A new musical ON BROADWAY brings to life a historic rivalry that was anything but pretty. With Richard Schlesinger, we take a look:
“All of my life’s work lost.
All because of her: Second-rate imposter.
She appropriated half my line.
I’m the scientist behind her design.”
The Broadway show “War Paint” tells the story of an unlikely fight between two successful women, in an unlikely time for women to be so successful.
In the early 1900s, before women could even vote, the flames of the feud between cosmetic queens Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden had already been ignited.
“They did really some vicious things, there was no question,” said author Lindy Woodhead, who wrote the book “War Paint” about the ugly fight over the business of beauty.
In the new musical, Christine Ebersole plays Elizabeth Arden. “She was very driven and very committed, and nothing deterred her,” she said.
“Was she mean?” Schlesinger asked.
“Yeah!” she laughed. “But she could, of course, put on the charm.”
And Patti Lupone plays Helena Rubinstein. “I think their similarity is what’s so interesting, because they were enemies, but ambitious, ruthless, creative. And I also think very lonely.”
“My sons don’t call. My husband cheats.
Now they can pay their own receipts.
I’m back on top.”
The real story of Arden and Rubinstein is dramatic enough even without the music and the costumes. They might well have been friends. But in the case of these two powerful, wealthy women, similarity bred contempt.
“They were enormously talented. They respected beauty,” said Woodhead. And, “they were tyrannical.”
And they both came from very little, and made very, very much.