All the wig-switching in the KGB thriller The Americans has me thinking about hair. Of course, my musings must be rooted in the show’s star, Keri Russell, she of the infamous haircut that made Felicity stars everywhere wish her beautician Sweeney Todd.
But Russell was not the only star blamed for tanking a production with her shorn tresses. I’m thinking, of course, of The Love Goddess herself, Rita Hayworth, who made not one, but two hairy decisions in that barber chair. After all, her fans had fallen for her after this famous hair-flip in Gilda (1946), later celebrated in The Shawshank Redemption (1994):
Audiences liked their WWII pinup just the way she was. But given that Hayworth’s former experiments at a stylist’s hands—a hairline move and a red dye job—had led to her fame to begin with, it’s not surprising she was willing to make a change to help her soon-to-be-ex Orson Welles with his noir, The Lady from Shanghai (1947). She changed the hue of her beloved hair, as seen in its usual glory in Cover Girl (1944):
Of course, of all the hair-disaster stories, my favorite is Veronica Lake’s. She was known for that peek-a-boo, hair-in-front-of-eye sexy look models have been attempting since.
This hairstyle was so popular that it even reached spoof status. One of my favorite moments in The Major and the Minor (1942) is when a cadet mocks the girls at a nearby school: “May as well warn you, there’s an epidemic at Mrs. Shackleford’s school…[T]hey all think they’re Veronica Lake.” The film’s heroine (Ginger Rogers) tries to repress her smile when she sees what he means:
In a bizarre twist of fate, Lake undid the do in the interest of national public safety during WWII—all of those fool imitators getting their hair stuck in factories’ machinery. (Check out this staged photo warning her wannabes.). And—not surprisingly—Lake lost her star status soon after the change (though there were other, perhaps more likely reasons for her decline, as there were for the poor box office receipts of Hayworth’s film and lower ratings of Russell’s show).
I know more rational folks would claim that these outcries over hair are outrageous and silly, but having suffered the pains of fine, limp hair all my life, I do get a bit annoyed when a woman with a thick, luscious mane doesn’t appreciate what she has. Sure, if it’s too much for your delicate face, à la Audrey Hepburn, hack away. But if not, don’t pain all of us with wilted mops by throwing your riches away. Have a little pity. At least let us envy from afar.