Thursday, September 30, 2010


Jeanette MacDonald will always be remembered as the American operatic singer and actress and more so for her appearances in MGM musical films of the 1930s and 1940’s with MGM co-star, Nelson Eddy.

Some of her much loved films include “The Merry Widow” in 1934 with Maurice Chevalier, “Naughty Marietta” in 1935 and “Rose-Marie” in 1936.

MacDonald gave a exceptional performance opposite Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy in the 1936 MGM film “San Francisco” which told the story of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

My personal favourite is the 1937 film “Maytime” which co-starred Nelson Eddy.

This incredible concert gown was worn by Jeanette MaDonald in the 1949 MGM film “The Sun Comes Up”. Costumes for the film were designed by Irene. This was also to be MacDonald’s last film appearance. The film teamed MacDonald with Lassie, in an adaptation of a short story by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. MacDonald played a widow who has also lost her son, but warms to orphan Claude Jarman Jr.

The gown is made of beige chiffon with heavily jewelled bodice and waist of silver bugle beads and pearls. The waist ornamentation is held in place with two finely crafted clasps of the same design.

MacDonald also performed live in concerts from 1931 through to 1950s.

This gown was worn also worn by her at a Hollywood Bowl concert in the late 40’s. Here is a photo of MacDonald in the gown in concert.

And here you will see MacDonald wearing the gown in the film, The Sun Comes Up and in which she sang, “UN BEL DI" from Puccini's Madame Butterfly.

The costume also features in advertising for the film. MacDonald thought so highly of the costume as a piece of her MGM history that she cherished and indeed enjoyed wearing the gown in concerts well after her film career had come to an end.

A wonderful costume piece worn by an Operatic singing legend in the last of her film performances.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Cyd Charisse will always be remembered as the female icon of the American film dance musical.

She will be remembered most for her appearances in films opposite Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly including “Singin' in the Rain” in 1952 and “The Band Wagon’ in 1953. Other classic appearances were in the 1953 musical “Silk Stockings’.

This beautiful gown was worn by Cyd Charisse in the 1948 MGM musical “On an Island With You”. This elegant cream-colored full-length gown, gathered at the hips with fitted short sleeve top in green and gold sequin geometric pattern.

Below is copy of the original Irene Costume sketch.

On an Island with You is a 1948 musical romantic comedy film directed by Richard Thorpe. It stars Esther Williams, Peter Lawford, Ricardo Montalbán, Cyd Charisse and Kathryn Beaumont. Williams stars as a swimming movie star who goes to Hawaii to make a film, bringing her fiancé, Ricardo Montez, played by Montalbán, with her. Lawford stars as Lawrence Kingsley, a military technical advisor for Reynolds's film, who eventually falls in love with her. Charrise plays Reynolds's best friend and fellow movie star, Yvonne Torro, who secretly wants Ricardo for herself.

Charisse was meant to perform dance numbers in the film however injured herself prior to filming and was forced to do most scenes sitting. This gown appears in a nightclub scene.

Costumes were designed by Irene.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The one word, which can be used to describe this amazing actress, is survivor. Starting her career as a fashion model, Hayward later travelled to Hollywood. Susan Hayward has performed in some very memorable films.

The first gown is a floor length sequined gown with matching scarf worn by Susan Hayward in the 1947 Universal film “Smash-Up: Story of a Woman”. The gowns for Susan Hayward were designed by the legendary Travis Banton who also designed for such film greats as Marlene Dietrich and Mae West.

The gown is worn by Hayward as nightclub singer Angie Evans and her problems with alcoholism. The gown is worn in a party scene in which Hayward begins the evening glamorous and sober and descends into a drunken catfight with co star Marsha Hunt. The gown is worn by Hayward during the fight.

Hayward achieved recognition for her dramatic abilities with the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress that year.

The next gown was worn by Hayward in the 1952 biographical film of singer Jane Froman “With A Song In My Heart”.

The film was made at 20th Century Fox Studios. The film tells the story of the turbulent life of the great singer and entertainer.

The gown consists of a black silk bodice with layers of black tulle forming the skirt. Long see through sleeves complete the costume. Hayward can be seen wearing the costume in a nightclub scene with co star David Wayne.

There is a tradition in Hollywood when it comes to film costumes and props, which is to reuse. The sad realisation for many film costumes is that they no longer exist due to many costume pieces having been cut, changed, even dyed a different color for reuse in later productions. Whilst this costume remained relatively unchanged, it appeared again in another Fox film in 1956 being “The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit”. Actress Ann Harding wore the costume in the film with the Peter Pan collar removed. Harding starred opposite Fredric March in the film.

Costumes were designed for Susan Hayward by Charles Le Maire. Hayward was also nominated for best actress that year for her portrayal.

The final piece is worn by Hayward in the historical retelling of the life of President Andrew Jackson. The film was called “The President’s Lady” and was made by 20th Century Fox studios in 1953. Hayward portrayed the wife of President Jackson who was played by Charlton Heston.

Below is a costume test showing Hayward in costume with indication of "wrong shoes".

The costumes for the film were deigned by Charles LeMaire and Renie.

Hayward died at age 57 on March 14, 1975, of pneumonia-related complications of brain cancer. There has always been speculation that she was exposed to radioactive fallout from atomic bomb tests while making “The Conqueror” with John Wayne.

Susan Hayward is and always will be, a true star in every sense of the word.

Friday, September 24, 2010


This wonderful tan velvet and lace heavily beaded period gown was worn by actress Joan Bennett in the 1939 version of the Alexandre Dumas classic “The Man In The Iron Mask”. Bennett portrays the character of Princess Maria Theresa. The film was directed by James Whale who is best known for his direction of film horror classics such as “Frankenstein” and “The Invisible Man”.

William Bridgehouse designed costumes for the film. The film was made at United Artists studios.

This famous costume adventure tells the story of a twin brother of Louis XV kept hidden away in a prison and forced to wear an iron mask to hide his identity. This was the second of five screen versions.

Louis Hayward co-starred with Bennett in the dual roles of Louis and his brother.

Make up for the film was executed by the Max Factor studio. It was not uncommon for make up tests to be conducted together with costume tests for the film. Below is Joan Bennett in costume for her make up test for the film.

A great piece of period film costume history from the year that is always remembered as being the best year in Hollywood history!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Esther Williams is best remembered for her swimming films at MGM. Williams however was also a competitive swimmer winning national records.

Williams is best remembered for her series of water musicals of the 1940s and
1950s. Some of her most memorable films at MGM include “Million Dollar Mermaid” and “Dangerous When Wet”.

Here is a wonderful Esther Williams outfit worn by her in the” Duchess of Idaho” MGM 1950. The one-piece jumper is made of beige-colored raw silk with a netted waist. Williams wears this item whilst playing tennis with co-star Van Johnson. The wonderful Helen Rose designed the costumes for the film.

Also worn by Esther Williams is a bright yellow period jumper from “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” MGM 1949. This sleeveless chartreuse dress with floral-pattern trim is worn by Williams in this very entertaining 1949 musical romance and can be seen in one of the musical numbers in the film with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

The costume also appears heavily in production stills for the release of the film. Helen Rose also designed the costumes for this feature.