Marilyn in the best thing you can get out of the 1950s… a large fox stole. This is from 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a film with a least one decent fox in it. I have a really old, very bad set of captures from it, stuff that I won’t post on here. For more 50s stole and wraps, check out Let’s Do It Again, Silk Stockings, and Singing in the Rain.
I’d like to say this isn’t a “fall back” update, but it is. I think I’ll have to readjust my standards if I’m going to have a steadier stream of updates. Or the next decades’ Thirties-esque renaissance of enormous fur fashions needs to get here sooner. (You heard it here first… I hope.)
Singing in the Rain – The Film
Another decade hopping entry, this one from 1952 set in 1927 when silent films were being replaced by those state-of-the-art “talkies.” Someday they’ll remake this film only it’ll be about 3D. Silent film couple Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont are America’s current set of sweethearts on screen, but have a slightly more complex relationship off screen. Lina’s voice isn’t quite up to the difficult task of “being heard” and jeopardizes their first major talkie. Don has a chance meeting with Kathy Selden (Debby Reynolds) who, in a completely unexpected twist, is a enormously talented and endearing woman with whom he falls deeply in love. Despite Lina’s best efforts, they end up living happily ever after.
Singing in the Rain – The Furs
Jean Hagen is Lina Lamont in the film, and, as a successful silent film star, wears (almost) all the furs. The roll earned her a Best Supporting Actress nod.
The film starts with the premier of Don and Lina’s latest film, The Royal Rascal, with a staple of film-making from the period: the red carpet arrival sequence. There’s a couple vaguely interesting pieces on display here.
This chinchilla that is is quickly removed to the dragging position. Reminds me of bit from Get Smart where Max asks a movie star why she has 2 minks, and she responds to the effect of “one for wearing, one for dragging.”
Enter Lina in this coat with a very large white fox collar. Lina spends most of the opening silent, the reason for which becomes obvious towards the end.
Close up of the collar, the white fox very nicely frames Jean Hagen’s ultra-blonde locks. The entire outfit is a 50’s musical version of the classic flapper look. It gets points for the inclusion of white fox, and quickly loses them for the want of a very long cigarette holder.
Now we have a brief detour through a single bit in the film, a musical number that features a fashion show. This is another trope that started in the 30’s and sort of came back in the 50’s with musicals, like… this one. Sadly, most of the furs (or attempts at simulating them) aren’t all that great, like:
Not really trying:
BINGO. Yes, the best thing in the film, visible for but a few brief seconds as the lines “If you must wear fox to the opera, dame fashion says: Dye it!” Could agree more, my friend, couldn’t agree more.
Lina wears this black fox stole while attempting to get vocal coaching. Like our next entry, it’s the kind that has a few too many extra bits for my liking.
Lina heeds the films advice, though she chooses a slightly less saturated pink for her final fur of the film. She wears this pink fox fur stole whilst in contact negotiations/blackmail with the studio boss.
Closer angle, providing a good shot not only of the fur, but Lina’s highly color coordinated pink gloves.
So, we’ve got some variety and a couple decent foxes as anchors. While I would have preferred the pink fox wrap from the fashion sequence have been all fox (same for the white fox in the opener), at least it got the color right. If there’s no danger of inducing blindness, then there’s not enough dye for me. The ratio is 8%, because Lina spends a good few minutes in both the white fox and the pink fox.
Fur Runtime: approx 8 minutes
Film Runtime: 103 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 8%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1952 film Singing in the Rain.
Warning, editorial content: Seriously, WTF?
A change of pace this week with a long overdue update to the Fur Stars gallery, focusing on the third leg of the 30’s triumvirate of most-famous fur wearers: Barbara Stanwyck. One could easily focus on Dietrich, Garbo, and Stanwyck alone and cover some of the decade’s most fur rich films.
Instead of rehashing the ground covered so far in terms of Stanwyck’s more well known films, I put together a set that focuses on her “minor” roles, at least in terms of how much fur appears in the films in question. Most of these hail from the early 30’s, where Hollywood hadn’t quite reached the pinnacle of extravagance in fur fashion that would lead to films like Stanwyck’s own The Mad Miss Manton, but the seeds were quite clearly on display.
Ladies of Leisure – 1930
We start with one more notable for a co-star’s fur than her own, the 1930 effort Ladies of Leisure, where Barbara stars as Kay Arnold, a “lady of leisure,” who gets mixed up in a romance with an earnest young painter who apparently has issues finding legitimate figure models for his work.
Here Barbara wears a very short hair fur while Marie Prevost’s big white fox trim outshines it entirely.
In fact, we’ll divert from course long enough to present Marie’s white fox trim in full.
Back on point, we find Barbara contemplating her relationship issues in… well, I’m honestly not sure what this is, and it may not even be fur, but here it is, debate amongst yourselves.
Illicit – 1931
A film in which Barbara plays a woman who doesn’t believe in marriage and is “living in sin” with her boyfriend until social pressure forces them to marry. It’s 1931, go with it… Oddly the IMDb’s cover for the film shows Miss Stanwyck wearing a rather nice white fox trimmed cape, but unless I blacked out while watching, she never actually wears it in the film.
The closest we get is another actress in this white fox trimmed ermine cloak, opposite Miss Stanwyck, who again is upstaged by someone-else’s fur.
She does wear better fur in this film, this chinchilla trimmed ermine cape. I say ‘better’ in a very relative sense of course. All chinchilla would have been a far better choice. Fortunately the early 30’s flirtation with ermine didn’t last very long.
Ten Cents A Dance – 1931
Playing yet another woman with some negotiable if not necessarily easy virtue, Barbara Stanwyck stars as Barbara O’Neill, a dance hall girl who romances the rich patrons while really in love with a far more sympathetic character.
If movies can teach young women anything, it’s that you don’t romance the rich without getting some furs out of it, at least if you’re living in the 1930’s. (Disclaimer: May want to adjust those expectations should you not be living in the 1930s.) Here the fur is a black fox trimmed affair, not particularly compelling, but somewhat agreeable.
Night Nurse – 1931
Paying attention? They cranked ’em out fast back then. In our final 1931 entry, Barbara stars as Lora Hart, a… night nurse. It must have been simpler back then, you could just give something the most obvious name possible and go with it. Here Stanwyck is opposite a pre-fame Clark Gable trying to prevent a couple kids from being starved to death.
This is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fur, and a very old cap, as the quality will suggest. But the private night nurse gig apparently pays well enough for a decent fox collar on her coat.
Forbidden – 1932
Miss Stanwyck plays a slightly more respectable librarian named Lulu here, which would make her “Lulu the Librarian.” Lulu the Librarian falls in love with Bob the District Attorney Who Is Already Married and thus we arrive at the title of the film.
Lulu meets Bob on a cruise to Havana where she’s spent her last dime at galmming up a bit, this includes a very large, full fox collared coat. Lulu’s fashion sense is unquestionable.
Sadly it’s the only fur in the film, but it is lavishly photographed, and we are provided with numerous closeups of Miss Stanwyck’s face framed by the thick white fox fur.
Shopworn – 1932
The second 1932 film, Shopworn, is a completely different film from Forbidden but it seems the wardrobe department didn’t get the memo and simply gave her the same white fox collared coat as she wore in Forbidden.
Not that I mind, it’s a very nice white fox collar, though in this film it’s appearance is rather brief and not well filmed at all.
Ladies They Talk About – 1935
This is one that almost made it to individual induction status. It’s got 2 long sequences with fox furs and one little bit in the middle. In it, Stanwyck is in classic bad girl form as Nan Taylor, who starts off in a gang of bank robbers. She ends up going to prison thanks in part to a Pastor Foster who remembers her from their childhood and is trying to help her. Once she is released, she sets about getting revenge on the Pastor.
Nan robs banks in style, wearing this thick red fox trimmed dress.
Wondering how all that stuff about the studio’s enforcing a “look” on their stars squares with a platinum blonde Barbara Stanwyck in 1935? It’s a wig, that’s how.
Nan exits prison in style as well, already wrapped up in a fox stole.
Nan sets out to even the score with the pastor in this rather pedestrian silver fox stole; one in the style that I’ve always disliked. It’s filmed well enough, though, and we get some wonderful close ups of Stanwyck wearing expressions that would melt glaciers.
This is how you express “I am going to violently murder you” without a single word:
Golden Boy – 1939
Not every late 30’s film was as leaden with epic fox coats as I would like. Here we find Barbara playing Lorna Moon, who is the kind-of-a-hooker with a heart-of-gold to young boxer Joe Bonaparte, played by William Holden in his first major film role.
Boxing films always seem to work in some shot of a woman in furs, not sure why that is, but it happens, a lot. They don’t work in a lot of fur, though, and this is the perfect example, where Lorna ends up in a fox fur collared coat towards the end. At this point she’s discovered her heart-of-gold-ness.
Extra shot, because it’s a nice collar and there are good close ups that make fine use of Barbara’s face framed by it.
Titanic – 1953
There’s a ship, it hits an iceberg, it sinks. Questions?
On-board the ship, embroiled in Family Drama (with a capital ‘F’ and ‘D’), is Barbara Stanwyck. She plays Julia Sturges, a woman at odds with her husband over many things, mainly the course their son will take in life. While this issue will eventually be rendered moot via iceberg, she wears this white fox trimmed coat for quite a bit while arguing about it.
The white fox collar and cuffs are oddly out of place both in the 1950’s and, I’d guess, in 1912 when the event actually happened. Another one of those happy continuity errors that I love.
And the Rest…
Obviously these films do not represent Miss Stanwyck’s finest fur fashions on film. For those check out the individual inductions of the following:
Eventually TCM will show Breakfast for Two again, and that one will receive the attention it so richly deserves.
Full Gallery : Barbara Stanwyck in Fur – The Minor Films
If pressed, I would have to go with Mortica Addams over Lilly Munster. That being said, in their prime, I’d give the advantage to Yvonne De Carlo over Carolyn Jones. Yvonne also had the more distinguished film career leading up to what would probably become her most iconic role. That includes this outing from the 1950s, where the decade’s affection for the fox fur stole is on direct display. Oh, and Zsa Zsa Gabor is wearing most of them, too.
Death of a Scoundrel – The Film
The film is about Clementi Sabourin (a very un-Falcon-like George Sanders), an all around jerk who, since this is thinly disguised 50’s morality play, gets his comeuppance. It doesn’t even pretend to hide that fact, since the film’s action is framed by his secretary/accomplice / quasi-love interest Bridget Kelly (De Carlo) recounting the tale of his life to police as he winds up dead in the first three minutes. Along the way, Clementi meets, romances, and ruins a variety of well dressed ladies.
Death of a Scoundrel – The Furs
Clementi’s exploits in greed and eventual self destruction move quickly from the blue collar to the white collar, providing ample opportunity for the film’s costumers to break out classic 50’s stoles and wraps of all varieties. Interestingly, there’s not a single fur coat in the entire film.
The film’s furs are book-ended thanks to the framing device, which finds Bridget arriving to Clementi’s house in this mink stole.
The story of the titular scoundrel’s exploits leads to his first big stock market play, with Zsa Zsa Gabor the target. She’s starting out conservatively, in a mink wrap as she watches the stocks.
Fortunately that doesn’t last long. She’s initially successful thanks to the advice of Clementi, and brings him in, wearing the film’s first fox stole here at the office.
Zsa Zsa pops in for a phone call later, in this black of collar.
Clementi wouldn’t be much of a film worthy scoundrel if he had only one victim. No, he’s got lots of stuff in motion, including helping a nice lady with a rich husband towards a divorce. They dine together as she wears this fur stole.
Bridget plays “the other woman” in this other mink stole.
She ‘catches’ them and we get both in a wide shot briefly.
Zsa Zsa’s time in the film is pretty much over, but she goes out with what is probably the best fur in the entire film, this very thick black and white fox wrap.
It is, sadly, seen only briefly as she walks in and promptly removes it. A fine little gem, though.
Off to a new attempted conquest, Clementi attempts to “woo” the star of a play he helped produce. She arrives to the “party” in this white fox wrap.
This one is also sadly pretty quick, as it’s removed and only picked up as she exits, impervious to woo.
One to very much hold a grudge, Clementi orders her fired, in this longer scene in which Miss De Carlo is allowed a much better wrap, this one in black fox.
Another film short on close ups, this is the best we get of Yvonne and her black fox stole.
Fox stole/wrap #5 is also on Yvonne, towards the end of the film as Clementi is refused service at a restaurant pretty much for being a jerk.
It’s also brief and lacking in close ups, sadly.
We do get some nice clear shots of Yvonne De Carlo in the mink wrap in which she entered the film, as she leaves Clementi in a moralizing haze that practically stamps “MESSAGE” on her forehead as she speaks.
There’s 5 fox stoles or wraps in the film total, plus a collar and the minks, for those that appreciate that sort of thing. Certainly exemplary of the kind of fox fur you get in 50’s films in general and notable because there was so much of it. Granted, most of them deserved a lot more screen time than they received. The 50’s fascination with the fox stole seems like a hangover from the amazing creations of the 30’s.
Fur Runtime: approx 11 minutes
Film Runtime: 119 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 9%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1956 Film Death of a Scoundrel
A shortish entry today. If you were disappointed that Cyd Charisse’s character from Silk Stockings never got to wear furs, well, Cyd was a bit more fortunate in other roles. That includes this entry from 1958, Party Girl.
Party Girl – The Film
Party Girl is a late 50’s crime film about a showgirl, Cyd, becoming involved with a mob lawyer played by Robert Taylor after meeting him at a… party! Yes, they subtly worked it into the very title of the film. I don’t really have much else to say about it because that first sentence is pretty much all you need to know. Girl meets boy, boy is mobbed-up lawyer, boy regrets his actions via nagging of girl, mob politely suggests boy not go by threatening to throw acid on girls face, …, everyone lives happily ever after.
Party Girl – The Furs
Cyd plays Vicki Gaye, one of a group of showgirls that is cordially invited to a mob party. Gaye is a successful enough showgirl that she’s got a couple furs in the closet.
She’s not the only one. As the girls arrive, there’s a variety of furs on display.
Sadly the best of them, this fox, isn’t on Cyd’s character.
Vicki wears this silver fox trimmed mink coat. The trim is nice and full, and is generally shot in such a way as to make the remainder of the coat unnoticeable.
At the party she meets Tommy Farrell, mob lawyer extraordinaire, who eventually offers to escort her home, all chivalrous like. On the bad timing front, they arrive to find her roomie has committed suicide, and end up at the police station, where Tommy’s lawyer powers come in handy.
They eventually end up in a tender moment where she falls asleep on his couch and he covers her up with the silver fox trimmed coat.
Later Vicki finds out about his mob lawyer-ness and starts the nagging, confronting him his office in this fox trimmed coat.
After witnessing him in action at at trail where he successfully defends a mob goon, she ratchets up the nagging about his vocation at a bar afterward, fortunately still wearing the coat. Shot in closeup, the fur rather nicely accents Cyd’s face.
The silver fox makes one final appearance later in the film as they visit the bridge where Tommy was partially crippled as a kid. Real mood-setter, I agree.
Party Girl is… the update I posted because I didn’t finish editing the clip of Times Square Lady in time. At best, serviceable. It doesn’t shine in runtime either, really. Still, the close ups of Cyd Charisse in her two fox coats are very agreeable.
Fur Runtime: approx 7 minutes
Film Runtime: 99 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 7%
The full gallery is here: Fur Fashions of the 1958 film Party Girl.
The 1950s weren’t entirely a wasteland of “elegant and tasteful” (read: boring) mink. There were exceptions, usually in the form of stoles, and this next update is the poster child of 1950’s fox stoles. It also contains my main weakness… pink dyed fox. Silk Stockings is, like fox stoles, something the 50’s presented a lot of: musical remakes of “old” films. In this case the old film was 1939’s Ninotchka. Ninotchka is one of Greta Garbo’s last films, and committed the cardinal sin of presenting her as a Russian who wore no fur at all. Silk Stockings doesn’t quite make up for this, but it’s a solid film nonetheless.
Silk Stockings – The Film
The plot of the film follows the main beats of Ninotchka, but the excuses for the characters being where they are have been tweaked a bit, mostly because this is one of those musicals that provide the thinnest excuse for people to sing. Fred Astaire plays a film producer who snags a Russian composer to write music for his films. The Kremlin sends agents to get him back, but they are corruped by “decadent” western ways. They then send Ninotchka Yoschenko, a true fan of Communism, to bring them all back, proving to be a tougher nut to crack. Since this is 50’s musical, though, said nut is cracked and everyone lives happily ever after in the decadent western paradise.
Silk Stockings – The Furs
Perhaps in homage to the original, Agent Yoschenko is, sadly, not clad in any decadent western fur coats. These are left to the character of Peggy Dayton (Janis Paige), who is the star of producer Steve Canfield’s (Fred Astaire) film. Given the choice, I would have preferred Cyd Charisse be the one swathed in big fox stoles, but, given a real choice, I would have picked Greta Garbo over either of them.
Peggy Dayton arrives, to the film, and the plot, in a big way. It’s a 50’s musical, so entrances are important, and this one is done with a white fox stole and muff combo.
The shot is pretty much wide throughout, sadly. I could have used a closer view of this outfit.
Later, Miss Dayton and Agent Yoshenko briefly meet up, with their contrasting styles on clear display.
Cyd departs, leaving us with an extended conversation between Canfield and Dayton, with Janis Paige vamping around in this wonderful dyed fox stole.
The film’s insistence on wide shots is somewhat frustrating. Though I’m ordinarily no fan, I would have liked the opportunity to direct the “pan-and-scan” cut of the film. Granted, people might wonder where Fred Astaire went to after a while…
Widescreen does have its uses, as this glamor pose on the couch, wrapped in thick dyed fox, does Miss Paige well.
Finally we come to that strange, somewhat rarity… the fur clad musical number. This one features my fashionable Achilles heel… pink dyed fox. I love pink fox, let me just say that directly. I think most fox is a little more “in your face” from a fashion perspective, and brightly dyed versions play that up nicely.
In this musical number, Peggy is trying to “convince” the Russian composer to work for Steve Canfield.
I would have signed up pretty quickly, but it’s a long musical number so it takes some time.
Sadly the big pink fox trim doesn’t hang around the whole time, but in taking it off, the film actually does something akin to a closeup, which is impressive, considering.
Overall this is a great example of 50’s fox stoles, and an even better example of great dyed fox. Still, it suffers for its legacy, as throughout my thoughts drifted first to thinking of Cyd Charisse in those fox stoles, then, to the great one herself, Greta Garbo, who would have filled them out gloriously. Well, Garbo filled out any fur gloriously, so that’s not really saying much, I know. Apologies to Janis Paige, of course, but really, can’t think of many women who would weather a Garbo comparison.
Despite having almost 7 minutes of fur, the ratio is pretty slim because this is (as I believe I’ve pointed out before) a 50’s musical and they were generally pushing the duce / duce-and-a-half mark.
Fur Runtime: approx 7 minutes
Film Runtime: 117 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 5%
The full gallery is here: Fur Fashions of the 1957 film Silk Stockings.