Archive for September, 2008

2008/09/26

Furs in Film – Roberta

This series of posts will focus on a single film, one in which fur fashion is notably well represented. This set is based on a recent update of one of the first galleries.  I’m leaving both galleries up, just to see how much better I am at this than I used to be.

First in the series is the 1935 film Roberta. Roberta is based on a 1933 Broadway musical of the same name, which, in turn, was based on a novel by Alice Duer Miller named Gowns by Roberta. Unlike today, when novels go straight to film, there was a more common interlude on Broadway.

The Film

Roberta the film is basically the story of a football player John Kent inheriting a noted Paris fashion house after his aunt Roberta passes away. This kind of thing happens all the time, of course. The football player happens to fall in love with the chief designer, played by Irene Dunne. The plot takes the usual boy-meet-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-and-girl-reunited twists. The important part is this particular Paris fashion house of 1935 shows some great furs.

The Furs

Ginger Rogers, playing Lizzie Gatz playing Countess Scharwenka, opens the show with a nice silver fox trimmed outfit.

Countess Scharwenka is soon the victim of the kind of statistical improbability that can occur only on film, in that old beau Huck Haines from Indiana is tagging behind his football playing pal with his band. She ups the glamor quotient with a lovely cigarette holder when confronted by Huck about her “exotic origins.”

The first fashion interlude features some decent stuff. This long, multi-tailed silver fox stole is one.

This is a beauty with huge collars and cuffs, possibly coyote or more likely blush fox, but lacking color its difficult to tell.

The Countess and Huck watch this show from the sidelines, with the Countess still draped in some fur of her own.

Later, in the “boy-experiences-conflicting-emotions-about-the-arrival-of-an-old-girlfriend” phase of the love story, Sophie, John Kent’s old girlfriend, shows up. She’s a rich snob, so fortunately for us, that means a very full lynx collar on her coat. It receives all the attention it deserves as she plays the entire scene in it.

This phase of the romance doesn’t last long, but long enough for John to dump Sophie in her “bad outfit”. Personally, I find quite a bit to like in the big black fox trim on this gown.

The “big show” at the end starts with quite a few beauties. This is a an extremely youthful Lucile Ball, yes the I Love Lucy one, in a big feathery coat whose origins I can’t even guess on. Before she got a bit older, and a lot more annoying, Miss Ball was an amazing beauty during her film run in the 30’s.

A few more, including this long sliver fox cape that is, unfortunately, completely removed in order to show off the far less interesting gown underneath.

Finally the “climax” of the film and the film’s furs, this custom gown with one of the largest white fox wrap/collars in recorded history. My jaw dropped on seeing this for the first time. I’d argue this is one of the top 10 film furs of all time.

If it had been shown only briefly, perhaps the legend wouldn’t be quite so sweet, but this is a musical, and this is a musical number. This mammoth white fox gets the screen time it deserves, from close up to this perfect framing shot that provides the best vantage to drool over this beauty.

Gratuitous bonus shot, because if any fur deserves it, this one does.

Ending here would have been fine for all concerned, but what makes Roberta the film worthy this recognition is that it’s not quite over yet. Ginger arrives stage left in another sliver fox cape, this one with a wonderfully high collar and heavy, thick cuffs. Though it’s removed with a sad amount of haste, it’s still a lovely addition.

Finally, Irene Dunne appears in this rather modest outfit at the very end, as our two lovers work out their misunderstanding and proceed to live happily every after. Perhaps an example of “one fur too many”, as it’s not exactly the one I’d have chosen to close the film on.

This long list isn’t exhaustive of all the big furs seen in this film.  There’s a few extra gems in the full Roberta Gallery.  This is the new gallery, the old Roberta Gallery is from a while back and gives me a sense of how much I’ve improved at this.

2008/09/08

Fur on TV – Paper Dolls

“For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been’.”

Now that John Greenleaf Whittier is spinning in his grave over the use of that rather brilliant turn of phrase on a blog, we can move on to talk about Paper Dolls.

The Show

From September to December of 1984, ABC attempted to duplicate the Dynasty gravy train with another high-society evening soap. The setting, high fashion modeling. The year 1984. In summation: major fur glamor.

Sadly, this 80’s fur-fueled epic was not to last, stripping posterity of years of glamorous stars in enormous fox coats. We have only our fantasies to guide us about what the years to come may have brought. All that remains are 14 all-to-brief episodes of fur glory.

The Pilot

…comes out swinging on cold days and nights, forcing one of the last of the great 80’s fur stars, Morgan Fairchild, to do what she does best, look awesome in a big fur coat. One might quibble over Brenda Vaccaro and how she went a bit downhill so many years after Midnight Cowboy, but I have to look on the bright side and think, it could have been worse.

Who else should appear but a very young Mimi Rogers, pimping a very nice full length lynx. Paper Dolls obviously had a budget behind it. I would have been happy with just “foxes of many colors”, but you can’t complain about tossing in some high end lynx.

The Female Leads

Speaking of very young, Nicollette Sheridan made her acting debut on Paper Dolls. She’d later bring the fur in Knots Landing and ever so briefly in Desperate Housewives later, but this was her start, and what a start it was. Perhaps if the show had lasted she’d have made fox coats all the rage with the teenage set.

Making sure she covers her fundamentals, Nicollette gets some red fox time in as well. Sadly, she did not get a chance to wrap up in some blue fox before the show’s so premature departure.

Who is that she’s talking to? Yes, Trek fans, that’s none other than Jadzia Dax of Deep Space Nine, Terry Farrell. Sadly, Terry’s character was the more grounded, reserved, and modestly incomed of the two main model players. She was level-headed ying to Nicollette’s rich yang. Thankfully, she did not go completely furless the entire short run…

Granted, given the choice, I’m kind of glad if there had to be only 1 of the two that wore furs more often, it was Nicollette. This isn’t to say if Dax had been walking around Deep Space Nine in enormous fox coats all the time, I would have minded.

Bonus Shots

Just a few extras, as it’s not like I don’t have a lot of them. Here’s Morgan Fairchild in what appears to be stone martin, or maybe just a pleasantly colored mink.  I enjoyed the juxtaposition of Morgan’s teased out blond on top and the fur on the bottom.

I think this is Jennifer Warren in a nice dyed fox. Love the dyed foxes, though my preferences run more towards hot pink than purple. The interesting thing about this one is that it’s very similar to the coat that shows up in an episode of Dallas. Same alternate sleeve dyes and all.

Brenda going for extra points with the cigarette holder here. Smoking, good, cigarette holders, awesome.

And that’s it for Paper Dolls. This isn’t all the fur there was on the show, even. It displayed so much potential, only to be cut down before it could amass a good 100 episodes of massive fox coats. Sadly, prior to mass Internet connectivity, there was no grass roots campaign to bring the show back.

Full Gallery: The Furs of Paper Dolls

2008/09/08

Fur Super Star – Marlene Dietrich

I’d say I’m starting this series out on an easy one, but that’s the point. Marlene Dietrich is one of those figures who is quite clearly associated with furs. Her on screen fur wardrobe is stocked with classics.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. I’m concentrating on films I have clips from, and little else. I think it’s a bit disappointing to just write about something and not actually be able to show you.

Shanghai Express

Despite the fact that this is neither fox, nor all fur, it ranks as one of my favorite fur outfits of all time. The coat in this scene is virtually all collar and cuffs, which earns big bonus points. What further heightens the power of the scene is that, with the exception of the introductory shot, you’d never know it wasn’t full fur coat.

After Marlene approaches from the interior of the car, every subsequent shot of her is completely framed in fur. The massive size of the collar and cuffs of the coat make them the only parts visible in the scene. The added touch of appropriating the uniform hat of her old flame only further heightens the beauty of the shots.

This a prime example of a scene where the cinematographer knew exactly how screamingly hot Marlene Dietrich in furs truly was.

Pittsburgh

The white fox cape in Pittsburgh isn’t the only fur in the film, or even the only one Dietrich wears, but it’s the greatest. The runner up is a massive collared coat that I lack a decent still frame on. This massive white fox is an example of why I love the furs of 30’s Hollywood. This type of fox will show up a few more times in the posts like this come, trust me.

The huge fox is fully framed only briefly as they approach the door to the hero’s love pad and enter. The subsequent shots still make good use of Miss Dietrich, as they refrain from pulling in too tightly, allowing us to drink in a fuller view of her shoulders and chest, both beautifully framed in the gleaming white fox.

Oh, and she smokes, too. Once she makes it to the couch, the scene smoothly revolves around her lighting up, in fact.

Stage Fright

Someone apparently noticed Marlene Dietrich looks very good smoking in furs. Like Pittsburgh, this much shorter sequence involves Miss Dietrich lighting up, this time with a full bodied white fox stole on her shoulder.

This is a slightly more “mature” Dietrich, but she wears it better than many of her contemporaries did at the time.

Dietrich in London

It’s probably one of the more famous furs of all time. Marlene Dietrich is probably associated with furs more so because of this one mega-fur than any other reason. Compound that with the fact that shots from this concert performance are used a “B-reel” virtually any time she’s mentioned.

Not that I mind. That thing is amazing.

Full Gallery: Marlene Dietrich in Fur

2008/09/08

Fur Galleries are Open

The first galleries are open.  Check out the main gallery links at the top or right.  After some organizational shuffling more will be on the way.