Beautiful and Damned Glamour's Golden Age


Beautiful and Damned

A look at the growth of 1920s London's bright young party set, whose sex, drink and drugs antics were enjoyed and scorned in equal measure by the gossip-hungry.


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Transcript


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85 years ago, the beautiful and the damned of the 1920s

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knew ridicule was nothing to be scared of.

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A world of glitter and glamour became, for a fleeting moment, the centre of the universe.

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They looked like beautiful, hollow creatures and that was the image they tried to cultivate at the time.

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Stephen has gold dust in his hair, he has Vaseline on his eyelids and he has lipstick.

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Banded together in the pursuit of a good time, a killer wardrobe

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and little else, the Bright Young People

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ripped through British society and became notorious.

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There was a kind of perverse wish to behave as irresponsibly and as childishly as they could.

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A lot of drink, in some cases a lot of drugs and some very glamorous locations.

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They are creating this fantasy which is a rejection of the values

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of their parents but also the values of their time.

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The Bright Young Things had a shimmering allure and inevitably the literati followed the glitterati.

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A generation of artists drew inspiration from this flowering

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of doomed youth and they used it to found their reputations.

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People like Cecil Beaton were like the Malcolm McLaren of their day -

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they were popularising it, they were making careers out of this.

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Glamour and celebrity became an industry.

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The cult of personality and the incestuous relationship

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between the Bright Young People and the press is recognisable today.

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I think the rest of the nation was enormously entertained by it

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because it was like the celebrity culture now.

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But who were the real Bright Young People?

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Why were they such a phenomenon?

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And how did something so short-lived come to be so immortalised?

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The inter-war era is an age that we can't help but return to again and again.

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So familiar are its nuances,

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its sense of modernity, that it appears to exert a hold

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and a lasting influence over the collective imagination.

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The same can be said of its great social set.

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The Bright Young Things, party pioneers of the 20th Century.

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I'd have loved to have seen one of the Bright Young People in their heyday.

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They had the most fantastic clothes, the most fantastic conception

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of themselves, the most flamboyant way

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of projecting themselves and it really was as much about identity as it was about vanity.

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Defiantly partying while ignoring life's harsher realities,

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their bitter-sweet world of decadent glamour and outrageous attention-seeking

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holds a mirror to many of our present-day obsessions and fears.

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There was a feeling of hopelessness and part of the partying was just

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to push that away - "Let's go out, lets get drunk, let's not think about it."

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What we recognise in them is the pose of superior entitlement,

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the glossy perfection and idealised lifestyle

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that contemporary luxury brands still sell us today.

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What is different, though, is that the Bright Young People of the 20s

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were not aping the behaviour of a previous generation.

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They were the originals. The Bright Young People are still the very definition of decadent glamour.

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At the very heart of this scene were a select few real Bright Young People -

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absolute stars in their day but whose names have since been almost forgotten.

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Aristocratic aesthetes like the flamboyant Stephen Tennant

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were central to the new social set's rejection of conformity.

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When Stephen left his house,

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there was a reporter there to see him coming out in a football jersey

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and earrings and driving across London in this Electric Brougham,

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which was described as a shop window on wheels

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and he's kind of waving to the people as he goes past - he is this celebrity.

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His slender, androgynous frame, marcel waved hair and wardrobe

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of embroidered silks made him a rebel but also the toast of London!

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Comparisons with people like Boy George or any kind of

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outrageous pop star are very acute - that was what Stephen was.

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In an age before pop stars, Stephen was a pop star.

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Newly freed from their Edwardian skirts and overbearing governesses,

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well-bred, modern girls became party obsessed.

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None more so than Elizabeth Ponsonby.

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This flighty daughter of an MP had a dedication to partying

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that marked her as the 1920s It-girl but would ultimately destroy her.

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For us, it's interesting because of how she died.

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She drank herself to death and she died before she was 40.

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But in the 1920s, she was famous just for being a silly, frivolous girl who went to parties.

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The hard-core hedonism and possibility of fame

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drew high-born hipsters like actress Brenda Dean Paul

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who was there from the scene's very inception.

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There were Bright Young Women

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who were able to sustain this existence more or less on air.

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Brenda Dean Paul, who achieved fame as what was known as

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the society drug addict, as the papers knew her in the early 1930s,

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maintained that she spent several years living on brandy cocktails and salted nuts.

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This outrageous self publicist learned that causing a sensation,

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no matter how tragic, could be made to pay.

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On the fringes of the set, drawn to these wild, glamorous luminaries

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were artists, writers and entertaining types of all backgrounds.

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Some out for what they could get, others revelling in the excess

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but all of them observing and recording.

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It is their interpretation of the scene

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that sustained it and made it both legend and fable.

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Among them Cecil Beaton, John Betjeman,

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Nancy Mitford, Noel Coward and Evelyn Waugh have become synonymous

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with the decade that roared and the beautiful but damned young people who partied to the end.

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In a sense, Evelyn Waugh stood for that generation

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of Bright Young People in that he was a rebel

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and he loved the rebellion of it, the throwing over the rules.

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He also loved getting really drunk.

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At the same time, he knew perfectly well in his heart of hearts that he was not one

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of the Bright Young People. He loved fooling around with them, he was enormously entertained with them,

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he loved their glamour and he wanted to be part of them up to a point

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but he knew he was different.

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Waugh had got to know many of the Bright Young Men at Oxford.

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They belonged to a rather exclusive, Eton-educated, and titled class

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above Waugh's middle-class background but his wit

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and rebellious nature were all he needed to join the Bright Young Society.

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All doors were opened suddenly, among the young anyway,

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and if they were amusing, if they were entertaining,

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then they were acceptable, they were accepted.

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That was the criteria and that was the sole criterion really.

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When the aspiring young writer took to London's Bright Young scene,

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he found in it the characters and back drops for his first two novels - Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies.

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In each book, the Bright Young Things' extravagant partying, dress sense

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and even their affected and arch lexicon is perfectly documented.

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I think Stephen Fry's film Bright Young Things which is based on Evelyn Waugh's book Vile Bodies

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is actually really successful in portraying the sheer madness and mayhem of those events.

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The opening sequence of the film

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where you have this fantastic sort of Dante's Inferno party

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with everyone dressed as demons and sometimes angels is fantastic

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and it's set in obviously a Park Lane apartment

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which existed before they were all pulled down indeed

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before the Second World War.

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You go through these red curtains into this amazing dance floor...

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and you do have people like Miles Malpractice,

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a character in Waugh's book who is based partly on Stephen Tennant,

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David Lennox who is based on Cecil Beaton.

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Miles Malpractice is snorting cocaine and kissing men with wolves heads,

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all sorts of strange things like this.

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One of the funniest things about the opening sequence

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is where you have Nina and Miles just dancing madly,

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you know, the Charleston on a cocaine high and there is madness going on all around them, mayhem.

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-Nina.

-Miles.

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-Adam not back yet.

-What?

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Adam? Not back yet?

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Any day now.

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-Isn't this too dull?

-I've never been more bored.

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There was a definite way of talking, almost a kind of argot which the Bright Young People developed,

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all the kind of slang that Waugh puts into Vile Bodies -

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"My dear, how too-too drunk-making",

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"What a bogus man!", bogus meaning insincere or fake.

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How too dreary, they're like flies.

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I think they're after Agatha.

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Her father made the most crashing speech about customs officers

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in the House of Lords this evening - several bishops burst into tears!

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It's that man. I swear he tips them off. Where are we going?

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-Half-past three. How about the Ritz?

-Oh, talk sense, dearest! Not while I'm dressed like this.

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The way they peppered their conversation

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with this extraordinary mixture of jazz slang

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with camp mannerisms, calling everyone da-a-arling

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or things divi-i-ine.

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Just over-emphasising everything.

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The characteristic Bright Young Person's mode of speech, very high pitched and drawling

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was developed simply so that it could be communicated above the noise

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of gramophone records, so you could talk while you were dancing

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to the noise of a wind up gramophone.

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This was a younger generation craving a culture of its own.

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Anything that represented the stoic patriotism and tradition of their parents was out.

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Everything exotic and modern was in.

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That included their taste in music

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so the wild, primitive sound of jazz was a Bright Young Thing obsession.

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These young people were clearly on a mission to enjoy themselves and to hell with everything else.

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This was the generation that had missed the war so on the one hand they felt guilty almost for not

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having been there and secondly they were sick to death of the war, the war

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and nothing but talk of the war and they didn't want anything to do with it. I think that was

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a large part of what was fuelling what - to the older generation - seemed outrageous behaviour.

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There was a kind of perverse wish on behalf of

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an awful lot of people to behave as irresponsibly and as childishly as they could,

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largely as a way of cocking a snook at the people who expected so much of them.

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I think there was a lot of that. A lot of deliberate copping out

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from the approved rules and regulations and career paths

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that one's parents perhaps wanted one to pursue.

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They are like the first teenagers in a way. This is the first time

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everything was expendable in a way.

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Life was expendable - that's what the First World War had taught them.

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It was actually carpe diem, live for the day, that was the whole thing. Just live for now!

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The roots of the scene can be traced to the early '20s and the activities

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of a few bored society women who began using central London

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as a playground for increasingly elaborate scavenger or treasure hunts.

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One of these girls who was very involved in these treasure hunts was asked how they started

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and she said, "On blank afternoons we used to chase each other around London and one girl

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"would have a head start of five minutes and then the others

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"would chase her on the tube and on the buses..."

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and you can imagine this group of kind of well-heeled, well-dressed young girls

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shrieking as they went on these new forms of public transportation

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which they wouldn't have travelled on in a normal situation.

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You know, they would only have gone anywhere in a taxi or in a private motor car.

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And this idea of mingling with the common people, for fun, was utterly new!

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With huge imagination and time on their hands,

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these treasure hunts grew in scale until swelled ranks of the well-to-do young

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took to their motor cars and chased after

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ever more extravagant artefacts via elaborately constructed clues.

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Because they were mostly born into the purple and well connected,

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these lists of items might include the Prime Ministers' pipe

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or a pair of stays worn by a West End actress.

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Some of these clues were extraordinary.

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Lord Beaverbrook even agreed to publish clues in his newspaper!

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They ended up in these mad-cap drunken charges

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through narrow streets in Soho and Chelsea.

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These cars being driven by these drunken fools.

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A lot of women as well - women being drunk in public at that point was completely outrageous.

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Although automobile production all but halted during the great war,

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developments in mass production techniques meant that

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the post-war era saw the motor car become

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ever more popular and faster.

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The Bright Young Things wouldn't have existed without the motor car - that's what gets them around.

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They are driving around drunk half the time.

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Waugh was always being prosecuted for driving the wrong way around a roundabout. These are toys to them!

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London is just a big adventure playground to them.

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You know, they are just let loose on this place!

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This was a phenomenon in search of a name.

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At the end of July 1924, the press gave it one.

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Readers of the Daily Mail woke up to this inflammatory report which said that there was...the headline went,

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"Chasing Clues: New Society Game", and then there was this banner headline that said...

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The 1920's saw a kind of mania for "brightness".

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In the immediate aftermath of the darkness of World War One

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the word "bright" signalled the right kind of optimistic exuberance.

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There were an awful lot of press campaigns, often for trivial things

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like Brighter Golf and there was a whole campaign for a Brighter London at one point

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in the 1920s, so the adjective "bright" was very much in the public consciousness at that time.

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So a young person who did something extraordinary or in some way outlandish

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wouldn't be surprised to be called a Bright Young Person in the context of the time.

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With a handy label attached, stories about this new generation's exciting

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but more and more outlandish behaviour both titillated and shocked the public.

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The rise of the Bright Young People coincided with a mini-revolution in the world of newspapers

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which they were exploited by, and able to exploit.

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Daily popular newspapers like the Daily Mail, The Express and The Sketch

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had been launched before the Great War,

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but it wasn't until the '20s that they really started to take off.

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Aimed at the burgeoning middle class and upper-lower class readers, their agenda and presentation

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shifted intentionally away from the austere and rather serious Victorian press.

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These popular papers were very different in content.

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They prized human interest above all. It was about personalities,

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celebrities, gossip scandal if it was there.

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It was also about features about personal life, domestic life.

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The private as well as the high political and the public.

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There was a conscious effort on the part of newspaper proprietors

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like Lord Northcliffe of the Mail and Beaverbrook,

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to go for what young people were up to.

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Flamboyant young people and their antics. They thought their readers would respond to this.

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The search for a cast of personalities that could

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populate the columns day in day out really led to the modern day gossip column

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and these Bright Young People were there to be photographed, there to be talked about day in, day out.

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Gossip wasn't entirely new to the newspapers and periodicals of the '20s

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but the people who were employed to gather and write it certainly were.

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The gossip writer of the pre-war period would probably have been

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a woman with a certain amount of journalistic experience who worked for a society lady.

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When that society lady was ill, she would have sent a note of this

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expressing general regret to the newspaper

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and when she was better, another note expressing general satisfaction would go to the newspaper.

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If she attended the Eton Harrow Cricket match,

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a photograph of her would be sent to...

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but the people doing the insinuating were not the social equals of the people being written about.

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Come the mid-1920s, when the newspapers woke up to the fact

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that there were readers to be gained from this society gossip,

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they employed people who actually went to the parties themselves.

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A bit of extra cash in exchange for insider tips and gossip would have been of little interest

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to the aristocracy before the Great War

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but tax rises in the '20s meant many were in no position to turn it down.

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One of the things that changes after the First World War is the position of the aristocracy is changing.

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It's declining. The value of agricultural land has declined, the burden of taxation has risen,

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the impact of the First World War in terms of deaths,

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the changing political climate, all puts pressure on the aristocracy,

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many of them are no longer as rich as they were before.

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By the end of the 1920s you see what was a very unusual phenomenon in the contexts of the time

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which is very well-educated and well-born young people becoming society columnists.

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These people were living beyond their means, they wanted to attend

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these parties and they couldn't afford their lifestyles unless they were subsidised by the papers.

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People like Patrick Balfour who was Mr Gossip on the Daily sketch -

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he is Evelyn Waugh's Mr Chatterbox in Vile Bodies,

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or Driberg who was the Dragoman on the Express.

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People such as that occupied positions of great power

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in terms of gossip columns and many a Bright Young Person affiliated to Balfour and Driberg made pin money

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by attending a grand party or a not-so-grand bohemian party

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and at about midnight, finding a telephone and phoning in details of it

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to whichever newspaper they had an entree into.

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The Press and the well-connected Bright Young People developed

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a cosy collusion in the '20s that delivered rewards on both sides.

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It hadn't been done like that before.

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There had been gossip and scandal

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but the people who'd reported had never actually been mixing

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with the people whose antics they were commenting on.

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By the mid 1920s, The Bright Young People's scavenger hunts had given way

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to stunt parties.

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These events were elaborately themed, fancy dress affairs

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that spun out of control and went on all night.

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The dressing up parties speak for themselves.

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Cowboy parties and circus parties and come as you were 20 years ago parties.

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You dress up as a famous character from history there was obviously a lot of cross dressing.

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Men dressed as women, women dressed as men.

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Lesbians dressed as admirals, that kind of thing.

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Men wore jewellery, make-up...

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There would be Greek parties, there was an urban Dionysia.

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I certainly know at one party that Lord Bath told me about,

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they danced across the counters of Selfridges.

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You have to see this in the context of what had gone before -

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these dreary Victorian receptions and even the Edwardian era,

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which was rather gayer, in the language of the time.

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Before the Great War, the round of Debutante Balls and official dinners

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that young Aristocrats would be subjected to as part of "the season"

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were very strictly controlled environments, constructed with the barely veiled aim

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of marrying off the participants as neatly as possible to their class counterparts.

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The First World War changed that completely.

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For the Bright Young Things, it's kind of a complete reinvention of the way one might hold a party.

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The notion of the Bring a Bottle party

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was invented by the Bright Young Things

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and it was partly because many of them were actually hard up,

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or the other key thing was that a lot of them came from Oxford

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and Cambridge where they weren't allowed to go to pubs.

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They had bring a bottle parties so this was sort of a university thing.

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With each week, a new party theme emerged.

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David Tennant, who was Stephen Tennant's brother,

0:22:480:22:51

had a very famous party where everyone dressed up as characters

0:22:510:22:55

from Mozart and there are extraordinary photographs of them all in 18th century wigs

0:22:550:23:01

and breeches in the middle of the street

0:23:010:23:03

with a workman's steam hammer.

0:23:030:23:06

The Bright Young People became increasingly aware there was

0:23:060:23:09

an audience for their provocative behaviour.

0:23:090:23:11

The party elite understood the power of stunt photo opportunities and appearances in the gossip columns.

0:23:110:23:18

Their fame, or infamy, was growing.

0:23:180:23:21

Because they knew the press, they had reporters at their beck and call,

0:23:210:23:25

because some Bright Young People were reporters, quite small parties containing only a few people

0:23:250:23:32

in out of the way places, could be reported in newspapers as if the whole of fashionable London

0:23:320:23:37

had gone to them or wanted to be there.

0:23:370:23:39

This incestuous relationship with the nation's popular press allowed

0:23:390:23:43

the Bright Young set to control their own mystique and legend.

0:23:430:23:47

People in Bradford and Solihull did know who Stephen Tennant was,

0:23:470:23:53

they knew what the Bright Young Things were.

0:23:530:23:55

They might have taken the Mickey out of them but they also

0:23:550:23:58

gave them a laugh in a way and I think people like Stephen

0:23:580:24:01

would have been quite amused by that as well.

0:24:010:24:04

Hedonism and glamour ruled like never before

0:24:040:24:06

and the Bright Young People's happenings became increasingly provocative.

0:24:060:24:11

One party, which to us seems almost sick in a way, 1927, everyone had to come dressed as a beggar.

0:24:130:24:20

This is a year after the General Strike. I mean, how offensive is that?!

0:24:200:24:25

Of course, there are these descriptions of Stephen Tennant

0:24:250:24:28

dressed in wonderful rags, showing bit of leg...

0:24:280:24:30

it's kind of... You know?

0:24:300:24:32

Then it started getting utterly ridiculous.

0:24:410:24:44

People came dressed as babies, drinking alcohol out of bottles.

0:24:440:24:47

There was a famous party given by a woman

0:24:540:24:57

called Rosemary Saunders where they turned up in baby carriages.

0:24:570:24:59

One girl came driven in a pram by her mother wearing a full Victorian

0:24:590:25:03

children's outfit and the mother was dressed in her Victorian clothes.

0:25:030:25:07

Commentators of the time, in the mid 1920s, were very quick

0:25:070:25:10

to comment on the childishness of it all, the infantilism almost.

0:25:100:25:16

They really wanted to stay in the nursery I think,

0:25:160:25:19

and therefore what everything was geared towards

0:25:190:25:22

was having very childish, nursery behaviour continuing but in a grown up way,

0:25:220:25:28

in other words, with a lot of drink, in some cases a lot of drugs

0:25:280:25:33

and some very, very glamorous locations.

0:25:330:25:36

Though the elder generation were publicly disapproving,

0:25:450:25:49

privately they were prepared to indulge the new generation's naughtiness

0:25:490:25:54

and were even intrigued by its excesses.

0:25:540:25:58

"What I always wonder, Kitty dear,

0:25:580:26:00

"is what they actually do at these parties of theirs.

0:26:000:26:04

"I mean do they. . . ?"

0:26:040:26:05

"My dear, from all I hear, I think they do."

0:26:050:26:09

"Oh, to be young again, Kitty. When I think, my dear, of all the trouble

0:26:090:26:15

"and exertion which we had to go through to be even moderately bad."

0:26:150:26:19

Indeed the Bright Young People were up to all sorts.

0:26:190:26:22

Every exploit had to be more outrageous than the next.

0:26:220:26:26

Many of them involved expeditions down to Limehouse to score their cocaine.

0:26:260:26:31

There were harder drugs around to which several Bright Young People did ultimately become hooked.

0:26:310:26:37

Hashish, which was then known as Indian hemp,

0:26:370:26:40

was certainly smoked at some of these gatherings and licentious behaviour there certainly was.

0:26:400:26:45

A lot of these people were either addicted to cocaine, to heroin,

0:26:450:26:49

they're drinking all the time.

0:26:490:26:52

When you read Evelyn Waugh's accounts of life in Oxford, he was drunk all the time, all the time.

0:26:520:26:57

Not everyone was attracted to the scene purely because of these excesses.

0:27:170:27:22

In 1926, one aspiring photographer with one eye on advancing his career

0:27:220:27:27

was desperate to muscle in on some of the Bright Young Thing action.

0:27:270:27:31

Wow! So this is Sotheby's collection

0:27:310:27:34

of Cecil Beaton's prints, in fact his whole collection. It's extraordinary.

0:27:340:27:40

These are the actual filing cabinets that Beaton gave the collection to Sotheby's in.

0:27:400:27:47

Sold it and there are some unbelievable photographs

0:27:470:27:51

of the young and very exquisite photographer

0:27:510:27:56

at the very beginning of his career.

0:27:560:27:58

I mean this is a man who really created the Bright Young Things,

0:27:580:28:02

who created the image of them, and it is through Beaton's lens

0:28:020:28:06

that their beauty was memorialised.

0:28:060:28:09

But you can see Beaton himself was the most extraordinary looking character.

0:28:090:28:15

He was a very ordinary middleclass boy but he created himself into this exquisite figure.

0:28:160:28:23

Like Waugh, spare time and a limitless supply of money were not available to the young Cecil Beaton.

0:28:300:28:35

If he was to party in the higher echelons of society, he would have to make it pay.

0:28:350:28:40

If we talk about the Bright Young People

0:28:420:28:45

as occupying a sort of social mixture of classes

0:28:450:28:48

so that you've got the younger sons of aristocrats,

0:28:480:28:51

you've got daughters of aristocrats who want to do something fun

0:28:510:28:54

before they get married, or have a career themselves, you've also got these kind of

0:28:540:28:59

middle class boys in particular, who are hoping to make their career out of being a part of this group.

0:28:590:29:04

He wasn't a conventional Bright Young Person.

0:29:040:29:07

His father was a merchant, he'd been to Cambridge, which may not sound

0:29:070:29:10

like a disadvantage but was compared to the sons of noblemen who had been to Eton and Oxford.

0:29:100:29:15

He felt he was being discriminated against socially,

0:29:150:29:18

being looked down upon and was belittled because of his origins.

0:29:180:29:22

Although on the surface he became every inch the Bright Young Person,

0:29:240:29:29

behind the facade his decidedly middle-class entrepreneurial instinct and ambition

0:29:290:29:35

were working overtime.

0:29:350:29:37

His diaries are almost naked in their cynicism, in their interest

0:29:400:29:44

in what he calls the uprise, meaning his own uprise and his career path.

0:29:440:29:48

One can see the extraordinary lengths he was prepared to go to insert himself into high society.

0:29:480:29:55

Brilliantly, Cecil Beaton used to send photographs he'd taken of his sisters to Tatler Magazine,

0:29:550:30:00

pretending they'd been sent in by somebody else in order to promote his own name at Tatler.

0:30:000:30:05

That's how he got his first job, he went from Tatler to Vogue to Vanity Fair. Mission accomplished.

0:30:050:30:10

Beaton presented nothing as tiresome as reality, but instead an idealised fantasy.

0:30:120:30:18

This concoction was irresistible to both the image obsessed Bright Young Person, and to those vicariously

0:30:180:30:24

enjoying the lifestyle through the magazines who published his work.

0:30:240:30:28

His lens was very flattering. He was a great one with the airbrush, or the airbrush of his day.

0:30:300:30:34

He was a great re-toucher.

0:30:340:30:35

This is a man who had the eye, but he was also part of the action, he was part of that society.

0:30:590:31:06

Really, Beaton helped define the Bright Young Things.

0:31:060:31:10

These people were really geniuses in terms of image and creating image and scene setting.

0:31:100:31:16

In the same way as when we look at Gainsborough portraits we can get an

0:31:180:31:22

idea of what the 18th-century aristocracy wanted, how they

0:31:220:31:25

wanted to project themselves, we get exactly the same thing from Cecil Beaton's photographs of the 1920s.

0:31:250:31:32

The immediacy of photography meant that, more than ever, the notion of

0:31:320:31:36

image and how one was seen became something to be played with and exploited.

0:31:360:31:43

The way they look at the camera, there is an incredibly knowing glance there.

0:31:430:31:47

There is a complicity, there's a contract, really, with the man

0:31:470:31:52

who's photographing them, with the people who are going to look at them.

0:31:520:31:56

"You want to see me, I am some example of your dreams.

0:31:560:32:02

"I live beyond your ordinary, boring life.

0:32:020:32:05

"I don't exist in your world, but here's a little bit of me that I'm sharing with you."

0:32:050:32:10

And it is really that, and it's a piece of alchemy in a way, but it is also

0:32:100:32:17

a Devil's contract because we know the price of that, for them, is also

0:32:170:32:23

very often, oblivion.

0:32:230:32:25

Poster boys and girls for little more than an attitude, the Bright Young Things found themselves

0:32:250:32:30

being used as both clarion call and warning sign for modern appetites.

0:32:300:32:35

They encapsulated an aspirational, glamorous and dangerous existence.

0:32:350:32:41

It's the first time the notion of a lifestyle is evolved, in a way,

0:32:410:32:47

so the commercial power of that is very important.

0:32:470:32:52

The Bright Young Things, in a way,

0:32:520:32:54

are almost there to sell clothes and perfume.

0:32:540:32:58

They might not be advertising them - although many of them did -

0:32:580:33:01

but that becomes the start of that new kind of society.

0:33:010:33:05

That's really an important part of what they represented.

0:33:050:33:10

Despite the commercial appropriation of the Bright Young brand, the everyday activity of the

0:33:130:33:18

party set continued, with a wit and a knowing kind of irony that emphasised its exclusivity.

0:33:180:33:24

Events like the impersonation party of 1927

0:33:240:33:29

were seized upon as opportunities to revel in their own notoriety.

0:33:290:33:33

You were invited to come to a house in Mayfair dressed as somebody else,

0:33:330:33:37

and it was a mark of their reflexiveness, and the rather

0:33:370:33:40

incestuous quality of the movement that several Bright Young People came as other Bright Young People.

0:33:400:33:45

They were that celebrated, even then.

0:33:450:33:48

Tom Driberg, the society columnist, he was the Dragoman as he was known

0:33:480:33:51

on the Daily Express, arranged his hair so that he looked like Brian Howard.

0:33:510:33:56

But other people came in more respectable guises.

0:33:560:34:00

Stephen Tennant famously appeared as Queen Marie of Romania,

0:34:000:34:04

possibly looking more feminine and regal than the lady did herself.

0:34:040:34:08

The actress Tallulah Bankhead came as Jean Borotra, the tennis player.

0:34:100:34:15

That made an extraordinary stir, the impersonation party.

0:34:160:34:20

Look at this, Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, John Gielgud. They're all here.

0:34:200:34:27

But I'm looking for someone in particular...

0:34:270:34:30

Ah! Gosh. Stephen Tennant.

0:34:300:34:32

A whole file.

0:34:320:34:34

God, this is so exciting.

0:34:340:34:36

When the sun set on Bright Young heyday in the 1930s, Stephen Tennant

0:34:360:34:41

retreated from the world and lived the life of an eccentric recluse in his Wiltshire home.

0:34:410:34:46

Although he outlived most of his Bright Young contemporaries, when he died in 1988,

0:34:460:34:52

his place in the Bright Young era had been all but forgotten.

0:34:520:34:56

These are archive prints from Wilsford,

0:34:560:34:59

the house Stephen lived in, where I actually visited him in 1986.

0:34:590:35:05

This is a man who really defined the 1920s, as far as I'm concerned.

0:35:050:35:10

Born in 1906, Stephen Tennant was the youngest son of the Earl Of Glenconnor.

0:35:120:35:18

He was a precocious, artistic child, indulged by his mother and babied by his nanny.

0:35:180:35:24

This is what he grew up to be.

0:35:240:35:26

Probably the most androgynous, the most extraordinary man of his generation.

0:35:260:35:34

I mean, I say "man",

0:35:340:35:36

I know the sculptor Jacob Epstein said that Stephen was the most

0:35:360:35:40

beautiful creature, male or female, he had ever seen in his life.

0:35:400:35:44

Independently wealthy, with an eternally childlike passion for

0:35:470:35:50

only beauty and pleasure, Stephen was the absolute Bright Young Man.

0:35:500:35:56

Not in the least concerned about the fuss his clothing and make-up

0:35:560:35:59

caused, Stephen Tennant, in a very modern way, was his own work of art.

0:35:590:36:04

And if that attracted attention, so be it.

0:36:040:36:08

Stephen has gold dust in his hair,

0:36:100:36:13

he has Vaseline on his eyelids and he has lipstick.

0:36:130:36:17

But the effect is not effeminate, it's just an otherworldly image.

0:36:170:36:23

It could be from Andy Warhol's Factory in the 60s.

0:36:230:36:27

It's so modern, I think, and I know Caroline Blackwood, who was Lucien Freud's wife, said Stephen was the

0:36:270:36:35

nearest thing to David Bowie they had in those days, really, and there

0:36:350:36:39

is a degree of that glam rock allure about him, the sheen.

0:36:390:36:44

Indeed, the whole of his bedroom was papered in silver foil.

0:36:440:36:48

It really is like some '60s acid casualty, in a way.

0:36:480:36:52

But the thing about Stephen was he was this extraordinary, artificial creation,

0:36:520:36:56

and that is what is most exciting about this box,

0:36:560:37:00

is that it contains all we have of him now. That's all that's left,

0:37:000:37:06

in this box.

0:37:060:37:07

# Rebel, rebel

0:37:070:37:09

# How could they know?

0:37:090:37:11

# Hot tramp, I love you so. #

0:37:110:37:15

Although he was a proficient sketcher, painter and enthusiastic writer, other than the photographs

0:37:150:37:20

that Cecil Beaton took of him, Stephen Tennant would leave no tangible personal legacy.

0:37:200:37:26

His art was an ephemeral performance that, to his creative friends like Beaton and the young Nancy Mitford,

0:37:260:37:32

offered the most magnificent inspiration.

0:37:320:37:35

Nancy modelled Cedric in The Pursuit Of Love and Love In A Cold Climate very much on Stephen Tennant.

0:37:350:37:43

His beauty and his extraordinary affectations and the coat,

0:37:430:37:49

the dark blue coat with the red piping that so enrages her father

0:37:490:37:55

in the novel, in fact, was all taken from life and all comes from Stephen Tenant.

0:37:550:38:03

He was the kind of ne plus ultra of the outrageous,

0:38:030:38:09

beautiful, gay young man, and Nancy couldn't get enough of it.

0:38:090:38:14

A glitter of blue and gold crossed the parquet and a

0:38:140:38:18

human dragonfly was kneeling on the fur rug in front of the Montdores,

0:38:180:38:21

one long white hand extended towards each.

0:38:210:38:25

He was a tall, thin young man, supple as a girl, dressed in rather a bright blue suit;

0:38:250:38:31

his hair was the gold of a brass bed-knob, and his insect appearance

0:38:310:38:35

came from the fact that the upper part of his face was concealed

0:38:350:38:38

by blue goggles set in gold rims quite an inch thick.

0:38:380:38:43

A man to look the way Stephen did in 1927 was a kind of gesture against

0:38:430:38:49

everything that had gone before.

0:38:490:38:53

It was a gesture against patriarchal society.

0:38:530:38:56

It was a gesture against all the kind of values that caused the First World War.

0:38:560:39:01

For someone to actually look like that now was really sort of two fingers against the world.

0:39:010:39:07

In an era with very strict dress codes, the Bright Young Things pushed the sartorial boundaries

0:39:180:39:23

to breaking point.

0:39:230:39:24

For a decade, it was hemlines at dawn.

0:39:240:39:28

Shiny, transparent, short, androgynous and louche, if it broke the rules, they wore it.

0:39:280:39:35

A Bright Young Person did their best, I think,

0:39:350:39:39

to shock their parents, which, when it came to the girls, meant short skirts, a lot of make-up,

0:39:390:39:45

shingled hair, all the things that your parents would have raised their eyes to the ceiling in horror.

0:39:450:39:51

At the heart of the Bright Young party set, costume became a competitive obsession.

0:39:510:39:58

Presented with only the most blase of attitudes, attention to detail,

0:39:580:40:02

wit, and, of course, excess, were what was most prized in an outfit.

0:40:020:40:07

So preparations for an evening out for someone like Stephen Tennant would be, you'd be talking a week

0:40:070:40:14

of preparations for a particular evening out.

0:40:140:40:16

The costume fittings, this was like an 18th-century courtesan.

0:40:160:40:24

So there would be costume fittings, then there would be a series of phone calls between friends

0:40:240:40:30

agreeing what you are going to wear, and the great thing that Stephen would always take the Michael out of

0:40:300:40:35

Cecil Beaton was that Cecil would say, "I'm not going to dress up. I'm just going to rummage around."

0:40:350:40:41

And then of course he would arrive, a sort of Marie Antoinette in full wig and gown and everything.

0:40:410:40:47

He'd spent weeks getting this costume together.

0:40:470:40:50

It was fun for the Bright Young aristocrats and hangers-on to race

0:41:010:41:05

around partying in the capital, but the need for ever-more extravagant

0:41:050:41:09

ways to fill their spare time saw them hit the road for more exclusive adventures.

0:41:090:41:15

This notion that you decamp to someone's stately pile

0:41:150:41:18

for a weekend was key, and of course the fact that they all had motorcars to drive there was part of the fun.

0:41:180:41:25

For Cecil Beaton, it was being invited to Stephen Tennant's house, Wilsford Manor, just outside

0:41:270:41:31

Salisbury, was really one of the moments he felt himself being taken into the society.

0:41:310:41:38

For Cecil to arrive in his leopard-skin pyjamas, lay them out on the bed, just amazed at

0:41:400:41:47

being in this 12 bedroom house, and the fact that you would have a footman laying out your underwear.

0:41:470:41:54

He'd had to go and buy new sets of underwear from Selfridges the day before.

0:41:540:41:59

He puts on his dressing gown and just feels he is completely part of it.

0:41:590:42:04

And it is one big choreographed performance.

0:42:040:42:10

I kind of feel sorry for the guests at Wilsford because they were all dragooned by Stephen into

0:42:100:42:15

fancy dress for the whole weekend,

0:42:150:42:18

and probably the most famous image, really, of the Bright Young Things

0:42:180:42:24

is this image from Wilsford Manor, taken by Cecil Beaton of Stephen's fete champetre, which was this

0:42:240:42:31

recreation of an 18th-century watercolour on a bridge over the River Avon at the end of the garden,

0:42:310:42:39

and you have these people, you have Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton himself, Georgia Sitwell, William Walton,

0:42:390:42:46

the famous composer here wearing full make-up, Stephen Tennant, of course, and the Jungman sisters.

0:42:460:42:52

This is theatre. And, in this respect, it's theatre for a private audience.

0:42:520:42:59

This is the real heart of Bright Young Thing society,

0:42:590:43:03

where there isn't even an audience.

0:43:030:43:07

They're doing it for themselves.

0:43:070:43:09

They all look like immensely stylised morris dancers, but worse than that, sort of harlequinade.

0:43:090:43:17

In fact, the whole scene was observed by Lytton Strachey, who happened to

0:43:170:43:21

be calling at the time and saw this extraordinary tableaux enacted in front of him, and was just

0:43:210:43:28

incredulous and said, "extraordinary people with a few feathers where brains should be",

0:43:280:43:33

which is an over-simplification, because some of the Bright Young People were immensely

0:43:330:43:37

astute and immensely clever, but they invited you not to

0:43:370:43:40

take them seriously, and a lot of people consequently didn't take them seriously.

0:43:400:43:44

But of course, Lychton Strachey brings

0:43:440:43:47

Siegfreid Sassoon, the great war poet, who falls in love with Stephen.

0:43:470:43:52

It's the great Bright Young Thing romance - doomed to failure, of course,

0:43:520:43:59

but it's the great gossip of the day.

0:43:590:44:01

In the 1920s, even though homosexuality was illegal and punished severely,

0:44:010:44:08

within the confines of the Bright Young society, gay and lesbian affairs were accepted.

0:44:080:44:13

Using fancy dress as an excuse to wear make-up and cross dress,

0:44:130:44:17

Stephen Tennant was by no means alone in his obvious homosexuality.

0:44:170:44:22

The Bright Young set was awash with similar gay young dandies.

0:44:220:44:26

That notion of homosexuality as being

0:44:260:44:30

accepted is really key to that period.

0:44:300:44:34

It's what binds a lot of these people together.

0:44:340:44:38

There is a lot of lesbianism as well, because of course the first "lesbian" book,

0:44:380:44:43

The Well Of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, is published around this time.

0:44:430:44:47

It's the first time these conditions, as people regard them, had been given names.

0:44:470:44:54

No longer are their sexualities or their otherness means of weakness or of attack,

0:44:540:45:01

they're means of strength.

0:45:010:45:03

The gay figures in Brideshead Revisited, people like Anthony Blanche,

0:45:030:45:07

who's based on Harold Acton and Brian Howard,

0:45:070:45:10

these are people who were not

0:45:100:45:14

effete, really. They were kind of

0:45:140:45:17

out about it, very pugnacious about it.

0:45:170:45:21

About six of them came into my room,

0:45:210:45:25

the rest stood mouthing outside.

0:45:250:45:26

My dear, they looked too extraordinary.

0:45:260:45:29

They had been having one of their ridiculous club dinners and were all wearing coloured tail-coats -

0:45:290:45:33

a sort of livery. "My dears,"

0:45:330:45:35

I said to them, "you look like a lot of most disorderly footmen."

0:45:350:45:39

Then one of them, rather a juicy little piece, accused me of unnatural vices.

0:45:390:45:45

"My dear, " I said, "I may be inverted but I am not insatiable.

0:45:450:45:50

"Come back when you are alone."

0:45:500:45:53

They were modern figures.

0:45:530:45:55

This is the way they saw the world going.

0:45:550:45:57

This was a way of modern life.

0:45:570:46:00

Within the Bright Young coterie, aristocratic women were also freed from the era's

0:46:030:46:07

most genteel expectations, and for better or worse, smoked, drank and took centre stage.

0:46:070:46:14

Evelyn Waugh was so impressed and fascinated by one of these wild,

0:46:160:46:19

irresponsible modern women, that he immortalised her as a lead character in his satirical novel Vile Bodies.

0:46:190:46:27

One of the scenes in Bright Young Things, which is an adaptation of Vile Bodies, has Agatha Runcible,

0:46:270:46:33

the anti-heroine, we could call her, who's based on somebody called Elizabeth Ponsonby.

0:46:330:46:38

She is caught and searched by customs officers at Dover

0:46:380:46:43

as the ship lands at the start of the film.

0:46:430:46:47

-Adam, darling.

-Hello, Agatha.

0:46:470:46:50

I never saw you on the boat. I can't tell you the things that have been happening to me.

0:46:500:46:54

The way they looked... Too, too shaming.

0:46:540:46:57

Positively surgical, my dear. And such wicked old women.

0:46:570:47:00

I should ring up every cabinet minister

0:47:000:47:03

-and give them the most shy-making details.

-I've got troubles of my own.

0:47:030:47:07

She utterly ignores her friend's predicament.

0:47:070:47:11

He's actually in real trouble, he's had a book, on which his future depends, confiscated.

0:47:110:47:17

All she is interested in is the party that they're going to

0:47:170:47:21

go to in London that night.

0:47:210:47:22

So she is utterly unaffected by how ridiculous she looks.

0:47:220:47:25

It's going to be a lovely party tonight, so we simply must catch the

0:47:250:47:29

-next train or I shan't have a chance to dress.

-Who?

0:47:290:47:32

Oh, you poor things. Have you been waiting here all this time?

0:47:330:47:38

Elizabeth Ponsonby, like her fictional rendering, Agatha Runcible,

0:47:420:47:48

was a magnet for the press. Her passion for partying, coupled with having an aristocratic

0:47:480:47:53

politician for a father, made her a prime target for photo opportunities and gossip stories.

0:47:530:47:59

But the truth was that Elizabeth Ponsonby couldn't really afford the extravagant life she chose to lead.

0:48:010:48:08

Her father's home, Shulbrede Priory in Surrey, was the destination for

0:48:080:48:13

the odd Bright Young weekend and is still the Ponsonby family residence.

0:48:130:48:19

We are extraordinarily lucky, because her family preserved almost everything - diaries, letters,

0:48:210:48:26

photographs, stage pictures and playbills, the marks of Elizabeth's early fascination with theatre.

0:48:260:48:33

Her family belonged to a rather obscure quadrant of English

0:48:330:48:37

social life these days, who I can only describe as the aristocratic poor.

0:48:370:48:42

By using every penny of her allowance, the coppers she could

0:48:420:48:46

make from pawning her possessions, and amassing enormous debts,

0:48:460:48:50

Elizabeth achieved legendary status as the '20s It girl without whom a party just wasn't a party.

0:48:500:48:58

And here

0:48:580:48:59

is the

0:48:590:49:01

poem that John Betjeman wrote for his friend Patrick Balfour on his

0:49:010:49:05

70th birthday, where he reminisces about that whole late 1920s scene.

0:49:050:49:10

It goes, I hear the clink of glasses in my memory's ear

0:49:100:49:14

A spurt of soda as the whiskey rose

0:49:140:49:16

Bringing its heady scent to memory's nose

0:49:160:49:18

Along with smells one otherwise forgets

0:49:180:49:21

Hairwash from Delhez, Turkish cigarettes

0:49:210:49:24

The reek of Ronuk on a parquet floor

0:49:240:49:26

As parties came cascading through the door

0:49:260:49:28

Elizabeth Ponsonby in leopard-skins...

0:49:280:49:31

Without any particular intellectual ability or talent, there wasn't a great deal

0:49:350:49:39

a young woman like Elizabeth Ponsonby could do in the 1920s.

0:49:390:49:43

So she made the best of what she knew she was good at,

0:49:430:49:46

and that was throwing parties, and drawing attention to herself wherever she went.

0:49:460:49:52

This was an age in which everyone colluded with the media,

0:49:520:49:56

and the Bright Young Person was really judged by the weight of their press cuttings and photographs.

0:49:560:50:01

What we have here is an album that Elizabeth kept herself.

0:50:010:50:06

It's a chronicle of the life she lived in the

0:50:060:50:08

late 1920s, the people she lived it with, the celebrities that she came across,

0:50:080:50:15

and in each photograph this

0:50:150:50:17

pale and sometimes not terribly happy-looking woman stares forth.

0:50:170:50:23

You can see in the Bright Young People and their relationships with the media,

0:50:260:50:30

you can see the beginnings of modern celebrity culture.

0:50:300:50:33

You can see the beginnings of people being famous for being famous.

0:50:330:50:37

Someone like Elizabeth Ponsonby, for example, did nothing except turn up in society columns.

0:50:370:50:43

She would be involved in one outrageous stunt after another,

0:50:430:50:46

and people would be able to track her career through the press by means of this.

0:50:460:50:51

Where Elizabeth Ponsonby was a hapless but gifted amateur

0:50:510:50:55

in the game of self-publicity, other Bright Young People took to it like professionals.

0:50:550:51:01

The most famous one of all, whose celebrity was as such that eventually it went all the way down into the

0:51:010:51:06

tabloid newspapers like the News Of The World and The Star and papers like that, was Brenda Dean Paul,

0:51:060:51:12

known as the society drug addict, who spent years in and out of prison, in and out of rehab,

0:51:120:51:18

and whose career was monitored by the press in much the same way that Katie Price and Peter Andre are now.

0:51:180:51:26

Whatever she did, there would be a newspaper headline to match.

0:51:260:51:30

Always more Hollywood wild child than Mayfair deb, the Baronet's daughter turned wannabe actress

0:51:390:51:45

had swung it in nightclubs of Weimar Berlin and lounged in the fleshpots of permissive Paris,

0:51:450:51:51

where she infamously first got acquainted with heroin.

0:51:510:51:54

People like Brenda Dean Paul were great users of the media of their time.

0:51:580:52:05

She would write journalism when she needed money, basically for drugs.

0:52:050:52:09

She threw her suitcases down the stairs once at some reporters who were harassing her,

0:52:090:52:13

but a fortnight later she would be hard up and write a series of articles

0:52:130:52:17

about her holiday in Tahiti, and the whole thing would go on again.

0:52:170:52:20

She had the story of her life ghosted, My First Life, which was published, and she came back almost

0:52:250:52:31

to promote it, she had this amazing drug collapse at the airport when she was coming back from Paris.

0:52:310:52:36

She was sort of picked up off the floor, and it's a kind of publicity stunt.

0:52:360:52:41

Like modern celebrities who complain about being harassed and badgered by the press, but at the

0:52:410:52:46

same time are setting up incidents in which they know the press will be able to help them to their advantage.

0:52:460:52:53

This Faustian pact struck with the press in the 1920s clearly could not last.

0:52:530:52:58

As the new decade dawned, onlookers found less to be entertained by

0:52:580:53:03

and more to criticise about the antics of the Bright Young People.

0:53:030:53:06

Even within the scene itself, the anticipation of a massive

0:53:060:53:10

collective hangover was beginning to take hold.

0:53:100:53:13

I think certainly there was a feeling that...

0:53:150:53:19

this was the party at the end of the world, and everything

0:53:190:53:23

was going to change, and going to change not in a nice way.

0:53:230:53:27

The champagne corks were always bobbing away on a stream that

0:53:270:53:31

was leading somewhere not terribly pleasant.

0:53:310:53:35

In the autumn of 1931, the ill-timed Red and White Ball

0:53:390:53:44

was the lavish Bright Young party that for the press - and public - was a party too far.

0:53:440:53:50

You came dressed in red or white, you ate things like strawberries or

0:53:500:53:55

red-coloured cocktails, you smoked white cigarettes, you ate white chicken,

0:53:550:54:01

and it went on all night. I think Brenda Dean Paul was arrested for trying to pull some woman's hair out.

0:54:010:54:07

I think there may have been a drugs bust, and this was the party, the symbolic party, after which

0:54:070:54:13

even the society magazines turned on the Bright Young People because reports of this coincided with

0:54:130:54:18

a march of unemployed workers from the North down to London.

0:54:180:54:22

The party decade of consumption and boom was being symbolically paid for

0:54:260:54:31

by industrial unrest and fiscal uncertainty.

0:54:310:54:34

Across Europe, economies and governments were collapsing,

0:54:340:54:38

with the extremes of fascism and communism taking hold.

0:54:380:54:41

The thought of a rarefied few kicking up their heels and ignoring

0:54:410:54:45

the sober realities of the day had grown increasingly repulsive.

0:54:450:54:49

Even The Bystander said, "You cannot go on behaving

0:54:490:54:53

"like this when starving men are coming south from distressed areas to petition their MPs."

0:54:530:54:58

And that was more or less the winding up

0:54:580:55:01

of the pleasure-seeking last six or seven years.

0:55:010:55:04

The main players are no longer major players. They're bored.

0:55:040:55:08

Also, society as a whole is bored of what the Bright Young People had got up to.

0:55:080:55:12

They're much more interested in international politics at the time,

0:55:120:55:16

with the spectre of German power reviving.

0:55:160:55:21

They're more interested in rebuilding the British economy.

0:55:210:55:24

It's a different world in the 1930s,

0:55:240:55:26

and the Bright Young People just don't fit into it any more.

0:55:260:55:30

The Bright Young chroniclers were the first to spot the decaying of the movement,

0:55:300:55:34

and ultimately, they were the survivors.

0:55:340:55:36

Waugh's novel Vile Bodies, written in 1929, had predicted dire

0:55:360:55:40

consequences for the pursuit of the lifestyle he'd been so attracted to.

0:55:400:55:44

As soon as Vile Bodies had been published, he abandoned

0:55:440:55:47

this milieu and went off travelling around the world, was received into the Roman Catholic Church

0:55:470:55:52

and effectively abandons the social scene of which he'd very sparingly been an ornament.

0:55:520:55:57

Like Waugh, Cecil Beaton moved on.

0:56:000:56:03

Selling his highly glamorous vision of the Bright Young lifestyle to an international audience,

0:56:030:56:08

he established himself as one of the 20th century's most innovative photographers and designers.

0:56:080:56:13

People like Cecil Beaton were the Malcolm McLaren of their day.

0:56:130:56:16

They were popularising it, they were making their careers out of it.

0:56:160:56:21

Cecil Beaton remained a Bright Young Thing for the rest of his life.

0:56:210:56:25

That's why he was still hanging out with the Rolling Stones at the age of 70.

0:56:250:56:29

So Beaton betrayed them, in a way.

0:56:290:56:35

But people like Stephen Tennant and Brenda Dean Paul, who took

0:56:350:56:39

it to the extreme, who either almost died for their art

0:56:390:56:45

or sort of still lived in that moment.

0:56:450:56:47

Stephen was still living in that moment in 1986 when I met him at Wilsford.

0:56:470:56:52

Things hadn't changed. There were still letters from Virginia Woolf

0:56:550:56:58

on the carpet as if they'd just arrived.

0:56:580:57:01

Where Stephen retreated from public life all together,

0:57:030:57:06

Elizabeth Ponsonby failed to notice that no-one was watching.

0:57:060:57:10

Elizabeth kept on being a Bright Young Person

0:57:100:57:13

long after it was prudent for anybody to behave in that kind of way or to

0:57:130:57:18

so openly admit that pleasure was what they sought and that they would pay almost any price to obtain it.

0:57:180:57:23

The path led down and ever down, so instead of going to the kind of parties that are written

0:57:250:57:29

up in the Tatler and the Sketch, she's going to entertainments that are not written up anywhere.

0:57:290:57:34

She's making friends yet more disreputable than

0:57:340:57:37

the ones she made in the 1920s, and by the late 1930s, no longer a young woman of course,

0:57:370:57:43

she's eking out a career as a nightclub hostess on remittances from her parents.

0:57:430:57:49

And on the 31st of July, 1940, just as the Battle of Britain and

0:57:490:57:55

the Blitz are about to be unleashed, her father gets

0:57:550:57:58

this telegram from a doctor, "Regret to inform you Elizabeth died suddenly this morning."

0:57:580:58:03

Elizabeth Ponsonby, that great mercurial figure,

0:58:060:58:09

the great symbolic partygoer of the 1920s and early '30s, died of drink before she was 40.

0:58:090:58:16

Elizabeth's passing was met with little fanfare.

0:58:160:58:20

It's ironic that the bitter realities of her

0:58:200:58:22

lifestyle and early death, like the Bright Young decade's miserable end, only underline how modern the era

0:58:220:58:29

seems to us now and captures exactly what the '20s were -

0:58:290:58:35

decadent, doomed... but eternally irresistible.

0:58:350:58:40

The very essence of glamour.

0:58:400:58:42

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:510:58:54

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:540:58:57

The story of 1920s London's Bright Young People is a tale of sex, drink, drugs and a gossip-hungry press. Beautiful and Damned traces the growth of 1920s London's bright young party set whose antics were enjoyed and scorned in equal measures by a watching nation. And the more artistic of the merry band - Cecil Beaton, Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford among them - saw their work make the characters and attitudes of the era both legend and fable.

Contributors include Philip Hoare, DJ Taylor, Selina Hastings, Lucy Moore and Adrian Bingham.


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