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Furs in Film – Lady Be Good (1941)

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An Oscar-winning film you’ve probably never heard of, mainly because there are a bunch of Oscars most people don’t consider all that memorable. The winner for Best Original Song in 1942 isn’t really what earns a feature on the Oscar B-reel. That would be Lady Be Good, by the way, for the song “The Last Time I Saw Paris.”

Lady Be Good – The Film

The movie itself, like many musicals, is about a struggling songwriting team, played by Ann Southern and Robert Young, who end up writing a big hit and making it big. Like, for some strange reason, in many of the films I’ve profiled here, the characters end up getting a divorce because of all that fame. If classic Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s “get a divorce, you’ll encounter women in great fur coats along the way.” Naturally, this little hiccup in their relationship doesn’t outlast the third act, and everyone gets married again and, depending on your views about marriage, lives happily ever after.

Lady Be Good – The Furs

This is another excellent example of an early ’40s film costumed like 1939. The film features Ann Southern and top bill Elanor Powell in large foxes, including some that would be rare in the next ten to thirty years. Two giant white foxes appear, in fact, one a coat, one a wrap, as well as a wrap, that, thankfully, portends the end of fashion’s love affair with the head and legs remaining attached to any combination of silver fox and stole. Those stoles were the sour pill in an otherwise perfect decade of fur fashion.

The newly successful songwriting team of Dixie Donegan (Southern) and Eddie Crane (Young) zip to their societal rounds in whatever passes for a limo at the time. Dixie is wrapped up in a big white fox wrap with a veil that accents it nicely.

Eddie leaves Dixie behind to continue clubbing. Eddie’s hard-partying ways will eventually lead to, you guessed it, divorce for the happy couple. I’d like to point out; briefly, I love the name Dixie Donegan.

Bending over to say hello to the doggie is Elenor Powell, playing the equally alliterative but less interestingly named Marilyn Marsh. I put this up primarily because in the still, though it looks like Ann Southern has bunny ears, it’s just her feet.

The costume designer liked veils in this flick, as Elenor displays her black net veil to complement her silver fox wrap. Bonus points were awarded for the matching black gloves, of course. She’s a long, slim cigarette holder away from perfection.

The cast assembles at the justice of the peace, or maybe a minister. The finer points are hazy to me at this point. Though I’m sure mink fans are pleased, I must state Elenor’s mink gets a buy because of Ann’s fox.

Not sure why they insisted on the heavy metal breaking up the lines on the fox, I could certainly do without it, but it doesn’t sully the overall product too much. A rare example of an oversized white fox coat in the ’40s.

Overall, the 1941 Lady Be Good was positively epic for the time. If the costume designer was stuck in the ’30s, that’s fine by me, and I wish costume designers were still stuck in the ’30s. I have noticed a conspicuous lack of white fox-trimmed dresses on prime-time television and films these days. Really, would it be so noticeable if Claire Bennet’s cheerleader outfit was made of fox, or Kara Thrace lounged around the ready room in a crystal fox flight jacket? No, not at all. Oops, my genre cred is showing.

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