“The Powder & The Glory”: Saluting the Contributions of Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden

March 24th, 2009 - 9:13 pm ICT by GD  

Helena RubinsteinThe Powder & The Glory” is not just a superb title for a film, it is also a fascinating chronicle of two women who helped change the face of America.

Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden both came from the working class and went on to become pioneers in the world of make up thanks to an acute sense of how to make women look good and how to market the products that could achieve that end. There is not enough film footage of either woman because both died in the 1960s but Jane Alexander’s wonderful narration fills in the gaps effectively.

The one-hour film has been made by Ann Carol Grossman and Arnie Reisman and is based on Lindy Woodhead’s book on the two women. They came to New York in the 20th century and pioneered the business of beauty products that has grown from strength to greater strength since. They made their entry into the industry at a time when respectable women stayed away from cosmetics, and they were largely used by shady actresses and hookers. Rubinstein and Arden realized that perspective could change and targetted two different segments of the market for their products.

Rubinstein was originally from Poland and aimed to woo immigrant working girls who saw affordable beauty products as a way they could adapt to the new culture they had come into. Arden was from Toronto and marketed her products as an accessory to elegance for the higher class. She spent just 5 cents on producing her creams but sold them at 85 cents because she understood that for many of her clients a higher price meant higher value.

The film traces the rise of two entirely different women who had never met, but who continued to rule the industry they had helped create with their amazing vision.

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