Category Archives: 1950s

Film Style: Angel Face (1952)

Angel Face 1952 Jean Simmons (29)

Angel Face is a 1952 film noir directed by Otto Preminger that, although lesser known than some of his other movies, has a cult following of its own and is a well respected example of the genre.

Jean Simmons stars as the Angel Face in question, Diane Tremayne, opposite noir fave Robert Mitchum. Simmons was more commonly seen in rather more innocent roles, but she plays the part of a devious femme fatale chillingly well. From the first moment Mitchum happens upon her playing piano, every nerve in your brain is screaming ‘run Bobby, run, this dame is Bad News!’

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Sophia Loren as Cleopatra (1954)

Sophia Loren Cleopatra 1954 7

I really wanted to find a 1950s movie Cleopatra to look at – well we’ve had 20s, 30s and 40s, so I didn’t want to break the pattern and leave out the 50s. On checking IMDB, I found out that Sophia Loren played both Cleopatra and a lookalike slave girl in the 1954 (some sources say  1953) movie “Due notti con Cleopatra” (Two Nights with Cleopatra).

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Screen Icon: Esther Williams

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Star of screen and pool, Esther Williams, died yesterday at the age of 91. Esther never planned on being a film star but had a passion for swimming, becoming a champion in the sport by the age of 16. She was working as a store assistant at I Magnin in order to pay for tuition fees for a degree in physical education, when she was talent spotted and placed in the water show ‘Aquacade’ alongside fellow swimmer (and Tarzan star) Johnny Weissmuller.

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TV Style: Ruth Negga as Shirley Bassey (2011)

Shirley Ruth Negga BBC (31)

Yesterday I finally managed to watch a TV film I’ve had recorded since September last year; the BBC biopic about Welsh diva Shirley Bassey, simply named Shirley. I’ve never really considered Shirley Bassey a style icon, but this totally changed my mind. It follows her career rise in the late 50s and early 60s, and along the way treats us to some amazing fashion from the period.

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Film Style: Carmen Jones (1954)

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Carmen Jones, a film musical of1954, doesn’t sound as though it should work when you first hear it described. The classic opera of Carmen is moved from Seville in the early 1800s to North Carolina in the 1940s, and the original score by Bizet reinterpreted by Oscar Hammerstein. And instead of being a gypsy, Carmen is a worker in a parachute factory. It could be a ridiculous disaster.
But, it is completely and utterly brilliant. The modern lyrics work fantastically well with the updated (but not bastardised) music, Harry Belefonte is great as the slowly unravelling Joe, and Dorothy Dandridge is smouldering as Carmen. The styling is also fabulous, and the credits were designed by Saul Bass (famous for his iconic work on the credits and posters of such films as Vertigo).
The clothes Carmen wears designate her as a bad girl through and through. Tight-fitting skirts and wiggle dresses, bold colours, low cut tops, sequins, furs, big gold earrings and racy underwear. No wonder Harry Belafonte is dazzled. Meanwhile, his poor childhood sweetheart Cindy Lou pales in comparison wearing her pastel cotton dresses with round necks and peter pan collars. Her innocence but inherent dullness next to Carmen couldn’t be made clearer.
The director Otto Preminger had to seek private funding to get this film made, as at the time the studios in Hollywood would not produce a film with an all black cast. Not long into filming, he and Dorothy began an intense affair. Critics gave mixed reviews of the film, but Dorothy was nominated for an Oscar and the film won the Golden Globe for best musical.

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carmen jones 1954 screencap chicago zebra print underwear 50s

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Film Style: High Society (1956)

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High Society is one of those classic 50s films that everyone is supposed to love. It has everything – Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, songs, dancing, music, colour, costumes, wisecracks… except I didn’t like it. I hated the music, I think Frank Sinatra is ugly, Grace Kelly was cold and prissy, Bing had the usual Hollywood syndrome of being much too old for his leading lady, and I just didn’t find it funny.

The earlier version of The Philadelphia Story with Katherine Hepburn is a vastly superior film in every way – Katherine is hilarious and sassy, Cary Grant is dashing, James Stewart is hunky, and there are no corny songs interrupting the storyline.

However.

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Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face: Publicity Photos

 


While I was looking for film stills, I found all of these Funny Face publicity photos. The image quality is a little better, and you also get to see details of the clothing that isn’t possible with the screen caps. I haven’t put them in any kind of order, but you should recognise all of them from the post yesterday.

Kate from Make Do Style pointed out that Richard Avedon was visual consultant on the film, which accounts for the stunning cinematography. The Fred Astaire character of Dick Avery was also loosely based on Avedon himself. Avedon designed the title sequence, the fabulous Think Pink scene which I posted about a while ago, and snapped all the photographs of Audrey Hepburn that were used in the film. I’m haven’t found anything yet to confirm whether or not he took these publicity shots, but by the look of them I am assuming so – if anyone knows any different please let me know.

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