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.
Comments on the last post got me to thinking a little harder about my favorites, so I decided to try and get them down, all official-like. So here is my entirely subjective personal opinion on the top 12 fur wearing actresses of the last 80 or so years (mostly minus the last 20 since they… sucked). If you’re thinking I started with 10 then remembered some more, then you’re absolutely correct. After I post this, I’ll probably remember a lot more.
This list technically covers fur wearers only, but Garbo is also on top of my all time most-attractive list, with or without fur. It’s the face, really. That face is the greatest ever, and for once I’m not alone in having that opinion. Actually, all of these women share that quality, the face is what I first “fall” for, Garbo just does it best.
Notable Fur Films: Inspiration
I really went controversial with the top 2, picking two of the most highly regarded women in the world. Dietrich has the face and the furs to frame it with, and certainly a sultry voice to back up the entire package.
Notable Fur Films: Shanghai Express, Pittsburgh, The Scarlet Empress (lots of fur, but way too “period” for my tastes.)
Her films from the 30’s are the source of some of the best furs filmed, and she certainly backed them up with beautiful features and masterful performances. If there’s going to be a “tough broad” in the picture, than Barbara is the one for the job.
As usual, the sad, wish-it-weren’t-needed, caveat of “early” Joan. Her youth and beauty in the 30’s and early 40’s was exquisite. We can just conveniently overlook what happened later.
That face and that wonderful red hair, a beautiful combination. Red is my favorite hair color, and I generally like it like I like my fox fur coats: lacking any shred of subtly. Ann’s fame put her in some of the “lean” years of fur fashion, but she managed to find her way into some stunning fox coats from time to time, like this one in Once A Thief, a film I’ve not yet seen.
Notable Fur Films: The Swinger, Once A Thief (maybe)
Broken record at this point, but I said what I liked at the top and Natalie Wood is, in fact, another pretty face. I could even imply something stereotypical like: Miss Zakharenko’s Russian heritage makes her natural in fur. Much like Ann, she experienced super stardom in the 50’s and 60’s, which makes it more difficult to find her in great furs.
Notable Fur Films: The Great Race
I don’t think Italian heritage can make for any dumb statements about how well you wear fur, but it certainly didn’t hurt Miss Loren’s lovely features. Her most productive years were similar to Natalie’s and Ann’s, so finding Sophia in exceptional furs is a little tricky, but there are a few gems.
Notable Fur Films: The Millionairess
Ah, the 1980’s report in at last. Miss Fairchild embodied the 80’s blonde in big furs, and she did so with the utmost glamor and class. If there was an 80’s mega fox coat in the picture, she probably wearing it. After saying that, here’s a shot of her in lynx.
Notable Fur Films and TV: Paper Dolls, Any other 80’s soap she was ever on, most likely
Anna May Wong
Absolutely gorgeous in fur, though sadly not afforded nearly as many opportunities to wear it as her contemporaries. If I had a time machine, I’d go back and fix that. If nothing else, that suggests I have really bad priorities.
Notable Fur Films: Piccadilly
Hedy’s lovely features are framed by my second favorite hair color: black. Not dark brown, or really dark brown, or even so-dark-brown-it’s-almost black; no: black. This kind of black is a gleaming obsidian set off so nicely by a thick, white fox. There’s some good films with Hedy in fur, but they’re harder to find for some reason.
Notable Fur Films: I Take this Woman
This may be a controversial choice only because she’s so low on the list. If it makes any ardent Joan fans feel any better, this is like the top 10 of all actresses ever, so, percentile wise, this is still huge. Joan is actually here more for the 70’s than the 80’s, since Morgan covers that. She pretty much nails it in The Bitch. I know, date-wise that’s almost a technicality, but it’s still the 70’s.
Notable Fur Films and TV: The Bitch, Dynasty
The downside is strong, but much like ignoring what happened later with Miss Crawford, assuming Miss Ball’s career ended in the mid 40’s means she’s one of the fur wearing greats in film. Back when she was young and doing films, she was quite the classic beauty, and commonly draped in beautiful furs.
That wraps up my current top 12, at least until I remember more. Feel free to try and help me out in the comments. Or suggest that I’m wrong, and also a doo-doo head; you can do that too.
Bonus points for throwing out names of any actress from the last 20 years. I should point out you’ll need to do better than one or two furs, and, if you’ve been reading for any amount of time, you should know I’m not going to look kindly on any suggestion that includes mink. There are a number of modern actresses I’d like to put on the list, but they can’t make the grade fur-wise.
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.
So, everything is back to “normal,” which is to say all the reviews have been updated to replace the example shots and all the galleries have been returned. Wanted to get that out of the way before I went ahead with a new post. I haven’t done this since October, so I should probably start with an easy one without much personal significance so I picked… oh crap.
Shanghai Express – The Film
Yes, after months of my complaining, TCM ponied up with the Shanghai Express. This waste of Internet bandwidth pretty much is here again because they did. The story of the 1932 film is of a whimsical train ride through the Chinese countryside between Beijing and Shanghai. Among the notable passengers are “Shanghai Lily” (Dietrich) and Cpt. Harvey (Clive Brook) in addition to others, including an incognito rebel leader (Warner Oland) who eventually takes over the train to find a valuable hostage. Harvey and Lily are “old friends” whose career paths diverged a bit after they broke up five years ago. Harvey is a successful (and highly-ransomable) military surgeon on his way to perform a procedure on the Governor-General of Shanghai and Lily is a prosti- er “courtesan.”
Shanghai Express – The Furs
Actually mostly this film is about the camera making sweet, sweet love to Marlene Dietrich, as well it should. Actually, if you want to know more about the background to the film, check out this TCM Spotlight blog post on it. Lily’s obviously pretty good at her work, since she can afford a very nice wardrobe, which includes a couple of furs and a couple of “other.”
We’ll start with Lily’s “getting off the train” fur. It is thusly named because it is the fur she invariably takes with her anytime she leaves the train. It is a dark cloth coat with a very full silver fox collar. The sizable feathery hat is a one timer, though.
Chronologically this coat appears briefly first, then the “marquee” fur scene on the train appears, then it returns. I’m going to explore this fully instead of bouncing around. The cinematographer, Lee Garmes, should be congratulated for his work on both.
Some of the “iconic” shots of Dietrich come from this film, including this one, where, though it’s sadly hard to tell, she’s wearing the fox collar.
This is couple seconds later, a shot from the opposite angle where the size of the collar is very visible.
Another favorite of mine is in the film. Anna May Wong is Hui Fei, a friend and fellow courtesan who, as usual, is totally deprived of fur. Here Lily wears her silver fox while she talks Miss Wong’s character down from a rash course of action.
Building suspense… This isn’t fur, I know, and I don’t care, she looks amazing in it.
It appears in yet another iconic shot.
Here we are, the train sequence. On paper if you told me a scene featured a brown sable collar and cuff (singular), I’d probably not be too interested in watching it. Yet I will say this is probably one of the greatest fur fashion scenes of all time.
This is the scene where we learn the history of Lily and Captain Harvey, and where Dietrich’s, I believe the clinical term is “smoldering sexuality,” is not just on display, it’s burning through the screen.
There’s a catalog of closeups throughout, and I added way more than I probably should have to the full gallery.
We learn that Lily tested Harvey all those years ago and it didn’t go well. They start the process of kissing and making up.
All a deft move to borrow his hat and produce what I consider one of the most iconic images of Marlene Dietrich.
One of the important things to note as you’re watching this sequence is that her coat has only one cuff, the right.
The left is bare, yet as the sequence plays out, its hard to notice anything but Dietrich and the fur.
Sadly, all stupendously great things come to an end. Some needs to rediscover this “vertical collar” technology stat!
And that’s it. What would I improve? Well, sure, I could say that the train sequence would have been a little better had Dietrich been wearing Irene Dunne’s coat from The Awful Truth, but that almost seems a bit disingenuous. After all, part of the magic of the sequence is the fact that Dietrich and the cinematographer did so much with what, on paper, wasn’t all that great. The film as whole comes up well, with a solid 14% ratio that doesn’t even include that fancy feather number she wears at the beginning and end of the film.
Fur Runtime: approx 11 minutes
Film Runtime: 80 minutes
On-Screen Fur Ratio: 14%
Full Gallery: Fur Fashions of the 1932 film Shanghai Express
Originally uploaded by shanghai ІiІy
Not sure I’ve mentioned this… oh, yes, I have… but I’m a big fan of this scene from Shanghai Express and continue to wait patiently for TCM to show the film, which used to air almost every freaking month, again.
Ironically this publicity shot provides a much clearer view of exactly how much fur “isn’t” there, whereas it’s almost impossible to tell from the way she was shot in the film itself.
Working on an actual update for next week.
Originally uploaded by Truus, Bob & Jan too!
So, the blog survived another major WordPress update. Since the blog is technically about fashion I thought maybe a change of “clothing” was in order, so I kicked in the latest “official” theme and messed around with the background and masthead image.
Presented today is Miss Marlene Dietrich, so synonymous with “movie stars wearing fur” that someone went to the trouble of desecrating her grave over it. That’s a hell of an endorsement in my book.
I have my very old Dietrich in Fur page, which relies heavily on old caps of the film Pittsburgh, which TCM has stubbornly refused to re-run in ages. It’s a prime candidate for full review. The train scene in Shanghai Express is also an all-time classic, even though it’s not fox and not an entire coat. It was filmed in such a way that neither of those facts matter.
I’d say I’m starting this series out on an easy one, but that’s the point. Marlene Dietrich is one of those figures who is quite clearly associated with furs. Her on screen fur wardrobe is stocked with classics.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. I’m concentrating on films I have clips from, and little else. I think it’s a bit disappointing to just write about something and not actually be able to show you.
Despite the fact that this is neither fox, nor all fur, it ranks as one of my favorite fur outfits of all time. The coat in this scene is virtually all collar and cuffs, which earns big bonus points. What further heightens the power of the scene is that, with the exception of the introductory shot, you’d never know it wasn’t full fur coat.
After Marlene approaches from the interior of the car, every subsequent shot of her is completely framed in fur. The massive size of the collar and cuffs of the coat make them the only parts visible in the scene. The added touch of appropriating the uniform hat of her old flame only further heightens the beauty of the shots.
This a prime example of a scene where the cinematographer knew exactly how screamingly hot Marlene Dietrich in furs truly was.
The white fox cape in Pittsburgh isn’t the only fur in the film, or even the only one Dietrich wears, but it’s the greatest. The runner up is a massive collared coat that I lack a decent still frame on. This massive white fox is an example of why I love the furs of 30’s Hollywood. This type of fox will show up a few more times in the posts like this come, trust me.
The huge fox is fully framed only briefly as they approach the door to the hero’s love pad and enter. The subsequent shots still make good use of Miss Dietrich, as they refrain from pulling in too tightly, allowing us to drink in a fuller view of her shoulders and chest, both beautifully framed in the gleaming white fox.
Oh, and she smokes, too. Once she makes it to the couch, the scene smoothly revolves around her lighting up, in fact.
Someone apparently noticed Marlene Dietrich looks very good smoking in furs. Like Pittsburgh, this much shorter sequence involves Miss Dietrich lighting up, this time with a full bodied white fox stole on her shoulder.
This is a slightly more “mature” Dietrich, but she wears it better than many of her contemporaries did at the time.
Dietrich in London
It’s probably one of the more famous furs of all time. Marlene Dietrich is probably associated with furs more so because of this one mega-fur than any other reason. Compound that with the fact that shots from this concert performance are used a “B-reel” virtually any time she’s mentioned.
Not that I mind. That thing is amazing.
Full Gallery: Marlene Dietrich in Fur