Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shirley MacLaine dress worn in the Oscar winning classic "Terms of Endearment"



A floral print dress worn in her Oscar winning role as Aurora Greenway...



















"Terms of Endearment" is a beautiful portrayal of the relationship between a mother and daughter over the course of their lives... their loving yet strained bond, the ups and downs they face, and the men in their lives. MacLaine is perfect as the sassy yet wise Aurora, and Debra Winger plays her free spirited daughter Emma. It also stars Jack Nicholson as Garret, their next door neighbor who's also an astronaut, and who becomes Aurora's love interest. Jeff Daniels plays Emma's husband, and John Lithgow plays a banker who becomes close to Emma. Danny Devito is great in a small part as one of Aurora's friends and hopeful suitors. Everyone is perfect in their roles, the movie couldn't have been cast better... In addition to MacLaine winning the Oscar for Best Actress, the movie also won the Oscar for Best Picture, Nicholson won for Best Supporting Actor, and James L. Brooks won for writing and directing... All in all it won five Oscars at the Academy Awards of 1983 as well as many other awards that year. 

I think what makes the movie work so well in addition to the fine acting, writing, and directing, is how easy it is to relate to. The story is very realistic and the performances are very natural. You feel as though you know these characters as real people. And when it starts to get very dramatic and the tears start to flow (this movie is a known tear-jerker), you get caught up in it because of how real the emotions of the actors are. It's just very well done. The movie was filmed entirely on location which is another reason why it feels very real. There's no glossy Hollywood-ness to it at all, yet it's still very well made. The music is also top notch, and the sets and costumes of course. Each character has a very distinct style and the clothes really reflect their personalities. 

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A little about our star for this post, the great Miss Shirley MacLaine...

James L. Brooks, Shirley, and Jack Nicholson at the Oscars in 1983

Shirley MacLaine was born in Richmond, Virginia and started taking ballet as a child. She went on to do theater in high school and then tried her luck on Broadway. She was in the cast of "The Pajama Game" as a chorus girl and was also the understudy for star Carol Haney. One night when Haney broke her ankle Shirley went on in her place and was a great success. A talent scout from Warner Brothers caught one of her performances and offered her a contract in Hollywood. She tells this whole story of how she was discovered in the documentary "Broadway, the Golden Years," and it's one of those great classic show-biz stories. The famous Broadway director Harold Prince mentions how everyone in the theater community was telling her not to go, that she'll miss the moment on Broadway since she was now an overnight success, but she decided to try Hollywood, and that was the start of her legendary movie career...

Shirley, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson during filming
 
She began her career right at the end of the glory days of the studio system, her first movie was Hitchcock's "The Trouble With Harry," not a bad way to start... She's gone on to star in such classics as "Some Came Running," "The Apartment," "The Children's Hour," "Sweet Charity," "The Turning Point," "Being There," "Steel Magnolias," and "Postcards From the Edge," among many others. One of her little known gems is "Hot Spell" which she made with Shirley Booth and Anthony Quinn, a very well done movie that is too forgotten. She was also excellent as a supporting character in "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" starring Robert Duvall and Richard Harris, another really well acted movie that is worth seeing... 
 
Shirley continues to make movies today, and over the years she's had great success doing variety and stage shows, since she's always been a great singer and dancer as well as actress. She's also done extensive TV and theater work, and is also know for the many books she's written about spirituality and her career. She's won practically every major award that there is in the entertainment world, including most recently the Kennedy Center Honor in 2013.

Her wikipedia link where more detail is given about her career... 

And here's a link to Shirley's website... 

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Shirley wears the dress when she's in the gazebo of her backyard, and Jack Nicholson comes over to talk to her. He wants to end their relationship since he's feeling too much of an obligation... she basically takes it in stride, even though she's visibly upset, and of course they wind up getting back together later in the movie...





























































































The dress is made of silk with a floral and polka dot/stripe print, with lace trim on the bodice, sleeves, and hem of the skirt. The top is a nude silk and the skirt is cream silk, both with the same print. The belt was made to match the polka dots in the print. The look of it is very much her character in the movie, a well-to-do proper Southern lady. 
 
The costumes were designed by Kristi Zea, who also did the costumes for "Fame" and "Silverado". She's most well known as a production designer, having worked on "Goodfellas," and "Philadelphia", among other films. Here's a link to her website... 
 

The dress was originally sold at Paramount Studios costume auction held at Christie's in 1990. It was then sold at the store "Star Wares" sometime after that. It still has their hanging tags on the sleeve, as well as the original auction tags which you can see in the photos. I've since removed them when I put the dress in archival storage. 

The skirt was worn separately later in the movie when Shirley is returning to her motel after a long day visiting Debra Winger in the hospital...








It's interesting to see it being worn a second time in a different way, I guess the same way any person would re-wear something in their wardrobe. At first I thought it was a mistake during filming that it was being re-used, but it does make sense. The scene shows how drawn she is from dealing with her daughter's illness, coming back to the motel tired and disheveled. She's looking over at her grandsons who are playing in the arcade. This scene is right after her famous "give my daughter the shot!" scene, which is probably the most memorable one in the movie. If you haven't seen the movie yet, definitely put it on your list!




Sunday, January 12, 2014

Robert Preston costume worn in "The Lady From Cheyenne"


Here is a period frock coat worn by Robert Preston in the 1941 western comedy-drama "The Lady From Cheyenne" starring Loretta Young and made at Universal Studios...




It's the story of a school teacher in 1860's Wyoming who owns land that is wanted by a corrupt local businessman, and how she fights back and also fights for women's liberation... Along the way she is befriended by the businessman's lawyer so that he can try and get her land, but of course they fall in love... It's a fun movie with a great supporting cast and can be watched on youtube. He wears the coat about 13 minutes in, and then again in a later scene...


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A little about the great "Music Man" himself...


A 1941 studio portrait


Robert Preston began his career doing theater in Pasadena California, after growing up in L.A. and attending high school there. A talent scout from Paramount Studios saw him in a play and signed him to a contract, and he went on to play supporting roles in many films for the studio during the late 30's and throughout the 40's. Most of the movies he did are forgotten today, aside from the ones he did with Cecil B. DeMille, like "Northwest Mounted Police" and "Reap the Wild Wind". He was also memorable in William Wellman's remake of "Beau Geste". Preston went out on loan to Universal to make "The Lady From Cheyenne", one of the few films he made outside of Paramount. He was also one of the many actors to leave Hollywood and join the Army during WWII. He was in the Army Air Corps and served as an intelligence officer.

After his time at Paramount in the 1940's, Preston went to Broadway and began doing plays. In 1957 he was signed to play the role of "Professor" Harold Hill in Meredith Willson's "The Music Man", and the rest, as they say, is history... After working in Hollywood and on Broadway for almost 20 years, he achieved international stardom in "The Music Man" and immortalized the role of Harold Hill. What's interesting is that he had never done a musical in his life, yet he took to this role so brilliantly that you'd think he had always done musical comedy. He won the Tony Award for the role, and went on to make the movie at Warner Bros. in 1962. 

Preston went on to do other Broadway musicals including "I Do, I Do" for which he won another Tony, and "Mack and Mabel" where he played movie comedy pioneer Mack Sennett. In 1974 he co-starred in the movie version of "Mame" with Lucille Ball, and in 1982 he made his last great movie "Victor/Victoria" with Julie Andrews. 

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Vera West is credited for doing the "gowns" for the movie, which probably means that she designed Loretta Young's wardrobe exclusively. She was the head of the Universal Studios costume department in the early 1940's, so she probably had a staff that would design costumes for the male stars and supporting players. But, it's a possibility that she did design the coat, since Preston plays the male lead.

















Here's the snipe that's on the back of the photo above. It seems it was used at the Academy for an exhibit which is interesting...















Below is the original "Western Costume Company" label with his name... 

Western Costume made all of Universal Studio's wardrobe in the 1940's, at least most of it as far as I know... Even ladies costumes I've seen from movies made during the 40's at the studio bear a Western label. However very few pieces have surfaced from this time. I think most are either still at Western Costume or in the Universal Studios wardrobe department...  



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Edie Adams dress worn in one of her famous "Muriel Cigar" commercials...


Here's another great piece from Edie Adams, a pink chiffon, heavily beaded dress that she wore in the popular "Adams Sisters" commercial for Muriel Cigars... 




I love how she's playing triplets and with the three different wigs... It's very clever and well done for a commercial. It's one of the more well known ones that she did in the early 60's as the spokeswoman for Muriel Cigars...

Edie began doing the Muriel commercials after her husband Ernie Kovacs died tragically in a car accident in 1962. He had been the spokesman for Dutch Masters, and the company approached Edie after he passed and asked her if she'd like to advertise the Muriel Cigar arm of their company. The venture wound up making her quite wealthy and a household name in the 60's. The money that she made helped pay back the tremendous debt that was left by Kovacs in the wake of his tragic death. Edie continued to advertise for Muriel until the early 70's...

The dress is very well made, with a starburst pattern of gold beading at the bust, and small teardrop shaped beads throughout. It doesn't have a maker's label but appears to be custom made. I would assume that she had it made by a costume company or by a designer friend. Edie typically wore couture pieces by favorite designers such as Galanos, Mainbocher, Helen Rose, etc. But in her wardrobe collection there were also many pieces like this which she had custom made for specific things such as this commercial, along with stage costumes from her many TV, theater, and Vegas engagements... I wouldn't be surprised if she wore this dress on stage as well at some point... 





 

I'll be posting a few more pieces from Edie's collection in the future... Check out her gown from "The Best Man" in a separate post, where there is also more info on her career...