Thursday, November 18, 2010


Martha Raye was a much-loved comic actress and singer who performed in movies as well as television in her later years.

A singer in big bands, Raye also travelled during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War to entertain American troops.

Here is a wonderful complete matador costume worn by Martha Raye in the 1938 Paramount comedy ‘Tropic Holiday”. This four piece costume consists of a a bolero style jacket of black silk velvet having silver bullion epaulets and heavily ornamented with silver sequins and silver bullion balls. The costume comes with matching knicker pants of heavily embroidered velvet, a cotton dickie with small self-collar and front ruffle trimmed with silver bullion. A bull’s ears hat having black silk crocheted balls and black piping completes the costume.

Raye wears this costume in a funny sequence in which she masquerades as a bullfighter and is forced to defend herself against a vicious bull.

Edith Head designed the costumes for the film.

The costume also appears in many production stills for the film’s release including various costumes poses as seen below.

This is a copy of the original Edith Head costume sketch for this costume piece.

Raye had her own television program in the 50’s with The Martha Raye Show.
In her final years she was remembered for her ongoing role on the CBS sitcom comedy “Alice” as Mel Sharples' mother, Carrie.

She was married seven times.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Dorothy Lamour was an American film actress who is best remembered for her performances in the series of “Road to..” films opposite Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

Dorothy Lamour is also remembered for her many films in which she wore the characteristic sarong dress, which was deigned for her by the legendary Edith Head during her years at Paramount pictures. Lamour first appeared in the sarong in the 1936 Paramount film “The Jungle Princess”. In fact she appeared in 11 films thereafter in Sarong. Audiences remember Lamour best for these films.

During the World War II years, Lamour remained amongst the most popular pinup girls including Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Veronica Lake. Lamour was also heavily involved in the creation of war bond tours in which movie stars travelled the country selling U.S. government bonds.

Here is an elegant black satin halter gown worn by Dorothy Lamour in the film Masquerade In Mexico (1945). Costumes designed by Edith Head. The gown features intricate lace design to the bodice and trim to the hem. The film tells the story of an American singer stranded in Mexico who is hired by a banker to distract a Mexican matador who is making a play for the banker's wife. They hatch a scheme whereby she pretends to be a Spanish countess.

The costume appears in many production stills made for the film and for Paramount advertising. The costume also appears on the poster advertising for the film.

A wonderful Edith Head creation for one of Paramount’s biggest box office draws of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Jeanette MacDonald will always be remembered as the American operatic singer and actress and more so for her appearances in MGM musical films of the 1930s and 1940’s with MGM co-star, Nelson Eddy.

Some of her much loved films include “The Merry Widow” in 1934 with Maurice Chevalier, “Naughty Marietta” in 1935 and “Rose-Marie” in 1936.

MacDonald gave a exceptional performance opposite Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy in the 1936 MGM film “San Francisco” which told the story of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

My personal favourite is the 1937 film “Maytime” which co-starred Nelson Eddy.

This incredible concert gown was worn by Jeanette MaDonald in the 1949 MGM film “The Sun Comes Up”. Costumes for the film were designed by Irene. This was also to be MacDonald’s last film appearance. The film teamed MacDonald with Lassie, in an adaptation of a short story by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. MacDonald played a widow who has also lost her son, but warms to orphan Claude Jarman Jr.

The gown is made of beige chiffon with heavily jewelled bodice and waist of silver bugle beads and pearls. The waist ornamentation is held in place with two finely crafted clasps of the same design.

MacDonald also performed live in concerts from 1931 through to 1950s.

This gown was worn also worn by her at a Hollywood Bowl concert in the late 40’s. Here is a photo of MacDonald in the gown in concert.

And here you will see MacDonald wearing the gown in the film, The Sun Comes Up and in which she sang, “UN BEL DI" from Puccini's Madame Butterfly.

The costume also features in advertising for the film. MacDonald thought so highly of the costume as a piece of her MGM history that she cherished and indeed enjoyed wearing the gown in concerts well after her film career had come to an end.

A wonderful costume piece worn by an Operatic singing legend in the last of her film performances.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Cyd Charisse will always be remembered as the female icon of the American film dance musical.

She will be remembered most for her appearances in films opposite Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly including “Singin' in the Rain” in 1952 and “The Band Wagon’ in 1953. Other classic appearances were in the 1953 musical “Silk Stockings’.

This beautiful gown was worn by Cyd Charisse in the 1948 MGM musical “On an Island With You”. This elegant cream-colored full-length gown, gathered at the hips with fitted short sleeve top in green and gold sequin geometric pattern.

Below is copy of the original Irene Costume sketch.

On an Island with You is a 1948 musical romantic comedy film directed by Richard Thorpe. It stars Esther Williams, Peter Lawford, Ricardo Montalbán, Cyd Charisse and Kathryn Beaumont. Williams stars as a swimming movie star who goes to Hawaii to make a film, bringing her fiancé, Ricardo Montez, played by Montalbán, with her. Lawford stars as Lawrence Kingsley, a military technical advisor for Reynolds's film, who eventually falls in love with her. Charrise plays Reynolds's best friend and fellow movie star, Yvonne Torro, who secretly wants Ricardo for herself.

Charisse was meant to perform dance numbers in the film however injured herself prior to filming and was forced to do most scenes sitting. This gown appears in a nightclub scene.

Costumes were designed by Irene.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


The one word, which can be used to describe this amazing actress, is survivor. Starting her career as a fashion model, Hayward later travelled to Hollywood. Susan Hayward has performed in some very memorable films.

The first gown is a floor length sequined gown with matching scarf worn by Susan Hayward in the 1947 Universal film “Smash-Up: Story of a Woman”. The gowns for Susan Hayward were designed by the legendary Travis Banton who also designed for such film greats as Marlene Dietrich and Mae West.

The gown is worn by Hayward as nightclub singer Angie Evans and her problems with alcoholism. The gown is worn in a party scene in which Hayward begins the evening glamorous and sober and descends into a drunken catfight with co star Marsha Hunt. The gown is worn by Hayward during the fight.

Hayward achieved recognition for her dramatic abilities with the first of five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress that year.

The next gown was worn by Hayward in the 1952 biographical film of singer Jane Froman “With A Song In My Heart”.

The film was made at 20th Century Fox Studios. The film tells the story of the turbulent life of the great singer and entertainer.

The gown consists of a black silk bodice with layers of black tulle forming the skirt. Long see through sleeves complete the costume. Hayward can be seen wearing the costume in a nightclub scene with co star David Wayne.

There is a tradition in Hollywood when it comes to film costumes and props, which is to reuse. The sad realisation for many film costumes is that they no longer exist due to many costume pieces having been cut, changed, even dyed a different color for reuse in later productions. Whilst this costume remained relatively unchanged, it appeared again in another Fox film in 1956 being “The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit”. Actress Ann Harding wore the costume in the film with the Peter Pan collar removed. Harding starred opposite Fredric March in the film.

Costumes were designed for Susan Hayward by Charles Le Maire. Hayward was also nominated for best actress that year for her portrayal.

The final piece is worn by Hayward in the historical retelling of the life of President Andrew Jackson. The film was called “The President’s Lady” and was made by 20th Century Fox studios in 1953. Hayward portrayed the wife of President Jackson who was played by Charlton Heston.

Below is a costume test showing Hayward in costume with indication of "wrong shoes".

The costumes for the film were deigned by Charles LeMaire and Renie.

Hayward died at age 57 on March 14, 1975, of pneumonia-related complications of brain cancer. There has always been speculation that she was exposed to radioactive fallout from atomic bomb tests while making “The Conqueror” with John Wayne.

Susan Hayward is and always will be, a true star in every sense of the word.