Christmas movie time comes but once a year – and it seems to me that some of my favourite Christmas movies boast some very stylish characters, some of whom have influenced me over the, ahem, decades.. In The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Loretta Young (above) is not really a fashionplate, but I have always covetted her black ankle boots and, one year, my Christmas wish came true when I stumbled across a pair in the Office sale – immediately after seeing that lovely Christmas movie on the big screen at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Another festive favourite is The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) which is not only gloriously funny, but also boasts some covetable ensembles sported by Ann Sheridan (below) who played a Hollywood movie star. I’ll be looking at her – and Bette Davis’s – wardrobe from that film in another post but here’s a publicity shot of one of her Orry-Kelly outfits.A movie which is often forgotten about in the festive film roll call is the deliciously stylish Bell, Book and Candle (1958) which shows off a modern day Manhattan witch’s simple, sexy and elegant wardrobe to delightful effect. Kim Novak slinks around memorably in a selection of Jean Louis clothes, while working her magic on unsuspecting James Stewart. Like Bell, Book and Candle, The Thin Man (1934) isn’t usually included in festive movie round-ups – its status as an influential screwball comedy, and as the first in one of the most successful series of Hollywood films of the 1930s, tends to take precedence – but it is set around the Christmas holidays. Myrna Loy appears in a number of wonderfully chic outfits by the British costume designer Dolly Tree. Her jaunty tartan get-up is immortalised in this lovely sketch.
Tag Archives: Kim Novak
Like Jimmy Stewart’s character, I’m a bit obsessed with Kim Novak’s wardrobe and look in the mesmerizing 1958 psychological thriller Vertigo. Appearance is everything in this haunting tale of obsessive love from Alfred Hitchcock – and this black and white ensemble not only reflects the simple elegance of the woman for whom our hero falls; it also suggests her split personality. Novak’s clothes were designed by the great Edith Head – but she had a very specific remit from the notoriously hands-on Hitchcock. Here’s the sumptuous evening gown Madeleine wears – with antique jewellery – when she knows she’ll be seen for the first time by Scottie (Stewart).The redoubtable Edith Head once said: “To be a good designer in Hollywood, one has to be a combination of psychiatrist, artist, fashion designer, dress-maker, pin cushion, historian, nurse maid and purchasing agent too.” For Vertigo, her inner psychiatrist had a good work-out as Kim Novak wasn’t the most compliant of stars and was particularly unhappy with some of the clothes she had to wear while playing Madeleine. In particular, she hated the dove grey suit which Head designed according to Hitchcock’s instructions. Head later said that she hoped that Novak would be so taken with the evening gown that she would agree to compromise on the grey suit. Here’s how that contentious suit started life .. This suit (which Novak wore without the hat) is what Madeleine is wearing during the most crucial scenes at the beginning of the film – and it is this ensemble which the pathologically obsessed Scottie recreates for the Madeleine look-alike, Judy, whom he makes over in Madeleine’s image. Novak hated the grey suit, believing that the colour washed her out and claiming that the style was very restrictive (she didn’t like wearing a bra and this suit required the correct upholstery..) She even objected to the footwear – “I don’t wear black shoes,” she explained. Head promptly referred her to Hitchcock.Hitchcock asked Novak what her problem was with the black shoes. According to Jay Jorgensen’s excellent book Edith Head – The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer (Running Press), she said: “Black shoes always sort of make me feel I’m pulled down . I’ve always felt that your feet should be the same as the top of your head, so that you’re connected. Wearing black shoes would make me feel as if I’m disconnected.” Hitchcock listened and allowed her to ditch the shoes when playing Judy, but insisted that she wear them as Madeleine. Novak agreed. Hitchcock wanted the suit to be grey because it was washed-out and he was keen that the character look as if she had just emerged from the San Francisco fog.
Novak is quoted in Jorgensen’s book saying: “I thought, ‘I’ll live with the grey suit.’ I also thought, ‘I’m going to use this. I can make this work for me. Because it bothers me, I’ll use it and it can help me feel like I’m having to be Madeleine, that I’m being forced to be her. I’ll have it as my energy to play against.’ It worked. That suit and those shoes were a blessing. I was constantly reminded that I was not being myself, which made it right for Madeleine.” It seems that Novak did win on the shoes front when it came to famous black and white ensemble that Madeleine wears when she and Scottie share their first kiss… Check out the neutral (tres 2012) footgear:Winter white coats are so chic – and this outfit is the one which seems to best represent the elegant Madeleine. Here’s another shot: Ironically, given the usual stereotype of the brassy blonde, Madeleine is a class act while it is the brunette Judy – the other character played by Novak – who is the more vulgar of the two women, in terms of personal style. Once Scottie has moulded Judy into a Madeleine doppel-ganger, they decide to launch her “new” look with a night out. For the final scenes of the movie, Judy slips into this gorgeous black chiffon halterneck dress, the deep neckline of which evokes the 19th century fashions worn by Carlotta, the subject of the portrait which so fascinated Madeleine. Confused? You will be – but I don’t want to give anything away in case you’re going to go and watch this beautiful film for the first time.The single-most influential aspect of Kim Novak’s appearance in Vertigo wasn’t one of her outfits, however: it was her pinned-up hair – which, as Scottie realised, helped define her look. Text (c) Alison Kerr (2012)
Like many of my friends, I spent Monday mourning the end of the best TV crime series since The Killing (which preceded it!) – Spiral, the French drama which (much more stylish than Law and Order) concerns itself not just with the cops, but also with the investigating judges, the prosecutors and the defence lawyers. There may be some damned good-looking actors in the cast (personally, I have a soft-spot for bad-boy Gilou) but the character who keeps me glued to the screen is the flame-haired bad girl lawyer Josephine Karlsson (Audrey Fleurot), whose wardrobe and look are always striking – and not at all your run-of-the-mill Parisian professional. I’m sure I’m not the only viewer who’s been considering dyeing her hair red as a result of a girl crush on JK.
The Aqua Allegoria range may be quite a bit younger – it was introduced in 1999 – but it is steeped in the Guerlain tradition. The bottle is a classic – inspired by the original 19th century Eau de Cologne Imperiale flacon – and the fragrances are fresh and summery but very classical. This summer’s addition, Aqua Allegoria Jasminora (£35.50; from www.houseoffraser.co.uk from June 1) is a lovely fresh scent which was created by Guerlain’s Thierry Wasser using Calabrian jasmine, a lighter jasmine than is found in most perfumes. Its freshness is complemented by white flowers with green tones, along with cyclamen and lily of the valley. The bottom line? It’s a very feminine, classy summer scent.
I’d been looking forward to my Wednesday afternoon catch-up with the Ojon PR girl for ages.. Why? Because I’d been tipped off that this fabulous haircare range was finally going to sort out the one problem that its fans have identified: the dodgy bottles.
Not only have the bottles been redesigned (no more broken lids – hurrah!) but the collection has been refined and revamped. I tried the Ojon Color Sustain (from £18; available from John Lewis from May 21) almost immediately and found it to be a worthy, possibly even superior, replacement for the old Shine & Protect products. I especially liked the Ojon Color Sustain Color Protecting Cream (£22) which protects the hair from the damaging effects of blow-drying.
If there’s one company that knows how to do things in style it’s Chanel which chose Frasers in Glasgow as the site for its first Chanel Espace Parfums outside London, and invited journalists along to visit it on Thursday. Not only does this beautifully kitted-out boutique (everything about its look derives from Coco Chanel’s signature style and from aspects of her life) sell the Les Exclusifs collection of fragrances created or revived by house “nose” Jacques Polge, but it also offers customers the chance to discover the world of Chanel perfumes (48 in all) through its unique olfactive bar where concentrates of all the fragrances are sniffable on ceramic blotters. Fragrance expert Joanna Norman guided me through the Chanel perfumes on Thursday and it was a fascinating tour. What makes the ceramic blotter idea so useful is the fact that there’s no need to scoosh any perfumes – and therefore less likelihood of what industry people call “nasal confusion”. It’s much easier to identify what you like – and eliminate what you don’t. Anyone contemplating changing their perfume, or simply interested in how fragrance works should pop in and ask for a consultation.
Unlike Kim Novak (pictured here, with the swoonsome Cary Grant), who showed hers off at every opportunity, my back has never really had any attention. But all that changed on Friday when I accepted an invitation to have a back treatment Clarins Spa in Frasers (0141 221 5760).
Clarins Neck, Back & Shoulder Massage (£33) proved to be just what the doctor ordered. Using the Renew Body Serum and the Smoothing Body Scrub, Lindsay, my therapist, untangled the knots of tension in my neck and shoulders and gave my back a thorough going-over, both in terms of massage and treating the usually neglected skin. The serum is great for hydrating, but doesn’t leave the skin feeling overloaded with product – perfect if congestion is an issue.
If you fancy getting your back in Cary-worthy condition, you can try out the Neck, Back & Shoulder Massage for free, if you book a Clarins Professional Face or Body Treatment at any Clarins Spa between now and May 31. To be redeemed by July 26.
It’s not a Christmas classic of anything like the calibre of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but Bell, Book and Candle – the 1958 romantic comedy about a Manhattan witch who falls in love on December 25th – is one of my favourite festive season films. It may have been James Stewart who attracted me to the movie in the first place, but nowadays I love it not just for his performance as the publisher who falls under the spell of a sultry sorceress – but also for the stylish, beatnik wardrobe slinkily worn by Kim Novak – and designed by Jean Louis. Here’s how she looks when we first see her, in her character Gill’s primitive art shop – wearing her black polo neck and trousers and red tunic.
The film begins on Christmas Eve when Gill tells her cat Pyewacket how she yearns for a man – before she knows it she’s falling in love with new neighbour Shep Henderson (James Stewart). Later that evening, at the Zodiac Club where she and the rest of the Greenwich Village chapter of the sorceress sisterhood hang out, she discovers that Shep is about to marry her old school nemesis – and suddenly, using witchcraft to get the guy doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Here she is coming home in her velvet hooded cloak, scarlet muffler and bright red gloves which match the red satin shoes she showed off in the club.
Later that evening, as if by magic, Shep stops by Gill’s place – and they get to know each other.. The romance begins on the settee where Shep gets an eyeful of Gill, whose slashed-neck, long-sleeved maroon evening gown looks fairly conservative – until she turns round to reveal that, like many of the dresses that Kim Novak was photographed in during this period, it has no back.
After the spell has been cast, the couple spend an enchanted night which climaxes with a swoonsome love scene at the top of the Flatiron Building on a snowy Christmas morning. Admittedly, some of the colours in the film are a little dreary (including Kim Novak’s hair which looks slightly pinkish on my DVD) but the simplicity of the clothes and the fact that they all work together makes it super-stylish. Easily the best outfit in Gill’s wardrobe of blacks, maroons and reds is the one which features a tomato-red snood and matching gloves, plus a show-stopping leopard-print cape which is just as fashionable now as in 1958.
Snoods, hoods and cowl necks are Gill’s signature shapes and when she visits Shep at work , she ditches the sexy leopard-print cape in favour of a black one. Or does she? Look closely at the outfit she’s wearing as she enters his office ..
The leopard print is the most obvious example of why this film is so very now, and such a treasure trove for those of us who like to pinch ideas from the past. There’s also the matter of the make-up: red lips and nails (see the first picture) are the height of chic this Christmas. If you’ve never seen the movie and feel like some festive romance, check it out – there’s lots to enjoy.
A trip to Paris has eluded me so far this year – much to my chagrin (I lived there for a year as a student). My withdrawal symptoms are even worse now, thanks to the utterly exquisite new eyeshadow compact which I was sent recently, and started using on Monday. Why the increased withdrawal symptoms for Paris, you may ask? Well, because the eyeshadow comes from Guerlain’s autumn collection, entitled 68 Champs-Elysees – the address of the flagship Guerlain boutique in the French capital.
Guerlain Ecrin 6 Couleurs (£51) is almost too pretty to use. The silvery, solid-feeling, compact was designed by India Mahdavi with an exotic, eastern design carved into the lid. Inside, there’s a mirror which opens out to the side and snaps back into place. Oh, and there are also some gorgeous eyeshadow colours – all of which have moonstone as a common ingredient.
There are five colourways to choose from, and each is named after the Parisian address of a Guerlain boutique. For a lovely, neutral, easy-to-wear palette go for 93 rue de Passy and for a bolder colour scheme which can take you from day to daring, it’s got to be 68 Champs-Elysees, with its central deep violet shade.
My nostalgia for Paris continued on Tuesday as I washed my hair with Melvita Blonde Hair Shampoo (£9; www.melvita.co.uk). As soon as I started lathering my locks, I was back in France in 1992 when I swore by a strikingly similar shampoo which counted lemon and vinegar among its ingredients. Lemon, of course, is reputed to be able to lighten blonde hair (in our teens, a schoolfriend and I compiled a beauty manual which was full of recipes for homemade products, and lemon always loomed large in my experiments). After a few days of using this new shampoo I noticed that the light-coloured ends of my hair looked much more blonde; unfortunately, this emphasised the fact that the roots are in dire need of coverage.. So if I use this shampoo again, it will be nearer the start of a colour cycle!
I don’t think, however, that I’ll be rushing back to use the conditioner which I was sent at the same time. After using the shampoo, my hair felt very tuggy and even a generous dollop of Melvita Tired Hair Conditioner (£9) failed to detangle it. It’s a shame because I loved the smell: geranium is one of my favourite scents.
I won’t let it put me off trying some of the other products in the vast Melvita range. This is an organic range which, in France, is sold in pharmacies and over here, is available in John Lewis and online. But watch out for a dedicated store opening in Covent Garden in November.
I seem to be having a bit of a Hitchcock Blonde obsession at the moment… and I’m not just talking about Grace Kelly. While I’m not bowled over by any of the individual outfits that Kim Novak (left) wears in Hitch’s 1958 classic Vertigo, I love the line of her clothes and the way she marries ladylike with sexy.
On Wednesday, I tried on a 1950s-style wide-collared, knee-length, bracelet- sleeved, leopard print coat in Topshop (having just posted a celebration of leopard print on this blog, I thought I’d better check out what was available), and I fell in love. What swung it wasn’t the cosiness of the fake fur, the gorgeous print, or anything remotely practical about the coat; it was the fact that when I tried it on, with my hair pinned back with a bit of a quiff on top, the look was pure Vertigo-era Novak.
Now, you can’t do the Novak look without an impressive pair of eyebrows, so the recent arrival of not one but two eyebrow pencils was very timely. Both the brand-new Lancome Le Crayon Sourcils Pro (£14.50) and Sisley Phyto-Sourcils Perfect (£29) are great for grooming brows – thanks to the little brush they have at one end – and both come in an ideal shade for blondes (Hitchock or otherwise…).
A night at the theatre with my fiercest beauty critic – AKA Mum – was the occasion for the first public outing of my new Tom Ford Private Blend Lip Color in Pink Dusk (£35), which is apparently the most popular shade in the collection of luxury lipsticks.
Being a Monday’s child (“fair of face”), I have always tended to go for brightish reddy-pinks but since a beauty epiphany at Space NK a couple of years ago, I’ve always had a flesh-toned, paler pink in my collection – for use with a strong, smoky purple eye and a 1960s look.
This Pink Dusk shade is perfect for that, and, on Thursday, worked beautifully with a smoky eye made up with a couple of the light shades from the Guerlain Ecrin 6 Couleurs in rue de Passy, plus the eyeshadow that has become an essential in recent months – Estee Lauder Pure Color Eyeshadow in Tempting Mocha (£15; www.esteelauder.co.uk). Put it this way, not once on Thursday evening did Mum ask if I was feeling alright – the usual question I’m asked by family members who are tricked into thinking I look pale if they see me without a bright lipstick.
I was sorting through all the purple possibilities on Friday and came to the conclusion that my two favourite nail varnishes of the moment are Chanel Le Vernis in Paradoxal (£16.50), a pewtery shade of purple, perfect for evening wear, and Estee Lauder Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Surreal Violet (£12; www.esteelauder.co.uk) which has turned out to be the polish that I’ve worn most over the last couple of months. I particularly like the fact that it dries fast, lasts well and – as a near-neutral – goes with just about everything.
Of the purple make-up for the face, I love the new shades of lipstick from Dior (the Serum de Rouge in Smoky Pink Serum would be lovely on a sallow skin) – though purplish lipsticks don’t work on me – and the two Dior 5 Couleurs compacts (£39), Pink Design and Misty Mauve. Mum had her own beauty epiphany recently, and it also revolved around the colour purple. She is now a convert to purple eye makeup, and I sent her off on her trip to Paris on Friday with two treats: Clinique Color Surge Eye Shadow Duo in Blackberry Frost (£18.50; www.clinique.co.uk) and the gorgeous new Sisley Phyto Khol Star in Dark Amethyst (£29), which has a subtle sparkle.
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:
It may not have inspired nearly as many movies as those cheerier, more wholesome, festivities that take place in December, but Hallowe’en rears its ugly, pumpkin, head in a rich mix of classic films – from family fantasies, such as ET, to such serious dramas as Kramer Vs Kramer.
It pops up in musicals, romantic comedies, thrillers and chillers. Just as there are certain movies which are perfect for getting us into a Christmassy mood, so there is a less well-documented collection of films which are ideal for conjuring up the spirit of Hallowe’en. Here’s my guide to essential Hallowe’en viewing.
1. Arsenic and Old Lace (1941)
“Insanity runs in my family,” says Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) in this madcap black comedy. “In fact, it practically gallops.” And it’s all unleashed on one wild Hallowe’en night when he discovers a body stashed in the window seat of the quaint Brooklyn home shared by his beloved spinster aunts. Turns out they have a penchant for bumping off lonely old gentlemen. It’s not just Aunt Martha and Aunt Abi who are nuts; Mortimer’s brother Teddy thinks he’s Theodore Roosevelt, and his other sibling, Jonathan, is a maniac who flies into a murderous rage when anyone comments on his obvious resemblance to Boris Karloff…
Two festive seasons for the price of one in this cult animation from the eccentric mind of Tim Burton, a magician of the macabre whose every film hints of Hallowe’en-style horrors. This musical, which was clearly inspired by Burton’s heroes, the illustrators Charles Addams and Edward Gorey, tells the story of Pumpkin Jack, the main man in Hallowe’en Town, and what happens when he tires of the Hallowe’en routine and tries his hand at being Santa instead..
3. Meet Me in St Louis (1944)
Is there anyone who has seen this heart-warming Judy Garland musical and doesn’t remember the traumatic trick-or-treating scene in which little Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) rises to the terrible challenge of approaching the front door of the scariest man in the street – and throwing flour in his face. Director Vincente Minnelli brilliantly captures the menacing mood as Tootie tentatively knocks on the door… and her jubilation as she realises that she is “the bravest of them all and the most horrible” after she has completed the task that none of the other kids would take on..
Woody Allen’s joyful musical – in which stars ranging from Drew Barrymore to Alan Alda bravely sang old standards (regardless of how well – or not, in the case of Julia Roberts – they could sing) – follows a year in the life of a wacky Park Avenue family. One of the highlights is the Hallowe’en sequence when the children from the building come to the door to trick or treat. This being the wealthiest part of New York, you don’t just get a kid in a supermarket outfit singing a pop song; you get full, MGM-style, production numbers. And the one that the family falls for is a girl dressed as a banana, singing Carmen Miranda’s Chiquita Banana song, accompanied by two maracas-shaking boys in Mexican costume.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
It’s not a horror movie, but this peerless film of Harper Lee’s wonderful book has an unforgettable scene, set at Hallowe’en, which is utterly terrifying. Our young heroine, Scout, through whose eyes the story is told, is set upon by an assailant in the dark as she and her brother Jem are returning home from a Hallowe’en pageant at their school. Scout is still in her ham costume and is knocked to the ground as the attacker lays into Jem. Her unwieldy, solid costume prevents her from seeing what’s happening and who her attacker is and stops her from being able to get to her feet. All of which adds to the suspense, which is brilliantly heightened by Elmer Bernstein’s magnificent music. The scene is not only extremely scary but also a pivotal point in the plot – as it leads to our first glimpse of the mysterious Boo Radley..
The low-budget chiller that spawned several sequels and a series of spoofs (the Scary Movies etc), this creepy horror flick takes place on October 31 when a psychotic killer, who has been mistakenly released from an institution, returns to his family home to pick up where he left off 15 years earlier. Jamie Lee Curtis followed in her mother Janet “Psycho” Leigh’s filmic footsteps by being something of a magnet for the murderer..
7. I Married a Witch (1942)
Veronica Lake – she of the peekaboo fringe, petite figure and impish face – was brilliantly cast as Jennifer, the mischievous minx of a witch, who, having been burned at the stake in the 17th century, plots revenge on the modern-day ancestor of the puritan responsible for her fate. She seduces him, wrecks his marriage plans and his political campaign and, of course, ends up falling in love with him in this downright magic romantic comedy which undoubtedly inspired the hit 1960s TV show, Bewitched, but is ten times funnier..
As sexy sorceresses go, they don’t come more sultry and spellbinding (or chic) than the beatnik witch Gillian Holroyd in this stylish romantic fantasy/comedy which reunited Vertigo stars Kim Novak and James Stewart. Gillian takes a fancy to her new neighbour and uses her magic powers to make him fall in love with her and out of love with the bully who made her life hell at school. Needless to say that she doesn’t expect to fall hook, line and sinker herself …
Three witches for the price of one in this fantastical comedy: Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer discover they have magic powers when a devilish stranger (Jack Nicholson) blows into town in answer to their prayers. He wreaks so much havoc that they ultimately have to draw on their powers to get rid of him too…
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Why The Wizard of Oz has become a staple of the Christmas TV schedule beats me: it should surely be reserved for Hallowe’en viewing. After all, you don’t get very many witches who are uglier than the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) with her hatchet features, snotter-coloured complexion, scrawny frame and stripy stockings. And that voice that saws right through one’s head as it cackles “Surrender Dorothy!”. Her entourage of flying monkeys in military costume aside, the Wicked Witch is a creature of convention with all the accessories that are considered de rigueur for a witch at Hallowe’en: broomstick, cauldron, pointy black hat….
Considerably more evil than the Wicked Witch of the West – just watch how she gleefully pushes a baby in its pram down the steep slope to a cliff edge – is the Grand High Witch, played by Anjelica Huston in Nicolas Roeg’s movie of Roald Dahl’s book The Witches. With her Hitler-like oratory and her desire to wipe out a section of the population (ie: children), the Grand High Witch is one of the scariest sorceresses ever portrayed on film. And far too terrifying for young audiences.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most magnificent villain of them all? Not the Queen from Snow White, though she is a contender, but the elegant, beautiful and utterly evil Maleficent, the bad witch from Disney’s wonderful interpretation of Sleeping Beauty. Left off the guest list for the christening of Princess Aurora, this horned witch casts a terrifying spell on the infant: that when she turns 18, she will prick her finger on a spindle and die…