Posts tagged ‘1930s’

2012/09/02

The Ultimate Fur Film That Never Was – 1938

Greetings, remember me? I’m the guy who found new ways to occupy his time. Since this is the first new post in… well, geeze, I should have waited a month for the 1 year anniversary, but hey, no one ever said I had any sense of timing. Ahem, anyway, lo these 11 months later, I come baring… not much at all. I had some ideas on how to expand the wheelhouse a bit, as both Flickr and TCM were kinda drying up. This sort of post (except this meandering paragraph, of course) was one of them.

Flights of Fancy

This is purely a mental exercise where certain minor inconveniences like “reality” are not taken into consideration. The gloves are off (though usually it’s best they stay on, for the record, opera-length, preferably), anyone is fair game to populate this little imaginary film. The idea is to come up with the best fur movie of the 30’s, with all this site’s favorites tossed into the same film with very flimsy excuses why the costume designer could… indulge.

Obviously the studio system is one of those minor inconveniences, so this would never happen for that reason alone. Rest assured, there are many, many, more reasons…

So, without further ado, and, no doubt, far less explanation than is probably necessary, I present:

The 30’s Ultimate Fur Film : The Battle for House Burlesque

Plot:

Ruby Richmond, the nation’s biggest star, just opened The Arctic Lounge. It quickly becomes the hottest new burlesque club in Chicago. She got the property from a very nervous seller, and she quickly discovers why. The hottest new burlesque club in Chicago happens to be located on the border of two of Chicago’s biggest rival mobs. Ruby has to use all the tricks in the book to keep her new club independent from two very determined mob bosses.

Setting:

The Arctic Lounge is an upscale burlesque club with a chilly theme. As the sign outside warns: “The Temperatures are Low Everywhere But On-Stage!” Patrons are urged to dress accordingly.

Starring:

FurGlamor - Barbara Stanwyck - The Mad Miss Manton - 1938

Barbara Stanwyck as Ruby Richmond. Let’s just say type casting happens for a reason. Ruby worked in burlesque before making in big as Tinsel Town’s hottest new star. She wants to cultivate a high class burlesque with her new establishment. She’s tough-as-nails and doesn’t take kindly to anyone trying to muscle-in on her club. Ruby is a famous fashionista who is rarely seen in anything other than some large fox fur.

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Greta Garbo - Inspiration - 1931

Greta Garbo as Ivana Ivanova, head of the Russian mob vying for control of The Arctic Lounge. Sure, Greta’s really Swedish but she had a lot of practice with a Russian accent thanks to Hollywood, and who am I argue? Every bit the stereotypical product of central casting, Ivana is usually found in modern deco takes of intricate czarina outfits in plush fox fur. Ivana is a ruthless criminal mastermind who carved out an empire in Chicgo in short order, taking most her territory from her hated rival…

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FurGlamor- Marlene Dietrich - Shanghai-Express - 1932

Marlene Dietrich as Karla Kristoph, leader of the German mob into whose territory Ivana is encroaching. The Arctic Lounge becomes the line she draws in the proverbial sand. Old school but cunning, she realizes she may have to adapt the old ways to win. Karla is every bit the Hollywood fashionista, and a particular fan of Ruby and her famous fox wardrobe, which she models herself on. Her love of Ruby’s work may be the key to her success or the Achilles heel of her plan.

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Co-starring:

Joan Crawford as Jenny Johnson, a new dancing hire at The Arctic Lounge. She becomes a pawn in the rival mob’s attempts to gain control…. And does burlesque numbers in big fox outfits.

Hedy Lamarr as Vanessa Van Pelt, seinor dancer who takes Jenny under her wing, but is really a plant for Karla’s gang…. And does burlesque numbers in big fox outfits.

Anna May Wong as Machinegun Mai. Gangsters need gun molls, and Mai is Karla’s top enforcer, and dresses according to her whims.

Carole Lombard as The Blonde. Ivana’s enforcer from the old country, skilled in most forms of violence and intimation, sharing her affinity for the big fox coats of home.

Kay Francis as Police Commissioner Mary Masterson. Caught between allowing the gangs free reign over the city and knowing things will be more peaceful when one side “wins”, the wealthy heiress turned policewoman tries to do what’s best, all while suffering from her recent divorce (need to have a divorce, it’s a rule for a great fur film).

Lucile Ball as Betty Blaze, the Arctic Lounge’s famous burlesque guest star whose kidnapping from the club kicks off the big finale…. And does burlesque numbers in big fox outfits.

Finale:

After numerous failed plots, Karla and Mai kidnaps Betty Blaze while on stage, forcing Ruby and (her biggest fan) Karla to team up and get her back. They succeed, and Karla and Ivana agree to leave The Arctic Lounge as “neutral territory” in their conflict, securing the future of the club.

Conclusion

That’s it, the best fur film of the 30’s that was never made and never could be. Was it comedy? A drama? It’s whatever you thought it was. I think it could take a run at unseating The Mad Miss Manton. If anyone has ideas for improvement, feel free to post them in the comments. I might try to come up with a version for the 80’s, at least, and maybe the 70’s, but there’s a lot of crossover there.

Phew… bought another 11 months…

2011/09/11

Lili Damita in Fur from The Match King

Lili Damita from the Match King

Lili Damita from the Match King

Here’s another from last week’s Flickr stream-of-the-week. A rarer gem, the fur from the 1932 film The Match King. I included it in an “omnibus” update, because it was really the only decent fur in the film, but quite the decent fur nonetheless.

“Big updates” may be a little further apart than usual. Big season for new video games, will be wasting time elsewhere in the coming months.

2011/09/04

The Manton Crystal Fox

Barbara Stanwyck - The Mad Miss Manton, 1938

Barbara Stanwyck - The Mad Miss Manton, 1938

Sure, you’ve seen it before, but it’s a really nice shot of one of the most “famous” furs in silver screen history. This is the fur with top billing in a film with a very crowded marquee, perfectly deployed upon the shoulders of the lovely Miss Stanwyck.

I found this in a (very well named) set from Flickr, collected by a fetching lady with very fine taste in furs: Hollywood Fur Glamor

2011/08/21

Joan Crawford in Fur You Can’t Watch

Joan Crawford 1932

Joan Crawford - Letty Lynton - 1932

Posted a smaller version of a different shot from the same promo set in the past, but this one is worthy of its own post. Not only do we get to see the full extent of that amazing fur, it also suggests it’s possible to see it in the 1932 film Letty Lynton. Or not. Apparently it exists in some sort of legal limbo and that’s why it’s not a staple of TCM’s many Joan Crawford fests. Well, neither is Mannequin or Ice Follies of 1939 anymore, but they have less of an excuse for those.

I call on lawyers around the world to free this film, because I really want to see Joan in that fur.

In more sad news, it appears Shanghai Lily is no longer on Flickr. I’ve always wondered about the likely tenuous position of these “aggregators,” especially since there’s obvious IP issues with a lot of what they’re posting. Reason it’s probably only a matter of time for many of them. Of course, I’m relying on them for content on this blog, so, by extension, I’m pretty dumb too.

2011/08/07

Ice Follies of 1938 Poster with Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford Ice star - 1939

Joan Crawford in Painted White Fox Fur

I’ve mentioned Ice Follies of 1939 before, and here’s the poster. Fortunately there’s only a little artistic license, as the outfit in the poster is actually in the film. If anything, the artist may have been a little generous to those white fox cuffs, rendering them a big larger and fuller than the actual on-screen version. I’m certainly not going to complain about that sort of artistic licence. Had I any talent with brush or pen, I might be quite guilty of the same.

2011/06/26

Furs on Film – This is the Night

Back this week with an actual update, one I’ve been sitting on for a while now. Another entry from the early 30’s, this one pulls out the big gun right up front, but doesn’t completely fizzle later. It also boasts two prominent female roles where one is not objectionable to look at. That’s a sad rarity for films from this period.

This is the Night – The Film

I’ve read two different summaries of the plot of this film and am still not entirely sure how all the characters fit together. One thing is certain, there’s marriages, both legitimate and sham, and cheating on said marriages. There’s a lady pretending to be an actress playing someone’s fake wife, and a man named Bunny. That later fact does not make reading plot summaries any easier. Because, seriously, there’s only one reason someone with a Y chromosome should legitimately be called Bunny, and it’s generally only a temporary state, and he better be good at it.

The is the Night – The Furs

Okay, so our designed fur-wearers in this complex little relationship comedy may at least be named. They are Thelma Todd as “Claire” and Lily Damita as “Germaine.” Lily is memorable from one of the other 3 films she appeared in during 1932: The Match King. She does not fare as well in this film, though.

As alluded to in the opening, This is the Night hits the ground running with one very short exception. This very quick shot happens just before the arrival of Claire, part of a set of shots that build to her appearance.

Appear, Claire does, stepping from the limo in this marvelous white fox trimmed coat.

The coat’s collar and cuffs are the appropriate size, namely the sort that makes it hard to tell there’s parts that aren’t fur.

In the opener, Thelma Todd’s character suffers the 1932 version of the “wardrobe malfunction,” where she looses her skirt before the crowd that gathered to watch her arrival. The results were a little more demure, as one might expect from the period. She lost a skirt but still had a slip. For those wondering, seeing a ladies slip at that time was rather “scandalous”. What can I say… they didn’t have the Internet then.

Fortunately for us, that means an extended limo ride back home where Claire chats with… Bunny. Yep, the thing on the left, that’s “Bunny.”

The combination of the arrival and the return provide three and a half mintues to enjoy this lovely white fox trimmed coat.

Say what you will about spread of modern 3D films (fine by me), back in 1932, single color sequences were the super high tech gimmick of the day. We do get a brief look at the white fox as more white than super light blue as Claire returns home.

The white fox is the best thing in the film, but not the only thing. Later Thelma Todd appears in more fur trim. This time it appears to be lynx.

The wider shot gives us a better idea of the extent of the trim.

I’m more partial to this close-up, of course.

As you can see, Lily Damita shares some fur in this scene, sadly one that pales in comparison to Themla’s lynx fur trim.

Lily doesn’t fare much better later, as my old nemesis returns: ugly-silver-fox-stole-with-bits-still-attached. It’s the poison pill of 30’s fur fashion.

Finally, near the end, Lily finally gets a nice looking fur, sadly all she does his hold it over her forearm.

As you may hopefully infer, that is a large fox collar, and it’s part of a cape or coat that Lily mostly keeps firmly folded over her arm for the entire scene.

One, admittedly enjoyable, exception is near the end of the scene where she’s hugging it to her body, making for this oddly compelling close-up shot.

Honestly, you can probably give up after the white fox goes away, but the remainder of the film isn’t a complete wasteland. Unlike The Awful Truth, there’s more fur here, and substantial fur in a couple cases. Granted, Irene Dunne’s white fox coat could easily carry the entire film. Themla Todd’s white fox fur trim, though very nice, can’t. I would have liked to have gotten one nice close-up shot of Miss Todd’s face wreathed in white fox, but that’s the one fur the director of photography chose not to display in close up.

Fur Runtime: approx 10 minutes
Film Runtime: 80 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 10%

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1932 film This is the Night

2011/06/12

More Awful White Fox

Irene Dunne, ''The Awful Truth'' 1937- publicity still

Irene Dunne, ''The Awful Truth'' 1937

It’s clever title week! Sometimes relevancy has to take one for the team.

That being said, this is quite the nice still shot of that most “well known” of furs from 1937’s The Awful Truth. Displays excellent highlights on Miss Dunne’s face and the fur.

2011/06/05

Furs on Film – I’ll Take Romance

Hey, I should post one of these “review” things… Admittedly the allure of just tossing out something I find on Flickr each week is pretty strong, but this is what I’m “supposed” to be doing, after all. This entry is from the late 30’s, that most special of times, and this film is another fine example of why.

I’ll Take Romance – The Film

This film is based around the romance of kidnapping. Just one of the many felonies made attractive by Hollywood’s lighthearted romantic comedies over the years. Fonts of juvenile delinquency worse than comic books, they are. Elsa Terry (Grace Moore), budding opera singer, is contracted to do a show in Buenos Aires, but isn’t going thanks to a better offer in Paris. James Guthrie (Melvyn Douglas), responsible for getting her to the Buenos Aires show, meets and ends up romancing her, but she still refuses to go. Elsa enjoys his company and, forewarned, plays along when Guthrie puts her on the “wrong” ship. That’s only the fake kidnapping in the film, there’s more real ones later. Lighthearted-romantic-comedy-immunity applies, though, and everyone lives happily ever after, instead of, you know, in a supermax facility.

I’ll Take Romance – The Furs

More Broadway divas in fur here, as actual-Broadway-turned-Hollywood star Grace Moore does almost all of the fur wearing, and all of it you’d want to see. Grace’s character has an “aunt,” you see, the kind scraped up from the leftovers of Marie Dressler’s fat and wrinkles (Helen Westley), who disgraces a silver fox fur for a mercifully brief few seconds early in the film.

Elsa’s first fur is not only refreshingly unique, but given quite a bit of screen time.

The silver fox fur trim on this dress is thick and heavy, just the way I like it.

One might say the 80’s big shoulder craze had nothing on this.

How you really boost your on-screen fur time? Easy, if you’re a musical, you do a number.

Elsa sings wearing the silver fox, accumulating an impressive seven minutes and some change in the big fur trimmed dress.

This next one is kind of tricky, because, while it suggests that it is pretty impressive, the age old quandary of black fox at night rears its… well, not exactly ugly… mostly just “hard to make out” head.

Most of the time she’s wearing this it’s in the dark backseat of a cab or on the equally dark deck of the ship. However, very briefly, she enters her stateroom and we get a better idea how nice it is.

Sadly this is a very short scene, but it does look rather nice for these few seconds we can actually make it out.

To the marquee fur, a white fox cape, as usual. Also a pretty good example of why white fox should always be your “go-to” choice for evening fur filming. Because… you can see it.

And this one is, like most from this period, rather hard to miss.

Melvyn’s getting himself a handful. Easy there, cowboy.

This is a good sequence, giving up almost 3 minutes of white fox goodness. Sadly, Melvyn’s also in frame the entire time.

The film doesn’t stop there, providing this shorter tidbit on the dock where Grace appears in a coat with a large fur collar.

This is fairly short, and while a very nice collar, it’s not a particular loss that we don’t see it for very long.

To cover absolutely everything, there is another sequence near the end where Grace wears a different fur trimmed dress, but there’s not much fur and it’s very hard to see. Hard to film black fur even in the daytime. Even without this sequence the ratio clocks in at an impressive 16%, so there’s no reason to pad the totals with it. The white fox cape is virtually definitive of the period, and makes the film worth a look all by itself.

Fur Runtime: approx 14 minutes
Film Runtime: 85 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 16%

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1937 film I’ll Take Romance

2011/05/08

Claudette Colbert in Fur – “The Gilded Lily” 1935

Claudette Colbert in 'The Gilded Lily' 1935

While Claudette Colbert is not a particular favorite of mine from the period (she’s not even my favorite Colbert), she does look rather nice in this exemplary white fox fur cape from 1935. I haven’t seen The Gilded Lily, but it is going on the “remember to record” list, that’s for sure. Sadly I don’t even remember ever seeing it in TCM’s listings lo these many years, so my hopes aren’t particularly very high in that regard. I’ll be happy enough if they get back to showing Mannequin (the 1937 version with more and better fur), Breakfast for Two, and Pittsburgh. Oh, and the cinematic tour de force that is Ice Follies of 1939.

2011/05/01

Furs on Film – Rockabye

Well, I was going to post this last week, but it kind of sucks to roll out of bed and suddenly discover the workflow you’ve used for three years now suddenly fails. Ah, codec drama! I have no idea what screwed it up, and the prospect of figuring it out is daunting, so I did a lazy workaround that involves moving mountains of data on an external hard drive, and… What, you don’t care? Right, right…

Then how ’bout one of the single biggest fox collars committed to the screen?

Rockabye – The Film

This early 30’s Constance Bennett flick, she plays Judy Carroll, a Broadway actress who testifies for her former boyfriend, an embezzler. While I’m not sure about the particular legal statute involved here (probably because they made it up), doing so ends up costing her custody of an orphan she had planed to adopt. She drowns her sorrows with a trip to Europe with, (le sigh) her old, rotund, alcoholic mother, and meets a playwright with an eerily autobiographical play called, wait for it: Rockabye. Judy theoretically falls in love with him and wants to take the play back to Broadway, but, in a twist that may not have been quite so cliché in 1932, ends up with her loving manager instead.

Rockabye – The Furs

As famous Broadway actress Judy Caroll, Constance Bennett does most of the fur wearing, and almost all of the fur wearing you’d particularly want to see. For the sake of accuracy, if not the level of bile in my stomach, I should mention Judy’s mother also wears fur. She’s played Jobyna Howland, a woman every bit as young, thin, and attractive as Marie Dressler. Okay, that’s a little unfair to Jobyna, she’s maybe 2% more attractive.

How do you get your dirty, embezzling, ex-boyfriend acquitted? You go to court and testify in this:

He’d be in the clear if I was on the jury.

Anyone who dated a woman with this kind of fashion sense is a-okay in my book.

Not sure how else to put this, but: I really, really like this collar.

I realize this isn’t exactly the insightful level of commentary you’ve come to expect from me, but, honestly, I’m a little distracted.

Now, the collar is pretty much grade-A, but let’s not forget what’s been in her lap the whole time. As she leaves the stand, she helpfully hefts that big barrel muff so we get good look at it.

The cherry on top of this is that not only is the quality amazing, but it’s not merely a fleeting glance. The courtroom sequence provides over 3 minutes of footage alone.

It’s followed by about 2 more, most with this shot as she’s riding home from the courtroom. Now, if I were to find fault with any of this, it’s that she spends the entire time in the backseat doing absolutely nothing with that cigarette holder in her hand.

She returns home where we meet her soon to be ex-orphan for a little heart-string tugging. This shot illustrates a point I made in an earlier update. The better the collar, the less of the head you can see from the back (or the side, for that matter).

There’s other fur in the film? Oh, right, yes, there is. Not that I think it matters at this point. There’s this probably mink item that I’ll call a wrap since “bib,” while seemingly more accurate, doesn’t sound all that fashionable.

For a film that starts out so spectacularly, it briefly descends into the depths of mediocrity with Constance Bennett in this most basic of full length mink coats. This fur is given all the screen time it deserves, which is: not much at all.

Finally, in what would have been a fur with a pretty decent collar in any other film but just ends up being an afterthought here, we see Virginia Hammond in this silver fox trimmed wrap.

It is a very nice, full-body trim, one that I might ordinarily lavish a bit more attention upon, but, really, you can just scroll up and call it even.

While the full Fur Ratio is 19%, and that’s pretty darn impressive, the only fur that really matters is actually on screen for a total of five and a half minutes. That makes the “Awesome Fur Ratio” about 6%, but that’s still not shabby. That five and a half minutes is filled with closeups that lavish the appropriate amount of attention on Constance and that amazing outfit.

Fur Runtime: approx 14 minutes
Film Runtime: 75 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 19%

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1932 film Rockabye