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

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