to draw attention to the actress’ eyes in long shots. Nobody ever won an Oscar in those days with thin, sparse eyelashes. They had to flutter dramatically at Clark Gable’s ridiculous antics and be visible across a room packed with Southern debutantes.
Penetrating, Oscar-winning lashes.
However! Eyelashes couldn’t be obviously over-the-top fake — that would look ridiculous in close-ups, creating what I like to call Spider Eyes. (Nobody wants to be called Spider Eyes.) The lashes must perfectly complement the actress wearing them. Lush lashes may seem natural on a raven-haired beauty like Vivian Leigh, but what about the Nordic Greta Garbo? Greta’s light coloring meant she was better suited to softer, more delicate lashes.
In those days, the major studios had their stars under contract and controlled every aspect of their lives – from whom they were seen dating to what they looked like. Producers had practical control over what every star in their “stable” looked like, and often demanded things like major dental work or even plastic surgery from their stars. If all you were asked to do was wear some false eyelashes, you would count yourself relatively lucky.
Greta’s soft, feminine lashes.
Studios demanded that starlets must not look immoral – and they must not look ridiculous. As we all know, nobody respects a girl with TOO dramatic lashes just hanging out for everyone to see. Disgusting.
Long eyelashes are also read as a sign of femininity. Even Minnie Mouse used them to flirt. So the next time you leave the house in your oldest plaid shirt and jeans, slap some mascara on and know that you are still very glamorous.