Posts tagged ‘cigarette holder’

2011/08/14

Furs on Film – Funny Lady

More color. 70’s color! 70’s color about the 20’s and 30’s! The 70’s don’t get enough credit for some nice furs, because, well, it’s hard to see anything in the shadow of the blinding brilliance of the 80’s. Most period pieces are as much a product of the time in which they are produced, so lucky for us there was no problem with big furs in the 70’s.

Funny Lady – The Film

Funny Lady (1975) is a sequel to the film Funny Girl (1968), both biographical of Fanny Brice, an early success in stage, radio, and film. Staring Barbara Streisand, Funny Girl was one of her first big hits. For what it’s worth, there’s s bit of fur in Funny Girl, but it’s from the 60’s about the Teens and 20’s, so it’s yawn-worthy. Funny Lady deals with Brice’s later life in the 30’s (yeah!), and her marriage to showman Billy Rose (James Caan).

Funny Lady – The Furs

As Brice, the subject of this two-hour plus biopic, Streisand does most, but not quite all, the fur wearing. Brice is depicted as the classic Hollywood star from the period, and that includes a lot of fur. One of the reason I’m rather fond of that period, indeed.

The opening scenes are set earlier, in the late 20’s and the costume designer (sadly) went for a bit of realism. Brice wears some dark, short-haired furs, such as this wrap.

Followed by this, another bit of brown fur trimming a fabric top. The horizontal pelt work is mildly interesting. This scene also features Miss Brice smoking in fur, using a short cigarette holder.

Finally, someone remembers they were designing costumes in the 70’s. Here’s a nice white fox stole, with Fanny’s somewhat “signature” cigarette holder. Good shot of the white fox here, very high on the shoulder.

Streisand spends most of this lengthy sequence seated, but there is a short shot of her changing seats where we see more of the white fox stole.

The cinematographer rightly keeps Streisand in frame most of the time, and most of the time she’s smoking with that cigarette holder.

“Most” of the time. Probably one of the few on the planet who’d notice this, I admit, but she “mysteriously” looses the holder at the very end of the scene. Here she is smoking without it right before leaving. This will not go down as one of the great goofs of cinematic history. I’ll tell you the greatest goof: the character Helen Shirley wears two different full length fox coats at the end of Christmas Vacation, one outside, one inside.

On to the marquee fur. One that’s hard to describe, and I like it when that happens. Show’s some creativity on the part of the costume designers. This appears to be a kind of wrap / collar made from fox tails with a more easy-to-describe matching fox muff.

Like the white fox stole, this item also receives the attention it deserves in this long sequence between Streisand and Caan. It includes a few nice closeups.

And we see it from a few angles, always a nice bonus.

It also tickles my preference for colors that don’t occur in nature. This looks like a nice, dark, richly saturated plum dyed fox.

Streisand doesn’t do all the heavy lifting in the film, though if you blink, you’ll miss the other stuff. Well, not quite, but certainly nothing major. This lady in an external shot with the black fox trim probably isn’t even visible if you’re not seeing the film in its original aspect ratio.

Up next is the part of the film that almost becomes “padding.” It’s a black fox stole, though, a perfectly nice one, in fact. Sadly it’s worn in a very “moodily” lit sequence over a black dress (which, fashionably speaking, is a great match). So it’s really hard to see a lot of the time.

Not all the time, of course, and this shot at the mirror where Fanny lights up for another smoke while wearing the stole is quite clear. It moves from this to a full musical number on a dimly lit stage that, again, doesn’t do the stole much justice.

Another non-Streisand fur, a nice one, but a quick one. This blue fox stole needed a better, longer shot.

It also needs to be in a shot that doesn’t remind me that karakul is actually considered a “fur.” I’d say it’s a fur I actually “hate” but I don’t consider it a fur, just some sick joke by someone who wanted to associate one of the ugliest things you can wear with one of the most beautiful.

We do end on a better note, though this one is quite literally a “blink and you’ll miss it” fur. Brice is leaving her radio show, pulling on this really full silver fox stroller coat. It’s around for a couple seconds in a hallway then a couple more in a very wide shot outside the studio.

20 minutes of fur sounds impressive, but the move is over 2 hours long, so the ratio clocks in at 15%. According to the Wikipedia article, they had to cut to get to that length. Hope there weren’t any more great furs that ended up on the cutting room floor. A solid entry, and worthy addition to any library. Fanny’s smoking habit and affection for holders will be polarizing for some, I suppose, but obviously I’m in the ‘pro’ camp on that one. Actually, if I had to nitpick, I’d say the holder was a little too short.

Fur Runtime: approx 20 minutes
Film Runtime: 136 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 15%

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1975 film Funny Lady

2011/03/20

Furs on Film – Snapshot

How bout that Ozploitation flick? This one is fun for a few reasons (not to actually watch, mind you). It’s one of the first I’ve posted with a unique combination of multiple release titles and a severed pig’s head. TCM showed it as Snapshot, as that was the name it was released under in its country of origin, Australia. It can also be found under the title One More Minute (as in the IMDb), and also as The Day Before Halloween or The Night After Halloween, both a transparent attempt to capitalize on the recent success of Carpenter’s film in the states at the time.

Should note the quality of the caps is a little lower than I’d like. Amazingly, the version TCM showed was a 16:9 ‘zoom’ of a 4:3 pan-and-scan. Basically, you’re looking at the least amount of actual film possible, like seeing a movie through a keyhole.

Snapshot – The Film

Sigrid Thornton stars as Angela, a hairdresser who becomes friends with Madeline, an actress played by Chantal Contouri. Madeline convinces Angela to drop the hairdresser gig and become a model. On a shoot for a cologne ad we get to see both of Angela’s talents (this one is rated R, kids). Angela becomes the next big thing in Australian modeling, but she has some baggage with an ex boyfriend who follows her around in an ice cream truck and may or may not be trying to kill her. The ex isn’t the only suspect, and it wouldn’t be a “thriller” if he was. Madeline ends up liking Angela… a lot, (a lot, a lot), further mixing things up. Apparently there’s a twisty sort of ending, but I can’t be sure since Chantal wasn’t wearing any furs there so I wasn’t paying attention.

Snapshot – The Furs

Chantal Contouri as the actress / model who propels Angela into what passes for for the film’s plot also wears all the fur in the film. Not only that, but at least half time she’s wearing those furs she’s smoking as well.

Madeline and Angela meet at the hairdressers. Madeline enters in this so very 70’s horizontally striped red fox jacket.

Red fox was particularly popular in the 70’s it seems. Not my favorite natural shade (I prefer far more unnatural dyed shades of red), but Madeline has a couple in her fur wardrobe.

At the shoot, just before Angela and her chest meet the celluloid, Madeline gives her a little pep talk, like the concerned, supportive friend she is. This is her other major fur in the film, though again, hard to see thanks to the cut. I do enjoy the fact that she’s basically “popped the collar” here.

Here we are the club, a location with which viewers of the film will become quite familiar. The club scenes are a perfect illustration of why I take the time to edit clips in the first place, as otherwise they’d be unbearable. It’s here we find Madeline in her other red fox coat, in a long sequence that’s interrupted routinely by a horrible cabaret singer.

Smoking in her furs, Madeline watches Angela dancing in the club. The remainder of the sequence may be less-than-favorably be referred to as “filler,” but this is certainly my favorite kind.

After minutes of casual, detached smoking, Madeline intervenes when it appears Angela has met a new male friend, seriously inhibiting the rest of his evening. There may be subtext to this, but it’s totally lost on me.

Leaving the club, we see this is full length red fox coat, unlike the one from earlier in the film.

After more of the things that pass for events in this film happen, we find ourselves back at the club. Madeline finds Angela again, striding through the collected patrons in a long white mink coat with a cigarette holder perched high in her right hand. I like where Madeline is going with her fashion choices.

The cinematographer and the broadcast display issues contrive to make this more difficult than it should be, but we do get half a closeup of Madeline smoking with her cigarette holder in the white mink. This one was all too short.

If you were hoping to get a better view of the ‘pep-talk’ fur from earlier, here it is. This walk and talk gives a good chance to take in the fur, which I’ve studiously avoided naming because I’m not entirely sure what it is. Opinions are welcome.

Brief closeup of Chantal Contouri’s character framed with the large collar.

Back at the club… again, with Madeline smoking in the same fur coat, this time mostly in a background shot.

Finally we see the same fur one last time as Angela visits Madeline on the set, finding her relaxed with her fur and, yes, smoking once more. Seriously, even I have to say you should probably cut back a bit Maddy.

Yet another little obscure fur fashion gem that TCM aired, along the lines of Darktown Stutters. Granted, I doubt they were airing it because of the furs. Great examples of 70’s furs in this, and yes, I admit Madeline’s bad habit is one I enjoy viewing, from a distance, at least. Since there’s still no 70’s or 80’s nostalgia channels yet, can’t pass up the opportunity to post these when I find them. The ratio isn’t particularly great, but the quality definitely makes up for it.

Fur Runtime: approx 9 minutes
Film Runtime: 92 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 10%

Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1979 film Snapshot

2010/03/28

Furs on Film – Broadway Melody of 1936

Broadway’s been around longer than the movies, and Hollywood really liked movies about Broadway. Not quite so much today, but in the 30’s, it was “sure-fire hit” material, it seems. Or it was a really easy way to make a musical, same thing.

Broadway Melody of 1936 – The Film

Eleanor Powell’s first staring role, Broadway Melody of 1936 was a non-sequel to an early film named The Broadway Melody from 1929. In it, Eleanor plays Irene Foster, who’s looking to make it big on Broadway and auditioning for her former childhood sweetheart’s latest Broadway show. Said sweetheart, Robert Gordon (Robert Taylor), doesn’t remember her and brushes her off. He has problems of his own with columnist Bert Keeler (Jack Benny) who is running a campaign against the new musical. When Bert makes up a famous French singing sensation named Mlle. La Belle Arlette, Irene assumes her identity in order to get into the show. This is taking too long, on with the furs…

Broadway Melody of 1936 – The Furs

There are 3 people wearing furs in this film. Julie Knight, Elanor Powell, and… Sid Silvers. More on the latter momentarily.

Robert’s show is bankrolled by Lillian Brent, played by Julie Knight, here appearing a in a fur stole to kick things off.

Lillian wants to star in the show, but has given Robert 2 weeks to find a big star for the production. If he can’t, she’ll take the lead roll. Here she’s back in a very full silver fox wrap.

There’s a brief musical interlude before we return to Lillian and Robert, where the last part of their conversation is accompanied by Lillian smoking with a short cigarette holder while wearing the silver fox wrap.

Okay, so, as part of the general shenanigans with Bert Keeler’s fake French singer, he has his assistant “Snoop”, played by Sid Silvers, dress up in drag. The drag is this rather nice fox trimmed dress, sporting a big collar and cuffs. I simply couldn’t ignore it.

It should be noted that, while some men are blessed with the facial features to pull this off brilliantly, sadly Sid is not among them. I suppose it’s a credit to the Hollywood makeup department that it turned out as well as it did.

Eleanor eventually “impersonates” the fake French singer in order to get into the play, and what do successful French singers wear? Giant fox trimmed fur wraps, of course.

This beauty sports a lovely collar, and we get ample closeups of Miss Powell’s face framed with the thick fox fur.

Thankfully, this wrap is given the screen time it so richly deserves, including this perfect wider shot.

There is that pointless little strip of fabric on the back, but I suppose I can overlook it. Why they didn’t just toss on the extra couple inches worth of fox is a mystery.

The wrap here is probably a “Top 5 Fur Wraps of All Time” contender, and it’s nice there’s some other furs in the film as well. Works out to a good ratio, though if you’re going to be picky and exclude Sid’s little slice of the pie it’s more like 7%. I generally don’t count anything with a Y chromosome… unless they’re very accomplished at disguising it.

Fur Runtime: approx 10 minutes
Film Runtime: 101 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 10%

The full gallery is here: Fur Fashions of the 1935 film Broadway Melody of 1936.

2009/09/27

Furs in Film – The Dr. Phibes Films

City Heat is a movie from 80’s about 30’s, two great fur fashion decades that film great together. What about movies from the 70’s about 20’s? The films in questions would be a couple low-budget camp horror films featuring Vincent Price as a guy who really holds a grudge well.

Dr. Phibes – The Films

1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes and 1972’s sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again are rather similar films. Price plays the titular doctor, who in the first film enacts some very complex revenge on the doctors and nurse whom he blames for his wife’s failed care after a car accident 4 years previously. In the sequel he does the same thing against the people who stole his scrolls’o’resurrection and burned his house down. In both cases his ultimate goal is the return of his well-preserved dead wife, and in both cases he is assisted in his multifarious murder plots by the voiceless Vulnavia.

Dr. Phibes – The Furs

It is Vulnavia and her signature outfit that provides the lions share of the furs in the films. This outfit is a lovely black cape, blouse, boots, gloves, and a very full black fox hat. A version of this costume is seen in both the first film and the sequel. It’s not the only fur, though. Vulnavia appears once in The Abominable Dr. Phibes in the negative of her usual outfit, a white mink jacket and fur hat. Dr. Phibes Rises Again features more than just Vulnavia in furs. Fiona Lewis plays the love interest of one of the Dr’s foes and she appears in a couple of full foxes.

In The Abominable Dr. Phibes Vulnavia is played by Virginia North in what was her final film role. Miss North appeared in another film notable for fur, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The first appearance of Vulnavia in her signature hat is as chauffeur to Phibes.


Vulnavia’s other white fur outfit appears later, as she calmly assists the good Doctor in another homicide.


Virginia North had experience as a model, which served her well for this role, since she had no lines, and retained the appearance of cool detachment throughout.


Chauffeur, murder accomplice, dog walker… Vulnavia does it all, and looks great doing it. Here she wears a black cape to complement the fox hat.


The nature of the character is never explained, and theories include her being a clockwork android. One that does pause for a smoke break…


…and look directly at the camera from time to time.


Both the Doctor and Vulnavia appear to have died by the end of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, but, hey, it’s a horror movie and the antagonist always comes back for the sequel. 1972’s equally campy low-budget affair features more than just Vulnavia in fur. Here we have Fiona Lewis, as the main squeeze of the Doctor’s foe in Dr. Phibes Rises Again. Miss Lewis not only has a full fox wrap, but accents with a bit of a short cigarette holder.


While they chat, Vulnavia has returned and is up to her usual, calm, cool, and collected homicidal tricks. Her black fox hat and matching black cape/boot/glove ensemble are sadly not seen so much in the sequel.

The silver fox and black fox sequences are inter-cut allowing us to admire both at once.


Though the stylish fox hat returned, the head supporting it did not. If you’re comparing closeups and thinking, “hey, wait just one gosh-darned second here!”, you’re right, that’s not Virginia North, that’s Valli Kemp. Miss North could not don the black fox hat once more as she was supposedly pregnant by the time the sequel began rolling.


Valli Kemp had even fewer credits to her name, though her ability to stand and look very beautiful catapulted her to being Miss Australia of 1970, and subsequent runner up for Miss World of the same year. Here she and Miss Lewis pass on the deck of an ocean liner bound for Egypt, with Miss Kemp sadly not as warm.


I would nitpick about it still being the 20’s and this pretty full white fox jacket was, perhaps, a tad anachronistic, but I don’t really care. I’d nitpick more it was worn by Fiona Lewis and not Valli Kemp, who would have done it more justice.


The horror genre doesn’t generally serve up a lot of furs, so this was a nice exception to the rule. Though I grant Vulnavia’s signature outfit is a little light on fur. Still, the fox hat is great, and in combination with rest of the outfit, it is an excellent look for the character of a calm, detached-yet-stylish assassin. Yes, ideally the cape would have been black fox as well, that would have nailed it perfectly.

One gallery for both films: The Furs of Doctor Phibes

2008/11/27

Furs in Film – Lady of Burlesque

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

As a follow on to a decade of awesome fur fashion, the 1940’s stunk nearly as much as the 90’s. Their only redeeming grace, the fact fur didn’t simply vanish, it simply became far more conservative. Mink ruled the day, in coats and jackets. Elegant and… boring. I refer to it as “church fur”. The one’s the old ladies could be found in on freezing Sunday mornings. Fortunately there’s a few beacons of power fur to be found.

Lady of Burlesque – The Film

Perhaps Barbara Stanwyck’s aura of power fox held over from the 30’s just long enough to influence the costumers on Lady of Burlesque. Perhaps it was the more “bawdy” burlesque setting. Either way, 1943’s Lady of Burlesque featured a few notable foxes shining in a sea of otherwise dour mink to be found in the neighboring theaters.

Based on the novel The G-String Murders by notable burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee, Lady of Burlesque stars Stanwyck as Dixie Daisy. Dixie stands in for Lee, who starred in her own novel, solving the g-string strangulations of a couple of strippers in a converted opera house, aided by her would-be comedian boyfriend.

Lady of Burlesque – The Furs

Dixie is pestered by Biff Brannigan (Michael O’Shea) before her opening number, which will prominently feature this huge white fox fur muff with long tails.

Dixie opens the show with “Take it off the A string, Play it on the G String”. Hampered by censors, the suggestive nature of the song isn’t quite lived up to in the dance, but Dixie accentuates her movements with the huge fox muff nicely

The movement of the tails during the dance is a nice touch, though the giant silver bird covering up the body of the muff is an annoying distraction. Why hide such a great piece of fox?

Later Dixie and Biff meet for drinks at the bar. Dixie wears a large cape or jacket that looks to be a very plush fox, though may be coyote. Color can be useful from time to time.

This scene is an example of a good director of photography. During the entire sequence Barbara Stanwyck and her fox fur are almost never out of frame.

Their conversation at the bar switches between 2 angles, but never letting Barbara leave frame. This technique should be mandatory for any shot with a beautiful lady in a beautiful fur talking chatting with some idiot male.

You know that lovely stereotype of the haughty Russian vamp in fur with a long cigarette holder? Here’s Stephanie Bachelor as “Princess Nirvena.”

The Princess, much like Ginger Rogers’ Countess Scharwenka isn’t quite the old world royalty she claims to be, but that doesn’t stop Stephanie from tearing up the scenery with her accent, fur stole, and cigarette holder.

Close up of the Princess. Miss Bachelor’s look here is prefect, though it could certainly use even more fur.

Princess Nirvena and Dixie meet briefly before Dixie goes on stage. The Princess Nirvena in her dark fox stole and Dixie in a white fox stole, perhaps a less than subtle play on their characters’ inner natures.

Dixie and company do a comedy bit which segues into a dance number during some backstage commotion. The white fox stole is gamely flung about much like the fox muff in the opening number. Though I’m not really a fan of the “mask” and “paws” style that was common for stoles back then.

Lady of Burlesque is definitely a novelty for the use of large fox furs in the 40’s. That alone is worth notice. Stephanie Bachelor’s pitch perfect smoking, fur-clad faux Russian vamp could have used a much bigger fox for her outfit, but that is a small nitpick. Though Barbara gets the better furs overall, Stephanie steals this one.

Fur Film Gallery – Lady of Burlesque

2008/11/06

Furs In Film – Let’s Do It Again

The fact that there was a 50 year gap between the 30’s and 80’s is troubling to say the least for those of waiting for the next fashion cycle to look kindly upon the idea of huge fur coats. This is not to say though that those 40 years were completely devoid of “inspirational” furs. (Admittedly, the 70’s weren’t half bad.)

Let’s Do It Again – The Film

I’ve found the 50’s, though somewhat hung up on shorter haired, far more conservative fur coats, to have been a heyday of very large fox stoles. From 1953, Let’s Do It Again boasts one of the single largest ever committed to film. Why? Perhaps it isn’t coincidence that Let’s Do It Again is based on the same play as an earlier film, 1937’s The Awful Truth.

Like many 50’s remakes, this one is a musical, and again takes us down the madcap, zany path of jealousy and divorce. Jane Wyman fills in for Irene Dunne as Connie Stuart, married (and remarried later) to Gary, played by Ray Milland. Connie intends to make her husband jealous with a hayseed named Frank McGraw played by Aldo Ray. Divorce and eventual reconciliation ensue. Who cares, on with the fur…

Let’s Do It Again – The Furs

Jane Wyman starts things off with a comparatively conservative gray fox wrap. This richly gray fox is a fur Betty Grable was put in quite a bit.

I won’t belabor the wrap, it’s a fine “appetizer”.

This is the “main course.” Four tiers of floor length blush fox stole. The sheer size of this mega fox is fully revealed when first encountered.

Though the massive white fox coat from The Awful Truth slips away far too soon, the remake does a fine job of showcasing this beauty from all angles.

Another closer show, giving a peak into the rich depths of the full blush fox fur.

Jack gives Connie a ride back home. The giant fox stole covers virtually every inch of Jane Wyman.

Finally they arrive, where hi-jinks ensue and eventually Miss Wyman sheds this wonderful piece for good.

The stole may be the showcase fur, but Let’s Do It Again isn’t completely finished. Later Connie visits a party in particularly “sexy” mood, donning this ensemble of fur wrap, fur muff, and long cigarette holder.

The sequence is short, but incredibly sensual as she vamps down the hallway wearing the furs and the holder.

I’m not certain what kind of fur this is. Seen it on Kay Francis before, and it’s certainly very full and visually appealing. The large fur muff is quite memorable.

A petty gripe with Let’s Do It Again would have to be Jane Wyman’s signature hairstyle. Readers may be able to infer I’m not a particular fan of severely short hairstyles. A couple extra feet of rich brunette would have settled nicely on that giant fur stole.

Fur on Film Gallery – Let’s Do It Again

2008/10/30

Furs in Film – I’m No Angel

These days it’s easier to find media from the 30’s with mega furs than it is to find similarly well fashioned media from the 80’s. Despite what chronological order may suggest, even plumbing the depths of cable rarely turns up any 80’s gems. So we return to the by gone days of power furs and the women who knew who to use them.

I’m No Angel – The Film

This time the woman in question is Mae West, who could pull off a power fox like few others. 1933’s I’m No Angel is considered one of her classic roles. It serves up a couple very classic fox outfits in addition to a variety of classic Mae West lines.

Mae stars as Tira, a circus performer who rises from circus obscurity to circus stardom as the lion tamer. Fortunately the circus paid really well back in the 30’s, at least lion taming must have. Now much better off, Tira climbs the social ladder, ditching her boyfriend and trading up to the New York social scene. After one of those wacky misunderstandings, she ends up suing would-be boyfriend Jack Clayton (Cary Grant) for “breach of promise.”

Tira arrives to the trial exceptionally well dressed, and ends up winning, both the trial, and her boyfriend back. The moral of the story is that all attractive women should wear fox to civil litigation.

I’m No Angel – The Furs

Tira first meets Jack’s cousin Kent when he and some friends visit her after an evening of lion taming. One of the friends sports this rather nice white fox collar.

Kent’s fiancée doesn’t particularly care for Tira’s new found interest. She drops by to dissuade Tira from pursuing Kent. Gertrude Michael as Alicia Hutton wears the fox trimmed wrap in this scene, but Mae is in charge. The cigarette holder is a nice touch.

The marquee fur is up next, this coat trimmed with enormous white fox collar and huge cuffs. Wisely we see it all when Miss West first enters, putting the entire coat on display. The combination collar / full fringe on the coat is perfect.

Closer shot, highlighting the sheer size of the white fox collar on the coat. Fashion is fickle, but why did this ever go out of style?

This shot is worth it just for Mae West’s expression alone. The white fox collar is the perfect frame.

A brief interlude when Tira consults her lawyer before heading to trial against Jack. The silver fox muff and trim on the dress are just a prelude to the final act.

Finally, in the penultimate sequence, the trial is on, and Tira takes over as her own counsel. She’s dressed the part in a cape with a huge fox collar and matching muff. The trail sequence lasts a good 10 minutes and she’s in this fur the entire time.

Close up of the collar, because it’s definitely worth it.

Victorious, Tira plays to the press, but realizes she loves Jack after all. Jack’s definitely the lucky one.

Were I to gripe, I’d say that gold fabric on the the white fox was completely unnecessary. Were it all white fox, it would certainly be same league as Irene Dunne’s white fox from The Awful Truth. Still, the collar and cuffs were spectacular enough as they are.

Enjoy: I’m No Angel Fur Gallery.

2008/09/26

Furs in Film – Roberta

This series of posts will focus on a single film, one in which fur fashion is notably well represented. This set is based on a recent update of one of the first galleries.  I’m leaving both galleries up, just to see how much better I am at this than I used to be.

First in the series is the 1935 film Roberta. Roberta is based on a 1933 Broadway musical of the same name, which, in turn, was based on a novel by Alice Duer Miller named Gowns by Roberta. Unlike today, when novels go straight to film, there was a more common interlude on Broadway.

The Film

Roberta the film is basically the story of a football player John Kent inheriting a noted Paris fashion house after his aunt Roberta passes away. This kind of thing happens all the time, of course. The football player happens to fall in love with the chief designer, played by Irene Dunne. The plot takes the usual boy-meet-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-and-girl-reunited twists. The important part is this particular Paris fashion house of 1935 shows some great furs.

The Furs

Ginger Rogers, playing Lizzie Gatz playing Countess Scharwenka, opens the show with a nice silver fox trimmed outfit.

Countess Scharwenka is soon the victim of the kind of statistical improbability that can occur only on film, in that old beau Huck Haines from Indiana is tagging behind his football playing pal with his band. She ups the glamor quotient with a lovely cigarette holder when confronted by Huck about her “exotic origins.”

The first fashion interlude features some decent stuff. This long, multi-tailed silver fox stole is one.

This is a beauty with huge collars and cuffs, possibly coyote or more likely blush fox, but lacking color its difficult to tell.

The Countess and Huck watch this show from the sidelines, with the Countess still draped in some fur of her own.

Later, in the “boy-experiences-conflicting-emotions-about-the-arrival-of-an-old-girlfriend” phase of the love story, Sophie, John Kent’s old girlfriend, shows up. She’s a rich snob, so fortunately for us, that means a very full lynx collar on her coat. It receives all the attention it deserves as she plays the entire scene in it.

This phase of the romance doesn’t last long, but long enough for John to dump Sophie in her “bad outfit”. Personally, I find quite a bit to like in the big black fox trim on this gown.

The “big show” at the end starts with quite a few beauties. This is a an extremely youthful Lucile Ball, yes the I Love Lucy one, in a big feathery coat whose origins I can’t even guess on. Before she got a bit older, and a lot more annoying, Miss Ball was an amazing beauty during her film run in the 30’s.

A few more, including this long sliver fox cape that is, unfortunately, completely removed in order to show off the far less interesting gown underneath.

Finally the “climax” of the film and the film’s furs, this custom gown with one of the largest white fox wrap/collars in recorded history. My jaw dropped on seeing this for the first time. I’d argue this is one of the top 10 film furs of all time.

If it had been shown only briefly, perhaps the legend wouldn’t be quite so sweet, but this is a musical, and this is a musical number. This mammoth white fox gets the screen time it deserves, from close up to this perfect framing shot that provides the best vantage to drool over this beauty.

Gratuitous bonus shot, because if any fur deserves it, this one does.

Ending here would have been fine for all concerned, but what makes Roberta the film worthy this recognition is that it’s not quite over yet. Ginger arrives stage left in another sliver fox cape, this one with a wonderfully high collar and heavy, thick cuffs. Though it’s removed with a sad amount of haste, it’s still a lovely addition.

Finally, Irene Dunne appears in this rather modest outfit at the very end, as our two lovers work out their misunderstanding and proceed to live happily every after. Perhaps an example of “one fur too many”, as it’s not exactly the one I’d have chosen to close the film on.

This long list isn’t exhaustive of all the big furs seen in this film.  There’s a few extra gems in the full Roberta Gallery.  This is the new gallery, the old Roberta Gallery is from a while back and gives me a sense of how much I’ve improved at this.

2008/09/08

Fur on TV – Paper Dolls

“For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been’.”

Now that John Greenleaf Whittier is spinning in his grave over the use of that rather brilliant turn of phrase on a blog, we can move on to talk about Paper Dolls.

The Show

From September to December of 1984, ABC attempted to duplicate the Dynasty gravy train with another high-society evening soap. The setting, high fashion modeling. The year 1984. In summation: major fur glamor.

Sadly, this 80’s fur-fueled epic was not to last, stripping posterity of years of glamorous stars in enormous fox coats. We have only our fantasies to guide us about what the years to come may have brought. All that remains are 14 all-to-brief episodes of fur glory.

The Pilot

…comes out swinging on cold days and nights, forcing one of the last of the great 80’s fur stars, Morgan Fairchild, to do what she does best, look awesome in a big fur coat. One might quibble over Brenda Vaccaro and how she went a bit downhill so many years after Midnight Cowboy, but I have to look on the bright side and think, it could have been worse.

Who else should appear but a very young Mimi Rogers, pimping a very nice full length lynx. Paper Dolls obviously had a budget behind it. I would have been happy with just “foxes of many colors”, but you can’t complain about tossing in some high end lynx.

The Female Leads

Speaking of very young, Nicollette Sheridan made her acting debut on Paper Dolls. She’d later bring the fur in Knots Landing and ever so briefly in Desperate Housewives later, but this was her start, and what a start it was. Perhaps if the show had lasted she’d have made fox coats all the rage with the teenage set.

Making sure she covers her fundamentals, Nicollette gets some red fox time in as well. Sadly, she did not get a chance to wrap up in some blue fox before the show’s so premature departure.

Who is that she’s talking to? Yes, Trek fans, that’s none other than Jadzia Dax of Deep Space Nine, Terry Farrell. Sadly, Terry’s character was the more grounded, reserved, and modestly incomed of the two main model players. She was level-headed ying to Nicollette’s rich yang. Thankfully, she did not go completely furless the entire short run…

Granted, given the choice, I’m kind of glad if there had to be only 1 of the two that wore furs more often, it was Nicollette. This isn’t to say if Dax had been walking around Deep Space Nine in enormous fox coats all the time, I would have minded.

Bonus Shots

Just a few extras, as it’s not like I don’t have a lot of them. Here’s Morgan Fairchild in what appears to be stone martin, or maybe just a pleasantly colored mink.  I enjoyed the juxtaposition of Morgan’s teased out blond on top and the fur on the bottom.

I think this is Jennifer Warren in a nice dyed fox. Love the dyed foxes, though my preferences run more towards hot pink than purple. The interesting thing about this one is that it’s very similar to the coat that shows up in an episode of Dallas. Same alternate sleeve dyes and all.

Brenda going for extra points with the cigarette holder here. Smoking, good, cigarette holders, awesome.

And that’s it for Paper Dolls. This isn’t all the fur there was on the show, even. It displayed so much potential, only to be cut down before it could amass a good 100 episodes of massive fox coats. Sadly, prior to mass Internet connectivity, there was no grass roots campaign to bring the show back.

Full Gallery: The Furs of Paper Dolls