Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fashion in Film - How to Marry a Millionaire

"How to Marry a Millionaire", from 1953, was on the Retroplex channel the other night, a movie I hadn't seen in years. This comedy stars Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall, and Marilyn Monroe as three golddigging models who set out to find husbands with lots of money.

William Travilla was the costume designer for the film, under the direction of Charles LeMaire. They were nominated for an Academy Award for the film, although the Oscar went to "The Robe". Of course, Travilla is best known for his work with Monroe, as he was able to engineer costumes for her that showed her to her best advantage.

While 20th Century Fox allowed Marilyn to show as much cleavage as she wanted off screen, she was required to be covered up in her films. Travilla actually wired the inside of Monroe's costumes to keep her breasts from bouncing on screen.

"How to Marry a Millionaire" was the second film by Fox produced in Cinemascope. While the film labs insisted that there was no distortion, the fact was that Cinemascope did widen the actresses on the screen. Close-ups had to be avoided. Full skirts were the height of fashion at the time, but all three actresses initially refused to wear them because of the on-screen distortion. LeMaire did not want the Fox designers to appear ignorant of current fashion, so he called a meeting of the three actresses. Grable and Bacall agreed to wear some full skirted costumes, most having the fullness flare from the lower hips. Monroe was insistent on wearing tight skirts throughout the film.

Many of the comic moments in the film are provided by Marilyn's character, who is blind as a bat and can't see without her glasses. She stumbles and bumbles around, continually hiding her glasses when in the company of men.

Travilla was able to design lots of evening gowns for the film as we watch the three girls date the various millionaires. But the best scene is the fashion show, where we get to see a parade of summer resort fashions and beachwear. The film is a "must see" for that scene alone!

Here is a short clip from the fashion show where Marilyn wears a red bathing suit and cover-up studded with rhinestones. Check out the clear plastic platforms on her shoes! You'll see one of Marilyn's funny moments at the end when she trips because she can't see without her glasses.


Lily said...

hehehe "men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses"!

Love that movie. I've wanted that pink satin dress for YEARS.

Sal said...

What a funny tidbit about the skirts and film distortion!

Parisienne Farmgirl said...

As a die hard MM fan I have seen this movie "a million" times. And a long time ago when the Planet Hollywood's were all the rage I got to see and take my photo next to the Hot Pink powder room scene dress.
MM just would NOT have looked right in a wide skirt so I think her choice to stay with a slim silouette was a good one.
A must see - you are right.

lucitebox said...

I have this on my list of movies I watch every few years. I use it as a reminder to dress better, aim high and, if possible, marry up!

Gladys said...

I absolutely love this movie. I love Betty's ski outfit.

Tante Patent said...

Love it! Especially the grey suit.

best wishes,

Tante (aunt) Patent

Kahlilia said...

I search and recently came across your blog and have been reading along. It was wonderful blog.


fashionisdanger said...

One of my favourite movies-- I even own a copy! I will enjoy it even more now that I know all those great back-story details!

How do you do it? You never fail to post something interesting and informative!


ps-- I love the movie, but I really don't "buy" Lauren Bacall as being pals with Marilyn and Betty in this movie-- they don't "fit" together really.... I love it when they sell all the furniture! So naughty and hilarious!

Miss Jess said...

This is one of my all-time favorite movies, from both a costume design and screwball comedy aspect. Thanks so much for giving us some insight into the costume design drama!

lissy said...

any idea who made the glasses? very interested in finding out, having a horrible go of it though.
Would love to get some info if you have it!

steph_rad said...

Does anyone know who designed the wedding dress Lauren Becall wore in this film?

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