Friday, March 29, 2013

Blonde Ambition

I am thrilled to participate in The Hollywood Revue's Fashion In Film Blogathon. I have always been a passionate fan of both topics- fashion and film. To my fellow film pals, my joy for cinema is probably obvious. But I started my love for fashion at the same young age. I actually worked in apparel retail from the age of sixteen to the age of thirty-six. In high school, I'd carry my latest issue of Vogue magazine to classes, learned French for the sole purpose of being able to read French Vogue, and had planned to take my fashion design sketches to college at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York) in hopes of working in the garment district as a fashion designer. I never made it to FIT but my love for fashion has never stopped.

As styles have changed from the early days of cinema in the silent era, to the latest fashions seen in current films today, trends and influences have always been closely followed via film. For me, my favorite fashion in film choices were beautifully worn by two legendary actresses during the same era: Doris Day and Grace Kelly.

Any classic film fan worth their salt knows the story of Grace Kelly. She was the Irish American girl from Philly who possessed the big screen with such stunning beauty and elegance that she charmed a Monacan prince and become a real-life princess. During her film career, Kelly always brought her personal beauty to every role. But her beauty and grace was never more radiant than when she shined in Alfred Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW (1954).

What's amazing about the fashion in this film is that every single outfit Kelly wears is breath-taking. Each costume design reflects a clean, simple and feminine glamor inspirational to mid-century American design. Credit obviously must go to costume designing genius Edith Head but also to director Alfred Hitchcock. Edith Head was already a living legend by now and had a long and successful working relationship with Hitch. Hitchcock worked closely with Head in every step of the design process to ensure it mirrored the mood, tone and story-telling.

When we are initially introduced to Lisa (portrayed by Grace Kelly), she is dressed in a formal and feminine dress of a black fitted deep-plunged V-top and white billowy chiffon skirt detailed with black design branching out from the waist, all topped off with simple choker of pearls. She models for us and even shows off the sheer white chiffon wrap. A stunning entrance...  
She transitions to a black belted cocktail dress with accordion pleat skirting. It's slightly less formal, with similar lines and multiple pearl strands.   
As the story continues, Lisa and Jeff (portrayed by James Stewart) grow closer to one another as the mysterious crime unfolds before them and her attire gradually loosens in formality with each change. We see her in a light green suit, belted in white with a gathered, sleeveless halter top. The style is signature 50's with the skirt length hitting in the area between mid-calf and just below the knee (or "tea-length" as my grandmother would say), jacket sleeve gathered at the elbow and topped off with white gloves, a white pill box hat and chin length veil. And of course, the pearls are ever-present.
Her black overnight 'Kelly bag' reveals a miracle of space efficiency and she models it's very intimate contents for Jeff...
With her next dress, Kelly blossoms in a sleeveless garden dress, bursting with antique golden roses in hues of champagne, goldenrod and brown tones. The lines again are classic 50's style and we see her style grow more casual (perfect for some digging in the neighbor's flower garden or climbing a trellis to capture would-be murderers). 
In the end, true intimacy has been reached between Lisa and Jeff. After he peacefully falls asleep, Lisa transitions from a book to a fashion magazine; lounging in a casual red button-up shirt, cuffed jean capris and penny loafers. She feels completely at home.

My next favorite example of a similarly simple, clean and exquisite 50's design is beautifully worn by the legendary Doris Day in PILLOW TALK (1959). Also a popular platinum blond actress with a flawless figure, Doris Day was already the premier film fashionista by the time PILLOW TALK hit the big screen. This film is a showcase for her terrific comedic timing and charming chemistry with co-star Rock Hudson, but it's Day's parade of costume changes that keeps me absolutely mesmerized no matter how many times I watch it. 

While Bill Thomas is listed as PILLOW TALK's costume designer, it's no secret that famous designer Jean Louis, also known for Rita Hayworth's sexy strapless gown in GILDA (1946), was the creator of all her gowns for this film. Here are some gorgeous highlights from this battle-of-the-sexes classic:

A boxy suit in a perfect hue of lapis azure with a black fur hat. The lines are simple, yet bold (the collar lapels extend just past the shoulder hem.) Black and blue never looked better.

          Pillow Talk_Doris Day_red hat top
A creamy beige sheath dress and coat topped off by a red lampshade hat displays another lovely twist on the monochromatic theme.  The dress is cinched with matching wide belt and pendant and both the dress and coat have 3/4 length sleeves. Perfectly suited to Doris Day in every way.
Pillow Talk_Doris Day_Ivory sheath dress side, gloves
This long winter white sheath dress is a clear stand-out in the film (so much so that they made a Barbie doll copy of it.) Floor length, sleeveless, wrapping the shoulders and gathered to the left shoulder, with a deep open plunge in the back... this outfit literally fit her like a glove. Speaking of which, the extremely long gloves and fur shrug- also in a monochromatic shades of white - pulled together the most stunning outfit in the film. Isn't she heavenly in shades of white?

I love how this gathered forest green 'strapless dress' with spaghetti straps shows off Day's shapely figure but the emerald green satin A-line swing coat with bold lines really makes a statement when she walks into the room. But I must admit, I have never cared for the choice of turquoise and gold jewelry; because to me, it simply doesn't match in either color nor in formality.

In shades of olive and dark green, I really enjoyed this fitted bodice dress with matching fur hat. The gold and brown toned jewelry is the right compliment.

This off-white belted sweater dress with roll neck shows off her most flattery tones- monochromatic shades of white. Set design was purposefully set in white-wash to assist in this visual feast of complimentary color.

This red coat (same bold red as seen earlier with her lampshade chapeau) makes an incredible entrance with leopard animal print lampshade hat with matching muff.  I adore this outfit and would personally wear this ensemble in a heartbeat. Apparently I'm not the only one who thought this look was worth repeating as Audrey Hepburn is shown wearing a similar outfit a few years later in CHARADE (1963). I recall a faux dark mink muff I carried around as a little girl. I long for the return of hats, long gloves, and muffs making a comeback.
                                Finally, I must draw attention to this little black velvet suit. Simple yet plentiful in cuteness factor. It's always in the details. I love the piping trim, the bow on the cream blouse, and the crushed velvet beret with adornment... all adding up to an adorable outfit from what could have been just a boring black suit.

There are a few outfits and many nighties/ pajamas from PILLOW TALK (after all, it is about the battle of the sexes) that I chose not to include in my line-up. Frankly, I'm just not a fan of the 50's style polyester/rayon nightie.  But, I hope you have enjoyed the fashions from these two films as I have and continue to do so; time and time again, every time I enjoy these two films. Both Grace Kelly and Doris Day carry some key similarities... both outstanding platinum blond actresses with intelligence, beauty, grace and sophistication. But without a doubt, they are in a league of their own in terms of fashion trendsetters for their roles in these two iconic films. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Kansas View of OZ

As a Kansas native, I grew up feeling a special connection to "The Wizard of Oz." It was more than the countless summer evenings of dinners spent in the basement with tornado sirens blaring in the background. It was more than the fact that my grandmother Emma Jean had a very sweet and loyal dog named Toto that looked the spitting image of his namesake from the 1939 classic film. And yes, during my youth that legendary classic film played once a year on TV and we watched it faithfully as a family with great anticipation. I guess it was an accumulation of all of these things that made me feel a special bond to Dorothy; which is exactly why I went to see Sam Raimi's OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (2013) today for its opening weekend.

Before I continue, you should note that there will be references to details of this movie, so you've been officially forewarned to not continue down this yellow brick road as spoilers will be revealed and possibly a wicked witch or two. That being said, I must admit my initial concern prior to seeing this film was, "will this version respect the integrity of the original enough to show Kansas or any Kansas references in black and white?" So I was very relieved to discover that Kansas from year 1905 is still a black and white experience.
OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL is not a re-do of the popular 1939 film but instead it takes us back to the story of how traveling circus magician/con-artist Oscar Diggs aka "Oz" (played by James Franco) came to the land of OZ and his path to become the great and powerful wizard of the Emerald City. The witches of Oz (both good and wicked) are aptly portrayed by actresses Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams. I enjoyed seeing the development of these characters through this background story. And Mila Kunis does an especially strong endeavor of bringing empathy and believability to her witchiness. But the strongest and most entertaining characters were the little China Girl (no, she's not what you're thinking and not a David Bowie song nod but actually the porcelain type) and Oz's sidekick and flying monkey Finley. China Girl (voice by Joey King) was such an incredibly endearing character that brought both sympathy and uber cuteness to a whole new level. The life-like animation to this doll was truly stunning. Zach Braff doubly portrays the voice of sweet and funny Finley and as Oscar Digg's side-show assistant Frank. But both China Girl and Finley win the prize for most sympathetic characters and best lines in the show.
Visually speaking, it's a vividly colorful sumptuous feast for the eyes. One of the most aesthetically hypnotic scenes comes to light when Oz makes his crash landing in the land of Oz. The contrast from the black and white harsh world of a Kansas twister ride to the vivid colors of a river floral orchestra is an epic journey for the senses. The special effects are astounding throughout.  

Overall, it was a fun flick that the entire family can enjoy. Okay, so maybe a scene or two that involve flying evil primates and a wicked witch might briefly scare the gingham right outta your youngest members of the family, but I think it's still worth the walk down the yellow brick road. On a personal note I must add, that we have carried on our Kansas love of The Wizard of Oz by regularly giving my young niece (who lives in Portland, Oregon) Wizard of Oz themed gifts. I guess our Oz influence has taken effect as she even dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween once, to our delight. With OZ, THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, a whole new generation can be introduced to the creative wonders of L.Frank Baum's adventures in Oz. (By the way, there are a few references to L. Frank Baum's namesake in the movie if you look for them.)    
"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." - L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Thursday, March 7, 2013

2013 Kansas Silent Film Festival

I live in the 'sunflower state' of Kansas, which has its benefits. No- not the weather or politics or an ocean view. But a rich history in silent film? Surprisingly, a resounding yes. It's the birthplace to such silent star legends as Buster Keaton, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Louise Brooks, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Claire Windsor and Zasu Pitts. My northeastern corner of the state is also home to the Kansas Silent Film Festival for the past seventeen years.
A couple of weekends ago and for the second time for me personally, I was fortunate enough to attend this fun event again. Each year, the festival spans 2 days of silent film screenings with a theme or two. This year, it was held February 22nd & 23rd at the Washburn University campus in Topeka, Kansas. To my delight, the festival kicked off by celebrating the works of Mack Sennett.  
On that Friday evening, my 12-year old son and I joined twitter pal (@tpjost) and silent film aficionado Trevor just as the Kansas Silent Film Festival launched into full swing.We were fortunate to start off with a newly restored GALLOPING BUNGALOWS (1924) with live musical accompaniment by Greg Foreman and an intro by film historian Denise Morrison. Starring Billy Evans and Sid Smith, this 20 minute hilarious short was an absolute thrill-ride of fun. With loads of gags, bathing beauties and a ridiculously silly plot where a wealthy woman advertises she'll marry the best-mustached bachelor to respond, the pace and laughs were non-stop. 

Next up for our viewing pleasure, popular silent film duo Roscoe Arbuckle and Mabel Normand starred in the newly restored and color-tinted short FATTY AND MABEL ADRIFT (1916). The happy couple and their loyal pal Luke the dog find constant challenges from the awkward outsider Al St. John, as they seek happiness at their new beachfront cottage. Lastly for the main feature of the evening, Mary Pickford starred in SPARROWS (1926), with live musical accompaniment of Marvin Faulwell and Bob Keckeisen. This was a heart-wrenching story of ringlet-tressed Pickford portraying the eldest orphan in a horrific prison of impoverished and enslaved children with very dire futures. The plot was at times hilarious and adorable yet horrifically tragic all along. It was a gripping contrast of raw emotions and Pickford's performance was both charming and impressively believable. (What's unbelievable is how well she was able to play the part of a curly-haired girl when she was actually in her 30's at the time. This was the last film role for her to play as the ringlet-wearing youth.) No wonder she was the premier star and producer of her time.
At the end of the evening, I purchased a commemorative poster and was thrilled to obtain signatures from all the musicians that participated in this wondrous event. The next day was a packed schedule from 10am to 10pm. Due to family commitments I was unable to enjoy the full day's lineup. But I list the entire Saturday's scheduled screenings here:
  • HIS PREHISTORIC PAST (1914)- starring Charlie Chaplin
  • FLYING ELEPHANTS (1928)- starring Laurel and Hardy
  • THREE AGES (1923)- starring Buster Keaton
  • BRONCHO BILLY'S ADVENTURE (1911)- starring Broncho Billy Anderson
  • D.W. Griffith's BROKEN WAYS (1913)- starring Blanche Sweet, Henry B. Walthall & Harry Carey
  • NARROW TRAIL (1917)- starring William S. Hart
  • THE MAN WITH THE PUNCH (1920)- starring Hoot Gibson
  • HANDS UP! (1926)- starring Raymond Griffith
  • Wilfred Lucas's THE SPEED KINGS (1913)- starring Ford Sterling & Mabel Normand (a Keystone Film Co. production)
  • MADCAP AMBROSE (1916)- starring Mack Swain & Polly Moran
  • THE GAUCHO (1927)- starring Douglas Fairbanks & Lupe Velez *live music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
However, I was able to squeeze in a sliver of Saturday's offerings and thoroughly enjoyed the rare treat of Raymond Griffith in HANDS UP! (1926), with live music by Greg Foreman. Considered by many as Griffith's best work, this comedy was equally hilarious and charming. As a Confederate spy who trails a Union spy deep into enemy territory in pursuit of gold, he "plays" the other side to his own gain; always trying his best to stay a step-ahead and attempting to foil all those around him.

After this witty short, we were treated again by attending the Cinema Dinner (this time I was joined by my husband, Trevor, twitter pal Nikki aka @nikkilynn4 and her hubby Brian) with special guest speaker Paul Gierucki. He and his partner Brittany Valente generously shared amazing insights and screened clips from their recent massive project of restoring 100 Mack Sennett films. This overwhelming endeavor was completed and many aired on Turner Classic Movie in September 2012: 100 YEARS/ 100 FILMS BY MACK SENNETT. What a rare opportunity to gain an intimate insight to the background stories of this mega restoration process- with 'before-and-after' showings, too!

I'm saddened to say I missed out on many great films from Saturday's screenings. And on another down note, KSFF President Bill Shaffer had a terrible fall on the ice that morning- the result of our region's recent "Blizzard of Oz" major winter storm, which resulted in a nasty black and badly swollen eye. But on an up note, I feel incredibly fortunate to have seen those films that I could. I'm also very grateful to my buddy Trevor who generously provided us with dinner tickets. As part of the Cinema Dinner tradition, a drawing takes place with very appealing give-aways of silent film-era goodies. Somehow my name was drawn as the winner of a beautiful coffee table book of gorgeous lobby cards. It was a beautiful book with incredible colors throughout, from all eras of classic film; and even included a foreword by Bob Hope. But of course, this honest Kansas girl couldn't keep my prize knowing my ticket truly belonged to my friend who generously gave them to my husband and me. So I handed the prize to it's rightful owner... but only after I had a nice long peek! 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

FINAL Week... 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon

We have finally arrived to the 5th and last week of the 31 DAYS OF OSCAR Blogathon. It's been a wondrous journey of incredibly talented bloggers writing on what they're most passionate, crowning achievements in cinema. I'm in awe of the caliber of excellence in writing each week throughout this process. It's been a true honor and joy to co-host this blogging event, along with my fellow co-hosts Aurora of Once Upon A Screen and Paula of Paula's Cinema Club. On behalf of my co-hosts and myself, a HUGE Thank You to all you participating bloggers and to all the readers, too! We couldn't have done it without you and we hope it's been as enjoyable for you as it has been for us. And now, your final week of bloggers... 

Here are your magnificent bloggers for Week 5: 

First up, Lindsey with The Motion Pictures  ( ) reflects on her Oscar recollections with "15 Favorite Best Picture Winners" :
Then, she shares more Oscar recollections with her list of "10 Favorite Best Director Winners" : Epic lists! (You can tweet Lindsay @TMPLindsey)

Then, Greg flies in with a star-studded 'Airport' comparison with A Tale of Two Airports. Greg is posting this on Citizen Screenings ( :  (You can tweet Greg at @GregMcCambley)

Jenni from Portraits by Jenni ( helps us unravel the mystery behind the 1948 Best Actress Oscar shocker of when Rosalind Russell was snubbed with:  "When Rosalind Was Robbed!"

Fellow '31 Days of Oscar Blogathon' co-host extraordinaire Paula of  Paula's Cinema Club ( asks, “How much does art matter, and is it worth dying for?” with the Oscar nominated:  The Train (1964) (You can tweet Paula at @Paula_Guthat )

Then '31 Days of Oscar Blogathon' co-host superstar Aurora of Citizen Screenings ( ushers in the story of a man, a story of redemption and one of the best courtroom dramas on film, The Verdict
With another generous post, Aurora of Once A Screen ( gets fired up expressing her outrage in a very fun way: "Oh No They Didn't! Ignored by Oscar" 
(You can tweet Aurora at @citizenscreen )

Ruth of Silver Screenings ( presents all the fixins you need for a good Western: gun fights, bad guys, John Wayne and a terrific assortment of hats with,  The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance  
(You can tweet Ruth at @925screenings)

Jim of Draconic Verses ( rightfully expresses outrage over this year's missing from 'In Memoriam' in: "Oh Oscar, Oscar, Oscar" (You can tweet Jim at @DraconicVerses)

Then, Ruth of FlixChatter ( offers her take on the Oscar record-holder and the most brilliant costume designer in cinema history with: 31 Days of Oscar - Spotlight on Hollywood's Costume Queen Edith Head
(You can tweet Ruth at @FlixChatter)

Rich of Wide Screen World ( gets animated with a tale of an Oscar-worthy film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit 
(You can tweet Rich at @ratzo318)

Nitrate Diva ( reviews how the Academy doesn't reward a comedy classic in: It Happened One Night
(You can tweet Nitrate Diva at @NitrateDiva)

Pete of Furious Cinema ( portrays a Sinatra in a new dramatic light with, The Man With A Golden Arm
(You can tweet Pete at @FuriousCinema)

I'm sure you will delight and likely will learn a thing or two in these posts. I know we did. In case you missed any, check out past weeks’ fabulous posts here:   Week 1   Week 2   Week 3   Week 4

Cinematically yours,