Archive for November, 2008

2008/11/27

Furs in Film – Lady of Burlesque

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

As a follow on to a decade of awesome fur fashion, the 1940’s stunk nearly as much as the 90’s. Their only redeeming grace, the fact fur didn’t simply vanish, it simply became far more conservative. Mink ruled the day, in coats and jackets. Elegant and… boring. I refer to it as “church fur”. The one’s the old ladies could be found in on freezing Sunday mornings. Fortunately there’s a few beacons of power fur to be found.

Lady of Burlesque – The Film

Perhaps Barbara Stanwyck’s aura of power fox held over from the 30’s just long enough to influence the costumers on Lady of Burlesque. Perhaps it was the more “bawdy” burlesque setting. Either way, 1943’s Lady of Burlesque featured a few notable foxes shining in a sea of otherwise dour mink to be found in the neighboring theaters.

Based on the novel The G-String Murders by notable burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee, Lady of Burlesque stars Stanwyck as Dixie Daisy. Dixie stands in for Lee, who starred in her own novel, solving the g-string strangulations of a couple of strippers in a converted opera house, aided by her would-be comedian boyfriend.

Lady of Burlesque – The Furs

Dixie is pestered by Biff Brannigan (Michael O’Shea) before her opening number, which will prominently feature this huge white fox fur muff with long tails.

Dixie opens the show with “Take it off the A string, Play it on the G String”. Hampered by censors, the suggestive nature of the song isn’t quite lived up to in the dance, but Dixie accentuates her movements with the huge fox muff nicely

The movement of the tails during the dance is a nice touch, though the giant silver bird covering up the body of the muff is an annoying distraction. Why hide such a great piece of fox?

Later Dixie and Biff meet for drinks at the bar. Dixie wears a large cape or jacket that looks to be a very plush fox, though may be coyote. Color can be useful from time to time.

This scene is an example of a good director of photography. During the entire sequence Barbara Stanwyck and her fox fur are almost never out of frame.

Their conversation at the bar switches between 2 angles, but never letting Barbara leave frame. This technique should be mandatory for any shot with a beautiful lady in a beautiful fur talking chatting with some idiot male.

You know that lovely stereotype of the haughty Russian vamp in fur with a long cigarette holder? Here’s Stephanie Bachelor as “Princess Nirvena.”

The Princess, much like Ginger Rogers’ Countess Scharwenka isn’t quite the old world royalty she claims to be, but that doesn’t stop Stephanie from tearing up the scenery with her accent, fur stole, and cigarette holder.

Close up of the Princess. Miss Bachelor’s look here is prefect, though it could certainly use even more fur.

Princess Nirvena and Dixie meet briefly before Dixie goes on stage. The Princess Nirvena in her dark fox stole and Dixie in a white fox stole, perhaps a less than subtle play on their characters’ inner natures.

Dixie and company do a comedy bit which segues into a dance number during some backstage commotion. The white fox stole is gamely flung about much like the fox muff in the opening number. Though I’m not really a fan of the “mask” and “paws” style that was common for stoles back then.

Lady of Burlesque is definitely a novelty for the use of large fox furs in the 40’s. That alone is worth notice. Stephanie Bachelor’s pitch perfect smoking, fur-clad faux Russian vamp could have used a much bigger fox for her outfit, but that is a small nitpick. Though Barbara gets the better furs overall, Stephanie steals this one.

Fur Film Gallery – Lady of Burlesque

2008/11/20

Furs in Film – Love is News

Going from a famous, Oscar-winning films to something a bit more out-of-the-way. Like today, there was no shortage of cinematically pedestrian films produced in the 30’s. The studio system churned out film after film, and not all of them were destined for greatness, a fact the studios were well aware of. Fortunately, even these films were not lacking in the wardrobe department.

Love Is News – The Film

To demonstrate how otherwise unnoticeable this film was, it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page of its own. In 1937’s Love is News, Loretta Young stars as Toni Gaston, who is one of the cinema’s most reliable creations for big fur wardrobes: an heiress. Pursued by reporter Steve Layton (Tyrone Power), Toni decides to strike back by announcing the two are engaged to be married and giving the “scoop” to everyone but Layton. Toni and Steve, naturally, end up falling in love and living happily ever after around 60 minutes later.

Love Is News – The Furs

Though the plot and film aren’t particularly noteworthy, the furs of 30’s heiress Toni Gaston are. She doesn’t quite give Miss Manton a run for her foxes, but she puts in a good effort nonetheless.

Steve Layton opens hostilities by tricking Toni into an interview upon arrival at the airport. She and gal pal Lois Westcott (Pauline Moore) both wear furs. Toni starts off slow in a rather conservative mink, while Lois gets the signature high lynx collar.

Lois uses her collar as a rather effective face mask to fool the rest of the press, until she’s found out when almost to the waiting taxi.

On the plane, Layton gets the interview with Toni, who smokes elegantly in her mink.

Lois, enacting her revenge for the airport deception, announces their fake betrothal in a silver fox trimmed wrap.

A car chase and jail time ensues, during which the multi-tiered silver fox trimmed wrap is filmed nicely. Here Miss Young speaks to her arresting officer, unable to convince him to let her go. Stern guy.

The back of the silver fox fur trimmed wrap, showing off the high collar and middle tier of fur while Toni appeals to the judge.

Lovely closeup of Loretta Young framed by the silver fox collar on the wrap. She is unable to convince the judge to let her go. Stern judge, too.

Later in the film Toni turns up in the best fur of the film, a sumptuously full white fox coat. Not quite The Awful Truth, but a lovely white fox coat nonetheless.

The white fox fur lacks a collar worthy of the huge frame, but still it is a beautiful, full coat that looks lovely on Miss Young.

With a white fox like that, she has reason to smile.

Finally, during the inevitable break up phase that occurs before the inevitable reconciliation, Loretta catches Steve making a movie of their sordid non-affair. She storms onto the set in a coat with a huge fox collar, one that would have been perfect for the white fox before it.

Again, framed by fox fur, Loretta Young sparkles.  Strange head gear though.

Though she storms off the set, she does so in high style thanks to the full, broad fox collar.

Love is News may never be considered a particularly noteworthy contribution to cinematic history, but the furs within are certainly worthy of appreciation. Loretta Young is beautiful in the mink and fox coats, with an able, if brief, assist by Pauline Moore and her big lynx collar. Sadly, the size of the full white fox coat and the later fox collar weren’t combined, but otherwise Love is News is a solid way to appreciate fur fashion in film.

Fur Film Gallery – Love is News

2008/11/13

Furs in Film – Morning Glory

Did two color posts in row, how did that happen? Let’s get back to the 30’s, where the financial analysts of today get all their Depression predictions from. One hopes it won’t take another one of those to usher in a new period of mega fox fashion in Hollywood.

Fortunately, the 1933 Katharine Hepburn film Morning Glory provides a couple huge fox furs in case they need an example.

Morning Glory – The Film

Adapted from the play “Zoe Adkins” by Howard j. Green, Morning Glory tells the tale of Eva Lovelace, a young actress with aspirations of becoming a Broadway star but little in the way of experience. After being passed over in auditions she meets Adolphe Menjou, playing a theatre coach who agrees to give her a few pointers on the whole “acting” thing. Back when this wasn’t complete clich√©, Eva ends up going from bit part to star when the leading lady throws a tantrum and quits.

Morning Glory – The Furs

Eva tries to break into Broadway by going to auditions. Unfortunately, more experienced, and better dressed actresses are there ahead of her. Geneva Mitchell as Gwendoline Hall relaxes in this large fox stole and muff combo when noticing Eva in the waiting room.

Eva’s attempts to chat up Gwendoline aren’t well received. This closeup of Geneva in the fox stole is excellent.

Gwendoline finishes up her audition and meets Rita Vernon on the way out. Rita is played by Mary Duncan, and wears a nice chinchilla jacket and muff.

Rita and Gwendoline appear delighted to meet one another at the same audition.

But they are actresses, after all…

Rita secures the lead the role in the play, and provides us this nice closeup of the collar of her chinchilla jacket in the process.

We move to the end of the film, after Rita walks out and Eva steps up to become the star. Since Katharine Hepburn never really faded from the public eye like many of the screen legends of her day, it’s sometimes hard to picture her during the time became famous. This is Katharine Hepburn at age 26, wearing an enormous white fox wrap.

The white fox fur wrap is technically just white fox trimmed, but the trim is that lovely enormous kind that make the golden sequined body of the wrap a mere distraction to the thick, fluffy fur.

Hepburn in close up, face surrounded by white fox. Screen legend, indeed. She won her first Oscar for this role, and I think the white fox may have helped.

From a fur fashion perspective, Morning Glory is an uneven film. It starts with Geneva and Mary in their audition furs and drys up until Katherine appears at the end in that massive white fox fur wrap. The nice thing about the wrap is Miss Hepburn spends the remainder of the film wearing it. The final scene plays out backstage after her successful turn in the staring role, and lasts a good five to ten minutes.

Fur Film Gallery – Morning Glory.

2008/11/06

Furs In Film – Let’s Do It Again

The fact that there was a 50 year gap between the 30’s and 80’s is troubling to say the least for those of waiting for the next fashion cycle to look kindly upon the idea of huge fur coats. This is not to say though that those 40 years were completely devoid of “inspirational” furs. (Admittedly, the 70’s weren’t half bad.)

Let’s Do It Again – The Film

I’ve found the 50’s, though somewhat hung up on shorter haired, far more conservative fur coats, to have been a heyday of very large fox stoles. From 1953, Let’s Do It Again boasts one of the single largest ever committed to film. Why? Perhaps it isn’t coincidence that Let’s Do It Again is based on the same play as an earlier film, 1937’s The Awful Truth.

Like many 50’s remakes, this one is a musical, and again takes us down the madcap, zany path of jealousy and divorce. Jane Wyman fills in for Irene Dunne as Connie Stuart, married (and remarried later) to Gary, played by Ray Milland. Connie intends to make her husband jealous with a hayseed named Frank McGraw played by Aldo Ray. Divorce and eventual reconciliation ensue. Who cares, on with the fur…

Let’s Do It Again – The Furs

Jane Wyman starts things off with a comparatively conservative gray fox wrap. This richly gray fox is a fur Betty Grable was put in quite a bit.

I won’t belabor the wrap, it’s a fine “appetizer”.

This is the “main course.” Four tiers of floor length blush fox stole. The sheer size of this mega fox is fully revealed when first encountered.

Though the massive white fox coat from The Awful Truth slips away far too soon, the remake does a fine job of showcasing this beauty from all angles.

Another closer show, giving a peak into the rich depths of the full blush fox fur.

Jack gives Connie a ride back home. The giant fox stole covers virtually every inch of Jane Wyman.

Finally they arrive, where hi-jinks ensue and eventually Miss Wyman sheds this wonderful piece for good.

The stole may be the showcase fur, but Let’s Do It Again isn’t completely finished. Later Connie visits a party in particularly “sexy” mood, donning this ensemble of fur wrap, fur muff, and long cigarette holder.

The sequence is short, but incredibly sensual as she vamps down the hallway wearing the furs and the holder.

I’m not certain what kind of fur this is. Seen it on Kay Francis before, and it’s certainly very full and visually appealing. The large fur muff is quite memorable.

A petty gripe with Let’s Do It Again would have to be Jane Wyman’s signature hairstyle. Readers may be able to infer I’m not a particular fan of severely short hairstyles. A couple extra feet of rich brunette would have settled nicely on that giant fur stole.

Fur on Film Gallery – Let’s Do It Again