Furs on Film – Lady with a Past

This week we have an entry from 1932 that, considering the ratio it racks up, I’d have preferred it be shot in 1938. That’s a bit of a quibble, as it has some good furs, and the viewer is certainly able to take their time and enjoy them. Besides, it was either this or a 70’s Aussie exploitation film TCM probably showed by accident or something. I’ll get to that one later.

Lady with a Past – The Film

Constance Bennett stars as Venice Muir (a name someone should probably use in a future exploitation film), one of those rare non-madcap heiresses from the 30’s. Venice is not exactly “left at the altar,” but has her elopement to Paris canceled by playboy Donnie Wainwright (David Manners). As, obviously, Donnie is totally not a jerk, she cooks up a plan to follow him to Paris, make him jealous, and get him back. She is aided by Guy (Ben Lyon), an employment challenged individual who becomes her fake gigolo. Since this isn’t a 1980’s romantic comedy, she doesn’t end up with Guy; she gets her man Donnie in the end.

Lady with a Past – The Furs

Constance Bennett does most of the fur wearing in the film, and boy, is there a lot of it. She’s helped out by a couple others, but their contributions are slim compared to hers. In general the fur fashions are quite exemplary of the early 30’s, where designers were still ramping-up to the glorious excesses of the late 30’s.

We start with this red fox stole. I don’t care for the more common silver fox variant, so making a red fox version doesn’t help much. You can also note the very small fox trim on the dress of Lola Goadby (Astrid Allwyn) opposite Venice.

Speaking of which, there’s that exact silver fox stole on Ann (Merna Kennedy). She’s visible in this long sequence for only a few seconds, but those few include this reasonably good shot.

Before Donnie dumps her, Venice arrives to a party in this long, sable trimmed ermine coat. My chief problem with ermine is that it’s not fox.

Cut to Paris, where Venice meets Guy and eventually ends up hiring him. She’s hanging out in a cafe in this fox trimmed outfit.

This is one of the two furs the film allows the viewer to indulge, as the entire sequence provides almost four and half minutes to take it in. It is sprinkled with fine close shots such as this.

To the second fur we’ll be seeing a lot, the linchpin of the entire film, a short jacket with a rather agreeably large collar and cuffs. I’m going to say this is probably a dark sable, though it could be black fox.

The fur is onscreen for about 10 full minutes, and that is amazingly impressive even for this decade.

This illustrates a good rule of thumb when designing fur collars, the less you can see of the back of the wearer’s head, the better.

As it is onscreen so long, we do get a few fine close shots to study it further.

While the dark fur trimmed jacket is the film’s “big” fur, it’s hardly done. As Venice is building her rep as the most desirable woman in Paris, she’s in quite a few more furs. Can’t say this is a favorite, but I’m sure others can appreciate the short mink cape.

Later there’s a poorly filmed, sort look at this fox trimmed coat. Another reason to wish it was 1938, this would probably have been all fox.

Yet more, this blue fox trimmed top that also has some small cuffs that can be seen later.

She meets up with Lola again upon returning to New York. Lola is wearing… a fur coat. Not sure what kind of fur that is, but I can at least be sure it’s fur. Could be some form of rabbit.

Finally, the end of the film gives us this, a long black and white ermine fur coat. This is where she and Donnie finally get together.

Another one for the missed-opportunity pile, the fashioning of the coat is superb, with a high collar and full sleeves, but the use of ermine mitigates that. Even mink would have been a better choice here.

Lady with a Past clocks in at 39% on-screen fur ratio. That is almost four times the rough average of 10% I just sorta made up based on what I recall from all the previous updates. So, for over a third of the film, you’ll be seeing someone wearing a fur. I can, and have, quibbled over the kind of fur in the film, but if you’re a little less picky than me (and I sense many, many are) then this probably goes into the “must have” pile.

Fur Runtime: approx 31 minutes
Film Runtime: 80 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 39%

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1932 film Lady with a Past

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