This film is part of Free

Beauty at Work

Lured by the promise of a career in the big city, Patricia Kugleman leaves Tulsa, Oklahoma to brave the perils of life in New York City as model - and potential cover girl - Patti Cook.

Documentary 1950 17 mins


18-year-old Patricia Kugleman is the appealing protagonist of this March of Time film and though modern viewers may feel a twinge of disappointment at the conclusion, the story of her life as a model is told with wit and humour. A range of characters, from sleazy photographers to tough-talking secretaries, add splashes of colour to a narrative in which Patricia builds a career based on the twin virtues of her wholesome Midwestern looks and hard work: a very American recipe for success.

The booming world of American advertising (worth 5 billion dollars in 1950) produced a huge demand for models as the industry cashed in on the selling power of ‘the female face and form’. Seen here against a bustling New York backdrop of modelling agencies, charm schools, fashion shows, walking lessons and popularity contests, the hazardous nature of Patti’s career is emphasised: 90% of the ‘lovely girls’ who come to the big city would fail, and the career options once a model entered her twenties were extremely limited. Only a few, such as Lisa Fonssagrives (seen here posing with a parrot) and Jinx Falkenburg (who became a successful journalist) would make it to the very top of the profession.