This one is kind of “famous,” in so far as I recall seeing it quite a bit. For good reason, a classic photo of a classic star in a classic fur. Mae West had a knack for wearing the big furs, the kind that perfectly fit a lady accustomed to being the center of attention. I’ve got one of her films posted, the aptly titled I’m No Angel. There some choice furs in a few others, though sometimes all too briefly.
Back this week to fill in a bit more of that rather great-fur anemic decade, the 1960s. The 60’s still have the charm of not being the 90s, at least. This one is able to row against the prevailing fashion tide mostly thanks to the liberal use of fantasy sequence and parody of Hollywood “excess.”
What a Way to Go – The Film
In her current life, Shirley MacLaine stars as Louisa May Foster, a very rich, very unhappy woman who finds herself on a psychiatrist’s couch, retelling the various stories of how she tried to marry for love, not money. In each case, her poor, loveable husband of choice ends up striking it rich, neglecting her, and then dying, leaving her increasingly well off, but still unhappy. The film is an anthology of sorts, with Lousia’s time on the couch the framing device. As surprises no one, the process starts to repeat itself just before the credits roll.
What a Way to Go – The Furs
Shirley wears pretty much all the furs in the film. Part of the charm of the film is the framing sequences at the psychiatrist’s office all feature Miss MacLaine wearing a mink hat. The remainder all occur in the flashbacks to her various relationships, culminating in one of the best uses of dyed fox in film history.
Here’s the mink hat in question. Granted, if you’re not impressed, you’re going to be bored pretty quickly, since she never takes it off the entire time she’s “in therapy.”
Due to the length of time it appears, there are many nice close ups of Miss MacLaine capped by the mink. As should be a surprise to no regular reader, I’m not a mink fan, but I do like the hat. Sure, it should be fox, but, well, split milk and all.
More mink from Husband One’s story. This conservative mink fringe is hooded, at least.
After suffering through Husband Two with nary a fur in sight, things pick up with Husband Three. Already rich, Lousia meets Rod Anderson, equally if not more wealthy, at the airport. She’s wearing a fox hat and this fox fur trimmed coat.
This is a long sequence, as Lousia goes aboard Rod’s private jet and chats all while keeping the furs firmly in place. Sadly unlike many of the furs in the film, this is fairly conservative fox by any standards.
She flips that around in the film’s fantasy sequence, as Louisa imagines life with Rod and their money combined. In the sequence she wears a series of outfits by Edith Head, intentionally “over the top.” The first is more feathery than fur, obviously.
Things pick up a bit when the white mink trimmed outfit with the rather large muff appears.
While again, mink isn’t particularly my favorite, this is certainly of one my favorite minks.
Finally there’s the first of two dyed foxes in the film. Would have picked something other than yellow, myself (like the color of the film’s second dyed fox), but still, not too bad overall.
Each element of the fantasy sequence is fairly brief, so individual elements do not get a lot of mileage, but a whole thing is about a minute and some change.
Finally, Husband Four’s story provides the marquee fur. Lousia meets and marries Pinky Benson, a stage performer who, after they’re married, becomes an overnight Hollywood success. Pinky “embraces” his name, surrounding himself with his namesake color, and that includes Louisa’s wardrobe.
The dyed pink fox fur cape is spectacular. It’s supposed to be, and the dyed hair to match is, well, “the cherry on top” is, yes, very, very cliché, but I’m going there.
Even get a quick bonus of double fox in this part of the scene. That lynx-dyed fox isn’t exactly well shot, though.
Finally one close up of Miss MacLaine in her pink wig and huge pink fox. While the point of this was to lampoon Hollywood excess (and is the only reason it even appeared in a film shot in 1964), I would suggest to any lovely lady they can consider a cape like this for the average trip to the grocery store or cinema. Just think about it, that’s all I’m saying.
The full fur runtime of What a Way to Go! clocks in around 23 minutes. Now, all of that isn’t the large pink fox cape, sadly. Miss MacLaine wears her mink hat through pretty much all of the framing story, and while I don’t want to say that “pads” the runtime a bit, others may not be so kind. The fox hat and trim from the third story consumes the other big chunk. The best parts, her fantasy sequence and the pink fox are about four minutes combined. Still, for the 60’s, this is an amazing little gem.
Fur Runtime: 23 minutes
Film Runtime: 111 minutes
Onscreen Fur Ratio: 21%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1964 film What a Way to Go!
Posted a smaller version of a different shot from the same promo set in the past, but this one is worthy of its own post. Not only do we get to see the full extent of that amazing fur, it also suggests it’s possible to see it in the 1932 film Letty Lynton. Or not. Apparently it exists in some sort of legal limbo and that’s why it’s not a staple of TCM’s many Joan Crawford fests. Well, neither is Mannequin or Ice Follies of 1939 anymore, but they have less of an excuse for those.
I call on lawyers around the world to free this film, because I really want to see Joan in that fur.
In more sad news, it appears Shanghai Lily is no longer on Flickr. I’ve always wondered about the likely tenuous position of these “aggregators,” especially since there’s obvious IP issues with a lot of what they’re posting. Reason it’s probably only a matter of time for many of them. Of course, I’m relying on them for content on this blog, so, by extension, I’m pretty dumb too.
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
I’ve mentioned Ice Follies of 1939 before, and here’s the poster. Fortunately there’s only a little artistic license, as the outfit in the poster is actually in the film. If anything, the artist may have been a little generous to those white fox cuffs, rendering them a big larger and fuller than the actual on-screen version. I’m certainly not going to complain about that sort of artistic licence. Had I any talent with brush or pen, I might be quite guilty of the same.
Getting more search traffic to this blog with terms related to Marlene Dietrich… Wonder why? Oh, right, the wonderful ease it is to find her draped in the largest, most beautiful furs. While I do strive for a little variety, of course, I admit I have trouble passing those images up when I see a “new” one, especially when it’s embed-able. Big fur hat tip to Shanghai Lily, of course.
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
Hey, I should post one of these “review” things… Admittedly the allure of just tossing out something I find on Flickr each week is pretty strong, but this is what I’m “supposed” to be doing, after all. This entry is from the late 30’s, that most special of times, and this film is another fine example of why.
I’ll Take Romance – The Film
This film is based around the romance of kidnapping. Just one of the many felonies made attractive by Hollywood’s lighthearted romantic comedies over the years. Fonts of juvenile delinquency worse than comic books, they are. Elsa Terry (Grace Moore), budding opera singer, is contracted to do a show in Buenos Aires, but isn’t going thanks to a better offer in Paris. James Guthrie (Melvyn Douglas), responsible for getting her to the Buenos Aires show, meets and ends up romancing her, but she still refuses to go. Elsa enjoys his company and, forewarned, plays along when Guthrie puts her on the “wrong” ship. That’s only the fake kidnapping in the film, there’s more real ones later. Lighthearted-romantic-comedy-immunity applies, though, and everyone lives happily ever after, instead of, you know, in a supermax facility.
I’ll Take Romance – The Furs
More Broadway divas in fur here, as actual-Broadway-turned-Hollywood star Grace Moore does almost all of the fur wearing, and all of it you’d want to see. Grace’s character has an “aunt,” you see, the kind scraped up from the leftovers of Marie Dressler’s fat and wrinkles (Helen Westley), who disgraces a silver fox fur for a mercifully brief few seconds early in the film.
Elsa’s first fur is not only refreshingly unique, but given quite a bit of screen time.
The silver fox fur trim on this dress is thick and heavy, just the way I like it.
One might say the 80’s big shoulder craze had nothing on this.
How you really boost your on-screen fur time? Easy, if you’re a musical, you do a number.
Elsa sings wearing the silver fox, accumulating an impressive seven minutes and some change in the big fur trimmed dress.
This next one is kind of tricky, because, while it suggests that it is pretty impressive, the age old quandary of black fox at night rears its… well, not exactly ugly… mostly just “hard to make out” head.
Most of the time she’s wearing this it’s in the dark backseat of a cab or on the equally dark deck of the ship. However, very briefly, she enters her stateroom and we get a better idea how nice it is.
Sadly this is a very short scene, but it does look rather nice for these few seconds we can actually make it out.
To the marquee fur, a white fox cape, as usual. Also a pretty good example of why white fox should always be your “go-to” choice for evening fur filming. Because… you can see it.
And this one is, like most from this period, rather hard to miss.
Melvyn’s getting himself a handful. Easy there, cowboy.
This is a good sequence, giving up almost 3 minutes of white fox goodness. Sadly, Melvyn’s also in frame the entire time.
The film doesn’t stop there, providing this shorter tidbit on the dock where Grace appears in a coat with a large fur collar.
This is fairly short, and while a very nice collar, it’s not a particular loss that we don’t see it for very long.
To cover absolutely everything, there is another sequence near the end where Grace wears a different fur trimmed dress, but there’s not much fur and it’s very hard to see. Hard to film black fur even in the daytime. Even without this sequence the ratio clocks in at an impressive 16%, so there’s no reason to pad the totals with it. The white fox cape is virtually definitive of the period, and makes the film worth a look all by itself.
Fur Runtime: approx 14 minutes
Film Runtime: 85 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 16%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1937 film I’ll Take Romance
Well, I was going to post this last week, but it kind of sucks to roll out of bed and suddenly discover the workflow you’ve used for three years now suddenly fails. Ah, codec drama! I have no idea what screwed it up, and the prospect of figuring it out is daunting, so I did a lazy workaround that involves moving mountains of data on an external hard drive, and… What, you don’t care? Right, right…
Then how ’bout one of the single biggest fox collars committed to the screen?
Rockabye – The Film
This early 30’s Constance Bennett flick, she plays Judy Carroll, a Broadway actress who testifies for her former boyfriend, an embezzler. While I’m not sure about the particular legal statute involved here (probably because they made it up), doing so ends up costing her custody of an orphan she had planed to adopt. She drowns her sorrows with a trip to Europe with, (le sigh) her old, rotund, alcoholic mother, and meets a playwright with an eerily autobiographical play called, wait for it: Rockabye. Judy theoretically falls in love with him and wants to take the play back to Broadway, but, in a twist that may not have been quite so cliché in 1932, ends up with her loving manager instead.
Rockabye – The Furs
As famous Broadway actress Judy Caroll, Constance Bennett does most of the fur wearing, and almost all of the fur wearing you’d particularly want to see. For the sake of accuracy, if not the level of bile in my stomach, I should mention Judy’s mother also wears fur. She’s played Jobyna Howland, a woman every bit as young, thin, and attractive as Marie Dressler. Okay, that’s a little unfair to Jobyna, she’s maybe 2% more attractive.
How do you get your dirty, embezzling, ex-boyfriend acquitted? You go to court and testify in this:
He’d be in the clear if I was on the jury.
Anyone who dated a woman with this kind of fashion sense is a-okay in my book.
Not sure how else to put this, but: I really, really like this collar.
I realize this isn’t exactly the insightful level of commentary you’ve come to expect from me, but, honestly, I’m a little distracted.
Now, the collar is pretty much grade-A, but let’s not forget what’s been in her lap the whole time. As she leaves the stand, she helpfully hefts that big barrel muff so we get good look at it.
The cherry on top of this is that not only is the quality amazing, but it’s not merely a fleeting glance. The courtroom sequence provides over 3 minutes of footage alone.
It’s followed by about 2 more, most with this shot as she’s riding home from the courtroom. Now, if I were to find fault with any of this, it’s that she spends the entire time in the backseat doing absolutely nothing with that cigarette holder in her hand.
She returns home where we meet her soon to be ex-orphan for a little heart-string tugging. This shot illustrates a point I made in an earlier update. The better the collar, the less of the head you can see from the back (or the side, for that matter).
There’s other fur in the film? Oh, right, yes, there is. Not that I think it matters at this point. There’s this probably mink item that I’ll call a wrap since “bib,” while seemingly more accurate, doesn’t sound all that fashionable.
For a film that starts out so spectacularly, it briefly descends into the depths of mediocrity with Constance Bennett in this most basic of full length mink coats. This fur is given all the screen time it deserves, which is: not much at all.
Finally, in what would have been a fur with a pretty decent collar in any other film but just ends up being an afterthought here, we see Virginia Hammond in this silver fox trimmed wrap.
It is a very nice, full-body trim, one that I might ordinarily lavish a bit more attention upon, but, really, you can just scroll up and call it even.
While the full Fur Ratio is 19%, and that’s pretty darn impressive, the only fur that really matters is actually on screen for a total of five and a half minutes. That makes the “Awesome Fur Ratio” about 6%, but that’s still not shabby. That five and a half minutes is filled with closeups that lavish the appropriate amount of attention on Constance and that amazing outfit.
Fur Runtime: approx 14 minutes
Film Runtime: 75 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 19%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1932 film Rockabye
The fringe on the garment she wears in the “hat” sequence, which I had presumed was sable, is feathers, or rather down pelts, simliar to the ones that made up the also rather visually appealing white coat she wore in the Dietrich in London special. I see no reason to doubt this assertion, after all, it’s not like they were suggesting there was no fur at all, or that everything in The Mad Miss Manton was fake. No, actually quite reasonable now that I look at it again.
I’ll blame my sable dreams on a combination of low resolution and highly wishful thinking.
Ah, but someone didn’t desecrate her grave because Marlene Dietrich wore a lot of goose down. Thus, finding photos of her wearing real fur is not exactly difficult. What is always enjoyable is finding those few that just knock you off your feet when you see them for the first time. This is one such example:
So the Shanghai Express collar wasn’t sable. I’m pretty dang sure this is fur, so I’ll get over it by picturing this one instead.