Friday, March 11, 2011

Film Fashion Friday: Fashion Show February: Lovely to Look At (1952)


Kathryn Grayson.....Stephanie
Red Skelton.....Al Marsh
Howard Keel.....Tony Naylor
Marge Champion.....Clarisse
Ann Miller.....Bubbles Cassidy
Zsa Zsa Gabor.....Zsa Zsa

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Gowns by Adrian

Al Marsh, Tony Naylor and Jerry Ralby, Broadway producers, are desperately looking for backers. Al is one of the heirs of a dress salon in Paris, but this is almost bankrupt. The two other heiresses, Stephanie and Clarisse and the three producers are able to convince the creditors to back a fashion show there. Things become complicated, when Al and Tony fall in love with Stephanie and Al's New York girl friend Bubbles arrives. (Taken from IMDb)

Fashion Review
This film has a lot of things going for it: 1. Adrian designed the gowns/costumes, 2. It is a musical, 3. It is in color, 4. It is a remake of Roberta (1935), and 5. It has a wonderful fashion sow sequence at the end of the film.

Many vintage fashion lovers hail Adrian as being the top Hollywood fashion designer of his time. There really doesn't need to be a "review" section, because with Adrian's name attached to a picture, you best believe it is going to hold some spectacular fashion. While this may not always be the case, I think it's a fair generalization.

Adrian was born in Connecticut in 1903 and studied at the School for Fine and Applied Arts. One of his first jobs was to design sketches for George White's Scandals. This lead him to catch the eye of Irving Berlin, who was impressed by some of his costumes at the Grand Prix Ball. Berlin commissioned Adrian to do some designs for the Music Box Revue. Eventually, Adrian caught yet another eye, that of the wife of Rudolph Valentino. He did work on three Valentino films which gained him a contract with De Mille Studios. After a two year stint, Adrian moved to MGM in 1928, where he would remain until 1942. Here Adrian was able to put his talents to great use, designing for both period costume dramas and providing MGM's top stars with fashionable wardrobes. In 1942, Adrain left MGM to open his own shop in Beverly Hills and continued to sporadically design for movies. His last film was Lovely to Look At, where he designed both the fashion show garments and the clothing for leading players. Adrian died seven years later and with his death, Hollywood lost a little bit of class.

Fashion Show Evaluation
This is definitely the most elaborate fashion show I have seen on film. The staging is intricate and it put on rather like a Broadway play. What I find interesting about this film is that the sequence and the whole film for that matter, appears in color. With the exception of Lucy Gallant (1955), the short sequence in The Women (1939), and Designing Woman (1957) I cannot think of another fashion show sequence that focuses on day and evening wear that appears in color. Singin' In the Rain (1952) is in color, but the fashion sequence is not exactly a fashion show per say, and many scholars argue that it does not fit into the fashion show-in-film category. Neptune's Daughter (1949) does appear in color, but the show focuses solely on swimwear. I find it fascinating that most of the fashion show sequences that appear in Classical Hollywood films are in black and white and are present in mainly films from the 1930s. This says a lot about the climate of the 30s in America. Moviegoers went to the movies to escape from their dim reality and what better than a fashion show to help them accomplish that? The black and white would seem to be a detraction from how we normally think about fashion. However, I see it like a blank canvas for women spectators to picture the color they like best -- a great selling ploy in my opinion.

Lovely to Look At is available on DVD through the Warner Archive Collection.