Thursday, December 24, 2009


Forever Amber" was the film version of the 1944 novel. The film was made in 1947 by 20th Century Fox pictures and starred Linda Darnell, George Sanders, and Jessica Tandy.

The role originally went to Peggy Cummings. When it was thought that she was too inexperienced to play the role, she was replaced by Linda Darnell. Darnell was also required to changed her hair colour to red for the role.

This detailed period gown was made for and worn by Linda Darnell as Amber St. Clair and appears in key scenes in the film including the ball and fire scene.

The costume also comes with the original Marabou trim headpiece. With the sale of costumes by the studios and subsequent destruction of pieces. It is rare to see accessories such as shoes,belts,hats and other similar pieces remaining with costumes. For the most part, storage at the studios was based on item type and that therefore hats and shoes would have been stored somewhere other than where the gowns were stored. Costumes were also re used in later production and altered for other use. Some alterations were minor however many changed the costume in some cases making them unrecognisable from their original use which sometimes was the point. Collectors of today work to restore these treasures to their original film appearance.

Darnell is remembered for her roles a Fox studios including "Unfaithfully Yours"(1948) and "A Letter to Three Wives" (1949). Other equally famous films include "The Mark of Zorro" and "Blood and Sand".

A smoker, Darnell died in 1965, at age 41, from burns received in a house fire. It has been said that Darnell fell asleep whilst holding a lit cigarette although there is no evidence to support this. A tragic end to a great Hollywood beauty and actress.

Here is Linda Darnell in Costume from Forever Amber.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Legend has it that Lana Turner was discovered in Schwab's Drugstore. In fact she was discovered at the Top Hat Cafe. Nicknamed "The Sweater Girl", Lana Turner reached the height of her success at the MGM studios during the 1940's and 1950's. Best remembered for her roles in films such as "The Postman Always Rings Twice", "The Bad and the Beautiful" and "Peyton Place", Lana Turner became the popular pin up girl for the GIs in World War II.

Here is a cream satin wedding gown worn by Lana Turner as Marianne Patourel in the 1947 MGM film "Green Dolphin Street". Based on the Sebastian Falks novel of the same name, Green Dolphin Street tells the story of two sisters and their love for the one man. The gown was designed by Walter Plunkett. Plunkett who favoured the military style in many of his designs, used tassle and braiding on this costume to represent the military theme of the wedding.

This costume was also displayed in the now legendary Diana Vreeland exhibition of film costume at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition "Hollywood Design" took place in 1974.

This second Lana Turner costume, also designed by Walter Plunkett is from the 1956 MGM film "Diane" in which Turner portrayed Diane de Poitiers, the Countess de Breze.

This costume is worn in a fencing scene opposite a very young Roger Moore. The gown is comprised of a quilted black skirt with black satin overlay and silver bullion design to the shoulders and bodice.

The costume can be seen here in this clip and comes in at 2;16:

Lana Turner remains as one of the true Hollywood beauties.


Throughout the history of Hollywood, the love story of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony has been told numerous times on film and with some 14 productions over the years.

There have been three famous film versions. The first being the original 1917 silent production with "the vamp" Theda Bara. There is no surviving print of this film apart from a few short seconds of a dancing Bara which is attributed to the film. Many stills however have survived of this film to give a good understanding of the costumes made for the film. The other famous version is the 1963 20th Century Fox version with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. In between was the Cecil B Demille Paramount pictures version of 1934.

Claudette Colbert portrayed the Queen of the Nile in 1934. Colbert appeared in popular films including "Imitation of Life" and Frank Capra's "It Happened One Night" being the same year as Cleopatra. She is considered one of the strongest character portrayals of Cleopatra.

This black and white gown was worn by Claudette Colbert in the 1934 Cecil B Demille version of "Cleopatra" made at Paramount studios. The costumes were designed by Travis Banton.

The gown consists of a layered effect of black crepe fabric to resemble snake scales. The sheer bodice is decorated with eagles on each of the breasts. The production was made in pre code Hollywood before the Hayes office, the film industries voice of human decency at the time, introduced rules for what could and could not be seen on the screen. The costumes in this film, like those in "The Sign of the Cross" also directed by Demille in 1932, are shocking at times even for today's standards. Likewise the script.

The costumes designed by Banton were very much based on the art deco style which was popular at the time. Commentators have considered that many of the gowns worn by Colbert in the film would have been considered equally appropriate at any 1930's Hollywood party.

The film has recently been re released in a remastered print and looks amazing.

I had the pleasure of meeting this great lady many years ago during her tour in a play in 1985. A wonderful actress with lots of class!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Barbra Streisand wore this two piece red velvet gown with fox fur trim worn in her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the 1968 film musical version of the role she created on Broadway. “Funny Girl” is considered a movie musical classic and Streisand won great acclaim with the transfer of her role from stage to screen. The costumes were designed for the film by Irene Sharaff.

Ms Stresiand wears this cosutme in the Sadie Sadie number.


Thanks to her red hair, beautiful eyes and the magicians of the Technicolor process, Maureen O'Hara became known as The Queen of Technicolor. Best remembered in her roles as the heroine in costume epics, she has appeared in many film classics including 'How Green Was My Valley" and 'The Quiet Man".

The following are some costume pieces from her career.

This brown two piece riding suit was worn by Ms O'Hara in the opening scenes of the 1949 Universal Pictures film "Baghdad". The film tells the story of a Princess in search of her fathers' murder. The costumes were designer by Yvonne Wood.

From the same film, is a green satin gown with tassel trim as worn by Ms O'Hara.

Ms O'Hara wears this costume in the 1945 RKO classic "The Spanish Main". An entertaining swashbuckling story, she starred opposite Paul Henreid. Ms O'Hara's costumes were designer by Edward Stevenson. This is a cream lace nightgown with lace up to the front.

I am a great admirer of this wonderful actress not only for her amazing talent but for her many contributions to the motion picture industry. An extraordinary and remarkable woman. If you get the chance, you must read her 2005 autobiography "Tis Herslef".

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


This Mark Twain story classic tells the story of two look a like children, one a Royal Prince and one a street urchin who exchange places in order to see how the other half lives. The most popular of the versions made for film was produced by Warner Bros in 1937.

The film starred Errol Flynn and Claude Rains and the Mauch twins Billy Mauch and Robert (Bobby) Mauch as the look a like children. The two were reported to have had a lot of fun on the set exchanging roles and costumes to the confusion of all.

Costumes were designed by Milo Anderson.

The first garment is a period red wine velvet coat with white fur trim worn by Billy Mauch.

The second piece is teal brocade sleeveless over-cape trimmed with gray squirrel, bearing an interior "Western Costume" label.


This is a costume pieces from the very early part of Hepburn's career.

This is a Katharine Hepburn screen worn period gown from "A Woman Rebel's" (RKO 1936). This is truly a remarkable piece of vintage Hollywood history. A purple and pink two piece polka dot period gown worn by the legendary Hepburn in one of her earliest RKO films.
Hepburn portrayed Pamela Thistlewaite, a woman who rebels against the social traditions of Victorian England in the late 1800's. Hepburn's performance as the defiant young woman has been considered the personification of her feminist characterizations of the 1930s. Costumes were designed by the legendary Walter Plunkett who formed a long lasting relationship with Hepburn and designed for many of her RKO films including the classic Little Women. The blouse fastens to the front with hook eye closures. The full length skirt is decorated at the hem with multiple fabric layers to create an intricate pattered design and is highlighted by multiple rows of hand covered buttons which are evident on the entire lower portion of the costume.

The items carries a sewn in label with the handwritten notation "HEPBURN C- 1557"

Costumes of Hepburn's early career are highly sought after.


During the era of the silent picture and with the advent of sound, there was no other star that presented such an enigmatic and mysterious presence on the screen as Anna May Wong. Considered to be the first Chinese American film star yet born near Los Angeles to second-generation Chinese-American parents in 1905. Best remebered for her role in Shanghai Express opposite Marlene Dietrich in 1932 for Paramount Pictures. Anna May Wong’s greatest dissapointment was to have missed out in the lead role in “The Good Earth” which MGM made in 1937 and cast Luise Rainer in instead.

This is a costume worn by Anna May Wong in “Daugher of Shanghai” in 1937 for Paramount pictures. The film was considered ground breaking in that Asian American actors played the lead roles.

This is a dance cosutme worn by Nancy Kwan as Linda Low in “Flower Drum Song” Universal Pictures 1961. Flower Drum Song was a broadway musical in 1958 written by the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

This costume was worn by Nancy Kwan in the Fan Tan Fanny number early in the film. Costumes were desgined by the legendary Irene Sharaff. The film is a musical Celebration of San Fransisco’s Chinatown.