Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ruth Hussey dress worn in "The Great Gatsby" from 1949, designed by Edith Head

Here is another costume from Paramount, worn by the great character actress Ruth Hussey in the 1949 movie "The Great Gatsby." 

It's really the best film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, much better and more true to the book than the vapid 1974 version, and the heavily reworked recent version with Leonardo DiCaprio. This 1949 version starred Alan Ladd as Jay Gatsby, who was perfect in the role, along with Betty Field as Daisy, Ruth Hussey as Jordan, MacDonald Carey as Nick, Barry Sullivan as Tom, and a very young Shelley Winters as Myrtle. 

Ruth Hussey is mostly known for her work at MGM, in movies like "The Philadelphia Story," "H.M. Pulham Esq.," and "Susan and God." After her time under contract at MGM she worked freelance at other studios including Paramount, where she made "Gatsby" as well as "The Uninvited" with Ray Milland, which is considered her best movie. She had a refined beauty and a natural elegance about her that she brought to all of the roles she played. She always looked and sounded great on screen and was a delight to watch. Here's a nice article about her career...

Paramount costumes designed by Edith Head were usually done to a high standard, and the 20's style dresses that she did for this movie all look great on screen. This one is made of black silk with nude chiffon on the upper bodice and with a black chiffon overlay. The skirt is heavily pleated and there is a pleated cumberbund type of wrapping around the waist. These are just amateur photos that I took of it. It really needs to be steamed out and on a form that fits it better, but you can see how nice the style is. It looks very elegant in the movie, complete with the pearls and wide brimmed hat...

Dress designed by Edith Head worn by Ruth Hussey in "The Great Gatsby"

The movie used to be on youtube and I had a link here to the scene in which she wears it, but unfortunately it was taken down. I did some screen grabs from the copy I have so you can see how she wears it in the movie... First when she and Daisy arrive at Nick's house during the rainy afternoon. Then Gatsby joins them, and Jordan gets Nick to leave and go with her to "run errands". When they go back out onto the porch (you can still see the rain falling in front of them in the screen grabs, which unfortunately make them even more blurry, lol) Nick comments that Jordan is driving Gatsby's roadster...A gift he gave to her for setting up the meeting with Daisy. It's a great segment in the movie, the casting was really well done, you can see it in scenes like this. And the music score is really nice too. Hopefully it gets posted to youtube again so I can link it back here... 

Here is a clip from the movie on youtube showing part of the scene of her wearing it... 
(clicking the link will take you to youtube)

  Below is an image of the original studio label with her name. It's sewn into the inner waist of the silk part of the dress -

This piece is a favorite in the collection since it's from an actress who I've always enjoyed and a movie that I really like. I'm glad this dress survived when Paramount liquidated so many of their vintage costumes...


  1. Gorgeous dress! Thank you for sharing!

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