Let's stay in the year 1934, and stick with high-handed melodrama, while we're at it. Success at Any Price illustrates a point that I'd describe with Shanghai Express if TCM would just show it again… that even fur I'm not a huge fan of can be put to great use.
Success at Any Price – The Film
So, we have a character who ruthlessly works up the corporate ladder, ruining lives along the way only to suffer a final comeuppance in the end yet narrowly escape so that a happy ending can be realized. I liked this character more when it was a girl played by Barbara Stanwyck in Baby Face. Here's it's some guy named Joe played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who ends up looking very Clark Gable-y throughout the film. Thankfully for all involved, Douglas isn't the one wearing the furs this time around; that's handled by the object of his desire: his boss's mistress. Whom, I should point out, he eventually marries and then… divorces.
Success at Any Price – The Furs
Genevieve Tobin plays Agnes Carter, the mistress of a rich man and then the wife of another rich man, with a wardrobe that reflects both. She wears most of the film's furs, though another appears in furs not quite worthy of a wealthy mistress.
Agnes appears early in the film with Raymond Merrit, the “master” in her mistress relationship, played by Frank Morgan, who's in his smarmy-executive mode for this one.
Here we have Colleen More, the “true love” of the piece, in this small fur collar that you're probably wondering why I included at all.
Because it briefly appears opposite this, the marquee fur of the film, a coat with an enormous sable fur collar and cuffs.
Though I generally find sable to be in the same rather drab class as mink, a “brown paper bag” fur, so to speak, this is an excellent use of it.
As alluded to the opening, it reminds me of Dietrich's fur-trimmed coat from the train sequence in Shanghai Express, right down to the pose she strikes wearing it.
While the cinematography isn't quite the equal of the pitch-perfect frames (very appropriately) lavished on Marlene Dietrich, the sequence frames Genevieve Tobin from the waist up. It keeps the large collar well in view much of the time. Sadly they did feel the need to cut to shots of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. throughout.
This is Joe and Agnes' first meeting, where he falls a bit in lust (why is that, Joe?) and decides to poach her from the boss. The end of the scene shows Agnes lightly brushing the oversized sable collar and suggesting he can't have her, beautifully subtle use of the fur's sensuality.
Joe does get her, and once he's rich, he keeps Agnes in the furs to which she had become accustomed, including this red fox fur collar/cuff combination.
A wrap or jacket, you say? Not really; the arms come off and leave only the collar attached to the dress.
In another callback to the last update, this film features a “blink-and-you'll-miss-it” fox, too; Agnes wears this silver fox wrap as she returns home and then immediately removes it. Sad, it looked to be quite lovely.
Agnes makes the final split with Joe in this short-haired fur coat that's not mink, and I'm not sure I really care what it is, but obligatory inclusion is obligatory. He fell in love with the sable and divorced this… I can't say I blame him.
Talk about obligatory… Colleen Moore appears at the end in this dreadful fur-trimmed coat as she talks Joe down from suicide. Again, Joe, I wouldn't blame you…
The sable is the showpiece here, and though not entirely up to the standards of Shanghai Express, it is a fabulous fur and is well filmed with 3+ minutes of screen time. Goes to show that if you're going to with something like a sable, go big or go home. The additional red fox is a solid “value add” to the film in both quality and runtime, adding a good 4 minutes to the total, bringing the ratio to a rare 20%. The remainder is what they are, as I sometimes remind myself that some people actually find drab, conservative short-haired furs quite fashionable.
Fur Runtime: approx 15 minutes
Film Runtime: 74 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 20%