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The Powder and The Glory: Beauty's Biggest Rivalry

Beauty industry pioneers Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden may have devoted their lives to making faces pretty, but the decades-long rivalry between the two icons is said to have been anything but.

The intense and, at times, bitter competition between the two women widely credited with launching the now $150 billion global health and beauty industry in New York during the first decade of the 20th century is the subject of documentary film The Powder & the Glory, screening Wednesday night at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s year-round programming.

Both women launched salons at a time when makeup and beauty treatments were more likely to be found on the faces of prostitutes and performers than regular American women. As their brands grew, making them both household names and turning them into two of the richest women in the country, their rivalry grew to such heights that they refused to meet – even though they lived and worked just blocks from each other for more than 50 years.

Rare archival footage and stills accompany on-camera interviews with the late actress Kitty Carlisle Hart, model Twiggy, former Vogue editor Shirley Lord and others flesh out the story from Directors Ann Carol Grossman and Arnie Reisman.

A free after party follows the screening at W Hotel’s XYZ bar, where audience members will find drink specials and, for the first 50 guests, swag bags with items from sponsors such as Bare Escentuals, Kryolan, Yes-to-Carrots and TerraNova.

The Powder & the Glory screening takes place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students, seniors and members of YBCA and the Jewish Film Forum. To purchase tickets, visit the box office online or call 415-978-2787.

Can’t make the screening? It airs on PBS March 23, 2009.