Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Roman Holiday, By All Means, Roman Holiday
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Red Dust: Southeast Asia and Slinky Gowns
Currently fixated on the film Red Dust, MGM's hit from 1932 starring Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Mary Astor. Lots of drama occurred during the production of this film (which we will talk about later on), but what always astounds me is the setting and the costumes from this film and how they juxtapose each other so well, and so...weirdly.
This film takes place in Southeast Asia during the early 30's, with Gable being the head honcho at a rubber making plant. He has many native workers and shacks up in a pretty nice place considering he is in the middle of nowhere. The house has Swiss Family Robinson vibes, with wood paneled walls, awning windows, and rolling doors. The decor is simple but quaint with basic furniture, simple curtains, and comfy small beds. Yes beds, as in plural, for this rubber plant has many visitors.
The costumes for this film where done by Adrian, which as the chief costumer at MGM makes sense, but in this film, he goes full force with the actress's wardrobe and forgets completely that this is not your average song and dance picture. All outfits worn by Harlow and Astor are to the nines, with satin biased cut nighties, lace and feather trim robes, and well constructed dresses with all the accessories to go with it. Perfect for the jungle. Harlow's character is supposedly a prostitute, but it is very subtly explained. She has a bubbly personality and a temper to match. Her costumes for her character fit the part, with 30's floral dresses and satin lounge wear.
This film was made pre-code and it is apparent. The love triangle between the characters is very sexy for the time. There are several make out scenes where Harlow is horizontal on a bed while she is being kissed - the audacity! A famous scene that proves there were no rules at this point is when Harlow is bathing in a barrel and Gable pushes her underwater. Harlow is topless, and even though you see nothing, it is very suggestive for the time. Allegedly Jean stood up bare chested right before a cut and shouted, "Here's one for the boys in the lab!" This was referring to the men who were editing the film. Fleming removed the film from the camera before any chance of it getting out to the public could happen.
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
In the process, and while trying to figure our a way to get all involved out of this pickle, Tony has some self reflection and realizes that he loves Amanda too. What about his friendship with Stephen? He has already convinced Amanda that she loves Stephen, is it too late?
Carefree was nominated for three Oscars for art direction, musical scoring, and original song - the now well known "Change Partners and Dance With Me". Alas it won none. This film was intended to have a Technicolor scene, the number called "I Used to Be Color Blind", but after testing the quality was not up to par and the idea was scrapped. This is the only Ginger and Fred film where Astaire's character is not in show business. I find this film to be cute and delightful as a Fred and Ginger show. A definite favorite in my book!
Sunday, February 5, 2023
Art Directors Maurice Ransford and Lyle R. Wheeler: The Boys of Twentieth Century Fox
I've spoken about the great Cedric Gibbons and Edwin B. Willis here on The Affair, and although I am a huge fan of their work, I also cannot exclude the dream team over at Fox, Maurice Ransford and Lyle R. Wheeler.
Some of my favorite films were art directed by these men, and separately and collaboratively they created some of the best and well known sets in Hollywood. Ransford joined Fox in 1940 and Wheeler came in 1944, both working together inclusively until Wheeler left Fox in the 1950s.
Maurice Ransford was born in Indiana in 1896. He graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in architecture and worked as one for over 10 years. He joined Twentieth Century Fox in 1940 and quickly became art director. He worked at Fox for 21 years until his retirement in 1961.
Ransford was an architect first and foremost, and used these skills in his time as art director using real blueprints, and constructing sets with detail and stability. He was nominated for three Academy Awards for Titanic, The Foxes and Harrow, and Leave Her To Heaven. He died in San Diego in 1968 at the age of 72.
Lyle R. Wheeler was born in Massachusetts and graduated with a degree in architecture from USC. He worked as a magazine illustrator and industrial designer before joining MGM in 1931. Wheeler worked as a layout artist for Cedric Gibbons and was quickly promoted to assistant art director. In 1939 he worked on Gone With the Wind designing sets for Tara and suggesting they light the old sets from King Kong and King of Kings on fire for the film's burning of Atlanta scenes.
He joined Fox in 1944 as supervising art director and became head of the department. There he worked until 1960 with his last film being the Marilyn Monroe picture, Let's Make Love. He was nominated for 29, yes 29 Oscars, and won 6 notably for Gone With the Wind and The King and I.
Wheeler fell on hard times in his later years and had to sell his home and put his awards in a storage unit, which he then couldn't pay for and was auctioned off. The Oscars were lost. An empathetic stranger reached out and helped him retrieve at least one of them before his death in 1990 at the age of 84.
Personally my favorite work of these fellas is definitely Leave Her To Heaven. Five minutes into the film you know that their work is something special. The art deco train car in the opening scene, the three homes Gene Tierney's character Ellen inhabits are unique and grand in their own rights.
I recall the first time I saw this film I quickly tried to research if the Back of the Moon Lodge was a real place and if that cabin was still standing. Nope, this amazing place was the handiwork of Ransford and Wheeler built on Bass Lake in Northern California, and it was, sadly, just a set.