My Treasures from the Dream Factory

DreamFactory_posterTCM joins with Bonham’s auction house to present “Treasures from the Dream Factory,” a selection of high-profile movie memorabilia to be sold this November. This is the third year for the event, which is open to everyone. The first year, the statue from The Maltese Falcon sold for $4 million; last year, the piano from Casablanca was auctioned for $3.5 million. I am sure you have seen the video preview on TCM for this year’s auction. Among the items up for bidding is a Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane, which had been given to Herman Mankiewicz at the end of shooting, Dorothy’s gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz, a Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and a variety of items from Natalie Wood’s estate. The video promises that most of the items for auction will be affordable to the average collector, despite these high-profile pieces.

The video for the auction prompted me to think about what pieces of movie memorabilia I would like to own. I discovered that my tastes run on a much smaller scale than iconic props and costumes from Hollywood’s most famous movies. However, Hendrik Wynands, the head of construction on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory who provided the Golden Ticket, makes a good point in the video. He notes that people should collect what appeals to them based on the movies that touch them personally. That is where the true value lies. Memorabilia is more than owning a piece of the movie; it’s a tangible reminder of the meaning that the movie holds for the collector, and a trigger for the emotions behind that meaning. [...MORE]

Nudie Cohn: “It’s Better to Be Looked Over than Overlooked.”

nudieopenerI love Old Hollywood. In my imagination, I have romanticized the Hollywood of the Golden Age as a glamorous era of larger-than-life, charismatic figures who linger poolside at the best hotels or dance till dawn at the Mocambo. On the fringes of the dream factory are the outrageous characters who thrive in a company town where the extraordinary is ordinary and the extravagant is routine. Among the latter is the famous Nudie Cohn, tailor to the stars. But, Nudie was no studio costumer like Edith Head or Orry-Kelly. Instead, he owned and operated Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors, specializing in western-styled jackets and wildly colored shirts festooned with rhinestones and piping. His primary clients were western movie stars of the Golden Age and country-western singers of the l960s, but his career lasted well into the Age of Aquarius, when he designed a jacket with marijuana leaves for Gram Parsons.


The Way You Wear Your Hat, Part 2

Last week’s post on memorable movie hats for women was fun and enlightening but time consuming because of the laborious process of researching examples. Women’s hats tend to be unique variations on specific styles or one-of-a-kind haute couture designs. To find examples, I wracked my brain to recall films, stars, or female characters that might lead to colorful, meaningful, or dynamic hats, and then I searched for film stills from those movies. Once I found examples, I discerned what style it was and then interpreted its use in the film. Not the most efficient approach to the topic, and I knew many good examples of hats would fall through the cracks. Fortunately, my readers picked up the slack and mentioned some terrific examples, which prompted me to add bits of hat lore and history in the comments section.


The Way You Wear Your Hat, Part 1

At the turn of the 20th century, a woman could be reprimanded by her husband for appearing in public without a hat, which was considered an essential article of clothing. According to the website Fashion Era, a woman once embarrassed her family because she left her house without her hat even though she was merely posting a letter in a box a few feet from her garden gate. Men wore hats for both practical and business purposes. Because hats draw attention to the head, the right hat could elevate one’s circumstances, at least according to social standards of the day: An old saying goes, “If you want to get ahead and get noticed, then get a hat.” While traditions and conventions of hat-wearing began to break down after World War I, particularly after women got the right to vote, mainstream Americans continued to wear hats for several decades. Today, however, hats are rarely worn by the general public, and when they are, it is usually for informal, leisure-time activities. Consequently, various traditions, conventions, and lore about hats, caps, and head gear have been lost to us.

Hats are ubiquitous in classic films released prior to 1960. Hat fashions were not only reflected in Hollywood films, they were also influenced and inspired by them. Costuming tends to be taken for granted by audiences, who think of clothing, set design, and props as mere indicators of time and place. Too often authenticity is the only criteria for evaluating these essential parts of a film’s visual design. Yet, costumes can be important vehicles of information. They can serve as keys to unlock the layers of meaning behind a character. With that idea in mind, I went in search of famous movie hats, hoping to find some examples that I could analyze for their symbolism. It was more difficult than I thought, but I did uncover some interesting facts, some striking hat fashions, and a newfound respect for an article of clothing I knew little about.

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