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carole lombard 04

The fashionable side of 'Godfrey'

Posted by vp19 on 2012.05.17 at 01:52
Current mood: impressedimpressed

"My Man Godfrey," arguably the greatest screwball comedy, has hilarious dialogue, a strong ensemble headed by Carole Lombard and William Powell, solid direction from Gregory La Cava, and a message that goes beyond the jokes. But have you ever analyzed it from a fashion perspective? Somebody has.

Meet Kimberly Truhler, being interviewed by Ben Mankiewicz during last month's TCM Classic Film Festival; if you recall, the theme of this year's festival was "Style In The Movies," and Kimberly knows both movies and style. She has a by-appointment showroom, "GlamAmor," at the California Market Center, and regularly writes about fashion (with a lot of movie talk thrown in!) at her wonderful blog, http://www.glamamor.com.

It just so happens that several weeks before the TCM festival, she posted an entry about "Godfrey," a film she has loved ever since she first saw it late at night some years ago. As she put it, "The aged and slightly faded film flickering in the darkness on some obscure channel did not dim its appeal. In fact, I only remember how captivated I was from its opening until closing credits, and all of the magic in between."

Much of that magic comes from its Streamline and Art Deco style, quintessential '30s, but as she noted, "it is the costume design of the great Travis Banton that will really catch your eye."

She describes his work for Lombard thus:

"He was blissfully indulgent in styling her socialite character Irene. At one point, he has her waking up in a bedroom jacket made entirely of ostrich feathers (see above). In another, he plays on Deco's fascination with foreign intrigue in designing her exotic Asian-inspired pajamas.

"And then of course there are gowns that are quintessential Banton, such as our introduction to Irene in a beaded bias-cut."

But while Banton designed Lombard's wear, here's something I didn't know: It was his assistant, also imported from Paramount, who -- under Banton's supervision -- created the outfits for the other characters. Her name? Edith Head, whose fame eventually eclipsed Banton's. As Truhler writes,

"Made very much in Banton's own style, it was she who was responsible for Gail Patrick's gowns and others' outfits in 'My Man Godfrey.' This was one of her first real shining moments of costume design on film, so it is great to appreciate these early moments in her illustrious career."

Patrick may play the "devil" to Lombard's "angel," but she looks every bit as heavenly as her cinematic sister, as this satin gown and two-piece suit with fur collar make clear:

Head's work with other characters is noted, too, such as Alice Brady, with (but not wearing) goat. (Kimberly believes that coat collar to be ermine.)

And Head also gets the chance to outfit Powell (shown with Alan Mowbray), from bum to butler to the sophisticate known to millions:

Once you read this item, you will appreciate "Godfrey" in yet another way. The entry, featuring several dozen photos -- can be found at http://www.glamamor.com/2012/03/cinema-style-file-art-deco-of-comedy-in.html. Those wonderful credits are only the beginning...


GlamAmor at 2012-05-18 18:11 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks so much for sharing my article on the fashion behind MY MAN GODFREY! I love delving into these great films even deeper and sharing the impact that they still have on our style today. Bonus is that this one includes the early work of one of my heros, Edith Head. Love your love of Carole--it's well deserved. Keep up the great work!
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