With its house and disco beats, Madonna's "Vogue" from her I'm Breathless (1990) album became one of the biggest hits of her career. In addition to the music, the track's lyrics also gave way to nostalgia, harkening back to the Golden Age of Hollywood as evident in Madonna's spoken rap section in the bridge where she name-drops a bevy of cultural icons:
Greta Garbo, and Monroe
Dietrich and DiMaggio
Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean
On the cover of a magazine
Grace Kelly; Harlow, Jean
Picture of a beauty queen
Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire
Ginger Rogers, dance on air
They had style, they had grace
Rita Hayworth gave good face
Lauren, Katherine, Lana too
Bette Davis, we love you
Ladies with an attitude
Fellows that were in the mood
Don't just stand there, let's get to it
Strike a pose, there's nothing to it
Coupled with a stylized black-and-white music video, which was famously directed by David Fincher, the Material Girl's homage to 1920s and 1930s Hollywood was sheer perfection to her fans, who helped her bring home three MTV Video Music Awards in 1990.
For those of you who want to vogue down memory lane and learn some biographical trivia of the stars in Madonna's rap, we've compiled the list for you
Swedish-American actress Greta Garbo is considered one of the greatest female actresses of classical Hollywood cinema, and her breathtaking beauty — famous for her long pencil-thin eyebrows and sultry eyes — is only just one aspect that made her a star. During the 1920s and 30s, she made a splash with silent films such as Torrent (1926) and Flesh and the Devil (1926) and later transitioned into talking films, scoring big with Annie Christie (1930), Mata Hari (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), and Camille (1936). In all Garbo made 28 films in her career and earned three Academy Award nominations — later receiving an honorary Oscar in 1954. Fiercely private, Garbo retired from acting at the age of 35 and spent her later years as an art collector.
With her platinum blonde hair, breathy voice and curves, Marilyn Monroe set herself up as the unequivocal blonde bombshell and sex symbol for the ages. Her troubled childhood as an orphan haunted her throughout her career despite finding immense success with films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), The Seven Year Itch (1955), and Some Like It Hot (1959). Her inner demons did not relent, despite marrying accomplished men like Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio, whom she eventually both divorced. While en route to making something of a comeback with her final film Something's Got to Give, Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home from an apparent barbiturate overdose at the age of 36.
As one of the highest paid Hollywood actresses of her time, Marlene Dietrich had an enduring career that lasted seven decades, thanks to her uncanny ability to reinvent herself. Throughout the 1920s, the German-born actress was a sought-after silent film actress, eventually moving on to talking films like Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932) and Desire (1936). She was a celebrity fixture during World War II and began a two-decade career as a live-show performer starting in the 1950s. Outside of her film work, Dietrich was a passionate humanitarian, advocating for the rights of German and French exiles during the war.
During his 13-year tenure in Major League Baseball, Joe DiMaggio was a New York Yankee through and through. As a center fielder, three-time MVP and nine-time World Series champion, DiMaggio is lauded as one of the best players in baseball history. In 1955 he became a Baseball Hall of Famer and is also remembered for his enduring devotion to former wife Marilyn Monroe. The pair married in January 1954, which was hailed "the Marriage of the Century." The union lasted less than a year (despite an 18-month courtship), but they remained close friends. DiMaggio reportedly had roses delivered to her crypt three times a week for 20 years.
Marlon Brando may have been known for his strikingly good looks in his youth and later, for his personal self-indulgence, but his professional status as one of the greatest actors of the 20th century remains solidly intact. His roles in such memorable films as A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On the Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1972) — the last two of which he received Academy Awards for — changed the cultural landscape of cinema. With additional blockbuster hits like Last Tango in Paris (1972) and Apocalypse Now (1979), Brando secured his place as one of the highest paid actors of his era and a master of his craft.
James Dean made only three films in his brief career — Rebel Without a Cause (1955), East of Eden (1955) and Giant (1956) — yet he had already become a force in Hollywood. Through his characters' brooding ways and estranged dispositions, Dean became a symbol of his generation, but he'd never have an opportunity to further explore his artistic gifts. When Dean wasn't acting, he was a professional racecar driver. At just 24, his life was cut short in a high-speed car accident off a California highway, when a Cal Poly student collided with Dean's vehicle. Dean was killed immediately.
Her Hollywood career may have been short-lived, but Grace Kelly is ranked as one of the top actresses of classic cinema. Kelly turned heads starting in 1953 with the film Mogambo and became a star in The Country Girl (1954), earning her an Oscar for Best Actress. Other box office hits followed, including Alfred Hitchcock-directed films like Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955) co-starring Cary Grant. But at 26, Kelly was ready to say goodbye to Hollywood and embrace royal life as Princess Grace of Monaco through her marriage to Prince Rainier III. After having three children with the prince and dutifully serving her adopted country for decades, Princess Grace died from a car accident at 52.
Dubbed the "Blonde Bombshell," Jean Harlow was one of the biggest stars and sex symbols of 1930s Hollywood cinema. (Fun Fact: Howard Hughes offered $10,000 to any stylist who could duplicate the color of Harlow's platinum-blonde hair, but never found anyone who could do it successfully.) Her role in Hell's Angels (1930) helped prove her bankability, and she followed it up with a number of hit films like Red Dust (1932), Red-Headed Woman (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), Reckless (1935), and Suzy (1936). Yet despite Harlow's fast-moving, successful career, her star would not burn bright for long. At just 26, she unexpectedly died of kidney failure.
The movie musical would never be the same after actor and choreographer Gene Kelly danced his way into it. The Pittsburgh native's classical ballet technique combined with his athletic style and good looks charmed their way into moviegoers' hearts and offered them a visual masterpiece they had never experienced before. Utilizing unique camera angles and bold mass movement in his musical storytelling, Kelly is best known for his performances in An American in Paris (1951), Anchors Aweigh (1945) and above all, Singin' in the Rain (1952). His contributions to the industry earned him an Academy Honorary Award in 1952.
As an homage to his predecessor, Gene Kelly once said that "the history of dance on film begins with Astaire." With a career that spanned close to eight decades, Fred Astaire is viewed as the most important dancer in film history. Known for being light on his feet, he is widely remembered for his onscreen pairing with Ginger Rogers. The paired starred in films like Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936) and Carefree (1938). Rogers called him "the best partner anyone could ever have." A multi-talented artist, Astaire was also a singer, choreographer and television personality.
"Sure he [Astaire] was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did... backwards and in high heels," so said a caption from Bob Thaves' Frank and Ernest cartoon in 1982. In her prolific career, Rogers made over 70 films, including Top Hat, Swing Time, The Gay Divorcee, and 42nd Street. She also danced her way throughout the 1930s with Fred Astaire and helping reinvent the movie musical. She would later become one of the top actresses of the 1940s, earning an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Kitty Foyle. She also costarred with other "Vogue" icon Marilyn Monroe in Monkey Business (1952).
Dancer by trade with stunning looks to boot, Rita Hayworth was known as "The Love Goddess" for her sultry charisma onscreen. She was one of the biggest box office draws and pin-up girls of the 1940s and is most famous for her film Gilda (1946) but is also celebrated for her collaboration with Gene Kelly in the musical Cover Girl (1944). A trained dancer, her career ended with Ralph Nelson's The Wrath of God (1972). Hayworth died from Alzheimer's disease in 1987, which was not widely known at the time, but when her illness was made public, it helped increase awareness.
Lauren Bacall's smoky voice and cat eyes made her irresistible on the big screen, and audiences took to her immediately when she made her film debut as the female lead in To Have and Have Not (1946), co-starring her future husband Humphrey Bogart. Bacall would continue making a number of successful films including Key Largo (1948), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Designing Women (1957), and Murder on the Orient Express (1976). She would successfully transition from screen to stage, winning two Tonys for her Broadway performances in Applause (1970) and Woman of the Year (1981). In 1996 she would earn an Academy Award nomination for her role in The Mirror Has Two Faces.
Ranked as the top actress in Classic Hollywood Cinema, Katharine Hepburn had a career that lasted six decades and won a record four Academy Awards under the Best Actress category. Her defined features, as well as her unconventional independent attitude, enhanced the strength she exuded in her roles on stage and on the screen. Successful films include Morning Glory (1933) and The Philadelphia Story (1940), the latter of which she personally helped adapt to film to help resurrect her career. Always perfecting her craft, Hepburn challenged herself in her later years, starring in award-winning films like The African Queen (1951), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) and On Golden Pond (1981). Hepburn continued to act into her late 80s. She died at 96.
Still in high school, Lana Turner was famously discovered at a Hollywood malt shop when the stars came knocking. Signed to MGM, she eventually became the studio's biggest female star in the 1940s and at one point, the highest paid woman in America. With a career that stretched five decades, Turner was considered a sex symbol and a talented actress, with The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) cementing her ability to play dramatic roles. Other films include The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Peyton Place (1957), Imitation of Life (1959), and Madame X (1966). Turner's personal life also brought public interest; the glamorous femme fatale turned out to be a serial bride, marrying seven times.
Katharine Hepburn may be ranked as the American Film Institute's greatest actress in Classic Hollywood Cinema, but Bette Davis comes in at a close second — and it's not because she played by the rules. Known for her intense and forceful nature as well as her chain smoking and nervy voice, Davis was a perfectionist when it came to her work. Hailed for her performances in Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938), both of which earned her Academy Awards for Best Actress, Davis is also remembered for her roles in Dark Victory (1939) and All About Eve (1950). In 1941 she became the first female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and before her career ended, accrued over 100 film, television and theater credits to her name.