Tag Archives: Barbara Stanwyck

Mirror, Mirror

I’m currently reading a biography of movie star Barbara Stanwyck. She was not the most beautiful of stars but she certainly exuded sex appeal and knew how to get a guy – a trait she shared with one of her most memorable characters, the eponymous heroine in the glorious 1941 comedy The Lady Eve. I’ll be writing a Style on Film soon about this movie, the first in which Stanwyck wore high fashion, but in the meantime, here’s a wonderful clip which shows why a single gal should never be without a mini mirror … 

 

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Style on Film: Gilda

This is arguably the most famous dress of the 1940s – and certainly the most iconic film noir frock -and it’s worn by the luminous Rita Hayworth in the 1946 noir melodrama Gilda which is currently enjoying a revival in British cinemas. However, it’s not the only gorgeous gown in the film: Rita gets through several wardrobes’ worth of Columbia Studios designer Jean Louis’s finest creations in the course of the movie, starting with the shimmering gown which her power-crazed husband has to help her in – and out – of.

For her second outing to her husband’s Buenos Aires casino, Gilda glides around in a Grecian-style gown – very now-looking, with its belt and matching cuff. And she carries her cigarettes in a teeny clutch bag..

Having left the casino with a new man, she hits the town wearing a sensational, sparkly, jewel-encrusted evening coat.

The first time we see Gilda in daywear, she’s singing her signature song – Put the Blame on Mame. Her chic outfit is – like her (or rather singer Anita Ellis’s) performance of that bluesy and witty song – extremely simple yet effective. The plain, slightly toga-esque, dress is accessorised with a studded belt and a deep, gladiator-style cuff. As a fan of cuffs (if you have skinny wrists they’re a godsend), I recommend this film as a source of inspiration! They’re definitely a running theme.

For her wedding to Johnny, about two minutes after her husband has apparently died in a plane crash, Gilda sports a chic black satin skirt suit – just the right touch for a widow-turned-bride, n’est-ce pas?

The pearls are a nice, un-Gilda-like touch – but the black sandals with ankle straps are pure femme fatale… Here’s the full-length rear view.

For her visit to her new husband’s office (it used to be her old husband’s), Gilda smoulders in a pale-coloured satin column gown; fur coat draped casually over one shoulder or held in front of her. Indeed, she never puts it down – even though she walks about the office smoking a cigarette. Was Rita perhaps sporting a baby bump? The positioning of the coat over that part of her dress makes you wonder..

With her husband disinterested in her, Gilda goes on the rampage – here’s the risque gown she wears as she seduces one poor chump …

Gilda flees her gilded cage and relaunches herself as a nightclub singer and dancer. For her first big musical number, she borrows Barbara Stanwyck’s signature midriff-bearing style of dress.

Returning to Buenos Aires to file for divorce, Gilda is very business-like in a pinstripe suit not dissimilar to (though not as sharp as) Rosalind Russell’s in His Girl Friday or Bette Davis’s in Now Voyager.

I don’t know that Gilda saves the best dress for last – but it’s certainly the one that is best remembered. Rita Hayworth was asked later what had held up the black satin column dress during the nightclub performance of Put the Blame on Mame – it comes dangerously close to slipping down as the song goes on. She replied: “Two things.” Here’s the number, followed by my preferred version of it (the day dress one) and the other song from the film, Amado Mio.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

I got ahead of myself quite a bit last week as I couldn’t resist trying out some exciting beauty products which won’t be launched for some time.

On Monday, I gave the next addition to Chanel’s mascara collection an early outing. I’d say “a trial run” – but one thing that the marvellously versatile (it lengthens and curls) Chanel Sublime de Chanel (£22.50, from April 15) didn’t do was run, even though I was very watery-eyed during the Glasgow Film Festival’s Monday matinee showing of the romantic epic Out of Africa, with Meryl Streep (pictured) and Robert Redford. The real test, however, will be to see how it fares when I next watch my favourite-ever romantic weepie, Somewhere in Time, which – like Out of Africa – has an achingly beautiful John Barry score.

TUESDAY

The lovely ladies from the Origins press office hosted a lunch in Glasgow on Tuesday, to brief local beauty journalists on the latest must-try serum.

Plantscription (£45; from March 3 at department stores and www.origins.co.uk) is its name, and if that sounds a little bit medical then that’s because it seems to be the ideal prescription for ageing skin since it enables it to repair itself. The test results and before-and-after photos which we were shown were pretty impressive – so much so that I started using my tube that very same night!

The medical-sounding name also alludes to the fact that this serum was designed to take on America’s leading prescription wrinkle ingredients, retinoids, and to do so without producing any of the associated unpleasant side effects – photosensitivity, burning, redness, dryness and stinging among them.

I can report that after using the serum religiously for just five days, I’m impressed – not by any line-reducing activity (yet – though the clinical tests showed significant improvement after just four weeks!) but by the brightness and evenness of my complexion.  And this from a rosacea sufferer … Watch this space.

WEDNESDAY

On Tuesday after lunch – and feeling somewhat mischievous after quaffing champagne in the middle of the day – I sneaked through to Edinburgh to see one of my favourite romantic comedies at The Filmhouse cinema – the sublime, Snow White-inspired Ball of Fire.

When I wasn’t lusting after Gary Cooper (who, to paraphrase a colleague, “does things to my innards”), I was hankering after Barbara Stanwyck’s glossy locks. My own hair was still not 100% cured of its dryness and tangledness so I was very relieved to discover that there’d been an Aveda delivery while I’d been in Edinburgh.

I started using the three key products in Aveda Damage Remedy – Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Shampoo (£18; www.aveda.co.uk); Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Conditioner (£19.50) and Aveda Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair (£18.50) – on Wednesday and have been thrilled with the results. I’d already tried the Dry Remedy range and, although the condition of my hair had improved, it was still not back to where it had been pre-Aveda colour. One of the Aveda hair experts at James Dun’s House salon in Glasgow then advised me that the range I should be trying was, in fact, Damage Remedy as I do not have naturally dry hair. So far, so brilliant. I haven’t yet dared try just using the shampoo and conditioner; I’ve been using the Daily Hair Repair – a leave-in conditioner-cum-styling cream which protects the hair from heat damage when you’re blow-drying it.  This trio of products seems to be working so I’m going to stick with it …

THURSDAY

I do love a proper, old-fashioned liquid or cream eyeliner which you can use to create a fifties-style flick… I’ve been using eyeliner pens and brushes for years, since I realised that pencilled-on eyeliner just did not stay put and always seemed to give me panda eyes.

The latest eyeliner in my make-up bag is No7 Spring Limited Edition Gel Eyeliner (10.50; www.boots.com), part of No7’s lovely, Riviera-inspired, spring collection. I’ve got the navy blue shade (it also comes in black and turquoise) and it’s really easy to use, though if you want a fairly well defined line, you need to build it up with a few layers.

Oh, and if the flicked-up eye line is a style you might want to commit to, shop around for a longer brush than the awkward little one that comes with the eyeliner…

FRIDAY

Great excitement here on Friday when I received a sneak preview of the new colour collection from Chanel for summer 2011. The arrival of Les Fleurs d’Ete de Chanel could not have been better timed as Friday was a glorious spring day here in Glasgow, the first hint that winter might be over.

This being a Chanel collection, I immediately looked for the nail varnish destined to be the next must-have (people are still searching this blog regularly for information on the greeny shade from last year’s Nouvelle Vague range) – and I didn’t have to look far… All I am going to say just now is that it’s not a colour I expected to like on my nails, but I am smitten. Oh, and the little chick on the right is a bit of a clue …

P.S: Before the summer collection comes out, Chanel is launching a new hydrating and sheer lipstick collection called Rouge Coco Shine.  If you live in Glasgow, book yourself in for a complimentary mini-makeover using the range, followed by a unique photographic experience in a Chanel photo booth. This event is taking place at Frasers on Friday, March 11, and Saturday 12. To book a place, call 0141 221 3880, ext 2038.

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Leopard Ladies

I’ve never been a cat lover but I’ve always adored leopard print – and this winter, it looks set to be THE pattern to be seen with. In fact I’m lusting after a leopard print coat from Topshop. Here are selection of some of my favourite stylish leading ladies in leopard print, starting with the sexy and elegant Anne Bancroft in her most famous role – as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate (1967).

Even in leopard print, the lovely Audrey Hepburn looks as demure as ever …

While Anne Bancroft’s Mrs Robinson wore her leopard on her head and as a trim on her collar, and Audrey went for a typically chic little pillbox hat, the luminous Carole Lombard wore leopard on her hat, collar and muffler in her breakthrough film, Twentieth Century (1934).

Leopard print has always been associated with bad girls and in the 1940s, one of the vampiest bad girls on the big screen was Barbara Stanwyck who accessorizes with leopard print in this picture in a surprisingly restrained and elegant way …  Mind you, the pout and the come-hither eyes compensate!

I can’t think of any photos of Marilyn Monroe sporting leopard print offscreen but she wears it beautifully in the early ocean liner scenes of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

Kim Novak was another 1950s blonde star who memorably sported leopard print – as if to underline her slinky, feline quality – especially in the wonderfully stylish romantic comedy Bell, Book and Candle.

So far, so useful in terms of style inspiration for this winter. I doubt that many of us will be taking a leaf out of Gene Tierney’s book, though:

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Christmas Crackers, Hollywood-style

Strangely for something with as much sentimental potential as Christmas, there is only a handful of really classic Christmas movies. Yet, every year, this buff draws up a list of Christmas movies to watch in the run-up to the big day – and every year she fails miserably to get through them all.

The viewing itinerary usually kicks off with a little-known 1945 comedy called The Cheaters, which is getting a rare screening on Channel 4 this weekend. With a screwball cast that includes the elephantine Eugene Pallette and the twittery Billie Burke (best remembered as Glinda from The Wizard of Oz), it’s about a family of hard-up socialites who – in order to impress their daughter’s rich suitor – take in the down-and-out Joseph Schildkraut over Christmas, and learn a thing or two about dignity from him.

The Cheaters makes a nice double bill with Christmas in Connecticut (pictured), another rarely shown 1945 comedy, this time about a sophisticated magazine columnist (Barbara Stanwyck) forced to live up to her phoney reputation as a Nigella-style domestic goddess when her editor decides to spend the holidays at her country cottage.

Continuing the unwelcome guest theme, The Man Who Came to Dinner (1941) is one I always manage to squeeze in to the viewing schedule. A gloriously funny comedy, it stars Monty Woolley as the obnoxious “idol of the airwaves” Sheridan Whiteside (a character based on the humorist Alexander Woollcott) who, during a lecture tour, breaks his leg and has to spend his recovery – and Christmas – at the home of the unlucky mid-west family outside whose house he slipped.

“Christmas may be postponed this year,” says one gossip column reporting the accident which has left the Stanley family confined to the upstairs quarters of their own home. The snazzy script, packed with one-liners, is a joy and the performances – by Billie Burke (again), Bette Davis, chic glamourpuss Ann Sheridan (my Christmas style icon), the wonderful character actress Mary Wickes and Jimmy Durante (playing a character based on Harpo Marx) – are as sparkling as a glass of Christmas bubbly.

Versions – live and animated – of A Christmas Carol abound, but the most atmospheric and haunting of all is the 1951 British classic, Scrooge, with the peerless Scots actor Alastair Sim gloriously dour as the miser who claims that “Christmas is a humbug” until he is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve and realises that friendship and love are worth more than money.

Wash that one down with the gentler The Bishop’s Wife (1947), a grown-up romantic fantasy in which Cary Grant stars as a particularly debonair and charming angel named Dudley, who answers the prayers of a stressed-out clergyman (David Niven)and his neglected wife (Loretta Young) at Christmas-time, and leaves a trail of swooning ladies in his wake.

Or settle down with family favourite Miracle on 34th Street (1947 – a vintage year for Christmas movies) in which department store Santa Edmund Gwenn has to prove that he’s the real McCoy to a non-believing seven-year-old (Natalie Wood).

Heartwarming Christmas scenes feature in plenty of movies, but the ones worth digging out in the run-up to midnight are Little Women (any of the three versions will do, as long as you have your hankies handy) and Meet Me In St Louis (1944).

Although it covers a whole year in the lives of the characters it depicts, Meet Me In St Louis easily qualifies as a festive film: not only does it embody all the sentiments of the season, but it also features Judy Garland introducing the beautiful song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas which is guaranteed to jerk a few buckets’ worth of tears.

The hours spanning Christmas Eve and Christmas morning should be spent in the company of Clarence the Angel, Zuzu, George, Uncle Billy and everyone else in Frank Capra’s evergreen It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – the definitive Christmas movie.

And, if by December 27, I feel that I’ve overdosed on the old Christmas spirit, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) will provide just the right amount of cynicism to prepare me for the horrors of Hogmanay…

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