Spy Games: ARABESQUE (1966)

Sophia Loren modeling some of the Christian Dior costumes she wore in ARABESQUE (1966)

Today Sophia Loren is celebrating her 77th birthday so I decided to dedicate this month’s addition of Spy Games to Stanley Donen’s ARABESQUE (1966), which features one of my favorite Loren performances. It’s a fun and fast-paced spy romp with loads of style. Here’s a brief excerpt from my post:

Films with simple plots and cookie cutter narratives rarely hold my interest and although I can understand why ARABESQUE is often criticized for its convoluted script and erratic editing, these things don’t bother me. When I go to the movies I want to be knocked out by the visuals and in that regard ARABESQUE is a much more arresting film than CHARADE. Stanley Donen along with cinematographer Christopher Challis pulled out all the stops when they were making ARABESQUE and their everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach works for me.

In Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and his Movies, Donen expressed his frustration with the script and is quoted as saying, “We had to make it so interesting visually that no one will think about it.” And scriptwriter Peter Stone, added that Donen, “shot it better than he ever shot any picture. Everything was shot as though it were a reflection in a Rolls-Royce headlamp.” Gregory Peck also added, “If you look at the picture, we were always moving, because Stanley just wanted to keep the ball in the air the entire time, and he used every camera trick you could think of.”

Stanely Donen’s creative tactics turned ARABESQUE into a pop art extravaganza loaded with memorable images and mod flourishes. The director’s camera moves under tables, glides through the air and takes aim at any reflective surface that’s handy. He also plays with light and shadows giving the film a completely artificial atmosphere at times that only adds to the comic book look of the movie.

You can find my latest installment of Spy Games at the Movie Morlocks.
Spy Games: Stanley Donen’s ARABESQUE (1966) @ TCM’s Movie Morlcoks

Vidal Sassoon 1928-2012

The British hairdresser who helped define the look of the swinging sixties has died. He’s probably best remembered for giving Mia Farrow her pixie cut during the making of ROSEMARY’S BABY, which she wore for years but the stylist also created signature looks for ’60s super model Peggy Moffitt, designer Mary Quant and actresses like Nancy Kwan, Carol Channing and his wife Beverly Adams. I thought I’d compile a photo gallery of some of my favorite Vidal Sassoon style moments as a tribute to the man and his work.

The look that started it all – Model: Actress Nancy Kwan

Vidal Sassoon cutting designer Mary Quant’s hair

Vidal Sassoon gave actress & singer Joyce Blair her signature look for Be My Guest (1965)

Vidal Sasson & his wife, actress Beverly Adams, on their wedding day. Adam’s is modeling a Sasson cut (1967)

Carol Channing getting her hair cut & styled by Vidal Sassoon

Super model & ’60s “It Girl” Peggy Moffitt modeled Vidal Sassoon cuts throughout the decade

Peggy Moffitt & other models on the set of Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blow-Up (1966)

Peggy Moffit & other models sporting Sassoon looks on the set of William Klein’s Who Are You, Polly Maggoo (1966)

Peggy Moffitt was married to photographer William Claxton and the two were close friends with actor Steve McQueen. In this Claxton photo Moffitt & McQueen do their own take on Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Mia Farrow models her Vidal Sassoon cut originally styled during the shooting of Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Mod little me modeling my own Vidal Sassoon inspired haircut in 1971 or ’72

The 2012 San Francisco Fashion Film Festival

The inaugural San Francisco Fashion Film Festival takes place in April and they’re screening one of my favorite fantasy/sci-fi films, Roger Vadim’s BARBARELLA (1968) along with classics like ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941) and modern movies such as MARIE ANTOINETTE (2006) and THE MATRIX (1999). The originators kindly took the time to answer some of my questions about the festival for TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog and I hope readers as well as fellow bloggers will find the interview interesting & informative. The San Francisco Fashion Film Festival was the brainchild of three women bloggers and it’s a great example of what creative folks with like-minds can accomplish by working together.

The link below will take you to my Q&A with the creators of the fesival:
The 2012 San Francisco Fashion Film Festival @ TCM’s Movie Morlocks

Pierre Cardin: A Career in Movies

Cardin & MoreauToday Pierre Cardin is celebrating his 89th birthday. The French designer has had a surprisingly rich and varied career that’s included creating costumes for many films and television programs such as Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946), Anthony Asquith‘s The V.I.P.s (1963) and The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), Louis Malle’s Viva Maria! (1965), Roger Vadim‘s The Game Is Over (1966), Orson Welles’ The Immortal Story (1968), Vittorio De Sica‘s Woman Times Seven (1967), Anthony Mann’s A Dandy In Aspic (1968) and The Avengers (1961-1969). Many beautiful and talented actresses including Jeanne Moreau, Elizabeth Taylor, Joanne Woodward, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda and Mia Farrow have modeled his designs.

I decided to shine a light on his impressive filmography over at the Movie Morlocks this week so if you appreciate ’60s fashion and want to see more stunning photos of Cardin’s creations please follow the link below:
Pierre Cardin: A Career in Movies @ @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

I’ve also created a Pierre Cardin Gallery at Flickr especially for Cinebeats’ readers that you can find here. It’s filled with lots of colorful and eye-catching images featuring some of Cardin’s best designs from the 1950s – 1979. Here’s a small sampling of what you’ll find in the gallery…

Pierre Cardin Designs

The Avengers

In Search of Sascha Brastoff

Sascha Brastoff
Sascha Brastoff as Carmen Miranda in Winged Victory (1944)

From my latest post at the Movie Morlocks

“I love to explore local antique shops and visit flea markets when I’m not watching movies. As a new homeowner I’m always on the lookout for good deals on vintage furniture and as a collector I enjoy hunting for unusual things that happen to catch my eye. I have a tendency to gravitate towards mid-century design and one of the more unusual artists I’ve become interested in lately is Sascha Brastoff (1918-1993). Brastoff is probably best remembered as an accomplished ceramic artist who designed beautiful house wares. But I recently discovered that Brastoff also worked in Hollywood as a designer and many Hollywood stars collected his creations. The story of Brastoff’s life is fascinating and I thought it might interest other classic film fans so I decided to share what I’ve learned during my search for Sascha Brastoff.”

Brastoff was an amazing artist who went from being a Carmen Miranda impersonator to designing costumes for 20th Century Fox. If you’d like to know more about Sascha Brastoff please stop by the Movie Morlocks and check out my latest post there.
In Search of Sascha Brastoff @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Vincente Minnelli’s Metaphysical Musical

Barbra Streisand in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)

Last week I had planned on writing about some romantic films in honor of Valentine’s Day but I never got around to it. I’m still fighting off that cold bug but this week I decided to share some thoughts about one of my favorite romantic movies, Vincente Minnelli’s metaphysical musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970). This lush production has gotten a lot of negative press over the years and I’ve never understood why. I think it’s one of Minnelli’s best films and it features Barbra Streisand at her loveliest. It also contains some of the most beautiful costume designs ever created. Few films can boast the talents of Cecil Beaton and even fewer films feature the work of acclaimed fashion designer Arnold Scaasi but On A Clear Day You Can See Forever provided both men with an incredible canvas to showcase their artistry.

Unfortunately audiences have never had the opportunity to see Minnelli’s original film. An entire 60 minutes of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever ended up on the cutting room floor before it was released. My thoughts on the film as well as my plea to see it restored can be found at The Movie Morlocks.
Vincente Minnelli’s Metaphysical Musical @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

A Dandy in Aspic

harveymiaLaurence Harvey & Mia Farrow in A Dandy in Aspic (1967)

One of my many weaknesses is a good spy film and Anthony Mann’s 1967 film A Dandy in Aspic is one of my favorites. Mainly because I adore Laurence Harvey and I think it’s one the actors best films but the movie also features some fabulous mod fashions designed by the legendary Pierre Cardin that are worn by a very young Mia Farrow. The film boasts a great score by Quincy Brown and British actors Tom Courtenay and Peter Cook even show up in a small but extremely memorable roles. Calvin Lockhart is in the movie too but his performance is awful so I tend to forget about it. But with a cast that good, how could anyone not get some kind of enjoyment from A Dandy in Aspic?
tmcmiafMia Farrow modeling Pierre Cardin fashions
in A Dandy in Aspic (1967)

I’m in the minority but I think it’s one of Anthony Mann’s best films and easily his most interesting film of the ’60s. Mann spent most of the decade making big bloated spectacles like El Cid (1961) and The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964). I like both films thanks to Sophia Loren’s performances but I’d rather watch A Dandy in Aspic. You can read more about why I like Anthony Mann’s last film over at the Movie Morlocks.

You can read more about why I like Anthony Mann’s last film over at the Movie Morlocks
A Dandy in Aspic @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Fashion & Passion in The Thomas Crown Affair

Fay Dunaway & Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

A lot has been written about Norman Jewison’s 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. If the reviews available at IMDb.com are any indication critics and audiences are split over it. I love this stylish ’60s crime film. It’s one of my favorite movies from 1968 and one of the best things about it is Fay Dunaway & Steve McQueen’s incredible wardrobes.

The basic plot of the film is rather simple. Steve McQueen plays Thomas Crown, a wealthy conman who masterminds a complicated bank heist. Hot on his trail is an ambitious insurance agent named Vicki Anderson (Fay Dunaway) and when the two meet sparks begin to fly. Will the lovely and flirtatious Vicki Anderson bring the world-weary Thomas Crown to his knees? Or will their steamy affair lead Vicki into lawlessness?

The Thomas Crown Affair is a film full of sensual pleasures. The actual bank heist that takes place makes for some thrilling entertainment but the romantic affair that blossoms between Vicki Anderson and Thomas Crown is really the heart and soul of the movie. The film simply drips sex and decadence. Morals be damned! Neither Vicki or Thomas is particularly likable, but watching these two self-serving individuals succumb to their passions and exploit one another’s desires is what makes The Thomas Crown Affair so damn compelling. It’s also a great looking movie with a terrific score by composer Michel Legrand. Dunaway and McQueen have rarely looked as beautiful and desirable as they do in this film. That’s partially due to Haskell Wexler’s stellar cinematography as well as costume designer Theadora Van Runkle.

Fay Dunaway & Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Trend-setting fashionista Theadora Van Runkle created many of the awe-inspiring fashions seen in The Thomas Crown Affair. Van Runkle first began working in Hollywood as a sketch artist for renowned costume designer Dorothy Jeakins. She got her big break in 1967 after Dorothy Jeakins was forced to turn down an opportunity to work on Bonnie and Clyde. Jeakins suggested the 38-year-old Theadora Van Runkle as a replacement and history was made. Bonnie and Clyde was a huge success and garnered Van Runkle an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design. Young people around the world began dressing like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Hemlines dropped and women started sporting berets, while men began wearing double-breasted suits with wide lapels. Theadora Van Runkle’s impact might be hard to measure now, but the costume designer can be credited for bringing a vintage ’30s era look to modern fashion in the late sixties. Suddenly everything old was new again.

Theadora Van Runkle and Fay Dunaway developed a great working relationship on the set of Bonnie and Clyde. After filming ended Dunaway asked Theadora Van Runkle to design a personal wardrobe for her that included the Oscar gown that Dunaway wore in 1968 when she was nominated for her role as Bonnie Parker. When it came time for the actress to star in The Thomas Crown Affair alongside Steve McQueen, Dunaway suggested that Van Runkle should be hired to work on the film.

Theadora Van Runkle ended up creating all of Dunaway’s fabulous fashions for The Thomas Crown Affair and she also worked alongside Ron Postal and Alan Levine to help design Steve McQueen’s wardrobe for the film as well. Although The Thomas Crown Affair didn’t exactly have the same impact on the fashion world that Bonnie and Clyde did, it was a popular hit in 1968 and audiences were mesmerized with the film’s dazzling look.

Fay Dunaway modeling some of Theadora Van Runkle’s costume designs
for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Like Dunaway before him, Steve McQueen was also extremely impressed with Theadora Van Runkle and decided he wanted to work with her more after completion of The Thomas Crown Affair. Van Runkle would continue working as a costume designer for both actors for the rest of the decade. Her impressive fashion designs can also be seen on Dunaway in Amanti (1968) and The Arrangement (1969) and on Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968) and The Reivers (1969).

Even though The Thomas Crown Affair didn’t win Theadora Van Runkle any awards, the movie’s impact on the world of fashion is undeniable. Van Runkle can be credited for giving the film’s two stars a distinct look that would help make both of them Hollywood style icons in the sixties. Many women wanted to look like Fay Dunaway and many men wanted to be Steve McQueen, but everyone wanted to be dressed by Theadora Van Runkle.

Bits & Pieces

Jean Seberg in Moment to Moment (1965) wearing a Yves Saint Laurent Design.

Just a brief round-up of some news & info that I thought I’d share . . .

– Fashion and costume designer Yves Saint Laurent died today at the age of 71. In the world of film, costume designers rarely get the acclaim that they should but Yves Saint Laurent’s wonderful work appeared in some great movies throughout the years and he helped define women’s fashion in the sixties. To read more about Laurent’s impressive contribution to the art of cinema please see my brief tribute to Yves Saint Laurent’s work called The Fine Art of Fashion: Yves Saint Laurent.

Actresses and models’ Ira von Fürstenberg and Capucine
modeling Yves Saint Laurent designs in 1965/66.

On a lighter note . . .

– Film director Paul Schrader has a terrific website now where he has published a lot of his film writing and lately I’ve been enjoying going through the archives. Schrader’s early film writing was heavily influenced by the legendary critic Pauline Kael and I don’t agree with a lot of his youthful opinions but his writing is still fascinating to read and naturally improves over time. Some highlights you can find on his site include Yakuza-Eiga: A Primer, which he wrote for Film Comment in 1974 and his 2001 essay in Film Comment on his break from Pauline Kael called Pauline Kael 1919 – 2001: My Family Drama. It’s interesting to read about how the director broke away from Kael’s influence and started thinking more for himself, which is somewhat highlighted in one of the richest pieces available on his site titled The Film Canon from a 2006 issue of Film Comment. A direct link to Paul Schrader’s writing archives can be found here.

– Peppino De Luca’s terrific score for Dorian Gray (Il Dio Chaimato Dorian, 1970) has long been one of my favorite film soundtracks and it was recently released on CD for the first time by Italy’s Digitmovies. Previously some tacks from the film were only available on a a compilation CD called Barry 7’s Connectors Volume 2 but now fans of the film can finally enjoy De Luca’s soundtrack in its entirety.

Hopefully my next post will be a little longer!

In Praise of Doris Day

For most of my life I’ve disliked Doris Day. Doris was one of my mother’s favorite actresses and when I was a kid I had to sit through all the romantic comedies she made with Rock Hudson and James Garner numerous times but they never really appealed to me when I was growing up. Doris was always too blond, perky and cheerful for my liking and I found her carefree attitude just plain off-putting. I was a rather sullen, angry and rebellious kid so I suppose that was one reason Doris and her colorful films didn’t do a thing for me when I was younger. In some ways I think I was a bit jealous of the way Doris managed to effortlessly smile through movie after movie, no matter how lackluster the material was.

About six or seven years ago something strange happened. It all started when I caught Doris Day playing an American heiress named Kit Preston in the entertaining thriller Midnight Lace (David Miller; 1960) opposite Rex Harrison when it was on television one afternoon. Midnight Lace might not be a brilliant film but with its faux-London setting, fabulous Irene Lentz costume designs, creative photography by cinematographer Russell Metty and a suspenseful score by composer Frank Skinner, it’s an effective movie and easily one of Doris Day’s best efforts in my opinion. She doesn’t sing one song in Midnight Lace but Doris really gets to show off her acting chops as she descends into paranoia & madness while being pursued by a potential murderer.

Midnight Lace is not in the same league as the great films it borrows from such as Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder (1954) and George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944), but if you happen to like stylish sixties thrillers as much as I do you might enjoy the movie too. Besides Doris Day and Rex Harrison, the cast of Midnight Lace also includes the wonderful Myrna Loy, a menacing Roddy McDowall, the handsome John Gavin and the always dependable John Williams as Inspector Byrnes who tries to find the mystery man (or woman?) terrorizing Doris Day throughout the course of the film. Midnight Lace managed to make me reevaluate my opinion about Doris Day and I started to really appreciate her style, carefree smile and independent spirit. In retrospect she was a more modern woman than many of her contemporaries.

Doris Day modeling the Irene Lentz fashions designed for Midnight Lace (1960)

In recent years I began watching many of her films in a new light and now I have no problem enjoying silly romantic Doris Day comedies like Move Over, Darling (1963) and Do Not Disturb (1965) or the fun spy capers she made like The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) and Caprice (1967), which I hope to write about some day. The older I get the more I’m able to completely loose myself in the charm of these light-hearted movies and I now find Doris Day’s wide smile infectious. I’ve also started listening to lots of Doris Day records recently thanks to the Swinging and Singing blog which has been sharing some rare and apparently out-of-print Doris Day recordings such as the terrific jazz soundtrack she recorded with Harry James & His Orchestra for A Young Man and His Horn (Michael Curtiz; 1950).

So why am I telling you all this? I just learned that Doris Day will be receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award this weekend during the 50th Annual Grammy Awards‘ celebration. The Lifetime Achievement Awards will be handed out on Saturday in a non-televised ceremony and will probably only garner a brief mention during the actual award show that’s airing on Sunday night. This will be her first Grammy but Doris isn’t expected to attend since the 83 year old singer and actress may be suffering from some health problems and she’s become a bit of recluse over the years, while devoting herself to numerous animal rights’ causes. I wish her well and I’m glad The Recording Academy is finally acknowledging Doris Day’s contribution to popular music.

To learn more about Doris Day I highly recommend these wonderful fansites:
Discovering Doris! The Doris Day Fansite
The Films of Doris Day