Thursday, July 28, 2011


Indian born Merle Oberon is arguably Hollywood’s first Indian Actress. Born in India, she obscured both her birth lineage which was probably part Eurasian by claiming she was born in the Australian state and Island of Tasmania, a story, which in the last years of her life came to be confirmed as untrue.

The story of her life is itself a plot for a movie and indeed was the basis of the 1987 miniseries “Queenie”. Oberon tried so hard to live the lie of her birthplace that she even visited Tasmania on two occasions throughout her life. The guilt of the untruth finally got to her and she revealed it is understood that it was a falsehood.

That aside, Merle Oberon was a brilliant, vivacious and very appealing screen actress. She has graced the screen in some very memorable roles including that of "Cathy" in Wuthering Heights (1939). Before that she enjoyed a wonderful career in British film in classics such as The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934).

Here is a beautiful fur coat worn by Merle Oberon in the film “Lydia” released in 1941 by Alexander Korda Films and distributed through United Artists.

The costume is a full length white fur evening coat with fitted full length sleeves, attached shoulder cape and line hood. Ornamented at the hood, yoke and waistband with silver bullion embroidery in a foliate pattern. The garment is fully lined in white satin.

The film tells the story of Lydia MacMillan, a wealthy old woman who has never married, is invited by an old love to a reunion with the men who have been a part of her life. The film is told in a series of flashbacks as they remember when they were young and chasing Lydia.

The production design by Alexander Korda. Costumes by Walter Plunkett and Rene Hubert.

The costume appears in a scene where Oberon is riding is a sleigh through the snow and in a scene with her costars Joseph Cotton and George Reeves. Below you can see the scene where the coat appears:

Here also are some close ups showing the intricate silver bullion design to the coat.

The costume came from the famous Western Costume Company and was auctioned as part of the great Western costume sales which took place in 1993.

Oberon’s has director Alexander Korda to thank for her career and indeed when went to herself become Lady Korda in 1942.

Her career continued until the end of the 1940s when it declined to only a few appearances in film. A great shame, as she really is a wonderful actress.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


French born actress Leslie Caron is a much loved film actor and dancer who has appeared in some of the most memorable MGM musicals.

Discovered by another MGM performer, Gene Kelly, Caron started life as a dancer. He cast her in the MGM classic An American in Paris (1951). MGM liked what they saw and continued her in a number of musical classics. Lili in 1953 and of course the best being Gigi in 1958.

This wonderful costume was worn by Leslie Caron in the 1958 MGM musical classic “Gigi”. Released in 1958, the film was directed by Vincente Minnelli. Considered as really the last of the great MGM musicals, the film remains a much-loved musical classic.

The costume consists of a white blouse with blue bow detail and a sapphire-blue wool skirt with blue satin piping to the hem. The costume is worn by lead actress Leslie Caron as young Gigi in the musical comedy.

Costumes were designed by the legendary Cecil Beaton who designed for other film classics including My Fair Lady.

The costumes whilst designed by Beaton, were executed by another legendary designer Irène Karinska.

Karinska was a costumer with the New York City Ballet. For film she won the 1948 Oscar for costume for Joan of Arc.

The costume is worn in a number of scenes in the film including the conformation scene with co-star Louis Jourdan. The film also starred Maurice Chevalier and character actors Hermione Gingold and Isabel Jeans. A young Eva Gabor can also been seen in this film classic.

Below is the trailer to the film as release by MGM.

This link takes you to one of the scenes in which the costume appears.

The costume is also worn by Caron in a number of promotional photos released for the film.

With songs by Lerner and Lowe, the film is set in turn-of-the-20th century Paris and tells the story of high society, marriage, mistresses, lovers and a girl named Gigi.

Gaston a wealthy bachelor, bored with life, takes interest in Gigi in a different way as she slowly become groomed as a courtesan and learns etiquette and charm from her Aunt Alicia. These scenes in themselves are charming and very funny.

Eventually after a few failed attempts he ends up falling in love with a matured Gigi.

Caron has appeared in other much loved film classics including “Daddy Long Legs”, “The Glass Slipper” and “Father Goose”.

Caron has danced with the greats including Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Rudolf Nureyev.

Caron continues to act and appears on stage film and television.

Gigi is such a loved classic that it has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The film is ranked as number 35 in the AFI top 100 films. It’s in the top 10 in mine.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Anne Baxter was an American actress who has appeared in very memorable and much loved films including All About Eve in 1950 and The Ten Commandments in 1956.

I have three wonderful costumes worn by this film great. All are period pieces and all very different.

Firstly is a period gown worn by Anne Baxter in the 1945 Fox film "A Royal Scandal". In the film, Baxter starred opposite Tallulah Bankhead, Charles Coburn and Vincent Price. Costumes for the film were designed by Rene Hubert. The gown is worn over a very large hoop.

"A Royal Scandal" was directed by the legendary Ernst Lubitsch and then Otto Premigner who took over for him when he became ill. The film is a comedy and is quite entertaining.

The following photo shows Baxter on set in costume between takes. Notice the cigarette in her hand!

Tallulah Bankhead portrays Catherine the Great, and tells the story of her lovers. In the film, Catherine the Great takes a fancy to the fiancée of Countess Anna who is played by Baxter.

Below Anne gets a final check of hair before her next scene.

The costume can be seen in this clip from the movie and comes in at 3:41

Anne Baxter was only 22 when she made this film and she is very good in it.

The second costume piece is a period two-piece gray wool suit worn Baxter in Fox film "The Walls of Jericho" released in 1948. The film also starred Cornel Wilde, Linda Darnell and Kirk Douglas. Costumes for the film were designed by Kay Nelson.

Below is a costume test from the film showing Baxter in the costume. The costume has been altered from its original appearance with black velvet added to the sleeves and pockets. The costume has been used for a later production.

The film tells the story of Julia, played by Baxter who returns to her home town of Jericho, with a law degree and her up and down romance with Dave played by Cornel Wilde. They fall in love. She leaves town when she feels she stands in the way of his career in politics and returns to work with him on a trial. The court scenes in the film in which Baxter appears are very good and it is great to witness the very talented Baxter as Counsel.

The third costume piece is a black silk dress with spaghetti straps and floral detail to the bodice, worn by Baxter in the film "The Spoilers".

The film was made in 1955 by Columbia studios. Baxter starred opposite Jeff Chandler and Rory Calhoun. The gowns for the film were designed by Bill Thomas.

This was the fourth and so far, final version of the story which has been made in Hollywood. Baxter’s role having been played by Marlene Dietrich in 1942 prior to this. The film was made in 1932 and originally 1913.

The film tells the story of a lawless western town, claim jumping with a little love in between. The film has some great gun fight scenes and is very funny at times. Baxter as Cherry Malotte is entertaining and looks great in her period western gear. The film ends with a great saloon Fistfight.

Baxter was the niece of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Baxter was raised in New York City and started her acting career at a very young age.

You can see her in early screen tests for the Hitchcock classic "Rebecca". The role went to Joan Fontaine. Baxter was 16 at the time.

Baxter will be remembered for other memorable roles including that of Eve Harrington in "All About Eve" (1950) and opposite Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney in 1946's "The Razor's Edge", for which she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Baxter will also be remembered for her starring opposite Yul Brynner, in the Demille classic "The Ten Commandments". In the film Baxter played the Egyptian Queen Nefretiri opposite Charlton Heston's portrayal of Moses.

In later years Baxter went again to Broadway to star in the musical "Applause". This was the musical version of the film All About Eve. This time however she played the Margo Channing role.

She is also remembered for her television roles including "Columbo" and the television series "Hotel". Baxter also played guest villains on the original "Batman" series.

Baxter was married to at time to actor John Hodiak.

Baxter suffered a brain aneurysm on December 4, 1985 in New York City.

She died 8 days later on December 12, aged 62.