10 February 2011

Spotlight | Edith Head ~ Designer Extraordinaire

It is impossible to write a blog about vintage film without spending at least one post discussing the merits of Edith Head. Even before the lead actress appears on screen, I can tell I'm in for a couple of hours of sartorial sweetness when I see "Costumes by Edith Head" appear on the opening credits.

She holds the record for being the woman with the most Oscar nominations in history ~ a staggering 35 nominations with 8 wins. Even if you've never heard of her name, you have no doubt seen and recognise several of her creations worn by Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis and Grace Kelly to name but a few. Studios were keen for their films not to fall out of favour with passing trends, and Edith Head assisted by designing iconic costumes that were classic and timeless. Many modern brides owe their dress designs to this talented lady.

(above left ~ talking to Hitch / above right ~ with Audrey)

I also love her trademark black fringe/chignon and dark glasses, which she had from the 1930s until the end of her life. Like her creations, it made her timeless and almost ageless. I like my designers looking chic ~ if they're expected to make others look good, they should be stylish themselves.

A snippet of her back catalogue:

All About Eve
A Place in the Sun (1952)
Roman Holiday (1954)
Sabrina (1955)
To Catch a Thief (1956)
Funny Face (1958)

For the best example of her amazing creations, set aside three hours to watch The Ten Commandments. Technicolor knew how to make colours sing, and there are few sights more glorious than that of Anne Baxter in shades of emerald, ruby red and sapphire.

For further inspiration, you might want to buy this book. Or perhaps you want to treat me instead?

07 February 2011

Review | A Place in the Sun

Those who know me, know that I'm a sucker for an old black and white movie. Throw in the beauty of Elizabeth Taylor and the costumes of Edith Head, and you've got the perfect Sunday afternoon, with or without the rain.

A Place in the Sun tells the story of George Eastman (Montgomery Clift), a young boy from the poor side of the tracks who takes a job at his rich uncle's factory. Desperate for some warmth in his life, he starts a relationship with a fellow factory worker, simple, trusting Alice (Shelley Winters). Soon after, he starts to fall in love with the glamorous and beautiful Angela (Elizabeth Taylor), as well as developing a hankering for her family's rich and carefree way of living. Despite his best efforts, George is unable to escape Alice, who is desperate for George to marry her. As he falls further in love with Angela, George finds himself going to more extreme lengths to rid himself of his former conquest, with devastating consequences.

The film manages to blend both scenes of romance with a serious, threatening edge. Clift succeeds in making us feel sympathy for the plight of George, even when he is leading on both Alice and Angela. This is a story of the "American Dream", with George desperate to make something of himself and escape the poor of his youth. With their attitude of "anything is possible", Americans have constantly been encouraged to seek a better life for themselves, often at whatever cost. As we see in A Place in the Sun, the chasing of a better life can make us blind to the consequences our actions are creating.

Perhaps we also feel sympathy for George because of our k
nowledge of what befell Clift in reality. Considered a lost and troubled soul, Montgomery Clift struggled his whole life with his sexuality and died at the young age of 45 from a heart attack. His friendship with Elizabeth Taylor lasted until his death, and their scenes together demonstrate a strong, undeniable chemistry.

If it's a good black and white film you're after, look no further. Sixty years on, it's still fresh as a daisy.

03 February 2011

Memo | Favourite film? Impossible.

One of the questions I love to ask people I meet is "What's your favourite film?". It's an ice-breaker, it can lead to all kinds of new conversation, and I think it says so much about the person themselves. Unfortunately, I can never answer that question when asked of myself (which also probably reveals far too much about my personality). To name just one favourite film would be like choosing one favourite song or one favourite vintage dress; it changes with the mood or time of day. I might be feeling nostalgic and go for Gone with the Wind. Or perhaps I'm in the mood for a little pick-me-up, in which case Singin' in the Rain. The Godfather might suit my more serious frame of mind. The point is that there is no number one. They're all contenders and that's the way I like it.
My list includes musicals, comedies, costume dramas, documentaries, biblical epics, mob movies, westerns, french new wave, P.O.W dramas, black comedies, foreign films, ballet and a mockumentary about a fake rock band. Variety is the spice of life, so they say. What I love about favourite films is that "best" doesn't come into it. I can appreciate that a favourite film might not be the most technically brilliant ~ It's how it makes me feel that's important.

What are your favourite(s)?

02 February 2011

Decor Obsession | Pillow Talk

Rom-coms aren't usually my cup of tea, but I can happily make an exception for one from the 1950s that features Doris Day as well as fabulously gorgeous set decoration. 1950s and 60s design rocks my world, and although Doris Day's apartment in Pillow Talk (1959) is a little frou-frou for my tastes, I still adore the pastel colours and oversized lamps.

Love the hanging pendants...and a view of Manhattan can never be beat.

How I love abstract oil paintings. I can't resist buying them and have about five at home waiting to hang...just need to find more walls...

I have a bit of a thing for grasscloth walls.

Pink and purple - probably two of my least favourite colours, and yet they work so well with lemon yellow. I think the key is to not fear the colour clash - embrace it and let it take over every white surface.

Who can resist pastel colours and sixties split-screen?

So that's this week's decor obsession. Do these retro 50s digs turn you on or off?