Europe had been brought to its knees by the ravages of World War II, and the entire continent thirsted for a bit of joie de vivre, a glimpse of beauty and glamour the face of all the devastation. A young Richard Avedon set out to restore a desolated Paris to its former sophisticated glory through the elaborately directed scenes of his photo shoots. Achingly beautiful mannequins swathed in the elegant shapes of Dior, Balenciaga and Givenchy were shot in hazy moody lighting walking down wide boulevards, at boisterous nightclubs, and under the twinkle of the Eiffel Tower. The star that brought these revitalizing tableaus to life was the era’s most famous and beautiful model, the unforgettable Suzy Parker. Her face was perfection, lips amply curved, wide eyes painted and lined, and a head of flaming red hair set just so. Parker went on to pursue a career in acting, encouraged perhaps by one of fashion’s most memorable shoots. As a commentary on the rise of tabloid culture, Avedon staged Parker alongside Mike Nichols star-crossed lovers hounded by paparazzi in every hotspot in Paris from Maxim’s to the Chanel couture show to the Bois de Boulogn and the American Hospital of Paris. The result is an incredible editorial decades ahead of its time, a mix of cunning narrative, juicy melodrama, youthful energy, biting satire and, of course, high fashion. Richard Avedon, Mike Nichols, and Suzy Parker, the Three French Hens.
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