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.

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