Tag Archives: Bette Davis

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

By far the most intriguing and seductive-looking of the new batch of lipsticks is Guerlain Rouge Automatique (£24.50, available in Selfridges now, and nationwide from May 1). Guerlain certainly knows how to package its products: their Rouge G lipsticks, with their pop-out mirror and bullet-shaped tube, look like they should belong to a Bond girl, if not 007 himself. And the Rouge Automatique is just as impressive and gadget-like in its design; the difference being that it is a reproduction of the original, 1936, Rouge Automatique which was designed without a lid so that the woman applying it could do so with one hand.

Of course, there’s more to it than the flick-knife style tube. I became an instant fan of the Rouge Automatique when I tried a few on Monday – the texture is gorgeous: moisturising, comfortable and rich. And the 25 shades include some real beauties – especially in the corals and reds. I’m looking forward to posing with mine … After all, it’s far too elegant and sexy to be kept hidden in the make-up bag.

TUESDAY

Over lunch with my beautician friend Margaret she gave me the low-down on the last new product I asked her to test – Clinique Moisture Surge Tinted Moisturizer SPF15  (£21; currently available exclusively at Selfridges, Brown Thomas and at www.clinique.co.uk just now, and nationwide from April 22). I hadn’t wanted to judge this one all by myself as I’m a bit of a tinted moisturiser virgin – I’ve tended to avoid them because there usually isn’t a shade pale enough for my fair complexion, and also because, having a less than perfect skin, I feel more confident with a full coverage foundation.

Anyway, Margaret was highly impressed. ” I’m really enjoying the Moisture Surge,” she said. “It has a lovely texture and great coverage, but best of all – it lasts! Most tinted moisturisers disappear pretty quickly – but not this  one. It will definitely be in my holiday make-up bag! I would buy this product again.” .

WEDNESDAY

When you write about beauty, your local upmarket department stores becomes your second home – and I paid mine, the historic Glasgow store Frasers, a visit on Wednesday in order to meet with Dafna, the PR for Bobbi Brown. She was in town to brief journalists on the American make-up guru’s latest wonder concealer-corrector, Creamy Concealer Kit (£23.50; www.bobbibrown.co.uk).

Sure enough I was impressed with the results of my mini-makeover using the kit. It contains two products: the corrector which neutralises dark circles and lines, and the concealer which lightens the skin. It undoubtedly brightened the eye area and gave my complexion a much-needed lift. I’ll be interested to see how I get on with it when I try it at home.

In the meantime, I’m delighted with the new mascara that Dafna brought me: Bobbi Brown Lash Glamour Extreme Lengthening Mascara (£18). It certainly lives up to its name thanks to its unusual bristles, which interlock with the lashes like a zipper, coating each hair with colour from root to tip, and the  slightly curved shape of the brush which encourages lashes to stand to attention..

THURSDAY

My deputy tester (and head of the anti-ageing cosmetics department) may not have been terribly taken with Clarins’ most recent addition to its Instant Smooth collection – the Instant Smooth Line Correcting Concentrate (£24; www.clarins.co.uk), a pen which is supposed to make wrinkles disappear in one stroke – but my experiments with their latest body lotion has been much more successful.

Clarins Extra-Firming Body Lotion (£39.50) is certainly pricey but I’ve enjoyed using it more than I have enjoyed using most products in this category for a long time. By Thursday, I had been using it (just once a day instead of the recommended twice – who has time in the morning?!) for a couple of weeks, and I became convinced that I was starting to notice a difference. It helps that it smells lovely… It contains lemon thyme extract, which encourages the production of a protein essential in maintaining the skin’s elasticity, and plant extracts which reactivate the production of type 1 collagen, thus improving skin density and firmness. Oh, and it feels gorgeous!

Clarins newsflash: the Clarins Spa at Frasers (0141 221 5760) in Glasgow is offering any 80 minute treatment (including the sublime TriActive facial) for the bargain price of £40, if booked before Thursday April 21.

FRIDAY

Every time I use the Chanel Crayon Sourcils  Sculpting Eyebrow Pencil (£18.50; for stockists call 020-7493 3836),  which I opened on Friday, I can’t help but think of Bette Davis (left), who wouldn’t have pulled off quite as magnificent a performance as catty Margo Channing in the classic bitch-fest All About Eve had she not had a pair of well-defined eyebrows working in her favour. It’s a cliche but it’s true: eyebrows do frame the face. Their shape can drastically – and dramatically – transform your whole look. Could Bette have been quite as memorable as Margo without those thick, yet well-tamed, eyebrows, which balance out the cruel, full mouth?

The new Chanel pencil is – as most are today – a double-ended affair, with a brush at one end and the pencil at the other. It’s difficult to draw comparisons with other very similar pencils on the market, but what is particularly impressive about this one is the choice of colours available: there are four, including two shades for blondes. Fasten your seatbelts for some serious eyebrow-arching …

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Leopard Ladies 2

There are an awful lot of crimes against leopard print going on this winter (and it’s only October!), so here’s a second selection of favourite leading ladies working that loveliest of animal prints, kicking off with Barbra Streisand. She’s not usually a style icon of mine but this coat is inspirational..

One actress who has long been a style icon of mine, however, is the “peek-a-boo” blonde star Veronica Lake who appeared in a string of hit movies in the 1940s. Here she is in leopard print coat, with regular co-star Alan Ladd.

Of course, once a leopard print lover, always a leopard print lover so it’s no surprise to find multiple photos of the same star wearing the pattern. In last month’s Leopard Ladies post on this blog, Gene Tierney was shown in her leopard print bikini; here she is wearing leopard in a slightly more practical way …

Another leopard print fan was the elegant comedienne Carole Lombard, here shown very early in her movie career wearing a leopard-trimmed number.

Carole Lombard and Bette Davis may have worked at a rival studios, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they were styled in the early 1930s .. Here’s a blonde Bette Davis vamping it up in sexy leopard print..

And, proving that it isn’t only vamps who can carry off leopard, here’s Audrey Hepburn in my favourite of her Charade get-ups by Givenchy.

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Style on Film: Now, Voyager

The onset of winter always makes me think of the fashions of the 1940s, perhaps because some of my favourite 1940s films are set at Christmas-time. We’re not quite at Christmas yet, so the stylish 1940s film I’m celebrating today is the legendary Bette Davis’s Now, Voyager (1942) – a fashion film if ever there was one, and one which emphasises the power of clothes. After all, the sack-like dresses that the troubled Charlotte Vale wears reflect her psychological state, and as she is transformed from browbeaten nervous wreck into a worldly woman with a newfound confidence, her wardrobe  – designed by the great Orry-Kelly – goes from dowdy spinster to chic fashion-plate. So much so that she attracts a suave man on her maiden voyage as a new woman…

Reinventing herself, she has to play the part of the sophisticate very consciously and deliberately to begin with, using her stylish new outfits as props. When she dresses in the evening wear shown below, she uses notes from her fashion-savvy sister-in-law to direct her as to which accessories to team with the gown. “Silver slippers and silver evening bag will be found in accessory chest,” advises the handwritten slip of paper pinned to the chiffon dress…

Luckily, Jerry (Paul Henreid) spots and removes another note, pinned to the cape, before Charlotte heads off down the deck…

The daywear Charlotte wears during her cruise is nothing much to write home about, in my view, but yowser!, the nifty little monochrome outfit she wears as she disembarks for a reunion with her astonished relatives is fabulous – my favourite in the film. Indeed, finding a similarly squishy and capacious black leather clutch bag was an obsession of mine two winters ago … I eventually  found one, and I use it at every opportunity.

When Charlotte’s monstrous mother claps eyes on her new look, she is horrified and, desperate to re-assert her authority and to prevent her now glamorous daughter from stealing the limelight, she tells her to put on one of her old frocks for a family dinner. But the new Charlotte stands up for herself and defies ma by knocking the relatives dead in a simple, elegant black gown which she customises with the camellias sent from New York by her admirer..

For her debut on the Boston social scene, Charlotte wears another exquisite gown, this time a sparkling white and silver beaded number – no wonder she takes Jerry’s breath away when – to the strains of Cole Porter’s Night and Day – they’re reunited, though only briefly.

By the end of the film, Charlotte is a confident and self- assured woman- and her final outfit, in which she sashays about during a tea party, is another winner.. Here she is, posing with her cigarette from the celebrated “Don’t let’s ask for the moon – we have the stars” speech which ends the film and cements her never-to-be-consummated relationship with Jerry.

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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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