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Designing man, part 3: Travis Banton, Photoplay, June 1936

carole lombard photoplay may 1936 travis banton fashion 00a large

To paraphrase old-time radio announcers, "...And now, the exciting conclusion of 'Trials And Triumphs Of A Hollywood Dress Designer,' starring Travis Banton." And also, finally, Carole Lombard (shown above in chic black from the May 1936 issue of Photoplay).

The last of this three-part series comes from the June '36 issue. Banton has already reminisced about the stars he worked with in the silent and early talkie era; now comes the segment most readers were waiting for -- stories about stars of the day and what their fittings were like.

carole lombard photoplay june 1936 travis banton 00 larger
carole lombard photoplay june 1936 travis banton 01 larger
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carole lombard photoplay june 1936 travis banton 03 larger
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So what did Banton say about Lombard? If you know anything about their relationship, you'd expect it to be highly complimentary, and you would be right. Specifically, here are his comments, beginning with comments on a fashion show he put on in June 1933:

carole lombard photoplay june 1936 travis banton 03a largercarole lombard photoplay june 1936 travis banton 03c larger
carole lombard photoplay june 1936 travis banton 03b larger

It's tantalizing to ponder Lombard's steps as she strolled over to Banton and the wardrobe building; unfortunately, I have no map of the Paramount studio during the 1930s. Here's how it looked in 2009 (keep in mind that the left quarter or so of the lot belonged to RKO in the '30s -- Desilu sold it to Paramount several decades later):

paramount studio map 2009

If the wardrobe building (now named for Edith Head, Banton's one-time protege) was at the same location then, it's just a matter of finding where Lombard's suite resided (if it's still there at all). If anyone knows where to track down a vintage Paramount studio map, please let me know.

Here's a closeup of the first gown Banton designed for Lombard...the rest is fashion history:



Banton also discusses Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich (whom he was with at the time of the March 10, 1933 earthquake while Lombard was working on "Supernatural"), and even Mae West. He says he first met West with trepidation because his uncle, Joab Banton, was the New York district attorney who prosecuted and jailed West in 1926 over her risque play "Sex." To his relief, she said he was only doing his duty and harbored no ill feelings towards the family.

While much of this series has to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt through the Paramount publicity machine, it does provide insight into many of the ups and downs of being a studio fashion designer, one of the people who kept Lombard, and others, ethereal and dazzling.


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