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Archive for ‘1940s’

Quick Film News, November, 1949

By , 1 September, 2009, No Comment

In that November 21, 1949 issue of Quick magazine which featured Esther Williams, some interesting films news…

First, the prediction that “within five years over half of all Hollywood films will be in color. Reason: two new color processes — one developed by Kodak, the other by Cinecolor — which will give Technicolor its first competition in many years.”

And below that, news that “studios were upping their quota of Westerns” — including a photographic “study in mayhem” in “Saturday-matinee style” of John Hodiak “knocking the whey out of Robert Taylor.”

1949 Film News, Quick Magazine

1949 Film News, Quick Magazine

Also, under “Quick predicts,” one-liners on the back few pages:

Ida Lupino’s “Sleeper”: Not Wanted, Ida Lupino’s little picture starring young unknowns, will be the “sleeper” of the year. It cost $140,000, already is near $1 million in domestic box-office gross.

Ida Lupino made her directing debut in Not Wanted, although she was uncredited as per her request. Just a few days into filming, the original director, Elmer Clifton, suffered a serious heart attack and was unable to complete the picture. (Clifton, in fact, died shortly after the film’s release.) The film did indeed to well at the box office, but I don’t think the B-movie ever got quite the hoopla that Quick predicted… Then again, making such a prediction after a film’s grossed a million (in 1949 dollars) isn’t much of a prediction, is it? *wink* (I just purchased Not Wanted at Amazon; so watch for the review.).

Male Star: Hollywood’s fastest-rising male star in 1950 will be Wendell Corey. Cause: hit roles in Holiday Affair, Thelma Jordan, No Sad Songs for Me, The Furies.

Call me film-illiterate, but I only (vaguely) recall Corey for his stint as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences… If he was meteoric in his rise, I guess I’m ignorant; TCM too because they don’t even have a photo of him on his profile/bio page.

Ready To Get Manhandled?

By , 27 August, 2009, 2 Comments

Manhandled Film Poster (1949)

Manhandled Film Poster (1949)

Manhandled (1949) is another one of those films you’ve probably not heard much about — and if you have, you probably heard about it from one of those film critics who didn’t have anything good to say about it.

Stupid film critics. *sigh*

Thankfully I was spared such dim views from dimwits because I’d never heard of Manhandled before watching it on TCM the other night; and I missed most of Robert’s pre-film talk to boot, vaguely catching something about it being a rare Dorothy Lamour film because she was out of her usual sarong (& that it was one of her last films due to the dreaded “aging” that nixed many a beautiful woman’s Hollywood career). So overall, I had few, if any, expectations.

This was a good thing — but it also added to the confusion too. For Manhandled is one film that nearly defies categorization.

There’s intrigue and danger in this vintage who-dun-it of a psychologist’s secretary (Dorothy Lamour) who divulges too much about the patients & her work… When a man confesses his dreams of killing his wife, you might surmise who will end up dead; but from then on out, who knows?

Manhandled does everything it can to keep you on your toes.

You might be pretty sure Dan Duryea (Lamour’s supposed boyfriend) did it; he does have the murder victim’s missing jewels…

dan-duryea-in-manhandled

But what about the victim’s husband — the patient who confessed his dreams of murder?

The police are sure it’s Lamour. (Why her more than the psychologist himself? Duryea helps with that!) Sterling Hayden, as the insurance investigator trying to recover the missing jewels, doesn’t seem to want to believe the secretary could have done it; but maybe he’s too quick to judge…

Hayden and Lamour in Manhandled

Hayden and Lamour in Manhandled

You’ve got good cops playing the “bad cop” to Hayden’s “good cop” treatment of innocent Lamour — and Duryea, the former cop now gum-chewing gum-shoe, who’s full of artificial sweetener (if not crap). Just try to figure it out — and how the film will end!

Interrogation Scene From Manhandled

Interrogation Scene From Manhandled

A black & white film, with much of the style & moody substance of film noir, Manhandled also throws in some comedy — and not the wry, dry, sort either. Manhandled throws you oddball quirks (like when Irving Bacon as Sgt. Fayle charmingly hops into a room just before the door closes), reoccurring gags (the police car has no breaks), and even a few down-right odd situations (like when Detective Lt. Bill Dawson, played by Art Smith, nearly falls asleep on his feet, passing for a drunk). For many of the other viewer-slash-reviewers, the comedy is Manhandled‘s downfall; they want the movie to be a traditional film noir — or at least a straight-up, straight-laced suspense-filled mystery thriller. But both hubby & I found the comedy, even the unnecessarily disarming. It was part of the confusion, the slight of hand; it may have been a distraction, a deviation from formulaic film, but, like Tarantino’s work, in a way that adds to the film.

Whatever you think of the film’s blending of noir & comedy, it’s the dialog which makes & moves this sophisticated film. Some lines are arguably continuity errors, saying things that weren’t exactly told to them; but these lines serve to reinforce the complicated happenings to the viewer. Best of all are how a few lines are used to cover pages of context.

For example, when Duryea goes to get a kiss from Lamour, he asks her if she “doesn’t like him, kitten” to which she replies that she likes him fine, but she’s just not willing to make a second mistake… This clarifies the earlier scene in which Lamour is seen affectionately speaking to a photograph of a little girl; you now know that the child may be her daughter, but Lamour is no fallen woman — her poor circumstances are due to a shove from a cad. Especially important when watching a film made under Code influences.

Perhaps it’s not so odd that I would adore the film & its dialog…

Manhandled was based on a story, The Man Who Stole a Dream, by L.S. Goldsmith and the screenplay was written by Whitman Chambers, a man who authored over twenty published novels and many short stories in the mystery & crime genres. Chambers also had many screenplays to his credit — plus uncredited contributions to one of my favorite films, To Have and Have Not. (Another film I’ve had to defend from critics.)

In any case, Manhandled is an excellent film.

Dorothy Lamour Being Manhandled

Dorothy Lamour Being Manhandled

I won’t say anymore about Manhandled; you ought to enjoy it for yourself. Which will be difficult as the film apparently, sadly, is not available on DVD (other than what appears to be pirated copies) — you’ll have to keep an eye out for TCM’s next showing of Manhandled.

Vintage Suit With Strong Lines

By , 27 August, 2009, No Comment

This 50s wool serge suit by Emery Bird Thayer (Bass, New York) appears to be as straight-forward as those pieced stripes… But look closer and you’ll see all the details which add up to such fantastic style: an Italian-style collar, bold but balanced buttons, a feminine but understated peplum, small shoulder pads, over a slim, dart-fitted, knee-length skirt.

Vintage 1950s Women's Striped Suit At Rusty Zipper

Vintage 1950s Women's Striped Suit At Rusty Zipper

And it completely seams seems like something Barbara Stanwyck would wear…

Barbara Stanwyck In Bold Geometric Suit

Barbara Stanwyck In Bold Geometric Suit

Stanwyck Dramatics

By , 20 August, 2009, No Comment

If you like the dramatic look of Barbara Stanwyck’s floral dress…

Stanwyck In Dramatic Floral Print

Stanwyck In Dramatic Floral Print

Look at this vintage draped crepe rayon dress in grey with yellow & white floral print. It’s pretty and appropriate for work as well as special occasions.

Vintage Floral Draped Rayon Dress

Vintage Floral Draped Rayon Dress

This vintage dress features a V neckline, side zipper, and weighted sash panels for dramatic draping.

Violetville Vintage Floral Dress

Violetville Vintage Floral Dress

Foiled Again?

By , 19 August, 2009, No Comment

“Foiled again” has a whole new meaning with this stunning vintage silver suit — make that two meanings… If you’ve ever been lucky enough to be wrapped in silver silk satin jacquard, you’ll want to be foiled that way again! But if you don’t buy it when you see it, you’ll be foiled in that bad way. Tsk tsk!

Vintage 40s Silver Silk Suit With Ruffled Skirt

Vintage 40s Silver Silk Suit With Ruffled Skirt

Don’t Step On My Wine Suede Shoes

By , 18 August, 2009, No Comment

I’m nearly drunk with desire for these burgundy wine suede shoes from the 40’s.

1940s Burgundy Suede Silk Bow Trim Shoes

1940s Burgundy Suede Silk Bow Trim Shoes

The Story Of Circle & Poodle Skirts Continues

By , 16 August, 2009, 4 Comments

Continuing the story of the circle skirt… The story began with a simple skirt Juli Lynne Charlot made for a Christmas party (not the actual circle skirt shown here, but how cute is that?!) and the skirts were quickly transformed into a multitude of novelty themes.

1950s Christmas Themed Circle Skirt

1950s Christmas Themed Circle Skirt

Fashion legend says that at some point it was suggested to Charlot that she put animals, including poodles, onto her skirts and that when Charlot did so, the popularity of the circle skirts increased greatly — which has led to the skirts being called poodle skirts.

In fashion reality (or at least by my own personal definition), poodle skirts are different than novelty circle skirts… And fit a different market or fashion niche. As we shall see.

While adult women did wear novelty circle skirts, especially in the beginning,the heavily petticoated novelty skirts (what I call poodle skirts) quickly became not only de rigeur for girls, but seen mainly as a fashion trend for the youth.

The poodle skirt craze among teens is often attributed to those new rock n roll dances; teens found the big circle skirts enchanting while dancing. But it’s quite probable that mom & dad preferred their Kitten to wear a longer full skirt that hid at least part of her figure (especially when stuffed with crinolines and petticoats to prevent anything more being seen) to the more fitted along the hips structured fashions; watch Kitten’s skirt swing, not her hips sway. *wink*

(Of course, the irony was that fuller skirts looked like fuller, more womanly, hips and that boys dreamed of ladies’ underthings, so…)

But let’s not overlook the marketing machine in all of this either…

10 Year Old Girl Wearing Poodle Skirt, Christmas, 1954

10 Year Old Girl Wearing Poodle Skirt, Christmas, 1954

During the 1950’s, companies began to court the youth market as they never had before. This shift in attention to teens had fashions, like the poodle skirts, forcefully marketed to young girls rather than the former long history of marketing fashions to adult women. The proof of this can be seen in the ephemera trail which shows that ads for poodle skirts in magazines published for teens clearly outnumbered those in publications for women (which focused on less voluminous circle skirts).

There were other factors for the popularity of poodle skirts for teens too.

In the 1950’s you also had less of an emphasis on sewing as a skill for women. More ready to wear, priced more affordably, began to edge out the need to know how to sew. Girls still took the sewing classes, but they knew far less & had less interest in sewing as their mothers did. (The difference between my grandmother & mother’s ability to sew may only seem anecdotal; but I assure you, it was happening all over the atomic 50’s suburbs!)

However, the ease of making a circle skirt, and the influx of printed novelty fabrics that allowed one to make a circle skirt without even having to sew on appliques, tempted those teen girls… She could save a few dollars by making her own skirt rather than buying one — do that a few times, and Kitten ends up with more skirts for the same amount of Daddy’s money. *wink*

Also, speaking contextually of women’s lives and fashion at the time, it’s easy to see how such full, un-tailored skirts would seem unfamiliar — perhaps even ill-fitting — to a woman wearing more traditional fashions at the time. Even the full skirted New Look fashions had a more tailored, refined look about the hips (and either had shorter crinolined skirt lengths, or longer skirts with voluminous folds or a softer “outness”), indicating the more mature woman’s sophistication and duties in life as compared to their whimsical, dancing daughters.

Mother & Daughter, Wearing Different Fashions, Waving Goodby To Daddy In The 1950s

Mother & Daughter, Wearing Different Fashions, Waving Goodby To Daddy In The 1950s

Of course, this lack of tailored appearance was part of the design; if circle skirts had required more seams, Charlot never would have made one! (Nor would the idea of circle skirts have been so readily snapped up by the Mexican souvenir making market, which realized a full skirt with a simple waistband, zipper or no, was not only easier & cheaper to make, but required less actual sizes to be made than tailored or more accurately sized skirts — another reason why such souvenir circle skirts with novelty prints or details are still made today.)

1951 Wide Wool Skirt (And Jeresy Top) Ad

1951 Wide Wool Skirt (And Jeresy Top) Ad

All of these things created a schism, of sorts, leaving poodle skirts and circle skirts with more flirtatious petticoats a far more fashionable dress for teens & young women than for their mothers & grandmothers.

In short, the poodle skirt was one of the very first “too young for you” fashions.

Of the authentic vintage circle novelty skirts that remain, the waists are typically smaller & hems shorter; percentage wise what’s left indicates that the fashion was a marketplace primarily for teens and younger women. What this means for vintage fashion collectors and the fashionistas who covet authentic 1950’s poodle skirts & vintage novelty circle skirts is that it’s slim pickings on the full skirts with novelty prints, appliques, embroidery & other details.

Vintage Embroidered Circle Skirt

Vintage Embroidered Circle Skirt

But the good news remains that circle skirts are in fact very easy to make. You can purchase a circle skirt pattern, old or new — and don’t overlook making them in Charlot’s original manner either: Just cut a circle from fabric, make a hole in the waist, and decorate!

Still to come… How to wear circle skirts!

Vintage Butterick Circle Skirt Pattern

Vintage Butterick Circle Skirt Pattern

Not Circle Skirting The Origins Of The Circle Skirt

By , 14 August, 2009, 4 Comments

The only thing more fun than vintage & retro novelty print dresses are circle skirts — you may know them as “poodle skirts,” even if the themes haven’t all gone to the dogs.

Vintage Red Poodle Skirt

Vintage Red Poodle Skirt

What you may not know is that the credit for the circle skirt, or at least its popularity, is attributed to one woman, Juli Lynne Charlot. A woman who described herself as “unable to sew” in an interview in a UP article, Girl Who Couldn’t Sew Booms Into Business With Circle Skirt, published in the Toledo Blade, February 25, 1953.

Five years before this article, in 1947, 25 year old Juli Lynne Charlot made a skirt to wear to a Los Angeles holiday party by cutting a big circle of felt with a hole in the middle to fit her own waist and appliqued “whimsical felt Christmas tress” to it to wear to a Los Angeles holiday party. According to that news article:

I cut it out of felt, because I didn’t know how to sew, and that was the only material I knew wide enough to cut a complete circle skirt without any seams.

(Also worth noting, I think, is Charlot’s description of her own appearance. As was the norm in newspapers, from fashion pieces to crime stories, the clothing, hairstyle & appearance of those featured in the stories were greatly detailed. In this case, the now 30 year old Charlot “counters” what the reporter sees with a visual description of her 25 year old self, saying she was “a big girl — I was just plain fat and frumpy when I made that first skirt.” Why is this worth noting? Well, for one it serves as a reminder to read old magazines and newspapers for clues to what was actually worn rather than trusting the ads; two, it suggests that circle skirts are flattering on any figure; and three, it shows Charlot as a rather self-deprecating woman — at least as a young designer.)

Anyway, just one week after the holiday party, Charlot sold her Christmas circle skirt because she needed the money. From there, demand grew. Charlot put herself in “designing school to learn how to sew” as well as managed to save enough money to start her own factory.

Juli Lynne Charlot Label

Juli Lynne Charlot Label

Charlot had orders, but her business struggled to pay the bills. “I can’t do arithmetic. Mother hocked her diamond ring three weeks in a row to help me meet the payroll,” she said in that 1953 interview. Charlot & her factory struggled until, the story goes, an unnamed New York dress manufacturer visited Charlot, found her in tears, and invested in Charlot’s factory, allowing the designer to more successfully continue to make her whimsical & constantly changing felt designs applied on felt (in winter) and poplin (in summer) skirts, like this stunning Parisian themed circle skirt.

Vintage Circle Skirt With French Theme By Juli Lynne Charlot

Vintage Circle Skirt With French Theme By Juli Lynne Charlot

Just one year prior to this 1953 newspaper article, Juli Lynne Charlot designs were so successful that one of them appeared in a national ad campaign for Maidenform bras.

I Dreamed I Went To The Races In My Maidenform Bra Ad (1952)

I Dreamed I Went To The Races In My Maidenform Bra Ad (1952)

Part of Maidenform’s famous & iconic “I Dreamed…” ad campaign, this 1952 ad shows a Juli Lynne Charlot race horse themed circle skirt on a model who has dreamed she was at the races.

In what can only be described by me as a “Holy Crap!” fashion moment, the skirt shown in the ad was available for sale at AntiqueDress.com.

Vintage Juli Lynne Charlot Circle Skirt

Vintage Juli Lynne Charlot Circle Skirt

Speaking with the lovely Deborah Burke, the owner of AntiqueDress.com, I confirmed that the iconic Juli Lynne Charlot horse racing circle skirt sold two years ago for $665. I can only imagine the delight of owing such a special skirt… It’s exactly this the sort of thing that keeps me searching for vintage fashions.

Come back, because I’ve got more to the story of circle skirts comin’ up next week!

Vintage Horse Racing Circle Skirt Featured In Maidenform Ad

Vintage Horse Racing Circle Skirt Featured In Maidenform Ad

Of All The Gin Joints… Femme Fatale Fitted Suits Walk Into My Life

By , 13 August, 2009, 5 Comments
Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce

When most people think of the fashions women wore in film noir, they think of the sultry, clingy, glamour girl gowns worn by torch singers. They are stunning — but me? I always think of the fabulous female forms in those fabulous fitted suits.

Maybe someone has done an accounting to see which sort of fashions appeared most often in film noir features… I don’t have any idea, myself.

But even if the glamour girl gowns out-number the fitted suits, the suits are more far more iconic to me.

The suits conveyed a sense of power on the part of the women — even if in their situations they were doomed and therefore powerless by definition.

And when they performed the simple act of removing their suit jacket, oh the sexual tension!

Casablanca

Casablanca

Every film noir script or pulp detective novel I ever wrote (yup, I’ve got folders full of ’em!), always featured a woman as powerful & wise as she was beautiful & jaded — and she always walked in wearing a fitted suit above those clicking high heeled shoes. And so, here’s a salute to the film noir femme fatale fitted suit!

1940’s fitted black suit by B. Altman & Co. Fifth Avenue New York:

Black Fitted Vintage Women's Suit

Black Fitted Vintage Women's Suit

A stunning vintage Adele Simpson suit with Ermin collar:

1940s Adele Simpson Suit With Ermin Collar

1940s Adele Simpson Suit With Ermin Collar

Pretty vintage lemon yellow gabardine suit:

Vintage Yellow Gabardine Suit

Vintage Yellow Gabardine Suit

A vintage rayon suit in a rainy grey color and deco detailing:

Vintage Femme Fatale Suit

Vintage Femme Fatale Suit

And this 1940’s women’s black suit jacket — with blue glass beading:

1940s Suit Jacket With Glass Beading

1940s Suit Jacket With Glass Beading

Shoe Shopping With Barbara Stanwyck (Or, Stanwyck Exploits The Power Of Shoes)

By , 10 August, 2009, 1 Comment
Barbara Stanwyck In Lady Eve

Barbara Stanwyck In Lady Eve

OK, so these scenes of Barbara Stanwyck & Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve (1941) aren’t exactly about shoe shopping…

But if you’ve ever seen The Lady Eve, the shoe scenes are difficult to forget — even if you don’t love shoes.

Those that believe in the power of shoes, well, let’s just say you’ll find Stanwyck’s sacrifice of a pretty shoe — stretched out from under the table into Fonda’s path tripping him — a grim but understandable tactic to get the attentions of one’s Prince Charming.

Stanwyck Trips Fonda In The Lady Eve

Stanwyck Trips Fonda In The Lady Eve

Once she’s made him literally fall for her, she stands above him and complains that he has broken the heel off her shoe and has him escort her back to her room to help replace the shoes he has ruined with another pair.

Once back in her room, Stanwyck seductively leans back on a wardrobe trunk and toys with the shy, awkward Fonda with a flirtatious, “See anything you like?”

Barbara Stanwyck Shoe Fitting

Barbara Stanwyck Shoe Fitting

Now that he’s confused by her sexual aggression and drunk on her perfume, she points to her compartmented shoe bag with fifty pairs of shoes & commands him to select another pair for her — all the while, making suggestive lines to further distract him. Once he’s found a pair, she proffers her nylon covered foot — exposing her nylon covered leg via the generous slit in her black evening gown — and bids him to put the shoes on her feet.

He is as mad about her now as many fashionistas are about shoes in general; he is in full swoon.

If you’re looking for some shoes with the power of Stanwyck’s, try some strappy peep toe pumps from the 40’s.

Saucy vintage maroon suede peep toe shoes with a wooden heel!

Strappy Suede Vintage Peep-Toe Shoes

Strappy Suede Vintage Peep-Toe Shoes

Black Mary Jane peep-toe shoes never go out of style.

Peep-Toe Mary Jane Pumps, 1930s-1940s

Peep-Toe Mary Jane Pumps, 1930s-1940s

If you don’t have an evening gown, or the occasion to wear such dressy ensembles, these lace-up green leather peep toe shoes from the 1940s allow for more casual thrills.

Green Leather Lace-Up Peep-Toe Shoes, 1940s

Green Leather Lace-Up Peep-Toe Shoes, 1940s