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  #1  
Old 05-18-2010, 09:18 AM
gytalf2000 gytalf2000 is online now
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How (un)common were men with beards in 1940s-1950s America?

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, did American men grow beards very often?
I get the impression that beards were not in fashion at the time, but I am not absolutely certain about this.

Any information would be appreciated. Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 05-18-2010, 09:27 AM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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beards were not, though mustaches were not unusual.
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:30 AM
Giles Giles is offline
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From the Wiki article "Beard":
Quote:
From the 1920s to the early 1960s, beards were virtually nonexistent in mainstream America. The few men who wore the beard or portions of the beard during this period were frequently either old, Central Europeans; members of a religious sect that required it; in academia; or part of the counterculture, such as the "beatniks".
It was similar in Britain and Australia when I was growing up. When I finished high school in Australia, in 1962, I stopped shaving and grew a beard: it was unusual enough that I got my picture in one of the Sydney newspapers!
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:17 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Beards were extremely uncommon in the 1950s when I was growing up. I don't remember a single beard on anyone. For that matter, I don't remember mustaches either. Even in the media you had to be an eccentric, like Gabby Hayes or Maynard G. Krebs, or a historic character to wear a beard.

Those dirty beard-wearing hippies™ changed everything. I can't think of anything that major happening in the 40 years since. It would be the equivalent today of all women going topless.

All the stories you hear about peoples' reactions to long hair and beards on hippies are true. The change was that enormous and startling.
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Old 05-18-2010, 10:40 AM
Omar Little Omar Little is offline
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Most young adult males in the US in the 40's were serving in the military, where facial hair was prohibited. This custom carried on even after men came back from service and began raising families. It was the next generation in the 60's that brought back the beard as a rebellious statement. Beards became more popular.
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Old 05-18-2010, 11:26 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Movies in that era often had a few characters with very neatly trimmed moustaches, usually effete foreigners and such.
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Old 05-18-2010, 11:26 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is online now
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Slightly earlier than you're asking, but Charles Evans Hughes, who served as Chief Justice from 1930 to 1941, was mocked back then for having an anachronistic beard. It was a symbol for the argument that the Court was out of touch with Roosevelt's modernization of the federal government.
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  #8  
Old 05-18-2010, 11:40 AM
gytalf2000 gytalf2000 is online now
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Interesting replies!

I knew that beards were not common during that era -- I just wasn't sure exactly how uncommon that they were, however!
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Old 05-18-2010, 11:42 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
Movies in that era often had a few characters with very neatly trimmed moustaches, usually effete foreigners and such.
It might make for some fun searching to locate pictures from the era of people with beards. Movie types I can remember (in my mind's eye) include:

-- cowboy sidekicks like Al "Fuzzy" St. John and Gabby Hayes who appeared to be on past middle age and were "eccentric"
-- suave and sophisticated types like artists, musicians, scientists
-- villains who usually had well-trimmed and elegant beards
-- hoboes and bums
-- drunks with mostly stubble
-- "historical characters" like Moses and Greek gods and pharaohs and such
-- Civil War era types

Neat mustaches were not uncommon and I can think of quite a few leading man types with them. But even longish sideburns were out of fashion until Elvis.

Clips from movies of the era might also be fun to locate and post links to.

Last edited by Zeldar; 05-18-2010 at 11:44 AM.. Reason: spelling of elegant
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  #10  
Old 05-18-2010, 12:03 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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Mustaches had died out by the 1950s; Thomas Dewey was the last successful politician who wore one, and it was partly the cause of the "he looks like the man on a wedding cake" crack. Secretary of State Dean Acheson stayed on a little longer, but he didn't run for office and his mustache was used as a sign he was out of touch with "real America."

Outside of the movies, American men did not wear any facial hair from the end of World War II (other than a few holdouts) until the hippies came along. You certainly wouldn't see a young man of this era with one. It probably started with World War II, where soldiers didn't wear them.

Leading men did have mustaches in the 30s, and actors who established themselves prior to WWII could still have careers (e.g., William Powell, Clark Gable). But you'd be hard pressed to find any postwar era movie stars that wore them (outside of the occasional role that called for it. Charlton Heston, for instance, had a mustache in Touch of Evil, but he was supposed to be Mexican -- which the mustache was there to prove.)

Those with mustaches tended to be foreigners, villains, or sidekicks (with a beard, too).

I do know that when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, I can't recall ever seeing anyone with a mustache except for a couple of great uncles of mine. But anyone of my parents generation did not wear them; when my father grew one for a play he was in, he took a lot of ribbing for it, and shaved it off as soon as the final curtain fell.
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  #11  
Old 05-18-2010, 12:19 PM
pkbites pkbites is offline
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I remember a 'Lectric Shave commercial where a guy in his early 20's has heavy stubble. His Dad walks up an says "growing a beard son?" then sternly points his finger at him and says "Not in this house you're not!" The son goes on to say how the electric razor makes his skin uncomfortable and then Dad introduces him to the 'Lectric Shave product. Which he probably should have already known about living in the same house and all.

I seem to think the Dad was character actor Eugene Roche but I'm not certain.

Anyway, this ad spoke to the mores at the time about beards, especially on younger men.
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  #12  
Old 05-18-2010, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
I do know that when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, I can't recall ever seeing anyone with a mustache except for a couple of great uncles of mine.
And Walter Cronkite.
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  #13  
Old 05-18-2010, 12:36 PM
tsm tsm is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
It would be the equivalent today of all women going topless.
Hmm... Somehow men with beards doesn't seem quite as interesting.
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  #14  
Old 05-18-2010, 01:09 PM
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My grandfather informed that for the sesq... sesquec... seques... 150th anniversary of the fouding of Springfield (said anniversary being 1959), many of the men in the city took to wearing beards for.... some reason.
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Old 05-18-2010, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by HeyHomie View Post
My grandfather informed that for the sesq... sesquec... seques... 150th anniversary of the fouding of Springfield (said anniversary being 1959), many of the men in the city took to wearing beards for.... some reason.
Surely as a resident of Springfield, HeyHomie, you must know that everything in Spffld is done "because of Lincoln." tygre used to say that the traffic lights in Springfield were never synchronized "because Abe Lincoln would have wanted it that way."
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  #16  
Old 05-18-2010, 01:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Captain Amazing View Post
And Walter Cronkite.
Burl Ives? Colonel Sanders?
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  #17  
Old 05-18-2010, 01:47 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hogarth View Post
Burl Ives? Colonel Sanders?
All older generation. I'm talking about men who reached adulthood after WWII. If you reached adulthood from about 1940 to 1965, you didn't have a mustache. I remember how much pressure there was on my in the late 60s when I grew one.

There were the beatniks, of course, but they were considered weirdos (and were defined as having beards rather than mustaches). For the average American male, mustaches were for their father or people far outside the mainstream.

Last edited by RealityChuck; 05-18-2010 at 01:49 PM..
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  #18  
Old 05-18-2010, 02:13 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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What's funny is that classical music used to be called "long hair music" in the days before kids had long hair and listened to rock and roll. Now if anyone says long hair music we assume they mean rock.
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  #19  
Old 05-18-2010, 03:52 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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Originally Posted by Captain Amazing View Post
And Walter Cronkite.
And Walt Disney.
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  #20  
Old 05-18-2010, 04:31 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Originally Posted by hogarth View Post
Burl Ives? Colonel Sanders?
And these weren't considered eccentrics in the media?
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  #21  
Old 05-18-2010, 04:46 PM
Walloon Walloon is offline
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Time magazine, 1949: Hair Apparent

Time, 1958: All That Jazz

Three American men who wore beards in the 1950s: author Ernest Hemingway, author Patrick Dennis (Auntie Mame) and musician Burl Ives. One who wore a beard in 1939: Orson Welles.
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  #22  
Old 05-18-2010, 08:29 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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Again, Hemingway, Disney, and Ives chose their facial hair before WWII. Dennis was right on the borderline (he also didn't serve in the army).

Men who turned 20 in the period 1945-1965 did not grow mustaches. Even the images of beatniks didn't show them. Older men still kept them, but it was no acceptable for anyone in their 20s during that era.
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  #23  
Old 05-18-2010, 08:46 PM
Susanann Susanann is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
Beards were extremely uncommon in the 1950s when I was growing up. I don't remember a single beard on anyone. For that matter, I don't remember mustaches either. Even in the media you had to be an eccentric, like Gabby Hayes or Maynard G. Krebs, or a historic character to wear a beard.

Those dirty beard-wearing hippies™ changed everything. I can't think of anything that major happening in the 40 years since. It would be the equivalent today of all women going topless.

All the stories you hear about peoples' reactions to long hair and beards on hippies are true. The change was that enormous and startling.
I can verify everything you are saying. My thoughts exactly.
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  #24  
Old 05-18-2010, 09:01 PM
John Mace John Mace is online now
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I remember being in 5th or 6th grade (that would have been about 1965), and being in the department store. We saw a youngish man with a beard (ie, not someone still pretending to live in the Civil War era) and I just stared. We thought it was one of the strangest things we'd ever seen.
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:08 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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"Doc" Ricketts of Cannery Row fame was known for being bearded.

I knew one dude with a beard and he was a folk-singer.
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:20 PM
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Again, Hemingway, Disney, and Ives chose their facial hair before WWII. Dennis was right on the borderline (he also didn't serve in the army).
Not Hemingway's beard.
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Old 05-18-2010, 09:45 PM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
And these weren't considered eccentrics in the media?
I was just addressing the comment: "I do know that when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, I can't recall ever seeing anyone with a mustache except for a couple of great uncles of mine." That didn't say anything about eccentrics in the media or people who grew up after WWII. I freely admit that "normal" young men didn't grow beards in the 50s/60s.
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  #28  
Old 05-18-2010, 10:14 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hogarth View Post
I was just addressing the comment: "I do know that when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, I can't recall ever seeing anyone with a mustache except for a couple of great uncles of mine." That didn't say anything about eccentrics in the media or people who grew up after WWII. I freely admit that "normal" young men didn't grow beards in the 50s/60s.
Seriously? How can you read Chuck's statement as anything other than who he saw in his personal life? How much more obvious could this be?
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  #29  
Old 05-18-2010, 10:58 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Originally Posted by Giles View Post
From the Wiki article "Beard":
Quote:
...in academia...
My first thought upon reading the thread title was that scientists and professors wore beards.
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Originally Posted by Wilbo523 View Post
Most young adult males in the US in the 40's were serving in the military, where facial hair was prohibited.
I have a cruise book somewhere from when my dad was in Philippine Sea (CV-47) during the Korean War. I recall seeing some sailors sporting beards and moustaches. (One in particular had the waxed 'stache tips and a goatee.)
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  #30  
Old 05-19-2010, 12:50 AM
Jim's Son Jim's Son is online now
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I think in sports they were very rare before World War II. I know baseball player Frenchy Bordgaray grew one in the mid 30s and was told to shave it off or else. When the film "The Natural" was filmed, baseball historian Cliff Kachline, an advisor to the film, said manager Wilford Brimley nor anyone else would be wearing a mustache in that period. But they didn't listen to him, saying a veteran actor like Brimley shouldn't have to shave.
I'd guess the majority of companies would have had official or semi official policies about being neat and well-groomed that would cut down on facial hair. I also think most men of that generation just didn't care for it.
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  #31  
Old 05-19-2010, 02:48 AM
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And Walter Cronkite.
And Captain Kangaroo!
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Old 05-19-2010, 04:50 AM
Jormungandr Jormungandr is offline
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Most young adult males in the US in the 40's were serving in the military, where facial hair was prohibited. This custom carried on even after men came back from service and began raising families. It was the next generation in the 60's that brought back the beard as a rebellious statement. Beards became more popular.
I think the beatniks and their goatees were first.
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Old 05-19-2010, 05:53 AM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is online now
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And Captain Kangaroo!
And ('sing along with') Mitch Miller!
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  #34  
Old 05-19-2010, 07:02 AM
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Are beards really that popular even now on TV, though? And, in real life, I tend to see them mostly on older people and teens that just want to prove they can grow one.

Then again, I've worn at least a goatee for the last 5 years or so, and I'm 25.
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Old 05-19-2010, 07:10 AM
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And ('sing along with') Mitch Miller!
And Stage Magicians.


Including The Amazing Randi!




And Walt Disney.
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  #36  
Old 05-19-2010, 07:33 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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I would have thought "bearded actors of the 1950's" might have had at least one webpage devoted to the topic, but if it exists I haven't found it as such.

So these images come from all around and are just the guys I could remember from the era.

Errol Flynn
William Powell
Orson Welles
Zachary Scott
David Niven
Vincent Price
Sebastian Cabot


I wager there are others.
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Old 05-19-2010, 07:37 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Don't forget James Robertson Justice, who had several prominent film roles.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Robertson_Justice



But he and David Niven were furriners, so they could get away with that.
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Old 05-19-2010, 10:02 AM
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And ('sing along with') Mitch Miller!
And Jon Gnagy!

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=...ed=0CCEQ9QEwAw
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Old 05-19-2010, 10:41 AM
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But he and David Niven were furriners, so they could get away with that.
As was Errol Flynn.

Don't forget Norman Luboff!
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  #40  
Old 05-19-2010, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
Charles Evans Hughes
Oooh man, that is a 'stache I gotta study.
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  #41  
Old 05-19-2010, 10:45 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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Originally Posted by Zeldar View Post
I would have thought "bearded actors of the 1950's" might have had at least one webpage devoted to the topic, but if it exists I haven't found it as such.

So these images come from all around and are just the guys I could remember from the era.

Errol Flynn
William Powell
Orson Welles
Zachary Scott
David Niven
Vincent Price
Sebastian Cabot


I wager there are others.
It's really, really important to remember that while today beads and mustaches are pretty much equivalent, that was absolutely not the case earlier. Most of those actors had mustaches rather than beards. That was a huge distinction. And they all grew them as their style before the 50s. Styles change every decade, and while you can carry over a style you already have, that's not the same as starting that style in the new era.

The only two beards are on Orson Welles, which was a very short-lived period from what appears to be the late 30's, and on Sebastian Cabot. He's really the only example that might qualify.

But to say this yet again, he's a character actor and therefore by definition an eccentric in the media. The fact that a search yields only a handful of character actors (what, no Monty Woolley?) just makes the startling lack of beards that much more prominent.

I don't think there was even one single leading man starting out his style in the 50s who grew a mustache as part of his look. Absolute statements like that are usually wrong, so I'm prepared for a counterexample, but I can't think of any. None. That says everything.
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Old 05-19-2010, 11:13 AM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is online now
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Wow! I didn't know anyone else knew about him. I actually owned his "official Jon Gnagy" learn-to-draw kit.
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  #43  
Old 05-19-2010, 11:36 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Wow! I didn't know anyone else knew about him. I actually owned his "official Jon Gnagy" learn-to-draw kit.
So did I. And I used to watch his show on TV.


But he could get away with it, too -- he was an artist, after all. Lots o'them nonconformist types had moustaches and beards. It's part of the uniform.
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Old 05-19-2010, 11:42 AM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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I don't think there was even one single leading man starting out his style in the 50s who grew a mustache as part of his look. Absolute statements like that are usually wrong, so I'm prepared for a counterexample, but I can't think of any. None. That says everything.

He may not have started in the 1950s, but the aforementioned Vincent Price definitely picked up his steam there. And he didn't drop his trademark moustache, despite having the occasional role where he did without it* -- he always grew it back.



Walter Pidgeon and Clark Gable mostly kept theirs, too, but they were definitely firmly established by the 1950s.




*Like playing Joseph Smith in Brigham Young, or Roderick Usher in Fall of the House of Usher, or, late in life, Oscar Wilde in his one-man show.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 05-19-2010 at 11:43 AM..
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  #45  
Old 05-19-2010, 12:24 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Hmmm -- how about William Conrad? He had a few roles pre-1950, but he got big (so to speak) in the 1950s, even playing the lead, Matt Dillon in the radio version of Gunsmoke for nine years, from 1952 to 1961. You couldn't see him on the radio, of course, but they took publicity pictures, and his mustache is pretty unmistakeable. It ain't his fault James Arness didn't sport one.

I can't think of a Conrad role where he didn't have a mustache.
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Old 05-19-2010, 01:28 PM
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I guess the attitudes on beards back then helps explain this horrible movie I saw on TV years ago. In it, Dick Van Dyke decides to grow a beard and everybody flicks him shit for it. That's pretty much the premise for the whole movie. I didn't realize that there was a time where growing beards was considered such a big deal.
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Old 05-19-2010, 02:07 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is online now
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So did I. And I used to watch his show on TV.
Excuse the hijack, but I thought you might appreciate this link found on the (shockingly barren) Wikipedia article on him. Might bring back a memory or two.

Back to the main thrust of the thread, in his autobiography (Prime Green), Robert Stone describes being beaten up ca. 1960 simply because he had a beard and must have been a commie.

Last edited by KarlGauss; 05-19-2010 at 02:11 PM..
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  #48  
Old 05-19-2010, 02:18 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is online now
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Excuse the hijack, but I thought you might appreciate this link found on the (shockingly barren) Wikipedia article on him. Might bring back a memory or two.
Oh, God. I remember Lesson Three in complete clarity. And I still doodle those Four Basic Shapes (with all the Tone and Shading) during dull meetings.
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Old 05-19-2010, 02:35 PM
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Excuse the hijack, but I thought you might appreciate this link found on the (shockingly barren) Wikipedia article on him. Might bring back a memory or two.

Back to the main thrust of the thread, in his autobiography (Prime Green), Robert Stone describes being beaten up ca. 1960 simply because he had a beard and must have been a commie.
Well, they were wrong. Everyone knows that the real dangerous beardos are Republican lawyers.
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Old 05-19-2010, 02:37 PM
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As a bearded boomer, the only beards I recall were for sesquicentennial celebrations. My father was clean shaven because of WWII, my grandfather because he was rebelling against his father, who was bearded.

When I grew a beard in the 60's I was warned to expect derogatory comments from grandad. However when I visited, the first thing out of my grandmother's mouth was "Oh, with that beard you remind me of my father!". That effectively silenced my grandad

Last edited by jasg; 05-19-2010 at 02:38 PM..
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