Solid Girls

When I was in my late teens I fell in love with the 1940s version of Pride and Prejudice.  Of course, I was Elizabeth Bennet … of course.  Late teens.

I’m now at A Certain Age.  And, with age,  identifications have changed, as well.  Elizabeth Bennet is still fabulous – but now I am completely in thrall to the interesting supporting characters of both the novel and the resulting films.  In the 1940 version, Edna May Oliver, as Lady Catherine (whom I have lauded here before) is such a HOOT! chomping every scene she’s in – 1000 years old and still, you cannot take your eyes off her!


Pat Carroll in Lesley Ann Warren’s ‘Cinderella‘ is magnificent!!! Hysterical – and as Prunella, happy as hell to steal the show(actually it’s a toss-up between her and the incredible JoVanFleet (Stepmother), both are fabulous!)It is quickly becoming thus with perfume as well.  I still like my light citrus lovelies but, as Prunella sings in the above scene ‘why can’t a fellow ever once prefer a solid girl like me?’……… well, I love the Solid Girls!  Part of it might be age –  as much as I love a fresh lemon I feel a bit weird sashaying around in one – and I’m not one of those who gives a damb about what others might think, either; they’re just starting to feel…odd? ..on me –  as if they’re floating just above me, rather that being part of my psyche – as if I am trying to reacquire my youth.  The Solid Girls/Characters, by comparison, feel more..comfortable ..and quietly steal the show from their younger, prettier Cinderellas and Elizabeths.  Maybe it’s Pretty v. Interesting? Scents like Jubilation 25 (v. Gold which, gorgeous as it is, is defined by that ethereal, pretty aura), I won’t even mention No5 because No5, right?  Ditto Mitsouko.  Gorgeous Godzillas.  Those go without saying.  Other Solid Girls are a bit more open to interpretation, where they straddle the line between themselves and Characters (not that Solid Girls are not beautiful, or full of character.  I’m cocking this whole thing up, aren’t I?  I am just going to have to trust that you know what I’m saying and that it’s all complimentary – to all parties).  I consider Niki de Saint Phalle to be a Character – that bitter chypre goes on almost too quietly but… all of a sudden, I’m sniffing around like a beagle, trying to figure out what that really intriguing scent is (oh, la!  it’s moi! )  I’m trying to decide if Portia’s recommendation Divine  fulfills the Solid Girl/Character brief – it’s stunning but it lasts better on fabric than on my skin and the drydown has a gorgeous soapiness that skirts close to almost too frilly.  Here’s one I’ll bet you weren’t expecting me to mention:  Joy (the original Patou).  You might think it would be too straightforwardly pretty to make it onto the Solid Girls list but… wear it to bed.  Then…maybe.  You’ll slide under the duvet, feeling all lighthearted and gay… next thing you know she’s waking you up at 2am with an olfactory takedown!  I was going to include Beloved – but I have finally figured out who Beloved is!  She’s Gene Tierney in Laura, the melancholic beauty defying class, age and time.  Greer Garson in Random Harvest is Patou ‘Joy’ (the part where she becomes Margaret and marries Charles Rainier and if I’ve spoiled it for you, boo-hoo!  You should’ve seen it by now – it’s only 77 years old ;-). and neither of those gorgeous actresses were Solid Girls, nor Characters. Neither are those two scents.

However, there is another Type, those Gene Tierneys and Greer Garsons…. Beautifully Interesting,  age-defying (n.b. Garson played Elizabeth Bennet in the 1940 Pride and Prejudice.  She was 36 and a more sparkling, vivacious Lizzie you won’t find). Gene Tierney got even more beautifully interesting as she aged, if that was even possible (omg. SO gorgeous).   I think ‘Interesting’ is where I would put those stunning women – and also put gorgeous (but not Solid Girl) scents like the abovementioned Divine and Joy.  In a later post I will be talking about Romance heroines and how they are evolving ( this came about when I was reading Jessica Luther‘s amazing Atlantic article about contemporary Romance novels and feminism – I’ll yap on about that later  but it’s a fascinating read and has opened my eyes to a new looky-lou at the genre (which used to give me hives back in the Harlequin 70s but now….lots of changes (still a lot of Fabio covers, alas, but that, too, is for another day but! if you’re interested in how the genre has expanded, click on the title links in Luther’s article.  I thought it would be all about the sex – but wow, have some writers turned the genre on its ear (A Lady Awakened starts All About Sex and ends up in a whole ‘nother, way more interesting place, confirming what my friend Mike H used to say: f*ckin’ ain’t nothin’ but somethin’ to do).  And the best-written of these have recurring Characters (especially Lisa Kleypas, who writes ongoing series on various families and  Sarah MacLean who…. well… I think I owe her money or something;-) who are interesting, droll, delightful!  But… back to Random Harvest (such a lovely film) – both women in that film (including Charles Rainier’s very young fiancee’, Kitty) are feminists of a sort (and this is 1942) – they know what they want – and what they don’t want.  And they’re willing to walk away, rather than settle.  Subversive feminism in a 1940s romance drama! Gotta love it.


possibly ‘Joy’


March’s true love Mandragore might fit into the Characters/Lady Catherine slot.  It’s a sly devil, just waiting for that quick camera moment, so it can snatch the spotlight off the sparkly Hadrien with a Speaking Look!

I do so love a Speaking Look.

So.  what do you think of this ramble?  Have I toppled completely over the cliff or am I still hanging on by a thread?  Do you assign a ‘type’ to certain/any/all perfumes? What are your Character perfumes?

And do you want to hear me yarp on about Romance novels?  Lmk.  I haz thoughts (mostly the Psychology Of Why rather than reviews of books).

  • rosarita says:

    Late to the party but I love this post, Ms A! I am a huge fan of classic movies and a dear like-minded friend had me watch Random Harvest with her. What a story! The book wasn’t as good imo. That’s where I’m at with reading these days, finding the books on which old movies are based, so I’m not the target for romance novels but I love whatever you write, so go for it!

    • Musette says:

      oh, I dunno. A lot of the old movies are just that – romances – and the romances I read for this post have distinct connections to MGM ;-). Random Harvest is a perfect example – that trope is (sort of) used in Romance novels alladetime!

      Don’t forget to come back week from next Tuesday and see what you think! xoxox

      • Musette says:

        … and can we arrange for me to go around lit in soft focus like Miss Garson? Oh. And the ring. And the necklace. Thank You Very Much.


  • Maya says:

    I think a post on romance novels could be a lot of fun. Do it. Joy is also one of my favorite perfumes. I first sniffed it as a young teen when a lovely neighbor’s boyfriend brought her a bottle from France. I thought it was gorgeous! I often connect perfume with people and places. Rose and patchouli is a Flower Child. White flowers are tropical islands. Vintage are sometimes black and white classic movies. And some just make you feel good.

  • HeidiC says:

    I’m gonna go with Madeline Kahn — even in secondary or minor roles, she OWNED any scene she was in! Criminally underappreciated, probably because she’s a comic actress. And is it weird that I hear the title of this post sung to the theme song for Solid Gold? (So-lid GIRLS!)

    • Musette says:

      omg. she SLAYED in ‘What’s Up, Doc’. That movie made me laugh like a lima bean – and she was a huge part of it (well that and the garbage cans rolling down the street. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed that hard in my life!)


      • HeidiC says:

        And that was her FIRST MOVIE. Ever! And she had that character already fully fleshed out! She’s amazing. And I love What’s Up Doc too — it really holds up.

  • ElizaC says:

    Now that I think about it, my perfumes all have their own personality and emotions 🙂 Nuit de Noel is a 1920s woman, elegant and wrapped in furs but with a warm, welcoming personality. The Chanels are icy but they all have amazing artist’s studios. Ambers are chunky, Navajo and Taxco silver jewelry and crisp white shirts (like the style of Millicent Rogers in Taos). If the Guerlains were a person, they would work in a stunning antique jewelry store and wear Victorian garnet jewelry. I don’t think I have ever worn a scent that is just a scent 🙂

    • Musette says:

      OOOH! I love those scent personalities!!! I wouldn’t have paired amber with the silver jewelry and white shirts – now I can’t unsee it!


  • Dh says:

    If a fragrance is well made, there will be events, moods and weather when it will feel right.
    Add Rosalind Russel and Lauren Bacall to the list of classic movie actresses who improved as they matured. In fact I think Bacall’s best film performance was in the 1970’s Murder on the Orient Express, as a widow who everyone else tries to avoid.
    As for Pride and Prejudice, let’s reconsider Mrs. Bennet, who I calculate to be about 45 years old. Since her family can ill afford dowries for each daughter, and will lose their home and fortune upon her husband’s death, her ‘obsession” that the daughter’s enter into financially secure marriages is realistic. Her husband valued her only for her youthful beauty, and now is condescending, remote and unable to cope with family crises.

    • Musette says:

      Mrs Bennet has always been a favorite of mine (though Alison Steadman played her as nearly bi-polar, which was a bit distracting, even as I understood the motivation)

      People who criticize Mrs Bennet’s behavior are, apparently, unaware of the financial and societal disaster that would’ve befallen all 5 of those girls, had both Lizzie and Jane not married well. Austen gives us both HEA (in the form of Lizzie and Jane’s successful new marriages) while making the reader aware that HEA (Happily Ever After) is a crapshoot, in the form of the Bennet’s marriage. xoxoxo

      • Dh says:

        Yes. At the end, Austen reports that Lizzie and Darcy periodically bail out Lydia and Wickham, and help Kitty and Mary grow into less egocentric adults.

        Somehow I forgot to mention Barbra Stanwyck , although she was always projected stregnth and power even when she was a “Doll Face” flapper.
        Let’s also hear it for the (too few) current actresses who have continued to play great characters over the decades: Dench, Close, Maggie Smith, Mirren, Lupone and of course Streep.

        • rosarita says:

          I have been obsessed with Stanwyck since I saw Double Indemnity last summer. In my opinion, she’s the only actress of the time to truly rival Bette Davis. Even as a doll faced flapper, Barbara played prostitutes and prisoners, not sweethearts. She and Bette would be solid perfume girls!

  • Portia says:

    LOVED this post Musette!
    Kim Novak? Character yes? Rita Hayworth? Character?
    Did you ever watch the old B&W movie Stage Door? Cast of superstars including Katherine, Ginger, Lucille, Eve and a few others. When I was a teen we had a small selection of VHS, mainly bought by my sister. Those didn’t really tickle Mum or my fancy. BUT Mum and I had two films that we watched over and over when it was just us. Stage Door and The Color Purple. Both films chock full of characters that probably need to be perfumed at some point in my life.
    Portia xx

  • Dina C. says:

    I can totally get on board with typing perfumes and matching them to female archetypes! I like to take it into the direction of fashion. Have you all taken a wander into all those various style systems where they put you into a style category: Romantic, Ingenue, Sporty, Gamine, Natural, Dramatic, Glamour, Theatrical, Elegant, Classic, Preppy, Ethereal, Angelic, blah, blah, blah, etc. etc. etc.? Carol Jackson, the Color Me Beautiful lady did it way back in the 80s, and the Kibbe system does it too. Many others do it as well. And I think you’re right that age doesn’t really factor into the equation. If a woman is an Ingenue type, she can be that way when she’s 86 years old, too. Which may be why she will always gravitate towards those light citruses. Whereas, a youngster could be a dramatic (think Wednesday Addams!) and want a deep, moody oriental scent when she’s 13 years old. 🙂

    • Musette says:

      Where’s the T-Rex type?!!!
      Seriously, though, I remember this ‘typing’ and getting typed made me sad. I so wanted to be ethereal. Truly, I did. Yet I always got ‘dramatic/elegant’ which, at 17, did not sit on my soul all that well. Much like that gorgeous Wuthering Heights mossy green I so wanted to wear – except it made me look like a plague victim.
      And Wednesday Addams is a GODDESS!


  • March says:

    Do a romance novel post! We’ve batted this around — first off, romance novels get less respect because they’re written by/for wimmin to a large degree, no matter how well-written they are, and some similar genre (I dunno, those dumb spy thrillers you buy at the airport) garners more respect somehow because it’s men being manly or whatever. I find the topic fascinating from many angles.

    • Musette says:

      well… stay tuned! It really has been a challenging topic for me, with all the smut & slut-shaming that is rampant. But (possibly because of) that has created some fascinating conversations, both among devotees and those who do not read (but allow for respect of) the genre. I’m still just dipping my toe into those waters but am finding some excellent writing therein. xoxoxo

    • AnnieA says:

      My mind was completely changed about romances after reading “Beyond Heaving Bosoms” by Sarah Wendell….

  • Ann says:

    I must watch Random Harvest!

    Joy is my Mom’s special occasion perfume, she doesn’t wear perfume otherwise. And I love it.

    I never got into romance novels, but it’s interesting to see how younger women react to different facets of life that I grew up with. Like lipstick. Or Miss Piggy. They seem to discover them and turn them into a certain brand of feminism. I love Miss Piggy, and she was a sincere style icon for me. But I have been schooled that the reason she is important is because she voices what she wants and goes after her man, Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Frankly, I thought she was really wasting her time with Kermit.

    • Musette says:

      you know.. I, too, thought she was wasting her time with Kermit. He’s a lovely, lovely frog, no doubt. But she would’ve been happier with a Solid Guy, imo.

      I love Joy. I have a parfum from the 70s that my parents brought back from Floyd Knows Where. It’s still glorious. I wear it … joyously! 😉

      Do come back week after next, as I aim to explore my entry into Romance novels. It’ll be an intriguing journey, that post. Still trying to figure it out.


  • Cinnamon says:

    Uh, what do I think? Clearly, I haven’t seen enough films. Very interesting read but I’m so far behind the curve I just enjoyed it for the writing and thought-process.

    Def please do a romance post. To my mind romances that weren’t really romances (so much more) include The English Patient and Witness.

    I’m leaving now …

    • Musette says:

      My thought process is like watching a squirrel in a tree (imo) – interesting to watch… and there’s probably a goal there.. but a bit helter-skelter. 😉 – and never more so than the post I’m writing on Romance novels. Sounds persackly like it was written by that squirrel. Stay tuned.

      Witness is such a lovely film. And, like the best-written romances, is a story in which Romance is but a part. I remember NOT rooting for Harrison Ford, even at my much younger, much more romantic age. I knew that was doomed from the start.