2012/09/02

The Ultimate Fur Film That Never Was – 1938

Greetings, remember me? I’m the guy who found new ways to occupy his time. Since this is the first new post in… well, geeze, I should have waited a month for the 1 year anniversary, but hey, no one ever said I had any sense of timing. Ahem, anyway, lo these 11 months later, I come baring… not much at all. I had some ideas on how to expand the wheelhouse a bit, as both Flickr and TCM were kinda drying up. This sort of post (except this meandering paragraph, of course) was one of them.

Flights of Fancy

This is purely a mental exercise where certain minor inconveniences like “reality” are not taken into consideration. The gloves are off (though usually it’s best they stay on, for the record, opera-length, preferably), anyone is fair game to populate this little imaginary film. The idea is to come up with the best fur movie of the 30’s, with all this site’s favorites tossed into the same film with very flimsy excuses why the costume designer could… indulge.

Obviously the studio system is one of those minor inconveniences, so this would never happen for that reason alone. Rest assured, there are many, many, more reasons…

So, without further ado, and, no doubt, far less explanation than is probably necessary, I present:

The 30’s Ultimate Fur Film : The Battle for House Burlesque

Plot:

Ruby Richmond, the nation’s biggest star, just opened The Arctic Lounge. It quickly becomes the hottest new burlesque club in Chicago. She got the property from a very nervous seller, and she quickly discovers why. The hottest new burlesque club in Chicago happens to be located on the border of two of Chicago’s biggest rival mobs. Ruby has to use all the tricks in the book to keep her new club independent from two very determined mob bosses.

Setting:

The Arctic Lounge is an upscale burlesque club with a chilly theme. As the sign outside warns: “The Temperatures are Low Everywhere But On-Stage!” Patrons are urged to dress accordingly.

Starring:

FurGlamor - Barbara Stanwyck - The Mad Miss Manton - 1938

Barbara Stanwyck as Ruby Richmond. Let’s just say type casting happens for a reason. Ruby worked in burlesque before making in big as Tinsel Town’s hottest new star. She wants to cultivate a high class burlesque with her new establishment. She’s tough-as-nails and doesn’t take kindly to anyone trying to muscle-in on her club. Ruby is a famous fashionista who is rarely seen in anything other than some large fox fur.

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Greta Garbo - Inspiration - 1931

Greta Garbo as Ivana Ivanova, head of the Russian mob vying for control of The Arctic Lounge. Sure, Greta’s really Swedish but she had a lot of practice with a Russian accent thanks to Hollywood, and who am I argue? Every bit the stereotypical product of central casting, Ivana is usually found in modern deco takes of intricate czarina outfits in plush fox fur. Ivana is a ruthless criminal mastermind who carved out an empire in Chicgo in short order, taking most her territory from her hated rival…

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FurGlamor- Marlene Dietrich - Shanghai-Express - 1932

Marlene Dietrich as Karla Kristoph, leader of the German mob into whose territory Ivana is encroaching. The Arctic Lounge becomes the line she draws in the proverbial sand. Old school but cunning, she realizes she may have to adapt the old ways to win. Karla is every bit the Hollywood fashionista, and a particular fan of Ruby and her famous fox wardrobe, which she models herself on. Her love of Ruby’s work may be the key to her success or the Achilles heel of her plan.

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Co-starring:

Joan Crawford as Jenny Johnson, a new dancing hire at The Arctic Lounge. She becomes a pawn in the rival mob’s attempts to gain control…. And does burlesque numbers in big fox outfits.

Hedy Lamarr as Vanessa Van Pelt, seinor dancer who takes Jenny under her wing, but is really a plant for Karla’s gang…. And does burlesque numbers in big fox outfits.

Anna May Wong as Machinegun Mai. Gangsters need gun molls, and Mai is Karla’s top enforcer, and dresses according to her whims.

Carole Lombard as The Blonde. Ivana’s enforcer from the old country, skilled in most forms of violence and intimation, sharing her affinity for the big fox coats of home.

Kay Francis as Police Commissioner Mary Masterson. Caught between allowing the gangs free reign over the city and knowing things will be more peaceful when one side “wins”, the wealthy heiress turned policewoman tries to do what’s best, all while suffering from her recent divorce (need to have a divorce, it’s a rule for a great fur film).

Lucile Ball as Betty Blaze, the Arctic Lounge’s famous burlesque guest star whose kidnapping from the club kicks off the big finale…. And does burlesque numbers in big fox outfits.

Finale:

After numerous failed plots, Karla and Mai kidnaps Betty Blaze while on stage, forcing Ruby and (her biggest fan) Karla to team up and get her back. They succeed, and Karla and Ivana agree to leave The Arctic Lounge as “neutral territory” in their conflict, securing the future of the club.

Conclusion

That’s it, the best fur film of the 30’s that was never made and never could be. Was it comedy? A drama? It’s whatever you thought it was. I think it could take a run at unseating The Mad Miss Manton. If anyone has ideas for improvement, feel free to post them in the comments. I might try to come up with a version for the 80’s, at least, and maybe the 70’s, but there’s a lot of crossover there.

Phew… bought another 11 months…

2011/10/23

Mae West in White Fox

Mae West in White Fox

Mae West in White Fox

This one is kind of “famous,” in so far as I recall seeing it quite a bit. For good reason, a classic photo of a classic star in a classic fur. Mae West had a knack for wearing the big furs, the kind that perfectly fit a lady accustomed to being the center of attention. I’ve got one of her films posted, the aptly titled I’m No Angel. There some choice furs in a few others, though sometimes all too briefly.

2011/10/09

Marilyn Monroe in Fox

Marilyn Monroe - publicity shot

Marilyn in the best thing you can get out of the 1950s… a large fox stole. This is from 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a film with a least one decent fox in it. I have a really old, very bad set of captures from it, stuff that I won’t post on here. For more 50s stole and wraps, check out Let’s Do It Again, Silk Stockings, and Singing in the Rain.

2011/09/25

Furs on Film – What a Way to Go!

Back this week to fill in a bit more of that rather great-fur anemic decade, the 1960s. The 60’s still have the charm of not being the 90s, at least. This one is able to row against the prevailing fashion tide mostly thanks to the liberal use of fantasy sequence and parody of Hollywood “excess.”

What a Way to Go – The Film

In her current life, Shirley MacLaine stars as Louisa May Foster, a very rich, very unhappy woman who finds herself on a psychiatrist’s couch, retelling the various stories of how she tried to marry for love, not money. In each case, her poor, loveable husband of choice ends up striking it rich, neglecting her, and then dying, leaving her increasingly well off, but still unhappy. The film is an anthology of sorts, with Lousia’s time on the couch the framing device. As surprises no one, the process starts to repeat itself just before the credits roll.

What a Way to Go – The Furs

Shirley wears pretty much all the furs in the film. Part of the charm of the film is the framing sequences at the psychiatrist’s office all feature Miss MacLaine wearing a mink hat. The remainder all occur in the flashbacks to her various relationships, culminating in one of the best uses of dyed fox in film history.

Here’s the mink hat in question. Granted, if you’re not impressed, you’re going to be bored pretty quickly, since she never takes it off the entire time she’s “in therapy.”

Due to the length of time it appears, there are many nice close ups of Miss MacLaine capped by the mink. As should be a surprise to no regular reader, I’m not a mink fan, but I do like the hat. Sure, it should be fox, but, well, split milk and all.

More mink from Husband One’s story. This conservative mink fringe is hooded, at least.

After suffering through Husband Two with nary a fur in sight, things pick up with Husband Three. Already rich, Lousia meets Rod Anderson, equally if not more wealthy, at the airport. She’s wearing a fox hat and this fox fur trimmed coat.

This is a long sequence, as Lousia goes aboard Rod’s private jet and chats all while keeping the furs firmly in place. Sadly unlike many of the furs in the film, this is fairly conservative fox by any standards.

She flips that around in the film’s fantasy sequence, as Louisa imagines life with Rod and their money combined. In the sequence she wears a series of outfits by Edith Head, intentionally “over the top.” The first is more feathery than fur, obviously.

Things pick up a bit when the white mink trimmed outfit with the rather large muff appears.

While again, mink isn’t particularly my favorite, this is certainly of one my favorite minks.

Finally there’s the first of two dyed foxes in the film. Would have picked something other than yellow, myself (like the color of the film’s second dyed fox), but still, not too bad overall.

Each element of the fantasy sequence is fairly brief, so individual elements do not get a lot of mileage, but a whole thing is about a minute and some change.

Finally, Husband Four’s story provides the marquee fur. Lousia meets and marries Pinky Benson, a stage performer who, after they’re married, becomes an overnight Hollywood success. Pinky “embraces” his name, surrounding himself with his namesake color, and that includes Louisa’s wardrobe.

The dyed pink fox fur cape is spectacular. It’s supposed to be, and the dyed hair to match is, well, “the cherry on top” is, yes, very, very cliché, but I’m going there.

Even get a quick bonus of double fox in this part of the scene. That lynx-dyed fox isn’t exactly well shot, though.

Finally one close up of Miss MacLaine in her pink wig and huge pink fox. While the point of this was to lampoon Hollywood excess (and is the only reason it even appeared in a film shot in 1964), I would suggest to any lovely lady they can consider a cape like this for the average trip to the grocery store or cinema. Just think about it, that’s all I’m saying.

The full fur runtime of What a Way to Go! clocks in around 23 minutes. Now, all of that isn’t the large pink fox cape, sadly. Miss MacLaine wears her mink hat through pretty much all of the framing story, and while I don’t want to say that “pads” the runtime a bit, others may not be so kind. The fox hat and trim from the third story consumes the other big chunk. The best parts, her fantasy sequence and the pink fox are about four minutes combined. Still, for the 60’s, this is an amazing little gem.

Fur Runtime: 23 minutes
Film Runtime: 111 minutes
Onscreen Fur Ratio: 21%

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1964 film What a Way to Go!

2011/09/11

Lili Damita in Fur from The Match King

Lili Damita from the Match King

Lili Damita from the Match King

Here’s another from last week’s Flickr stream-of-the-week. A rarer gem, the fur from the 1932 film The Match King. I included it in an “omnibus” update, because it was really the only decent fur in the film, but quite the decent fur nonetheless.

“Big updates” may be a little further apart than usual. Big season for new video games, will be wasting time elsewhere in the coming months.

2011/09/04

The Manton Crystal Fox

Barbara Stanwyck - The Mad Miss Manton, 1938

Barbara Stanwyck - The Mad Miss Manton, 1938

Sure, you’ve seen it before, but it’s a really nice shot of one of the most “famous” furs in silver screen history. This is the fur with top billing in a film with a very crowded marquee, perfectly deployed upon the shoulders of the lovely Miss Stanwyck.

I found this in a (very well named) set from Flickr, collected by a fetching lady with very fine taste in furs: Hollywood Fur Glamor

2011/08/28

Veronica Lake in White Fox

Veronica Lake some cheesecake 1945

Veronica Lake in A Very Long White Fox Boa

I’m partial to Veronica Lake, but she’s yet another example of someone whose most notable years on film occurred in an era where fur fashion simply wasn’t all that great. That makes it hard to find anything worth posting a full update. It seems she was not without the opportunity to wrap herself in some fox, though, as we can plainly see here. That is a really, really long boa, too. I suppose they could be cheating and there’s two of them, but what’s the fun in thinking that way?

2011/08/21

Joan Crawford in Fur You Can’t Watch

Joan Crawford 1932

Joan Crawford - Letty Lynton - 1932

Posted a smaller version of a different shot from the same promo set in the past, but this one is worthy of its own post. Not only do we get to see the full extent of that amazing fur, it also suggests it’s possible to see it in the 1932 film Letty Lynton. Or not. Apparently it exists in some sort of legal limbo and that’s why it’s not a staple of TCM’s many Joan Crawford fests. Well, neither is Mannequin or Ice Follies of 1939 anymore, but they have less of an excuse for those.

I call on lawyers around the world to free this film, because I really want to see Joan in that fur.

In more sad news, it appears Shanghai Lily is no longer on Flickr. I’ve always wondered about the likely tenuous position of these “aggregators,” especially since there’s obvious IP issues with a lot of what they’re posting. Reason it’s probably only a matter of time for many of them. Of course, I’m relying on them for content on this blog, so, by extension, I’m pretty dumb too.

2011/08/14

Furs on Film – Funny Lady

More color. 70’s color! 70’s color about the 20’s and 30’s! The 70’s don’t get enough credit for some nice furs, because, well, it’s hard to see anything in the shadow of the blinding brilliance of the 80’s. Most period pieces are as much a product of the time in which they are produced, so lucky for us there was no problem with big furs in the 70’s.

Funny Lady – The Film

Funny Lady (1975) is a sequel to the film Funny Girl (1968), both biographical of Fanny Brice, an early success in stage, radio, and film. Staring Barbara Streisand, Funny Girl was one of her first big hits. For what it’s worth, there’s s bit of fur in Funny Girl, but it’s from the 60’s about the Teens and 20’s, so it’s yawn-worthy. Funny Lady deals with Brice’s later life in the 30’s (yeah!), and her marriage to showman Billy Rose (James Caan).

Funny Lady – The Furs

As Brice, the subject of this two-hour plus biopic, Streisand does most, but not quite all, the fur wearing. Brice is depicted as the classic Hollywood star from the period, and that includes a lot of fur. One of the reason I’m rather fond of that period, indeed.

The opening scenes are set earlier, in the late 20’s and the costume designer (sadly) went for a bit of realism. Brice wears some dark, short-haired furs, such as this wrap.

Followed by this, another bit of brown fur trimming a fabric top. The horizontal pelt work is mildly interesting. This scene also features Miss Brice smoking in fur, using a short cigarette holder.

Finally, someone remembers they were designing costumes in the 70’s. Here’s a nice white fox stole, with Fanny’s somewhat “signature” cigarette holder. Good shot of the white fox here, very high on the shoulder.

Streisand spends most of this lengthy sequence seated, but there is a short shot of her changing seats where we see more of the white fox stole.

The cinematographer rightly keeps Streisand in frame most of the time, and most of the time she’s smoking with that cigarette holder.

“Most” of the time. Probably one of the few on the planet who’d notice this, I admit, but she “mysteriously” looses the holder at the very end of the scene. Here she is smoking without it right before leaving. This will not go down as one of the great goofs of cinematic history. I’ll tell you the greatest goof: the character Helen Shirley wears two different full length fox coats at the end of Christmas Vacation, one outside, one inside.

On to the marquee fur. One that’s hard to describe, and I like it when that happens. Show’s some creativity on the part of the costume designers. This appears to be a kind of wrap / collar made from fox tails with a more easy-to-describe matching fox muff.

Like the white fox stole, this item also receives the attention it deserves in this long sequence between Streisand and Caan. It includes a few nice closeups.

And we see it from a few angles, always a nice bonus.

It also tickles my preference for colors that don’t occur in nature. This looks like a nice, dark, richly saturated plum dyed fox.

Streisand doesn’t do all the heavy lifting in the film, though if you blink, you’ll miss the other stuff. Well, not quite, but certainly nothing major. This lady in an external shot with the black fox trim probably isn’t even visible if you’re not seeing the film in its original aspect ratio.

Up next is the part of the film that almost becomes “padding.” It’s a black fox stole, though, a perfectly nice one, in fact. Sadly it’s worn in a very “moodily” lit sequence over a black dress (which, fashionably speaking, is a great match). So it’s really hard to see a lot of the time.

Not all the time, of course, and this shot at the mirror where Fanny lights up for another smoke while wearing the stole is quite clear. It moves from this to a full musical number on a dimly lit stage that, again, doesn’t do the stole much justice.

Another non-Streisand fur, a nice one, but a quick one. This blue fox stole needed a better, longer shot.

It also needs to be in a shot that doesn’t remind me that karakul is actually considered a “fur.” I’d say it’s a fur I actually “hate” but I don’t consider it a fur, just some sick joke by someone who wanted to associate one of the ugliest things you can wear with one of the most beautiful.

We do end on a better note, though this one is quite literally a “blink and you’ll miss it” fur. Brice is leaving her radio show, pulling on this really full silver fox stroller coat. It’s around for a couple seconds in a hallway then a couple more in a very wide shot outside the studio.

20 minutes of fur sounds impressive, but the move is over 2 hours long, so the ratio clocks in at 15%. According to the Wikipedia article, they had to cut to get to that length. Hope there weren’t any more great furs that ended up on the cutting room floor. A solid entry, and worthy addition to any library. Fanny’s smoking habit and affection for holders will be polarizing for some, I suppose, but obviously I’m in the ‘pro’ camp on that one. Actually, if I had to nitpick, I’d say the holder was a little too short.

Fur Runtime: approx 20 minutes
Film Runtime: 136 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 15%

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1975 film Funny Lady

2011/08/07

Ice Follies of 1938 Poster with Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford Ice star - 1939

Joan Crawford in Painted White Fox Fur

I’ve mentioned Ice Follies of 1939 before, and here’s the poster. Fortunately there’s only a little artistic license, as the outfit in the poster is actually in the film. If anything, the artist may have been a little generous to those white fox cuffs, rendering them a big larger and fuller than the actual on-screen version. I’m certainly not going to complain about that sort of artistic licence. Had I any talent with brush or pen, I might be quite guilty of the same.

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