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War Paint: Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden- Their Lives, their Times, their Rivalry Hardcover – 3 Apr 2003


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 498 pages
  • Publisher: Virago Press Ltd; 1st Edition edition (3 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860499740
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860499746
  • Product Dimensions: 0.3 x 0.3 x 0.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 491,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Woodhead tells the reader that her publisher called her research 'breathtaking' and I quite agree." -- Sunday Telegraph

'A fascinating read, full of interesting information and funny anecdotes..thoroughly enjoyable…Iridescence, glamour and delight abound.' -- Sunday Business Post

'It might be impossible to extract 'humour and historical interest' out of the 'absurd' beauty business..but Woodhead has managed it.' -- The Week

'Lindy Woodhead has written about these two slap-dragons with humorous sensitivity and sympathy' -- LITERARY REVIEW

'Lindy Woodhead's book defines the decades, from 1900 on, by Rubenstein's and Arden's potions and applications.' -- Evening Herald

'This triumphantly tragic story of the first 'charmaceutical' magnates relies...on Woodhead's exhaustive research and on her deftness in...tone.' -- FINANCIAL TIMES

'War Paint is bursting with gossip and anecdotes' -- The Times

'With enviable skill, Woodhead documents this parallel rags-to-riches story, lacing it with lavish helpings of gossip.' -- Canada Post

'Woodhead knows everything about Madame and Miss Arden, about their business and its history.' -- Financial Times

'fantastically rich in its detailing of 20th century cultural and social history. . . Beautiful illustrated endpapers add the final luxury touch' -- The Independent on Sunday

'riveting and thoroughly researched . . . the definitive biography of women and their relationships to their faces in the twentieth century' -- Guardian

'what a relief it is to read so detailed, well researched and competent a book. . . Woodhead knows her stuff and takes it seriously' -- Sunday Times

A brilliantly researched study of two incredible women and an amazing insight into our changing approach to beauty. -- Image

‘A brilliantly researched study of two incredible women’ -- Image Tone

‘An extraordinary book’ -- Irish Evening Herald

‘Enticing and well researched. . .A fascinating read. . .Iridescence, glamour and delight abound’ -- Sunday Business post

‘Essential reading’ -- Irish Tatler

‘Extraordinary’ -- Time out

From the Inside Flap

Bold, brilliant, and utterly ruthless, Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden spawned the modern beauty industry and forever changed the way women think about cosmetics, salons, and wrinkles. Along the way, they rubbed elbows with many of the greats in the worlds of the arts and fashion and helped launch several brilliant careers. Yet, other than official press releases and autobiographical accounts that tend to be more fluff than fact, little has been written about the two. Now, nearly forty years after their deaths, War Paint goes behind the gloss and glamour to tell the riveting true story of these remarkable women and their epic achievements–and no less epic rivalry.

In the late nineteenth century, good girls didn’t want careers–and they certainly didn’t paint their faces. Business, like politics and every other field of serious endeavor, was considered inherently unsuited for a member of the fair sex. In War Paint, Lindy Woodhead reveals how two unlikely young women, Chaja Rubinstein and Florence Nightingale Graham, both born into poverty–one in the Krakow Ghetto, the other in rural Canada–and lacking any formal education, defied nineteenth–century notions of class and gender and went on to become two of the twentieth century’s most powerful business tycoons.

A story of unquenchable ambition and unbendable wills, of bitchy turf wars and grand obsessions, and, above all, of true business genius, War Paint reveals how "Madame" and "Miss Arden" (or "that woman!" and "the other one," as each was known to the other, respectively) transformed the piddling toiletries trade of the 1890s into today’s insatiable, multibillion–dollar market for dreams in creams–and how, in the process, they pioneered modern advertising, product packaging, consumer public relations, and direct marketing.

From the Montparnasse of Hemingway and Picasso and the Greenwich Village of E. E. Cummings and Djuna Barnes to the ballrooms and boardrooms of New York, Paris, and London, War Paint weaves a vivid tapestry of intersecting lives and warring ambitions in the early decades of the twentieth century.

An engrossing dual biography set against the grand sweep of two world wars and the birth of the modern consumer culture, War Paint is at once a master stroke of scholarship and a good, old–fashioned, juicy tell–all about the supremely talented, deeply flawed doyennes of the modern culture of beauty. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Anna Telfer on 8 May 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book has been so enthusiastically reviewed in all the papers, I sought it out. I have to say apart from anything else before you even start to read it is a gorgeous looking book (I am a sucker for packaging). Lindy Woodhead has done the most unbelievable amount of research into these two amazing lives (hard to believe these women were doing what they did a hundred years ago, before women even had the vote) and the book is firmly anchored in historical detail and fascinating factual information about their lives (and the lives they touched) with lots of quotes from their letters etc. Yet overall the book reads like a novel, brilliantly gossipy and fun. Both women had humble beginnings and rose to unbelievable success, marrying dubious princes along the way and making as many enemies as friends...a very well written book, as unputdownable as biography gets.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 July 2003
Format: Hardcover
The story of the rise of Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein is absolutely fascinating. They both have amazing stories to tell, especially Rubinstein. Because of this book I looked up previous biographies of both women as they are so intriguing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must have missed all the hullaballoo over this book in 2003, because I was ill. Astonishingly, to me at least, I only found the book recently. I say astonishingly, because I worked for all of the players in this engrossing tale. Oh, not as somebody in head office. No, my first lowly start was in a pharmacy, where I was sent for training in more than a dozen schools, including Revlon & Elizabeth Arden. After 2 years, I decided to train as a nurse, so it was not for a further 10 years that I worked for Helena Rubinstein, in a large department store. Back to nursing, then a few years later working for Estee Lauder as a sales consultant trainer in skin care - I had been working for a dermatologist, so the school wanted my expertise, (in a very limited capacity, it must be said. One had to toe the party line.) I also worked for Dior & Erno Laszlo, Guerlain & Chanel. However, I became disillusioned with the promises, the targets & the greed, added to women's poor self image & gullibility, but that is another story.

This book has been so well researched, so well written, I can only praise it. Perhaps my interest in the subject has made me enjoy it so very much. Full of personalities, not only the two main protagonists, it fairly buzzes along.

What surprised even me, was not how strong these two women were, I knew they had been, but the amount of money being spent 100 years ago, the regimes being introduced & adhered to by so many women. All to ruin most of the good they did with their cleanse, tone & moisturise routines by excessive smoking & drinking I may add. That, plus sunbathing as the last century headed into the 50's.

The only query I would have is that in some of the figures quoted, one is not told from which socio economic strata they are from.
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Format: Paperback
Today the names of Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein are still associated with the luxury and pampering offered by powders, lotions and potions.

This book interleaves the biographies of these two amazing women. Two rivals who each started out building up a vast business empire at a time when women hardly worked outside of their own homes. When they started out:- women couldn't vote, couldn't get a bank loan and didn't wear makeup. With determination, very hard work and marketing genius they both went on to build up multi-million dollar global businesses. Businesses that they steered through the time of both world wars, the 1930's depression, and the constantly changing world of fashion right into the 1960's.

They were arch rivals but similar in many ways. They moved in the same circles, but they never met. It is amusing to find that they both fabricated their own early lives to make them appear more 'grand' than they really were. They both came from very humble and poor families. The author did a lot of research in an attempt to piece together the real story.

This gossipy book is many things: Two rags to riches stories, an amusing tale of two larger than life eccentric personalities, a fascinating insight into the cosmetics industry, the stories of two marketing geniuses, and along the way many glimpses into the lives of the really rich, famous and glamorous through almost a century.

In spite of the book feeling as though the author struggled to cram the story into the space available I found it a riveting read. The endless name dropping can be quite confusing and could have been annoying but I found it quite amusing.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "livingitupinparis" on 2 May 2003
Format: Hardcover
Wasn't expecting such a roller coaster of events and stories from one book, especially when the principal topic was make-up!
A highly interesting read that I recommend to anyone. Particularly enjoyed learning another meaning of B&B other than 'Bed and Breakfast'.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book but found it very long winded. Having said that I can see that Lindy Woodhead had definitely done her research by the way she goes into depths of both these women's lives. So engrossed in the feud and competition these two women lost sight of another competitor the up and coming Estee Lauder.
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