Friday, September 9, 2011

KATHARINE HEPBURN “Christopher Columbus…..what riches!”

This period blue check wool day dress was worn by Katharine Hepburn in the original and loved 1933 RKO film version of “Little Women”.

Costume were designed by Walter Plunkett.

Everyone who appreciates and loves classic Hollywood has a favourite Katharine Hepburn film. Little known is that Hepburn herself considered this to be one of her personal favorites and is reported to have one said that she defied anyone to be as good as shoe was in the character of Jo. Hepburn considered her personality to be like hers and that part suited what she described as her exaggerated sense of things.

The costume is worn by Hepburn in the scene where she visits on her neighbour Laurie played by Douglass Montgomery. Hepburn utters the much remembered phrase from the film when she sees the mansion which Laurie resides in with his Grandfather and shouts out “Christopher Columbus…..what riches!” She also fences with Laurie in this scene.

The film Little Women tells the Louisa May Alcott novel of sisters Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March growing in Concord, Massachusetts, during the Civil War.

Hepburn plays the tomboyish Jo, who dreams of becoming a famous author.

The film broke theatre attendance records during its first week and Hepburn won the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival,

Directed by George Cukor and made at RKO studios, the film also starred Joan Bennett, Paul Lukas and Francis Dee.

There have been a number of film versions made of this classic novel including the MGM version in 1948 with June Allyson, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Lawford.

This 1933 version remains a personal favourite.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


This full length period lavender gown was worn by Nina Foch in the Cecil B. DeMille 1956 epic, The Ten Commandments in which she played Bithia, Pharaoh's sister who found the baby Moses in the bullrushes, adopted him as her son, and joined him and the Hebrews in their Exodus from Egypt.

The costume was worn by Nina Foch in the scene where Charlton Heston as Moses approaches Bithia and confronts her with the Hebrew cloth that Moses was found in an a child.

The costume can be seen in the video below and comes in at 6:20, sorry I could not find an English version on youtube:

The gown is also worn in the next scene where Moses visits his real mother. The costume is worn under a robe for that scene.

Slightly altered from its original use, the clasp to the front was changed for use in another production. Not worked it out yet.

I was lucky enough to also come across the bracelet that is worn by Foch in the scene with the costume and managed to get them back together again. Below is the bracelet.

Costumes for the film were designed by an array of talent available to Paramount at the time including Arnold Friberg, Edith Head, Dorothy Jeakins, John Jensen and Ralph Jester. Added to this are at least 20 more talents that were not credited to the final work. With an epic such as this, the task of costuming not only stars such as Nina Foch, Anne Baxter, Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner but thousands of extras with filming in the US as well as in Egypt.

Below is a copy of the original sketch of the Nina Foch gown from the film.

Here also is photo of Nina Foch on the set in costume.

Dutch born Nina Foch has appeared in many memorable films of the 40’s and 50s including Marie Antoinette in Scaramouche (1952), Executive Suite (1954), starring William Holden, Spartacus (1960) opposite Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier and An American In Paris with Gene Kelly in 1951.

Nina Foch spent the last 40 years of her life not only performing however teaching acting and directing at major teaching institutions. Foch was a forty-year member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Foch was married three times, one time to James Lipton host of Inside the Actors Studio.

Foch died in December 2008, of complications from a blood disorder.

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.