Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Doris Day costume worn in "The Winning Team" from Warner Brothers in 1952

Doris Day wore this silk floral print period dress in the 1952 Warner Brothers biopic "The Winning Team" which is the story of baseball great Grover Cleveland Alexander. Ronald Reagan played Alexander with Doris playing his wife, Aimee. It's a classic early 50's Warner Bros. movie, a light mix of comedy and drama with a dose of reality thrown in. It was directed by Lewis Seiler and is a lot of fun. I purchased it directly from Debbie Reynolds when she was selling off a majority of her collection a few years ago. She was very kind in selling some things privately to other collectors, and I'm glad I was able to get this piece that she had saved for so many years. Thanks to Debbie literally thousands of costumes and props from classic Hollywood movies were saved for posterity.

But first, a little about the legendary Doris Day...

Doris Day has become an icon of popular culture in her more than 50 years as a movie, recording, and TV star. She is probably best remembered for her movie career, beginning in the late 1940's and continuing until the late 1960's, but she began her career as a big band singer with Les Brown and His Band of Renown back in 1939. After becoming popular singing with his band, she went on to have a successful recording career with Columbia Records, recording 31 albums and hundreds of songs over the years, making her one of the most popular recording artists of all time. 

In 1947 she began her movie career at Warner Brothers and quickly became a star. She has worked for every major studio, and just about every movie she's been in has been a box office success. The musicals she made at Warners in the late 40's and early 50's are the kind of feel-good movies that leave a smile on your face and are so much fun to watch today. Many were period musicals, like "On Moonlight Bay" "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "Tea for Two" with Gordon MacRae, and "I'll See You in my Dreams" with Danny Thomas. She also made non-period ones like "April in Paris" with Ray Bolger, "My Dream is Yours" with Jack Carson, and "Young at Heart" with Frank Sinatra. One of her most famous musicals for the studio was "Calamity Jane" with Howard Keel. In this movie she introduced the song "Secret Love" one of the best loved recordings of her career. At MGM she made the excellent dramatic musical "Love Me Or Leave Me" with James Cagney, where she portrayed Ruth Etting. In addition to all of the musicals, she is also known for her comedy films, like "It Happened to Jane" which she did at Columbia with Jack Lemmon, and "Teacher's Pet" for Paramount alongside the great Clark Gable. She was also very adept at dramatic roles, in fact one of her earliest roles was in the drama "Young Man With a Horn" in which she starred with an intense Kirk Douglas.  Perhaps her most famous drama is Hitchcock's classic "The Man Who Knew Too Much" with Jimmy Stewart, where she introduced another song that has become one of her most famous, "Que Sera, Sera". 

Her movie career has been prolific, but she is probably best remembered for the sex comedies she did in the late 50's and early 60's. Movies like "That Touch of Mink" with Cary Grant (a favorite of mine), "The Thrill of It All" with James Garner, and most famously "Pillow Talk" with Rock Hudson. She's co-starred with many of the great leading men of classic Hollywood (like the many mentioned above), but her most popular leading man was definitely Rock Hudson. They had great chemistry on screen, and also made "Lover Come Back" and "Send Me No Flowers" together.

Even with all of the movies mentioned, there are still so many more worth watching. Doris Day is always a delight in any movie... her personality, charm, talent, and beauty shine bright...

In 1968 Doris starred in her own TV series, simply titled "The Doris Day Show" which was a hit during it's five year run until 1973. It was around this time that she began her charity work in caring for animals, which has been a major part of her life since her days making movies. She heads the Doris Day Animal League - which lobbies for the humane treatment of all animals. In her later years Doris has continued with her charity work, and has been the recipient of many awards for her career, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her charity work. Even though she's still very sought after by fans and the press, she shuns the spotlight and has preferred to live out her retirement quietly in beautiful Carmel, California. 

This costume from "The Winning Team" is a turn-of-the-century style silk dress with a floral print and lace trim. It's a sheer silk, to be worn with a petticoat underneath. After Doris wore it the original collar was changed and the ribbon at the neck was removed. I believe the waist band was also changed since in the movie it appears to be darker and is shaped a little differently. It was typical for the studios to alter and change costumes for re-use. It's a miracle that this dress has survived as long as it has with no other alterations and in relatively good shape. Aside from yellowing due to age and some pulls in the silk, it still looks great. 

Doris wears this dress in a scene where she and Ronald Reagan are attending a lecture at their local church. Gordon Jones, playing a baseball manager, interrupts the lecture looking for Reagan to ask him about his pitching abilities, and if he'd like to play in a league. Doris is very embarrassed and annoyed at the whole situation, and reprimands them both for being so rude during the lecture, especially when they start to throw pitches right outside the front door of the church! 

The dress was designed by Leah Rhodes, who was the main costume designer at Warner Brothers from the mid 1940's to the early 1950's. Having worked under Orry-Kelly for many years, who was arguably the studio's most famous and best costume designer, she took over for him when he went into the service during WWII. At this time she started designing for all of the studio's top movies, among them "The Big Sleep", where she gave Lauren Bacall her signature look. Other important movies she designed for were "Saratoga Trunk", "Strangers on a Train", "White Heat", and "Key Largo". She also designed for many of Doris' other movies, such as "Tea for Two", "Starlift", and "I'll See You in My Dreams".

In 1949 Leah Rhodes won the Academy Award for best costume design, along with Travilla and Marjorie Best, for the elaborate designs they created for the Technicolor classic "The Adventures of Don Juan" starring Errol Flynn. 

As the scene progresses, Doris gets upset at the prospect of Reagan going off to play baseball for the summer, since he had promised that they would get married and buy a farm together. He tells her that with the money he can make playing baseball that summer, it would pay for their wedding as well as the farm...  however Doris is still upset at his wanting to play baseball and goes back into the church...  of course he does wind up playing, and they do get married as the story continues. 

 Some views of the back... 

Here is the original Warner Brothers label with Doris' name. The '772' is the production number for the movie, which can also be seen in the bottom right corner of the two production stills pictured above...

1 comment:

  1. Are these dresses rare to find? Honestly, the dresses ESPECIALLY the one with crystals in Tea for Two, I WANT THAT DRESS OR REMAKE IT? They can't have died with the designers. Aren't there records or patterns of these dresses?