Archive for November, 2009

2009/11/29

Furs in Film – The Films of The Falcon

I know what you’re thinking… I like the Lone Wolf, but what do you have in an ornithologically themed gentleman detective? Well you are in luck. Today we have the films of a gentleman (and his brother) called The Falcon. The Falcon was created by Michael Arlen in a short story in Town and Country and quickly thrown up on the screen by RKO a year later. Basically, every aspiring writer’s wet dream fulfilled by a studio looking to get into the gentleman detective film franchise business.

The Falcon – The Films

The Falcon first speedily appeared in The Gay Falcon in 1941, played by George Sanders. To quell the hysterical reaction of your collective inner twelve-year-olds, the name originated with the character’s name of Gay Lawrence. Okay, that probably didn’t help. In the original story the character’s name was Gay Falcon, which explained the name. The films fell back on using The Falcon as a nickname. Sanders  played The Falcon in 4 films, then, in The Falcon’s Brother, he passed the role to Tom Conway, who played… The Falcon’s brother, and was, in fact, George Sanders’ real life brother.

The Falcon – The Furs

The entire series was filmed in the early 40’s, but the reliable gentleman detective theme overcame the fashions of the day and provided some very nice furs. Not every Falcon film featured great furs, and no single film really rises to worthiness on its own (a couple almost make it), but taken as a group, they make for a good survey. So here’s a quick look at the fur fashions of the Falcon films.

The Gay Falcon – 1941

The Falcon came out of the gate strong with Wendy Barrie as the Falcon’s fiancée de-jour in this large white fox coat. Accented with a nice veil, the big white fox fur is well photographed for the few minutes it appears.

The Falcon ends up being a bit of a serial fiance, though Wendy would make it back for another film, this particular white fox would not. Not to worry, there’s better white fox ahead.

A Date with the Falcon – 1941

Yes, they made films quickly back then. I’m 90% certain this is Mona Maris in a red fox stole near the beginning of the film.

This sequel wasn’t the best of the bunch for furs, but Miss Maris does look fine in this fox stole.

The Falcon Takes Over – 1942

Probably the best of the bunch for 2 reasons, one, this amazing full length white fox fur coat, and two because Helen Gilbert is doing a great Veronica Lake impression.

Check out the main gallery for more of this lovely specimen. As this image suggests, Miss Gilbert is playing the bad girl. This film is actually the first adaption of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely.  If you want pretentious amateur film critic analysis of that, read the IMDb comments, not this blog post.

The end of The Falcon Takes Over includes what would become a standard trope of the Falcon films… someone appears to ask the Falcon for help on a new case. In this case it’s a group of showgirls, some of whom are wearing furs. Sadly, the other standard element of this trope is that it actually has nothing to do with the next film.

The Falcon’s Brother – 1942

George Sanders must have realized they weren’t going to have a better fur than the white fox in The Falcon Takes Over, so he wanted to move on. Or maybe there was another reason… In any case, The Falcon’s Brother did not carry the fur fashion momentum of the previous film and gives us only this silver fox stole worn by Amanda Varela.

The Falcon In Danger – 1943

The second best Falcon film for fur fashion, this one features a number of furs, on screen at the same time. First up is the showcase fur, a long silver fox cape worn by Amelita Ward, who is playing The Falcon’s latest main squeeze.

As the mystery unfolds, ladies in fur gather at the airport with The Falcon. Amelita and her silver fox meet up with Elaine Shepard in this full length mink coat.

Finally, by process of elimination of women listed as being in the film on the IMDb, I think this is Jean Brooks in a spotted fur collar, which would not have ordinarily been noteworthy without Miss Ward’s silver fox being in the shot.

The Falcon and the Co-eds – 1943

Another light entry, which gives us, at the very end, this actress in a short haired fur hat and muff.

Which wouldn’t really have made it either if not for being a few seconds away from the Falcon’s latest end-of-film setup as this lovely lady appears in a short fox jacket to ask for The Falcon’s help on another new case before the credits role.

The Falcon in Mexico – 1944

Much like the fur carrying showgirls at the end of The Falcon Takes Over that lady in fox isn’t in the next film, The Falcon Out West, which has only a single rather bland mink to show for it. Thankfully the next sequel has two very full fox jackets, starting with this white fox on The Falcon’s current girlfriend, who’s in this film for about a minute.

The Falcon sends his girlfriend off for the rest of the film then immediately catches this very well dressed burglar (Cecilia Callejo) in the act of breaking into a gallery to steal a painting for which she posed, wearing this large marble blue fox fur jacket.

The Falcon in San Francisco – 1945

We end on neither a high nor low point, as Fay Helm (I think) brings us this very nice silver fox fur coat as she bails the Falcon out of jail.

Fay’s a bad girl, so the silver fox is a good fit, as is her smoking at the restaurant she brings the Falcon to after bailing him out.

For a series of film from the 40’s this is a pretty good showing. Not all of them are really great, and there’s the oddball The Falcon in Hollywood (1944), which by all rights should have been the best of the bunch but was completely dry. Whatever the reason, the wardrobe requirements for the gentleman detective film took a valiant stand against the fashions of the day and we all got something good out of it.

Fur Fashions of the Films of The Falcon – Full Gallery

2009/11/22

Furs in Film – Blond Cheat

Another lower wattage star power film today. Though not Born Reckless, it features a young Joan Fontaine prior to the height of her career. Blond Cheat is from 1938 and is about rich people, so they could have cast any random starlet, and the costume department would have had a winner on their hands.

Blond Cheat – The Film

A slightly more twisty pot in this one than the usual boy-meets-girl thing. An officer in a loan company, Michael Ashburn (Derrick DeMarney) is tasked with safeguarding some very expensive diamond earrings. No big deal right, keep the little box in his pocket and he’s home free… But wait! The earrings are “non-removable” and currently attached to a young blond woman named Julie Evans (Joan Fontaine). Michael apparently isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, so he buys this and spends the evening with Julie, blowing off his social-climbing fiancee. That’s the first half hour, things get more complicated from there, but the one thing this film an every boy-meets-girl film has in common is Mike and Julie live happily ever after.

Blond Cheat – The Furs

This film has some great shorter fox in it, trims and wraps. During Mike and Julie’s first date Joan Fontaine wears one of those common silver fox stoles of the period, with head/legs still attached. They have a proper name, though my search through Google turned up mostly vintage eBay listings. I believe I may have mentioned before I have a kind of love/hate relationship with them, as I love them anytime the aforementioned head/legs aren’t visible. Blond Cheat is a bit of a tossup there, as it has scenes of both. Fortunately it is, by far, the least notable fur in the film.

This is Julie and Mike’s first “date”, as Mike virtuously safeguards the earrings. Here’s the silver fox fur stole, now visible only a blaze of thick fur across her right shoulder, one of the best ways to film this particular piece.

In another good shot, you can see Mike hasn’t lost track of those earrings yet. Not to be too nit-picky about the title of the film and Miss Fontaine, who is lovely, but there were a lot “blonder” actresses who could have done this role.

In order to dine and be arrested with Julie the previous evening, Mike blew off a date with his gold-digging fiance, Roberta Trent (Lilian Bond), who appears the next morning hunting him down. She appears in this lovely fox trimmed dress with a match fox muff.

And proceeds to smoke in an annoyed fashion with Mike as he tries to explain.

A little later thankfully Roberta hasn’t taken this outfit off, and we see a nice shot of the fox trim and matching muff as Mike meet’s with his fiancee’s equally gold digging parents. You will also notice the extremely long haired fur muff on Roberta’s mother, who is played by a woman named Cecil. Have to say I never cared for fur like this, as it simply is too long, and too much like human hair… which I am a big fan of, when it is on top of a lady’s head.

In a shorter sequence, as Julie and Roberta continue to spar over Mike, Roberta appears in this coat with a full silver fox fur collar.

Finally, Joan Fontaine appears in this white fox wrap in a dueling dinner date sort of set up. Not the largest ever seen, but a fine one nonetheless.

Not sure if this is the best fur in the film or Lilian Bond’s muff accessorized fox trim from earlier wins that prize. Sadly, for some of the fox wrap’s on-screen time; it’s shown mostly in the background of a wide shot.

There is this fine direct shot of the back for a few seconds.

To close things out the director of photography makes up the earlier wide shots with the cozy if “foggy” carriage ride where we see Joan wrapped up nicely with white fox.

This is another good film for fur runtime. Though I didn’t meticulously document each instance of their first encounter, Miss Fontaine remains costumed in her silver fox stole throughout her character’s first meeting with Mike Ashburn. Both the fox trimmed dress of Lilian Bond and the later white fox wrap on Joan both appear in two scenes instead of one. The barely over 60 minute runtime also helps out there.

Fur Runtime: approx 15 minutes
Film Runtime: 62 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 24%

Should note both Lilian Bond and Joan Fontaine have brief smoking in fur sequences as well.

The Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1938 film Blond Cheat

2009/11/21

Carole Lombard in Fur


Carole Lombard

Originally uploaded by Music2MyEars

Trying out Flickr’s “Blog This” capabilities. This is a very nice shot of Carole Lombard in what is most likely sable.

2009/11/15

Furs In Film – The Lone Wolf Strikes

Since TCM hasn’t run a Thin Man marathon in at least two weeks, we’ll stick with The Lone Wolf.  This Lone Wolf guy knows a lot of women with fine taste in furs, it seems.  This is the first time I’ve reviewed a sequel right after the original.  Now if they’d just made a series of 20 films about Melsa Manton…

The Lone Wolf Strikes – The Film

I digress. The Lone Wolf Strikes is the follow-up to last week’s The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt. If you thought The Lone Wolf and Val Carson lived happily ever after at the end of that film, well, sadly, they did not. Single, and, apparently not grieving the loss of his child either, Mike Lanyard (Warren Williams) is hired to retrieve an expensive pearl necklace. In the process he’s framed for murder and has to use all his Lone Wolfy skills to prove his innocence and bring the guilty to justice, gentleman detective style.

The Lone Wolf Strikes – The Furs

Released in 1940, but costumed like it’s 1939, this film is long on big fox furs. Probably because they were filmed back to back with access to the same wardrobe department, perhaps? Though not quite as packed as the first Warren Williams Lone Wolf outing, this film has two very nice fox coats, and it completely inverts the good girl/bad girl fur rules! Shocking, I know.

Here we have a character by the name of Binnie Weldon, played by the actually alliterarively named Astrid Allwyn. Yes, she’s not Rita Hayworth, but she fills out a full length white fox fur coat nicely.

This is a classic white fox from the period. Huge wide fox pelts create a very full coat. It’s virtually identical to the coat worn by Ida Lupio in the last film… and may well be the same coat.

My only quibble with foxes like this is the lack of any collar and cuffs, but that is a minor quibble indeed, considering the high-wattage of what is the forerunner of every 80’s mega fox coat.

Binnie steals the pearl necklace that will later involve the Lone Wolf by nefariously dating jeweler Philip Jordan (Roy Gordon) in order to do a switch, then turns it over to her boyfriend.

Yes, this white fox is on the bad girl this time. The fur is well documented in the early sequences of the film as we get to see it from all angles.

Phil was planning to give the pearl necklace to his daughter for her wedding, and that brings us to Joan Perry playing Delia Jordan and supplying the “madcap girlfriend” role for this film. For part of the film she’s wearing this fine silver fox bolero jacket.

I like big fox bolero jackets, and this is a nice one. Joan Perry isn’t Ida Lupino just like Binnie Weldon isn’t Rita Hayworth, but Joan looks fine in the fox jacket.

There’s a few nice closeups of Joan framed perfectly by the silver fox jacket.

We even get to see the silver fox jacket from behind as well, so obviously the director of photography was on the ball for this film.

The Lone Wolf eventually recovers the stolen merchandise, but sadly we never get to see either fur in the film with a pearl necklace. Everything from the wattage of the star power to the amount of fur screen-time is slightly toned down in The Lone Wolf Strikes as compared to The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt. Still, a fine outing for furs, and a 10% on-screen fur ratio is still enormous by any standard.

Fur Runtime: approx 7 minutes
Film Runtime: 67 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 10%

Speaking of comparisons… The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt and the The Lone Wolf Strikes were probably filmed very close to one another. They both feature very similar white fox fur coats. So, what do you think… did bad girl Binnie Weldon steal good girl Val Carson’s white fox coat?

Val:

Binnie:

Explore this question and more with the full gallery: The Fur Fashions of the The Lone Wolf Strikes Full Gallery

2009/11/12

User Contribution – Evelyn Ankers in Fox – The Lone Wolf In London

Here’s a pic from the 1947 film The Lone Wolf in London gratefully contributed by The Green Fairy:
[singlepic id=585 w=320 h=240 float=center]

The actress is Evelyn Ankers, and the fur is fox, and the gentleman in the background is giving it a rather stern look. Perhaps he’s wondering how such a nice fox turned up on film in 1947.

Turns out I don’t have The Lone Wolf in London, but I was confusing it with 1940’s The Lone Wolf Strikes, the followup to The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt, which features a very large white fox coat and a silver fox jacket. I do have that one and you may learn all about those furs soon…

2009/11/08

Furs in Film – The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt

While the Thin Man series of films is ripe for inclusion on this site, the genre of “gentleman detective” was certainly not the lone province of William Powell and crew. The Lone Wolf was another, this one a jewel thief named Mike Lanyard who was featured in upwards of 20 pictures, a lot more than Nick and Nora. This incarnation was portrayed by Warren William, doing a good William Powell impression, and was released in the magical year of 1939.

The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt – The Film

The Lone Wolf, debonair jewel thief, has quit his jewel thieving ways and is settling down with girlfriend Val Carson and daughter Patrica. A gang of spies looking to swipe some plans for a new piece of anti-aircraft artillery frame The Lone Wolf for a theft in order to blackmail him into helping them. With the police aware of his past and unwilling to help, The Lone Wolf takes on the spy gang with Val’s mostly unwanted assistance. Despite having Rita Hayworth on their side, The Lone Wolf foils their plans and sends them all to the slammer.

The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt – The Furs

It’s 1939 and this is a “gentleman’s detective” film, which means it’s only slightly less likely to have amazing furs than a “madcap heiress” film. It is certainly no disappointment in that regard, as we have both Ida Lupino and a very young, pre-super-stardom Rita Hayworth in large fox coats. Ida spends most of the film in one of 2 furs, while Rita similarly, is rarely out of fur herself between a full length mink and large black fox that befits her stature as main squeeze of the spy ring leader.

This is Val Carson, Mike Lanyard’s girlfriend who supplies much of the film’s comedy. Played by a barely over 20 Ida Lupino, she spends a great deal of time in this silver fox trimmed jacket. Though not visible in this shot, a silver fox muff accompanies it usually.

There’s the muff, a lovely combination with the hat and most likely a silk blouse.

And here is Karen, played by Rita Hayworth, also barely over 20 and looking very refined in this full length short-haired coat as she prepares to crash a date between Mike and Val.

Crash she does, as Miss Lupino’s expression indicates how overjoyed she is this development.

Throughout the film Ida Lupino’s expressive face is one of the highlights, and here it is surrounded by silver fox fur.

Ida and Rita are not the only ones in fur in the film. This is Helen Lynd, playing a prospective buyer for The Lone Wolf’s completely legitimate antique business, who must deal with Val Caron’s jealous streak over her boyfriend.

Really jealous… Though perhaps not obvious from the stills, the scene is rather amusing and showcases Miss Lupio’s comic chops. Unfortunately one of the few scenes in the film where she’s not wearing fur.

Somewhere around act 3, both Ida and Rita step up the fur quality, with Miss Lupino winning handily in this white fox coat.

Briefly seen holding a cigarette in this sequence, though not actually smoking, the white fox is a classic example of the period, full, but lacking any sort of collar or cuffs, cape-like.

Not to be completely outdone, Rita and the gang show up to help her show off her black fox stroller coat. No doubt it’s black because she’s the bad girl in this flick, accented by her veiled black hat over her dark brunette locks.

To drive that point home, she and Ida share the screen, good girl in white fox, bad girl in black fox, the way the universe intended it should be.

Like Ida earlier, Rita briefly holds a cigarette but never actually does much smoking.

One more shot of the 2 together briefly, because two great foxes are always better than one.

Finally, one of the best shots of Ida Lupino’s white fox coat occurs just before “THE END”, here at the police station after The Lone Wolf’s been hauled away as his chip-off-the-ole-block daughter presents the keys to his cell.

Though certainly not the only reason this film deserves mention, it is great film for those interested in “fur runtime”. Not quite a Forever Lulu, but you certainly won’t fall asleep waiting for the next fur to show up (and hang around). In honor of The Green Fairy’s suggestion, I’ll post some “box stats” for each film from now on so people know roughly how long you’ll be enjoying fur on screen in the films I post. The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt definitely clocks into the top 3 at this point.

Fur Runtime: approx 20 minutes
Film Runtime: 71 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 28%

The Fur Fashions of the The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt Full Gallery

2009/11/01

Furs in Film – Born Reckless

There were a lot of movies made in the 30’s. A lot them turn up on Turner Classic Movies, and even Fox Movie Channel from time to time, but by and large they all pull from the same pool of films with “name” actors and directors of the day. There are a bunch that never got “names” and probably languish in a vault somewhere, probably decaying beyond repair. There’s probably hours of spectacular classic Hollywood fur fashion footage that will never be seen again. No, as much as it sounds like it, this isn’t a pitch for you to donate to a film preservation society (though you could, I wouldn’t stop you), this is an intro to the 1937 film, Born Reckless.

Born Reckless – The Film

There’s pretty much no one on the roster of Born Reckless whose name is remotely familiar to me. Somehow it ended up on Fox Movie Channel, though. It’s the story of a former race car driver who joins up with a cab company run by Sybil Roberts (Rochelle Hudson), who is being muscled for protection by racketeers who want to take over all the town’s cab companies by taking out their cabs with armored cars. Hey, that’s how I’d do it…

Born Reckless – The Furs

For what is essentially a “B” movie of the period, they did not skimp on the costume budget. Sybil Roberts, the owner of the cab company, is apparently doing quite well for herself despite her problems with the mob. She’s not the only one, though. A variety of very nice fox coats abound in this obscure little film.

As we open, these two ladies are rooting for ace race car driver Bob “Hurry” Kane (Brian Donlevy), to win his race.

In coats outfitted with sumptuous fox collars, you won’t expect them to be the “gold digger” type. That’s what I love about 30’s films, even the girls out to get rich were still draped in huge fox furs.

Bob Kane won the race, but ended up squandering his dough on those two pictured above. In a poorly montaged sequence, he even bought them more furs. Out the racing business and in need of cash, he literally “runs into” Sybil Roberts and her cab on the street.

Bob loads her unconscious driver into the cab and takes her where she needs to go, impressing her with his “taxi cab driving” skills. As Sybil, Rochelle Hudson gets the most furs in the film, starting with this fur trimmed jacket.

She’s not the only one, though. In a much smaller part in this already small film, Pauline Moore plays the girlfriend of one of Bob Kane’s partners who also joins up with the cab company. She appears in this thickly collared coat as well.

Very briefly, Sybil looks on in this silver fox coat, which may or may not be only a collar, as this is the only shot of it. Poorly framed, the edge of the window hides the cigarette in her gloved hand, though in the film you will see the smoke play across her face as she watches.

We arrive at the film’s marquee fur, a white fox stroller length cape. Rochelle Hudson wears this beauty well, as it plays off nicely with her brunette hair.

Thankfully she doesn’t just remain in the car with it this time.

Making up in some small part for the bad angle on the silver fox earlier, we see the white fox cape from front and back.

All this is happening while Bob Kane is turning the racketeers own armored car against them. Even with a mini destruction derby occurring, I’d still find Miss Hudson and her cape a far more interesting sight.

Finally, in another very brief appearance, Pauline Moore appears in this fox trimmed coat for another few seconds. Not exactly “blink or you’ll miss it”, but not around for very long at all.

Outside of the big white fox cape, there is a lot of very full collars in this film. Sure, it would have been preferable if they were more than just collars, but finding this much fur in such an obscure little film is reason enough to love it, and they’re mostly shot in such a way that the remainder of the coat is a mere afterthought. Just makes me think there’s a whole lot of other hidden gems out there that will never see the light of day.

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of 1937’s Born Reckless.