Idols of the
20th century


Describe the painting. What are the people doing? What do you think of the painting?

Idols of the 20th century

A Look at the painting and read the description. Find at least:

The name of the painting is Nighthawks: Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It’s by an Austrian painter called Gottfried Helnwein*. It shows a scene late at night in a diner in the USA during the 1950s. Outside, the street is dark and empty. Inside, there are three people sitting at the counter, two men and a woman, and there’s a barman standing behind the counter. The couple on the right are smartly dressed and the woman is laughing, but the man sitting next to her looks worried and unhappy. The barman is smiling, but the atmosphere of the painting is bleak and lonely.

The four people in the painting are all famous American stars from the 20th century. The barman is the singer Elvis Presley – ‘the king of rock ’n’ roll’. The man on the left is the actor James Dean. The woman is the film star Marilyn Monroe, and the man in the blue suit is the actor Humphrey Bogart.

Humphrey Bogart was born in New York on Christmas Day, 1899. When he was 18, he joined the navy and, after that, he tried a number of different jobs. He became interested in the theatre and, for many years, he had small parts in Broadway shows. Then, at the age of 40, he started working for the Warner Film Studio. He finally became a big star and the highest paid actor in the world. He made more than thirty films. Two of his most famous films were The African Queen and Casablanca. Bogart died in his sleep at his home in Hollywood in 1957. In 1999 the American Film Institute named Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema.

*The painting is a copy of a famous painting by the American artist Edward Hopper, but Helnwein has changed the four people in the bar.

B Listen to the first two paragraphs and follow the text. Find:

C Listen to the third paragraph and follow the text. Then complete the fact file.

Describing the present and the past

Look at the painting and complete the description of James Dean.

Marilyn Monroe

A Listen to the description of Marilyn Monroe’s life. Did she have an easy life?

B Read the questions. Then listen again and answer the questions.

A biography

Use what you know

Choose a famous star and write a short biography.

  • When and where was he/she born?
  • When did he/she become famous?
  • What are the most important events in his/her career?
  • Describe what he/she is doing at the moment.

If you prefer, choose a famous person from history. Find out and write about his/her life.

At the moment, she’s starring in a film called … .