Archive for January, 2010

2010/01/31

Mini-Update – Furs On Film – Reckless

As distractions abound, we’ll go with this, the most efficient way to characterize the 1935 film Reckless, staring Jean Harlow:

Jean Harlow’s White Fox Wrap from Reckless

Yes, that is a single link to a Flickr photo.  The shot is probably better than any still I have for it at the moment, and that is the singular fur in the entire film.  It’s a wonderfully huge white fox fur wrap that sits high on her shoulders and covers half her head in profile.  So, basically, it could have been a little larger… but good effort.

There’s no other fur in the film and this one is only around for about a minute in total.  The formal “fur  ratio” is about 1%.  It’s a really great 1% though.  Harlow’s white fox in this one is a classic. It’s near the beginning of the film, so you can skip the rest once she takes it off.

Completely unrelated bonus white fox: Lupe Valez in Fur

2010/01/24

Furs on Film – Baby Face

Today we look at one of the more famous films I’ve profiled, while mostly ignoring everything that made it famous. We’re going to look at (the furs in) the 1933 film Baby Face, staring Barbara Stanwyck. Yes, Miss Stanwyck’s career highlight may not be until 1938, but she was no slouch in the fur wearing department in the years leading up to it. The film itself is notable as one of the more “infamous” “pre Code” films, and one of the reasons said Code exists.

Baby Face – The Film

Why did said Code exist? Because people couldn’t handle a chick sleeping her way to the top, that’s why. Yes, in this film Barbara Stanwyck stars as Lily Powers, a woman who knows what she wants and knows how to get it. And get it, she does, always off screen and totally implied. This is still 1933, when the mere idea of a female sexual predator was enough to give fine, upstanding people tha vapors! Lily climbs the corporate ladder, leaving behind broken boyfriends in a heap along the way, until she reaches the president of Gotham Trust and thinks her life of luxury is assured. Things actually do work out in the end, but only because the New York State Censorship Board (at least they were really up front with the name) strongly implied the film would never see the light of day if she didn’t.

Baby Face – The Furs

Unlike the scorecard required to keep track of The Mad Miss Manton, this film is almost all Stanwyck all the time. Lily doesn’t sleep her way to the top to dress like a hobo, after all. She’s stuffing the closet with furs, and presumably other expensive clothes and jewelery which I care much less about. Really, shiny rocks? What’s up with that?

Obviously Lily has made it a few floors out of the basement of Gotham Trust by the time she walks on screen in this thickly trimmed cape and muff combo.

Along the way she’s taken her friend, Chico (yes, I said Chico), played by Theresa Harris, and kept her on as a rather well paid maid, as you can tell from the white fox muff and stole.

This is a fairly long sequence leading to a meeting with one her mid-range boyfriends. We get to enjoy the cape from all angles.

This is the boyfriend du jour, things don’t work out well for him. Granted, this can be said of pretty much all of them.

Later, and further up the food chain, Lily is in Paris and hooks up with the new bank president. She had now mounted the top rung of the corporate ladder… so to speak. Here Barbara Stanwyck lounges, face wreathed by silver fox, a object of raw cinematic desire.

We see a bit more of it before this shorter sequence ends, revealing the collar to be even larger than previously seen.

As you may imagine, things aren’t quite wine and roses from that point on, and the bank president has some problems of his own, some of which have to do with the fact that his new girlfriend is kinda a tramp. In a lengthy sequence at the end of the film, Lily wears this full length chinchilla the entire time.

Barbara Stanwyck has a brief smoking shot while wearing the big fur coat.

This is a hefty chinchilla, judging by the size of the collar, which wraps around the back, almost as if it were an unused hood.

Sadly, Lily’s main squeeze bank president meets an untimely end, and the results of all her dirty machinations crash down around her.

But wait! There’s more! He really doesn’t die and it turns out Lily renounces her man hating ways and decides to settle down and live happily ever after with him!

On the one hand, the tacked-on ending designed to get past the New York State Censorship Board is pretty much a substantial betrayal of everything the film was to that point. On the other hand… there’s like another full minute of Barbara Stanwyck in a full length chinchilla coat… So, I’m calling it even.

Baby Face joins a strong second tier of Stanwyck films with great furs. While not everything she did is worthy of inclusion on its own, this one and a few others are, such as Breakfast for Two and Lady of Burlesque. The ratio is fairly solid, a good 8 minutes of fur in a film that ran a little long for the time and was from the early 30’s as well. The film was Warner Bros. response to the film Red Headed Woman, staring Jean Harlow and also notable for the fur fashions within.

Fur Runtime: approx 8 minutes
Film Runtime: 71 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 11%

The full gallery is here: Fur Fashions of the 1933 film Baby Face

2010/01/17

Furs on Film – Fight for Your Lady

Who can’t use more Ida Lupino in white fox? Fight For Your Lady was Miss Lupino’s film before her fashionable exploits in The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt two years later. It’s a broad comedy with the usual themes of suicide and alcoholism.

Fight for Your Lady – The Film

Yes, this is lighthearted comedic romp that mixes opera, wrestling, and the ever amusing alcohol abuse and suicide. Ah, simpler times. Cash strapped Manager Ham Hamilton’s (Jack Oakie) champion Mike Scanlon gets involved with opera singer Marcia (Margot Grahame) and doesn’t throw a fight. This causes Ham more money problems, but leads him to meet with the singer’s fiance Robert (John Boles), whom Marcia eventually leaves at the alter for Mike.

This leads to heavy drinking, thoughts of suicide, and eventually to a trip to Budapest where Robert falls in love with a local singer named Marietta (Ida Lupino) who has a jealous boyfriend named… wait for it… Spadissimo (Erik Rhodes). Spadissimo is quite the killer of Marietta’s would-be paramours, and Robert thinks death-by-Spadissimo is just as good as any… Man… this is a complicated plot… Anyway… uh… Robert and Marietta live happily ever after, which you all knew going in, but this one takes a really twisted road getting there.

Fight for Your Lady – The Furs

Convoluted plot or no, they did a good job in the costuming department. We have the two female leads in lovely fox furs, and, for a very brief moment, in lovey fox furs on screen together. This is always notable if the film you’re watching isn’t The Mad Miss Manton, where in it’s notable because there’s only two.

The character of Marcia Trent follows the standard 1930’s gold digger pattern of being well off enough already to wear furs, yet still desperately needs to marry into money. I have absolutely no trouble at all suspending disbelief for this. Granted… I’d suspend disbelief if someone onscreen walked into a fast foot restaurant and the girls behind the counters were draped in huge fox coats. Wait, that kinda already happened… I digress… Here’s Marcia in a nice silver fox collar.

Marcia is played Margot Grahame, who is costumed very blonde femme fatale in this film, and it works well for her.

Enter Lupino. If you’re keeping score, and I know you are, this lovely full length white fox wrap is rather reminiscent of the full length white fox coat Miss Lupino will we be wearing 2 years later in The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt.

It’s almost as if she took a couple years off to negotiate a pair of sleeves.

Not that I mind, I can put up shots of this all day. Though I regret to say, while this is the best fur in the film, it also appears for the shortest period of time.

The consolation prize isn’t all that bad, though. Here we have Miss Lupino in a fox collared dress and matching fox muff. This is a the start of a reasonably long sequence of the scenes in which she wears this outfit.

Here’s one of the better views, as Marietta, Ham, and some other guy chat about how complicated the plot is for a late 30’s screwball comedy. I do levy my usual critique of most furs on screen; the muff could be larger. You could say I’m a fan of very large muffs… but then everyone would start giggling, and we can’t have that.

Fortunately, we do get some quick close up shots of Ida Lupino’s lovely features framed by the fox fur collar of her dress.

Marcia ends up in Budapest too, of course, otherwise things would not remain sufficiently complicated. Margot and Ida have one quick scene together in their fine fox furs.

Really easy to figure out which one is the “bad girl”, right?

While part of me wishes it was a silver fox hat, I can’t deny the way this one accents the fur is damn near perfect. This is textbook period femme fatale in furs.

Finally, near the very end, we have a short sequence with Ida in a silver fox collar of her own speeding to some destination to save Robert before good ole Spadissimo can kill him. This one is kind of annoying in that the characters she shares the back seat with are far less photogenic than Ida Lupino.

A solid outing from 1937, not only for Ida’s big white fox wrap but the Margot Grahame’s skillfully constructed bad girl outfits. The runtime stats aren’t spectacular, but solid. For any film a 10% ratio is pretty good. Stills last forever, after all, even if they are captured from something that was on screen for only a few seconds.

Fur Runtime: approx 7 minutes
Film Runtime: 66 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 11%

The full gallery is here: Fur Fashions of the 1937 film Fight for Your Lady

2010/01/10

Mini Update – Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face

Barbara Stanwyck

Originally uploaded by Gary Cooper 79

Taking a little break after the Manton post and the fact that TCM has been rather dry of late. Here’s a shot of Miss Stanwyck from another good fur movie of her’s: Baby Face.

2010/01/03

Furs on Film – The Mad Miss Manton

Time to kick off the New Year with something I’ll not be able to out-do: the best fur fashion film of all time: The Mad Miss Manton. I was wavering on that opinion because I hadn’t really seen it in a while, but now that I’ve dug through most every frame with a glistening guard hair in it, I feel I can safely end all doubt. It’s all here, quality, variety, and length. If there’s something better than this, well… I desperately want to see it.

The Mad Miss Manton – The Film

The Mad Miss Manton is somewhat a mix of genres, and perhaps that’s part of the magic that made it what is was. It’s one-half madcap heiress, one-half gentle(wo)man detective, multiplied by 1938, to the seventh power. Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck (I have the book) as one of Hollywood’s few alliterative miss-fires, Melsa Manton, and her flock of seven fashionable friends in a murder mystery. Mesla finds a dead body in house for sale, reports it to the police, but she and her friends’ reputation as pranksters leads the police to do nothing when they arrived to find the body missing. The ladies decide to solve the case to clear their good names, which are being splashed on the editorial page of the paper by Peter Ames (Henry Fonda).

The Mad Miss Manton – The Furs

Where to begin…? Melsa and her friends swim through an ocean of furs in the film, most all of them fox in some form or another. Mink, lynx, and even ermine are ably represented as well. The fur garments come in all forms, from full length coats, to jackets, wraps, and muffs as well. It’s a virtual catalog of glorious deco fur fashions from the late 30’s.

Enter Melsa Manton. At this point Miss Manton has found the body, been blown off by the police, and suffered a scathing editorial in the paper about her “prank” written by her opposite in this scene, Peter Ames. She arrives in the film’s first fur, a dress with silver fox cuffs, a rather conservative start.

Melsa’s girlfriends don’t all appear in furs at once. We start off with… okay, here’s the deal. Melsa has seven members of her little “posse”, and, I checked, 2 of them are never called by name. This is one of them, process of elimination indicates this is either “Lee” or “Jane.” Judging by what I could find on the net, I’m calling this Ann Evers as Lee, who starts the fox train rolling with a big black fox jacket.

She throws a white fox wrap atop Myra (Linda Perry).

This leads shortly to the girls having donned their first set of sleuthing furs. This is, left to right, Kit in a white fox jacket, Helen in a silver fox wrap, Mesla in her signature crystal fox coat, Lee in the black fox stroller, and Myra holding her white fox wrap. Five large fox coats on screen at once. I can stop here, right?

Miss Stanwyck’s crystal fox coat is notable not only because it’s the largest fox in the film and lovingly documented, but from a fashion perspective, the coat is very similar to many white fox coats of the day that I’ve documented in previous updates. The broad shoulders and lack of a collar are instantly familiar. If it where white it would be a few pelts short of Irene Dunne’s famous coat from The Awful Truth.

Less visible in the previous group shot was Dora (Catherine O’Quinn) wearing an ermine jacket. There’s actually another ermine jacket in this shot as well but Helen and Lee’s fox furs are covering up Pat’s jacket.

There’s Pat (Whitney Borune) and her ermine fur jacket as the ladies investigate the abandoned house where Melsa found the body. Pat has a bit of an eating disorder that’s handled with the utmost respect and dignity by the film… or not.

This part of the film is a bit noir-ish, with the ladies moving in darkness, catching conveniently located shafts of light as they poke around the house in their large fur coats and experience a scare or two.

Later the girls continue sleuthing to their prime suspect’s house, allowing for yet another group shot.

Mesla find’s a photo of the deceased wife there, who is also wearing fur, a silver fox collared coat that she is apparently rather fond of, as we’ll learn later. Even the still photos have fur in this movie.

They find the body of their prime suspect in the apartment, but efforts to report it to the police are in vain, since the police already don’t believe them, so they drop the body off at the newspaper, which eventually leads to their “arrest”. The ladies have changed out of their sleuthing furs in to their much more conservative “being arrested” furs.

Mesla and Helen both have full length minks, while Dora does put some effort into it with a large fox collar.

Though I’m not quite as big a fan of it as her fox, here’s a nicely framed shot of Barbara Stanwyck in mink which I’m sure will be appreciated.

Later, Melsa and Helen (Frances Mercer) engage in a little solo adventure away from the rest of the posse. Sadly Melsa’s fox is MIA, but Helen keeps things interesting with her white fox wrap.

The girls reunite further along in the film with yet another selection of furs, principally notable is Myra’s fox collar and large matching fox muff.

Dora shows up later with another fox collar.

As does Mr. Ames, who is about to subdued and restrained by Melsa and her girls, one of many times that happens in this film.

Later on the street the girls are out sleuthing again in this set, with Melsa have added a short fox jacket to her wardrobe, and Pat’s silver fox stole more visible.

Again a little later and we have… another set of furs. Here Kit lays atop a lynx jacket and Helen a large silver fox muff. Everybody keeping up? There will be a quiz later…

Pat gets a bit of a solo scene on the phone with Melsa, wearing a what I’ll assume is a black fox coat accessorized nicely with the veiled hat.

Eventually we arrive at the showcase sequence for Barbara Stanwyck and her large crystal fox fur coat, where Mr. Ames pretends to be not long for this world in an effort to get Melsa to confess an important piece of evidence.

Miss Stanwyck and the fox coat are showcased perfectly here. Melsa eventually becomes wise to ruse, eliciting an expression that does not bode well for Peter Ames…

…as she liberally applies a fork to Mr. Ames buttocks. Say what you will about the film’s place in cinema history, but it is likely the only time Henry Fonda is stabbed in the butt with a fork.

That crucial piece of evidence was the location of the original deceased’s wife, Shelia Lane (Leona Maricle), who you’ll remember from the photo earlier… especially since she seems to be wearing the same silver fox collar.

As Melsa has been causing trouble for the killer and already survived attempts on her life, a plan is hatched to draw the killer out, while this plan is hatched, Melsa brings along a large black fox muff, which, sadly, is one of the furs that is not well filmed. The black fox goes great with the outfit, but not with late 30’s camera technology.

After dinner with Ames, Melsa takes this silver fox wrap on the 30’s equivalent of a dungeon crawl, heading down into the subway as she puts some of the pieces together and looks for more evidence. This is a long sequence, and she wears the silver fox almost non-stop until the end of the film.

For what it’s worth… this guy did it:

The girls show up one last time, in yet another set of furs. Myra has a silver fox collar, Dora, an ermine muff, Helen an ermine jacket and yet more as well.

The film ends with a bit of a deus ex machina, with the killer taken out in the lobby by a police sniper and no direct intervention from Melsa, Ames or any other major character. Seems someone wrote themselves into a corner. Yeah, like I care… No one is going to remember The Mad Miss Manton as a high point in filmmaking. The film is a stunning collection of fur fashions played out en masse. Whereas most of the films from this period I profile have only one fur on screen at once, this one gives us for or five at once.

Oddly, my biggest beef with the film isn’t anything to do with the furs, it’s with Miss Manton herself, who was a bit of a victim of what seemed to be “alliteration at any cost”… Melsa? What a horrible name… Apologies to anyone named Melsa… you have my sympathies. Mary… Madeline… Meghan… Michelle… so many better options. Oh, and there were no fur hats… could have used some hats.

The onscreen ratio is nothing to sneeze at.  In fact it’s in the neighborhood of the other heavyweight champion, Forever Lulu.

Fur Runtime: approx 33 minutes
Film Runtime: 80 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 41%

In honor of the occasion… this gallery is much larger than usual… about 76 total, so enjoy:

Full Gallery- Fur Fashions of The Mad Miss Manton