I’m partial to Veronica Lake, but she’s yet another example of someone whose most notable years on film occurred in an era where fur fashion simply wasn’t all that great. That makes it hard to find anything worth posting a full update. It seems she was not without the opportunity to wrap herself in some fox, though, as we can plainly see here. That is a really, really long boa, too. I suppose they could be cheating and there’s two of them, but what’s the fun in thinking that way?
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
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
A brief detour into “current events” for this blog. Elizabeth Taylor’s recent passing gives us a reason to take a look back. Unfortunately, her most high profile roles occurred in the most low profile fur fashion years. The IMDb suggests she started in 1942 and was particularly big in the 50’s and 60’s.
She did some things in the 70’s, but none of them look all that familiar, and I doubt those will be the ones that figure into the eventual TCM retrospective. There is, of course, BUtterfield 8, but as far as movies with fur coats as plot points go, it’s a really boring fur coat. Her character should have stolen that white fox from The Awful Truth instead.
Fortunately, 50 pages deep in Flickr search results, I found some good ones:
By the way, if anyone knows what the story is with the last shot, if it’s from a film, I mean, you’d be doin’ a guy a solid if you posted the name in the comments.
Oh, and not to bite the hand that just fed me a quickie update, but really, guys, is it that hard to tag photos in Flickr? That last one for instance, may I suggest, oh, I don’t know… “fur.” That’s just off the top of my head.
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
A small gem of a box office bomb from that most magic of years, 1938, that features what could have been a bit of a Mad Miss Manton moment, but misses the mark a bit. Still, decent selection of good furs here with the good sense to save the best for last. Hope I’m not overselling this one…
Fools for Scandal – The Film
This is the story of movie star Kay Winters (played by movie star Carole Lombard) and Rene (played by some Belgian guy) and how they fall in love despite both being privileged rich people pretending to be poor people. Kay’s cover is blown early, and Rene ends up following her around until she hires him as a cook. Love blooms of course, though Kay has another suitor whom she intends to marry, she and the disguised marquis eventually end up together. That would end up making her a marchioness, which is pretty much the most uncool sounding of all feminine noble ranks. The Spanish got it right by going with marquesa.
Fools for Scandal – The Furs
While movie star Kay is the main character, she doesn’t do all the fur wearing. Isabel Jeans plays noted gossip, and cause for the title of the film, Lady Paula Malverton, and provides her share of fur fashions as well.
In fact, we start off with Lady Malverton hosting a party in this mink stole. Down in the corner there is “Jill” (Marcia Ralston) wearing a silver fox wrap that is not well filmed at all. Bit of a disappointment.
Lady Paula and Jill show up later as the action has moved from Paris to London. The fox trimmed cape on Isabel Jeans gets a nice chuck of screen time, but Jill’s really long haired jacket is quickly forgotten.
Black fur at night strikes again. At least the trim on Lady Paula’s outfit is easy to see.
There’s a long sequence that features Isabel Jeans’ character snooping around Kay’s London home while wearing the fox trimmed cape.
There are a couple decent close shots while wearing it.
Now we come to the part that, while promising, was ultimately a little disappointing. Here we see Kay relaxing in bed with a mink trimmed robe. She is about to have some visitors…
…starting with Lady Malverton in this red fox stole.
She is quickly joined by quite a few other ladies who all happened to be walking their dogs and decided to drop in, and gossip.
Lather, rinse, repeat, until there’s a quite the collection of ladies in some variety of fur all lined up at the foot of Kay’s silk sheets.
Sadly, the furs here aren’t all that spectacular, especially for a year that gave us The Mad Miss Manton. I like the idea, but the costume designer didn’t go far enough with it.
This is the most complete shot of all the girls who crowd into Kay’s bedroom. Lot’s of fox trim and a couple full coats of “not-fox”. Many even have no furs at all. Simply not acceptable.
Fortunately the films narrative sense as regards fur fashion is spot on, providing Carole Lombard in this coat as the climax.
Lombard looks lovely this this thick, shaggy fox coat. It’s so shaggy I won’t discount the possibility that it’s coyote.
There’s a good two minutes of screen time devoted to this fur, a solid performance. Interestingly, the coat’s construction is somewhat odd, as if put together by a few enormous pelts with a big gap between them.
Makes for an odd look from the back, as it appears she’s wearing it backwards.
From what I found in my meticulous research on this film (read the Wikipedia article, natch), this is not considered Carole Lombard’s finest film. It’s on the exact opposite end of that spectrum, in fact. So bare that in mind if you’re actually planning on watching it without the fast-forward button firmly depressed. I found it disappointing for different reasons, of course. It did redeem itself in the end there with that big fluffy fox coat, which is probably worth the price of admission alone.
Fur Runtime: approx 8 minutes
Film Runtime: 80 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 10%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1938 film Fools for Scandal
Back to my favorite part of the 1940’s, the bit where costume designers didn’t get the memo about how “fur is boring this decade.” Father Takes a Wife is from 1941, and falls into that period quite nicely. This was Gloria Swanson’s last film before a nine year hiatus that would eventually lead to her “comeback” role in Sunset Blvd. This was Swanson at 42, and while not quite the young hottie from her silent film days, she still cuts an impressive figure.
Father Takes a Wife – The Film
While I can’t really call this a divorce film, the plot veers close to it. Fred “Senior” Osborne (Adolphe Menjou), a shipping magnate, decides abruptly to get married to actress Leslie Collier (Swanson) and turn the company over his son, Junior. Don’t really get a lot of films about shipping magnates these days. The marriage is a little rocky as Senior turns out to be the jealous sort, and things don’t get easier when he invites a stowaway Latin singer they met on their honeymoon home with them. Hey, that’s what anyone would have done…
Father Takes a Wife – The Furs
As a successful actress and soon to be trophy wife, Leslie has quite the wardrobe. Swanson’s Wikipedia entry suggests her early history in silent film was as the first “clothes horse,” a tradition this film attempts to continue.
In a shot as brief as the fur deserves, Leslie heads off to her farewell performance in this 40’s mink. Thankfully it’s around for only about 5 seconds.
That farewell performance is apparently set in a cold place, as her stage outfit includes… this. Now, I don’t know what ‘this’ is, but I do know I like ‘this’.
Gloria Swanson putting on a muff that matches the coat and hat. That is all.
What’s odd about this fur is that I can’t recall seeing anything like it anywhere else. It’s like a mutant fox with extremely long black guard hairs.
We see it on stage in a very brief, very wide shot before she takes it off, leaving only the hat.
Which gets a close up, again, not really suggesting what kind of fur it is. I’m sure someone knows and may help us all out in the comments section. Or everyone will just skip reading all this noise and go right to the gallery page, which my analytics suggests is, in fact, the case.
Intercut with the final performance we see in the audience Leslie’s new family on her husband’s side, including Junior’s wife, Enid (Florence Rice), wearing a white fox fur wrap that is given the attention it deserves after the show.
Enid and Leslie smile at one another. The mystery fur is in the background.
This sequence could be a little longer, but the shots of the white fox are well done.
Returning from the honeymoon cruise, stowaway in tow, Leslie has a large dark fur coat.
This one is also a little quick, and not as well shot as should have been.
There’s a decent but quick full view as they all return home. The coloring in the sleeve suggests it may be fox, but can’t be 100% sure.
After the aforementioned stowaway gets kicked out of the aforementioned home, he shacks up with Junior and wife Enid. Enid takes him in wearing this very full fox jacket.
Not a common length for the time, but well done, and well shot.
If the stowaway is looking vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s Ricky Ricardo, er… Desi Arnaz in an early film role.
This one is a little short in the runtime department, but has a very nice variety of furs. Definitely could have used some rewrites to keep them in frame a little longer, but considering it was 1941, getting this many was amazing enough. There’s a couple more foxes on the character of “Aunt Julie” played by Helen Broderick, who wasn’t quite up to making the cut in the “looking at for any extended period of time” department. Still, they wouldn’t have done much to pad the runtime, and one of them was that standard 30’s silver fox stole I already dislike. I suppose pairing the two makes sense now.
Fur Runtime: approx 6 minutes
Film Runtime: 79 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 8%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1941 film Father Takes a Wife
Finally, a full on, legit single film update post. Been a while, TCM, thanks for finally ponying up a good one. This one fits into a few of my favorite categories. Foremost, it’s another entry from 1940 where the costume director didn’t get the memo about that highly unfortunate sea change in fashion. It is also another entry in the “I Love 30’s and 40’s Film Star Lucille Ball” category. Too bad her career fizzled and she never got into television… Finally, yes, there’s a divorce. Though it’s only a subplot in this one.
Dance, Girl, Dance – The Film
A story of rags to burlesque to ballet riches about dancer Judy (Maureen O’Hara) and her friend / rival / friend again Tiger Lily nee Bubbles, played by Miss Ball. Both end up competing for the affections of the same man, rich guy Jimmy, whose soon to be ex- wife we will be seeing shortly. After Judy’s dreams of becoming a ballerina take a detour through Bubbles’ burlesque show as a “stooge”, their relationship strains a bit, leading to fisticuffs and an appearance in night court (not the one with capital letters, John Larroquette, and a pretty decent selection of 80’s foxes in the early seasons). Oh, and Jimmy ends up with Judy, because… it’s a lighthearted comedy from 1940.
Dance, Girl, Dance – The Furs
Bubbles rise from bit chorus girl to Tiger Lilly the burlesque queen is documented with her furs, and fortunately the focus is heavily on the latter end of that dramatic arc. Miss Ball doesn’t support the film alone. As alluded to earlier, Judy’s love interest is rich and divorcing. His ex- wife has a lot of furs to keep her warm. If you’re a fan of the lead, Maureen O’Hara, and hoping she’s in fur, I’ll just disappoint you up front.
Bubble’s may be a poor bit player, but in those days, poor bit players can afford a cruddy red fox stole with bits attached. In terms of costume contributing to the story, this outfit certainly suggests Bubbles hasn’t quite made it yet.
We switch to Jimmy and his pre- divorce wife Elinor, played by Virginia Field, coming home in this full silver fox fur wrap. She’s certainly made excellent use of her husband’s money.
Bubbles attends an audition in this white fox stole, again, with the extra parts attached. Don’t worry, eventually she becomes wealthy enough to afford furs that are actually finished.
There is a good, short close up where it doesn’t matter what leftovers are still hanging onto the stole.
Bubbles eventually makes it, becoming Tiger Lilly, but starting off slow with a fairly conservative set of silver fox cuffs. Sadly for much of this sequence she’s also accessorizing with a small dog as well. It’s here she “propositions” Judy with an offer to perform ballet at the burlesque show.
Judy’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, accepts and performs ballet for the burlesque crowd, to their great dismay. All part of the act, the recently minted Tiger Lilly appears to save the show and put on a little more “suitable” entertainment. She appears thusly:
Hey, I’d cheer for that. Miss Ball performs most of the act wearing this white fox beauty, the show piece of the entire film and a fur that is documented as richly as it deserves to be.
I’ve included a lot of shots from the act in the gallery. It’s a rather entertaining bit where she slides effortlessly between a “society” accent and something a bit more common.
Trying to keep up, Elinor breaks out the big lynx fur collar. Sadly, it’s to serve the divorce papers to Jimmy.
Another well filmed fur, with quite a few close-ups that let us enjoy Virginia Field’s face framed by the high, fluffy lynx.
Tiger Lilly is back, competing collar v collar, with this fox trimmed coat. This collar displays one of the most important aspects of a good collar: beyond shoulder coverage. For the record, the best collars have trouble fitting through doorways.
Another well filmed fur for this film to add to the total.
There are brief wide shots where you can see it’s not just the collar but some trim at the bottom as well. Yes, it seems the cuffs are notably absent, so have to dock some points for that.
Finally, and fittingly, the white fox makes a return engagement as the ladies are hauled into court after a bit of an altercation. We see here that Bubbles seems to have taken the greater amount of punishment.
Some nice shots of the back are included here as well. Obviously the ideal would be to add the last collar to this coat… lengthen it with a four foot train, add some elbow length cuffs, some additional fringe, turn the collar into a hood… Whoops, train of thought kind of ran away there for a moment…
But wait, there’s more! Elinor shows up to the trial sporting a silver fox fur muff. I like the entire outfit here, the pinstripe suit and hat mix well with the muff.
Both together, you say? Sure!
Even better than that last one? Sure!
Wow, this one works on a number of levels. It’s got a great marquee fur supported with a deep selection of additional pieces, all of which are well filmed. The furs that aren’t well filmed, particularly the few early pieces worn by Bubbles, don’t really deserve it anyway. Miss Ball is lovely as ever in this period, still likeable despite playing what amounts to the villainess of the piece. Granted, comparing Bubbles to Judy’s rather pedestrian aspiring ballerina is probably not even fair. Finally at 13% it’s a solid ratio, most of it supported by the best fur in the film.
Fur Runtime: approx 12 minutes
Film Runtime: 90 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 13%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1940 film Dance, Girl Dance.
Time to revisit the gentleman detective genre with what is arguably the most iconic of them all: The Thin Man. The adventures of Nick and Nora Charles spanned six films between 1934 and 1947, and as you can imagine, the ones from the 1930’s will be featured a bit more prominently in this update. The story is as old as time itself, one of a wealthy socialite marrying a retired private eye and ending up involved in most of high society’s murder cases over the course of more than a decade.
The Thin Man – 1934
The original film is based on the book by Dashiell Hammett of the same name. There were no more books, all the subsequent film sequels were original stories. It introduces William Powell and Myrna Loy in what would become their most well known of a great many film collaborations. In it, Nick is pulled back into the detective game by an old friend becoming involved in a murder. Technically, the friend in this film is “the thin man,” but audiences assumed it was lanky William Powell and thus it stuck.
Socialite Nora Charles appears first in this short hair collar and cuffs, which would have been amazing had the fur grown a couple inches and turned into fox.
Say, for instance, something dark, plush, and very full, attached to a cape, as we see here worn by Minna Gombell. This is pretty much the best fur in the film. Suffice to say, the series got off to a bit of weak start, especially for 1934.
Nora appears again in a short haired fur, about as brown paper bag as you can possibly get; a mink that would be fashionable at any church service or funeral.
Finally Minna returns in this wrap for what will become traditional-ish, having someone in fur during the big summation/name the perp scene.
Fur Runtime: approx 6 minutes
Film Runtime: 93 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 6%
After the Thin Man – 1936
Fortunately a couple years later the MGM costume department is on their game. Set in San Francisco, Nick and Nora help out Nora’s family with a missing person case that ends up leading to… MURDER! Nora’s cousin Selma is the prime suspect and Nick has to clear her name. Nora brings along much better furs when she travels, lucky for us, and she’s not the only one.
Leading up to murder is greed, as we see Polly (Penny Singleton) in a lovely set of fox collar and cuffs out for an evening’s blackmail.
The target of said blackmail is slain moments later, and Nora’s cousin Selma (Elissa Landi ) suddenly appears over the body holding a gun and wearing a very nice lynx collared coat, in no way looking the least bit suspicious. In case you hadn’t noticed, the film is set in San Francisco, so it’s foggy. It’s the kind of crack meteorological realism Hollywood is known for.
The lynx train rolls on to even better places, as Nora arrives to the big summation in this lynx trimmed coat. This is how to do a fur collar… from the top all the way down to the bottom.
If anything deserves a second look, it’s Myrna Loy’s face framed by a big lynx fur collar.
Penny attends in this rather distressing looking fox stole, the kind with the extra bits still attached, and even worse for them being on display the entire time she’s on camera.
On the up side, we do get brief glimpses of both furs on screen at one. There is another fur in this sequence, but not only is it a church lady fur, it’s on a church lady, and we don’t talk about them.
Side note that the murderer in the film was Jimmy Stewart, whose appearance here as a homicidal manic ended up coloring his entire career and getting him type cast as a psycho killer all the time (or not…).
Fur Runtime: approx 8 minutes
Film Runtime: 113 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 7%
Another Thin Man – 1939
Nick and Nora, and now Nicky Jr. (a hell of an accomplishment considering the sleeping arrangements documented in previous films: see I Love Lucy) return to New York and the estate of Colonel Burr MacFay who is receiving threats from local low life Phil Church. Burr ends up dead and Phil’s the prime suspect, but Nick’s a little smarter than that and ends up figuring out who really done it. It’s 1939, so this better be good…
This is pretty good, Virginia Grey wearing a silver fox fur jacket as she plays (spoiler alert) murderess Lois MacKay / Linda Mills.
It’s a decent bad girl fur, but I would have gone straight black fox. Still, it works very nicely with those blindingly bleached blonde locks.
Nora’s fur closet is upgraded yet again, as she and Nick investigate. This fully fringed blue fox cape would only be better if it forwent the formally of having parts that weren’t blue fox.
Now that’s a blue fox collar. This piece is actually quite similar to the white fox version worn by Jean Hagen in last week’s update, Singing in the Rain.
Virginia attends the big summation (she has to, she did it) in this comparatively pedestrian version of the “standard” 30’s silver fox stole, a bit of a let down.
Fur Runtime: approx 6 minutes
Film Runtime: 103 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 6%
Shadow of the Thin Man – 1941
A day at the races ends up getting Nick and Nora involved in the murder of a potentially shady jockey. The police ask Nick for help, since he was in the general vicinity when it happened. It’s now the 40’s and things are starting to slow down, but this one still packs some good furs in, enough to earn it a tepid “costumed like it’s 1939” tag.
Stella Adler plays Clarie Poter, girlfriend to suspected racketeer Link Stephens, and does a lot of the fur wearing in the film. She stars off with the best thing the film has to offer, this rather full silver fox wrap.
Costumers do love those broaches on fur. Not only do I find it rather unfashionable, it’s generally not recommended you stick pins in furs as it damages the leather. Lord knows I’d never want anything bad to happen to a thick, soft fox fur like that.
Stella dials it back a bit with this silver fox muff. Certainly not the largest on record, but a nice one nonetheless.
I like this pose, that is all.
So we arrive, once again, at the big summation. Nora attends with another example of the standard 30’s silver fox, one I presume she borrowed from Lois MacKay in the previous film, since Lois is now cooling her heels in the woman’s lockup now.
Stella really dials it back for the big summation, attending in what may be the same church lady fur I didn’t burden you with back at the end of After the Thin Man. At least she looks better wearing it.
Fur Runtime: approx 5 minutes
Film Runtime: 97 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 5%
The Thin Man Goes Home – 1945
I mentioned it was the 40’s right? Well, the Thin Man went home in 1945, got involved in a murder plot, and solved it. Along the way, Nora wore another church lady mink for a few minutes around the beginning of the film, but lacking any other marginally redeeming fur fashion, I skipped actually capturing the the film. It was a purely a safety consideration, as I may have dozed off and and fallen out of my chair in the process, inducing grievous bodily harm.
Song of the Thin Man – 1947
The final Thin Man film provides one final fur of note, as Nick and Nora investigate a murder on a gambling ship amidst the ship’s entertainers. Nora does show up in a single mink very reminiscent of the one I skipped in the previous film. It’s very 40’s, suffice to say. It seems someone decided that Nora should get out of the ostentatious fur wearing business, sadly.
Here it is:
Okay, on to the good stuff, this full fox wrap of shade I believe probably has “marble” in the name. Patricia Morison plays Phyllis Talbin, who wears this wrap for a grand total of about 30 seconds on screen, so don’t get attached.
For what it’s worth, there’s a nice close up of Miss Morison in the wrap for about 5 seconds.
Fur Runtime: approx 3 minutes
Film Runtime: 86 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 3%
I have to say, while the Thin Man films are the more iconic of the gentleman detective genre, I think The Falcon and The Lone Wolf both have him beat, fur wise. Still, the entries from the late 30’s are both very nice and nearly rated single film inclusions.
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of The Thin Man Films.