In the 1920s and 1930s in London, a group of aristocratic youth dubbed the “Bright Young Things” dazzled the tabloid press.
They were known for their costume parties, late-night scavenger hunts, and drug usage. They were never a formal institution
but rather a constantly shifting group centered around elite universities and exclusive social clubs.
Their ranks included several authors such as Henry Green, Nancy Mitford, Anthony Powell, and the poet John Betjeman.
The 2003 Stephen Fry film “Bright Young Things” was based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel“Vile Bodies” originally published in 1930.
It was an early role for James McAvoy and also featured appearances from acting legends such as Peter O’Toole and Jim Broadbent.
Waugh had been a classmate of the Bright Young Things and hovered around the edges of their clique and based the characters and plots on their lives.
The legendary photographer Sir Cecil Beaton (see above) was also a member of these social circles and took their portraits, including Evelyn Waugh.
Cecil was interested in photography from a young age and would go on to have a varied and accomplished career. His wealthy industrialist family had a nanny that taught Cecil how to take photographs on her Kodak 3A camera.
His time at elite preparatory schools and Cambridge University secured his place in what became the Bright Young Things.
He worked for fashion magazines such as Vanity Fair, photographed the devastation of The Blitz and portraits of the royal family.
Queen Moher was his most frequent subject and he took the famous wedding photos of Wallis Simpson and former King Edward VIII in 1937.
His career extended beyond the camera, he also painted and designed sets for film and stage. He won Academy Awards for his work on the films “Gigi” and “My Fair Lady”.
Sanitized versions of his personal diaries were published and offered a contemporaneous view of the Bright Young Things of the inter-war period. He also discussed this period
in his final interview with the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, which is available as a podcast.