Monday, July 8, 2013

Eva Marie Saint dress worn in "All Fall Down" from MGM in 1962

This is the first ladies costume from MGM with more to come, a dress worn by Eva Marie Saint in the 1962 drama "All Fall Down" which she starred in alongside Warren Beatty, Angela Lansbury, Karl Malden, and Brandon deWilde. It's based on the book and play by William Inge, with the screenplay written by him, and was directed by John Frankenheimer. 

Eva Marie Saint is truly one of the great actresses of 50's Hollywood, having started her career in 1954 in the all time classic "On the Waterfront" with Marlon Brando. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role, and went on to star in other classics of the decade including the epic "Raintree County," the social drama "A Hatful of Rain," and most memorably, alongside Cary Grant in Hitchcock's classic "North By Northwest." It's perhaps her most famous movie, and she and Cary Grant were perfect together. It's widely regarded as one of Hitchcock's best and one of the great suspense thrillers of all time. In the 1960's she went on to make "Exodus," with Paul Newman, "All Fall Down," and "The Sandpiper," with her former "Raintree" co-star Elizabeth Taylor. She's also done a lot of theater throughout her career, which is actually how she got her start, and has also done a lot of TV work as well, guest starring in tons of shows and co-starring in many TV movies. She's also continued to make feature films, memorably playing Superman's mother in "Superman Returns" in 2006, and is currently filming "Winter's Tale" due to be released this year. She's had an incredible career that's spanned more than 60 years working in theater, TV, and movies.

"All Fall Down" is a well acted and well filmed movie, a bit difficult to watch at times due to the subject matter, but the incredible performances make it all worthwhile. I don't want to give any of the movie away, but it's centered around a character played by Warren Beatty, and Eva Marie Saint plays a friend of the family who becomes his love interest. The movie is available through the Warner Archive and I highly recommend it. It's not the type of movie that will leave you with a smile, and the characters are very unsympathetic, but it's well worth watching if you enjoy great acting by a great cast. 

Eva Marie Saint wears this dress in a scene where she joins Angela Lansbury and Karl Malden for breakfast, and she's in a very good mood. Soon after Warren Beatty joins them as well. She then goes to visit Brandon deWilde at his job, and they ride home together in her old roadster and talk. Their scene together is a poignant one in the story.


The dress is made of sheer white silk with a light purple / lavender print. The bodice is gathered to one side and the neck is V shaped. The skirt is gathered at the hips and back with a cord trim extending around, but is flat in the front below the waist. This gives the skirt a full look on each side and at the back. The collar is made of cream colored silk organza, which is stiffer than the silk of the dress. The dress has a matching white cotton slip that fits the cut of the dress perfectly. The silk is so sheer that it would be see-through otherwise. You can see the slip underneath the dress mostly at the bust.

The costumes for the movie were designed by Dorothy Jeakins who is perhaps most well remembered for her work on "The Sound of Music," "South Pacific," and "The Ten Commandments". She was never under contract to any one studio like many of the other more well known costume designers, but nevertheless she worked steadily designing for one major production after another, mostly during the 50's and 60's. She designed for the biggest stars of the day including Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Ingrid Bergman, and Barbra Streisand. She won three Oscars for her work, in 1948 for "Joan of Arc" and "Samson and Delilah," and in 1964 for "Night of the Iguana." What's interesting is that she started in Hollywood as an artist, and began her career doing sketches of Mickey Mouse for Walt Disney. Most of the other costume designers worked in fashion in one form or another. She approached costume designing from an artistic perspective which she summed up in this quote - 

"What concerns me most is the canvas. The canvas is the script, and the designer is the painter. What colors do you put on the canvas and why?"
She also designed extensively for Broadway productions and later in life she was the curator of textiles at the L.A. County Museum of Art. 

The slip part of the dress has a bias label with "Eva Marie Saint" written on it...

The silk dress itself is not labeled since it's so sheer. Any label sewn into it would show through. Thankfully both the dress and slip stayed together in the MGM wardrobe department, and when the MGM auction and sale happened in 1970 the pieces were probably still hanging together on a rack and were sold that way. There is no production number on the label which is interesting to note. Around 1960 or so MGM stopped labeling the costumes with the production numbers as they had throughout the 1940's and 50's. And ladies pieces were typically labeled this way with what they called a "bias" label, being sewn alongside a zipper, or inside a sleeve, or along the inner waist. There was no rhyme or reason as to how they would sew in the label, but it was usually put in a discreet place.