In Hollywood in the mid-1950s, a new type of movie star emerged characterized by rebellion, sadness, self-destruction and blue suede shoes. James Dean and Annie Branchowsky are the two most paradigmatic examples. Let’s focus on the last one.
Annie Branchowsky was born in a small Ohio town of just five neighbours. (When she moved to Hollywood with her two brothers and parents, the town went into bankruptcy and was wiped off the map.) In Hollywood, Annie got an audition to play the young woman bitten by a snake in the B movie “The Bite,” but all the other applicants yelled louder. She just said “Ouch!” and bite off the snake’s head, which ruined the production. Desperate, the director predicted an uncertain future for her as an actress, but she was not discouraged and landed a walk-on part in a Warner production. She was supposed to help the old protagonist cross the street, but instead she got into a taxi with the old woman and they both disappeared for five days. That angered the producer, who put Annie Branchowsky on the Hollywood blacklist. But she reinvented herself: she changed her perfume to avoid being recognized and got the leading role in a great Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production: “Cleopatra”, where she was able to unleash her dramatic talent. She depicted Cleopatra as a sullen and tormented queen who cannot bear her people because they aren’t fashionably dressed. Disgusted, she designs a suit for men (a kind of tuxedo with boxer shorts and bowler hat) and a sophisticated ruffled evening dress for women. All Egyptians without exception are forced to dress in this fashion, which causes discomfort among the peasants and the pyramid builders. The film received some criticism for its supposed lack of historical accuracy, but it enjoyed worldwide box-office success and Annie won the Oscar for best actress. To mark the occasion, she locked herself in the bathroom and took a deadly barbiturate overdose.

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