The physical changes that flesh is heir to repelled him. Even Greta Garbo, whom he loved and vainly attempted to marry, wasn't granted immunity. In 1946, when he met her in New York and commenced an affair, he noted "the scrawny hands a bit weathered, the ankles and feet a bit poor and bumpy-looking." After several Manhattan trysts, she visited him in England but remained cagey (as she had all of her life). During a 1965 cruise around the Greek islands, Beaton was "appalled by how destroyed her skin has become, covered with wrinkles, double chin, but, worse, the upper lip has jagged lower and the skin has perished into little lines."
(No wonder GG took herself out of the Hollywood running, if she was to face snipes like that about her susceptibility to "time's winged chariot.") In a 2003 review of The Unexpurgated Diaries, the New Yorker's Thomas Mallon calls Beaton's affair with Garbo "a claustrophobic, creepy romance." Mud packs and antique shopping do not a grand amour make. Beaton agonized about revealing his liaison with Garbo after her death, but ultimately he let the diary entries about her stand (right, the pair in the 1940's).
"One book of his photographs ... was called 'Persona Grata' (1953), the category he most desired to occupy," writes Mallon. "He is here to estimate, not esteem. His physical inspections have a kind of naturalist's neutrality…. Colette looks like "an old chinchilla marmoset."
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|Katharine Hepburn as Chanel in the 1969 Broadway musical ''Coco"|