Film noir fashion lives on with contemporary style-setters

Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Veronica Lake, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford.

Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Veronica Lake, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford.

“I saw ‘Rear Window’ and I swear I felt my brain chemistry change,” says film and fashion educator Kimberly Truhler, explaining how she acquired her love of movies and clothes. “I thought why doesn’t everyone  dress like that today?”

Kimberly Truhler

Kimberly Truhler

Gabriela Hernandez

Gabriela Hernandez

Truhler’s comment was part of a terrific talk she delivered Sunday at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles. (Her lecture on the history of fashion in film noir was part of the Skirball’s ongoing “Light & Noir” exhibit.)

During World War II, film industry designers were affected by shortages of fashion materials, such as silk and rubber. Additionally, they had to work around the strict codes of the censors, ensuring that no navels were shown and that legs were properly covered. Carefully constructed two-piece ensembles and thigh-high slits were a few of the ways to circumvent the wardrobe strictures set down by the Hays Office.

Vera West

Vera West

And, of course, designers had to disguise any figure flaws of their leading ladies and men. For example, in “This Gun for Hire” (1942, Frank Tuttle) Edith Head found subtle ways to elongate Veronica Lake’s diminutive (4’ 11”) frame.

Truhler dissected several other classic offerings: “Casablanca” (1942, Michael Curtiz, costume design by Orry-Kelly), “To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks, costume design by Milo Anderson), “Mildred Pierce” (1945, Michael Curtiz, costume design by Milo Anderson), “Gilda” (1946, Charles Vidor, costume design by Jean Louis), “The Killers” (1946, Robert Siodmak, costume design by Vera West), “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946, Tay Garnett, costume design by Irene Lentz) and “Sunset Blvd.” (1950, Billy Wilder, costume design by Edith Head).

Surprising, given the importance of clothes in establishing character and mood, the Academy did not award an Oscar for costume design until 1948.

Irene Lentz

Irene Lentz

Truhler, who sees 1946 as a stand-out year for film noir, discussed the iconic look of each movie and showed how the designer’s influence is still keenly felt on contemporary runways and with today’s style-setters. She also elaborated on the challenges and pressures costume designers face, pointing out that the legendary Ms. Head “borrowed” work from other people to snag her job at Paramount.

On a sad note, three great talents of the costume-design business (West, Lentz and Robert Kalloch) committed suicide.

We at FNB are looking forward to Truhler’s books – one on the history of film and fashion and another on Jean Louis, who was married to Loretta Young from 1993-1997.

Following Truhler’s talk, Gabriela Hernandez, founder of Bésame Cosmetics, gave a great lecture on the evolution of makeup in the movies (it all started with Max Factor) and how cosmetics were used in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s to create the look of a siren. A raffle winner got a demonstration on how to amp up her film noir allure with Bésame products.

Event photos by Roxanne Brown

Ginger Pauley is known as the Vintage Girl.

Ginger Pauley is known as the Vintage Girl.

Margot Gerber and a fellow retro enthusiast at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Margot Gerber and a fellow retro enthusiast at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Erin Cherry perfectly pulls off a film noir look.

Erin Cherry perfectly pulls off a film noir look.

Redheads rule!

Redheads rule!

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Film Noir File: Does Gilda still sizzle? Put the blame on Rita

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). All movies below are from the schedule of TCM, which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Pick of the Week

Rita Hayworth was Columbia Pictures’ top female star in the mid-1940s.

Rita Hayworth was Columbia Pictures’ top female star in the mid-1940s.

Gilda” (1946, Charles Vidor). Tuesday, Nov. 18. 12:45 a.m. (9:45 p.m.). “Gilda” is all about Gilda and that’s the way it should be – for any femme fatale and particularly for Rita Hayworth the most popular pinup girl of WWII, a talented entertainer and Columbia Pictures’ top female star in the mid-1940s. With Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford and George Macready. Read the full review here.

Friday, Nov. 14

1:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.): “Wild Boys of the Road” (1933, William Wellman). In the 1960s, campus radicals, anti-war protestors and other rebels were crazy about this movie. And it still holds up today, both as blistering melodrama and as powerful populist moviemaking. The story still stings: In the depths of the Depression, two buddies (Frankie Darro and Edwin Philips) hit the road to help their strapped parents. On their way from the Midwest to New York City, they pick up a girl hobo played by Dorothy Coonan (Mrs. Wellman), and endure hardship, starvation, police brutality, rape on the train (by guard Ward Bond) and some particularly well-staged riots. One of Wellman’s best pictures, along with “Wings,“ “Public Enemy,” “The Ox-Bow Incident“ and “The Story of G. I. Joe.” You‘ll be amazed at how this movie gets to you.

Saturday, Nov. 15

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “On the Waterfront” (1954, Elia Kazan). With Marlon Brando, Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger. Reviewed in FNB on June 5, 2014.

Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando star in "On the Waterfront."

Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando star in “On the Waterfront.”

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Dead Ringer” (1964, Paul Henreid). With Bette Davis, Karl Malden, Peter Lawford and Jean Hagen. Reviewed in FNB on March 25, 2013.

Sunday, Nov. 16

10:45 p.m. (7:45 p.m.): “Nights of Cabiria” (1957, Federico Fellini). With Giulietta Masina, Amedeo Nazzari and Francois Perier. Reviewed in FNB on April 10, 2014.

Preceded at 8 p.m. (5 p.m.) by “Sweet Charity,” Bob Fosse’s sizzling Broadway musical redo of “Nights of Cabiria” (book by Neil Simon, sings by Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields), starring that super-terrific lady of the evening Shirley MacLaine as Charity.

4 a.m. (1 a.m.): “Mafioso” (1962, Alberto Lattuada). With Alberto Sordi, Norma Bangell and Gabriella Conti. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 22, 2013.

Casablanca posterMonday, Nov, 17

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Sunrise” (1927, F. W. Murnau). With Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien and Margaret Livingston. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 3, 2012.

Tuesday. Nov. 18

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Casablanca” (1942, Michael Curtiz). With Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet and Conrad Veidt. Reviewed in FNB on Aug. 25, 2012.

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A few of FNB’s fave posts from 2012

Happy 2013, all! Here’s a look at FNB highlights from 2012.

Marilyn Monroe shot by Bert Stern

Top 10 FNB posts (misc.)

Remembering Beth Short, the Black Dahlia, on the 65th anniversary of her death

TCM festival in Hollywood

Interview with Tere Tereba, author of “Mickey Cohen: The Life and Crimes of L.A.’s Notorious Mobster”

Marilyn Monroe birthday tribute

Marilyn Monroe exhibit in Hollywood

Film noir feline stars: The cat in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”

Famous injuries in film noir, coinciding with my fractured toe, or broken foot, depending on how dramatic I am feeling

Panel event on author Georges Simenon with director William Friedkin

History Channel announcement: FNB to curate film noir shop page

Retro restaurant reviews: Russell’s in Pasadena

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REVIEWS: 2012 neo-noirs or films with elements of noir

Crossfire Hurricane” documentary

Hitchcock

Holy Motors

Killing Them Softly

Momo: The Sam Giancana Story” documentary

Polisse

Rust and Bone

Searching for Sugar Man” documentary

Unforgivable

Wuthering Heights

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REVIEWS: Classic film noir

Anatomy of a Murder

Criss Cross

Decoy

Gilda

Gun Crazy

Murder, My Sweet

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Possessed

Sunset Blvd.

They Drive By Night

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REVIEWS: Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Dial M for Murder

The Lady Vanishes

Marnie

Notorious

The 39 Steps

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‘Gilda’ shows that if you’ve got it, you might as well flaunt it

“Gilda” is all about Gilda and that’s the way it should be – for any femme fatale and particularly for Rita Hayworth the most popular pinup girl of WWII, a talented entertainer and Columbia Pictures’ top female star in the mid-1940s. This 1946 movie by director Charles Vidor is essentially a vehicle for the drop-dead gorgeous Hayworth to play a sexy free spirit who lives and loves entirely in the present moment.

Longtime friends Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth had a brief affair during the making of “Gilda.”

Hayworth revels in the sexual power she wields over any man who crosses her path, despite the fact that in post-war America a woman with a mind (and body) of her own spelled nothing but trouble. As the Time Out Film Guide points out: “Never has the fear of the female been quite so intense.” That said, the “independent” Gilda is only briefly without a husband and has to endure a lengthy punishment from her true love.

She first appears, after a devastatingly dramatic hair toss, as the wife of husband Ballin Mundson (George Macready). Suave, but aloof and asexual, Ballin runs a nightclub in Buenos Aires. Gilda passes the time plucking out tunes on her guitar and propositioning other men. Nice work if you can get it.

Enter Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford), an American gambler who runs Ballin’s club. Johnny’s job extends to keeping an eye on Gilda when she’s carousing on the dance floor. Ballin isn’t around much because he’s off trying to form a tungsten cartel with some ex-Nazi pals. But babysitting the boss’ wife (Ballin calls her a “beautiful, greedy child”) is especially tough for Johnny because he and Gilda used to be an item and endured a bitter breakup.

Ballin (George Macready) and Johnny (Glenn Ford) have a tense relationship.

The script is laced with taunts, barbs and innuendo. For example, Gilda tells him: “Hate is a very exciting emotion, hadn’t you noticed? I hate you, too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.” (And some see homosexual undertones in Farrell and Ballin’s relationship.)

Director Vidor, whose other films include 1944’s “Cover Girl” (also starring Hayworth), “A Farewell to Arms” and “The Joker Is Wild” (both 1957), holds his own in the noir genre. “Gilda” is a dark tale (alluding to sexual perversion and repression) and there’s some moody cinematography, courtesy of Rudolph Maté. But Marion Parsonnet’s script, despite many sharp, clever lines, doesn’t hold together and that throws off the pacing. The first third meanders along too slowly while the ending seems abrupt and slapped together.

The plot is thin and vaguely confusing – Ballin is up to no good and at one point is thought to be dead, only to turn up later at a pivotal point in Johnny and Gilda’s romance. They reunite of course and their push-pull tension is the engine that drives the story. Luckily, that tension, combined with solid direction and acting, save the movie.

(The legendary Ben Hecht is an uncredited writer on “Gilda” and if the storyline rings a bell, you might be thinking of “Notorious” also from 1946, written by Hecht, which is another story of ex-Nazis up to no good in South America. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant play the wary, mistrustful lovers in Alfred Hitchcock’s superior rendering of similar material.)

The chemistry between Ford and Hayworth is about as real as it gets. Longtime friends, they had a brief affair during the making of the movie. In his book, “A Life,” Glenn Ford’s son Peter writes that Vidor coached Glenn and Rita with “outrageously explicit suggestions.” Peter Ford quotes his father as saying: “[Vidor’s] instructions to the two of us were pretty incredible. I can’t even repeat the things he used to tell us to think about before we did a scene.”

Hayworth performs “Put the Blame on Mame,” choreographed by Jack Cole.

According to Peter Ford, this off-screen fling stemmed from Hayworth’s unhappy marriage to Orson Welles. The romance also drew the ire of Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn, who reportedly lusted after Hayworth and whom Hayworth rejected. “Gilda” was the second film Hayworth and Ford appeared in together; they worked together three more times afterward as well.

“Gilda” wasn’t a critical hit, but it proved popular with audiences, especially the famous “Put the Blame on Mame” scene.

Choreographed by Jack Cole, a bold and brilliant innovator, the number is as close to a strip tease as was possible in 1946. Hayworth was dubbed by Anita Ellis in that number, though there is some debate as to whether it’s Hayworth’s voice when she runs through the song with Uncle Pio (Steven Geray) earlier in the movie.

Though “Gilda” cemented Hayworth’s celebrity status, her fame came at a price. “Every man I’ve known has fallen in love with Gilda and wakened with me,” she said. But, despite her career ups and downs, five failed marriages and a long struggle with Alzheimer’s, she kept her sense of humor. In the 1970s, Hayworth was asked, “What do you think when you look at yourself in the mirror after waking up in the morning?” Her reply: “Darling, I don’t wake up till the afternoon.”

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‘Gilda’ quick hit

Gilda/1946/Columbia Pictures/110 min.

Nightclub singer and dancer Gilda (Rita Hayworth), a prototypical sex symbol before the term came into vogue, carries on a perverse relationship with two men – her husband (George Macready) and her ex (Glenn Ford) in South America. Best of all, she puts on Hollywood’s most elegant strip tease ever, courtesy of bold and brilliant choreographer Jack Cole.

Is it Gilda’s fault that men fall in love with her left, right and center? Ask her and she’ll explain: you can “Put the Blame on Mame.” Directed by Charles Vidor with luscious cinematography by Rudolph Maté.

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The Noir File: Monroe, Welles, Heflin and more

By Michael Wilmington

A noir-lover’s guide to classic film noir on cable TV. All the movies listed below are from the current schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: “The Asphalt Jungle” and “The Lady from Shanghai”

“The Asphalt Jungle” has a near-perfect cast.

The Asphalt Jungle
(1950, John Huston)
Saturday, Aug. 4. at 6 a.m. (3 a.m.): Huston’s classic heist movie, scripted by Ben Maddow from W. R. Burnett’s novel, has a near-perfect cast: Sterling Hayden (the muscle), Jean Hagen (the moll), Sam Jaffe (the brains), James Whitmore (the lookout), Anthony Caruso (the safe man), Marc Lawrence (the backer), Brad Dexter (the torpedo), John McIntire (the cop), Louis Calhern (the double-crosser) and Marilyn Monroe (the mistress). One of Jean-Pierre Melville’s three favorite films.

The Lady from Shanghai” (1948, Orson Welles)Wednesday, Aug. 8. at 10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.): Adventurer/sailor Welles gingerly woos a very blonde Rita Hayworth, wife of the wealthy, evil Frisco lawyer Everett Sloane, and victim of Glenn Anders as the very weird George Grisby. A flop in its day, now considered one of the greatest noirs and a Welles masterpiece. The highlights include an amazingly crooked trial scene and the wild chase and shoot-out in a hall of mirrors.

Richard Allan plays Marilyn’s lover in “Niagara.”

Sat., Aug. 4: Marilyn Monroe Day

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “Clash by Night” (1952, Fritz Lang) Lang’s cool, underrated adaptation of Clifford Odets’ smoldering play. With Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Paul Douglas and Monroe.

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Niagara” (1953, Henry Hathaway) One of Monroe’s sexiest roles was as the faithless wife of tormented Joseph Cotten, the two 0f them trapped together in a cabin at Niagara Falls. Jean Peters is the good wife next-door.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Some Like It Hot” (1959, Billy Wilder) Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, two dance-band musicians in drag, flee the Chicago mob and George Raft after witnessing The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre; Monroe is waiting for them aboard the Miami train. Only part film noir – the rest is gangster movie parody and screwball comedy – but noir can be proud to claim even a portion of the greatest American sound comedy. [Read more...]

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Mitzi Gaynor to appear at UCLA’s Jack Cole tribute night

So many bad girls, so little time ...

Innovative choreographer Jack Cole is finally getting his due. Long neglected in most discussions of dance on film, Cole introduced radically modern ideas and forms to a sphere often treated as merely decorative. He also lent distinction to the careers of stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable and Mitzi Gaynor. Cole came to Hollywood from the world of nightclubs and Broadway.

Jack Cole

Mitzi Gaynor

As dance critic Debra Levine points out, Cole was a preeminent film choreographer when he joined Twentieth Century Fox to coach Monroe and Jane Russell in 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

His film portfolio includes remarkable female solos: “Put the Blame on Mame” for Hayworth in the film noir “Gilda” (1946); “No Talent Joe” for Grable in “Meet Me After the Show” (1951) and “Beale Street Blues” for Gaynor in “The I Don’t Care Girl” (1953).

On Saturday, Aug. 4, the UCLA Film & Television Archive is hosting a tribute to Cole. There will be a screening of “The I Don’t Care Girl” and a discussion with Gaynor, Levine and Larry Billman, founder of the Academy of Dance on Film. Directed by Lloyd Bacon, the movie shows Cole’s hyper-stylized choreography to dazzling effect.

The UCLA event precedes Levine’s guest-host appearance on Turner Classic Movies. “Choreography by Jack Cole,” a four-film Cole homage, airs Sept. 10 on TCM.

UCLA’s tribute is at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024, 310-206-8013. Tickets are $10 and I hear they are going fast!

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‘A Little Prince’ recalls Ford family’s ‘perfect’ Hollywood life

Peter Newton Ford, son of Glenn Ford and Eleanor Powell, grew up among Hollywood royalty. His father rose to stardom with Rita Hayworth in the film noir classic “Gilda” (made by Charles Vidor in 1946, the year after Peter was born). His mother was known as “The Queen of Tap” at MGM.

Life in the Fords’ Beverly Hills mansion looked picture perfect. But, says Peter Ford, much was hidden behind the warm, charming, cheerful exterior and, as his parents’ marriage dissolved, he found himself divided between fantasy and reality. The documentary “A Little Prince” explores his family relationships against the backdrop of Hollywood’s Golden Age, with its mighty magic and sweeping illusions.

“A Little Prince” by Alexander Roman, plays June 29 to July 5 at Laemmle Noho 7, 5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA, 91601. There will be a Q&A with Ford and Roman on Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1.

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‘Glenn Ford: A Life’ is an intimate view of a star

Peter Ford will discuss and sign his book “Glenn Ford: A Life” at 7 p.m. Friday at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA, 90069, 310-659-3110. The foreword is by Patrick McGilligan.

Some background on the book, provided by event organizers:

Glenn Ford – star of such now-classic films as “Gilda,” “Blackboard Jungle,” “The Big Heat,” “3:10 to Yuma,” and “The Rounders” – had rugged good looks, a long and successful career, and a glamorous Hollywood life. Yet the man who could be accessible and charming on screen retreated to a deeply private world he created behind closed doors.

This biography by Ford’s son, Peter, offers an intimate view of a star’s private and public life. Included are exclusive interviews with family, friends, and professional associates, and snippets from the Ford family collection of diaries, letters, audiotapes, unpublished interviews, and rare candid photos.

This biography tells a cautionary tale of Glenn Ford’s relentless infidelities and long, slow fade-out, but it also embraces his talent-driven career. The result is an authentic Hollywood story that isn’t afraid to reveal the truth.

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