Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MGM Blogathon: Crawford + Adrian = Unforgettable Film Fashion

This is my entry in the MGM Blogathon, hosted by silver Scenes. Click HERE for more, more, more about the greatest studio of Hollywood's greatest age. 

Hear me roar!

With more stars than the heavens, MGM supported their stars with the crème de la crème of directors, writers, set and costume designers. In a town built upon dreams, it was the Dream Factory supreme.

Gilbert Adrian: How shall I make Garbo, Crawford,
Shearer and Harlow look like goddesses?
One of Hollywood’s greatest costume designers, Gilbert Adrian (1903 - 1959) made his home at MGM for over 200 films. There he was able to give full expression to his vision of the glamorous, the spectacular and the divine. With one of his greatest collaborators, Greta Garbo, he created a world of exotic and elegant mystery with a foreign flair. Garbo proved to be the greatest mannequin for his vision of European glamour.
Garbo as Adrian's vision of Mata Hari. Definitely NOT the girl next door

Garbo in Romance: Adrian's height of European glamour
So, who would have guessed that the sophisticated Adrian would find another great muse in the star who personified the working class aspirations of American women? Someone said that Fred Astaire gave Ginger Rogers class and she gave him sex appeal. While Adrian’s collaboration with Joan Crawford elevated her into the stratosphere of world class elegance, she gave him a subject with whom he could segue from the remote and exotic to the  deceptively ordinary, a look with which 1930s depression audiences could more easily identify. The rarefied world of Garbo was done, replaced by the working girl’s trials and tribulations.
Sadie McKee - Crawford works it
Sadie McKee again: just your average girl next door

No More Ladies - Every accessory, down to the sheepdog, counts
Of course, the common touch of Crawford was as much an illusion as the mystery of Garbo. Throughout the entire decade of the 1930s Adrian and Crawford showed that American style - Hollywood style - was where it was at and the world followed their lead.

Dancing Lady

Forsaking All Others - my favorite Adrian creation for Joan
Probably their greatest creation is from a film that is impossible to view today. Letty Lynton (1932) featured Joan in a ruffled white organdy gown that grabbed the imagination of American women. The story goes that Macy's, that mothership of class aspiration, copied the iconic dress and sold over 500,000. The dress was featured in Macy's Cinema Shop, which featured replicas of dresses worn by Hollywood stars. 
Hello, Macy's? If I buy this dress will I look like Joan Crawford?

Joan as Letty. Will we ever be able to see a decent
version of Adrian's gorgeous creations?

Another side of Letty Lynton.... presumably the hot and passionate side.

The modern woman wraps herself in aluminum foil

Unfortunately, this film was almost immediately tangled in a copyright dispute and still remains unavailable. There are some crummy snippets of a bootleg version on YouTube, but it hurts the eyes.

As Hollywood transitioned from silence to sound and the world transitioned from the excesses of the 1920s to the hard realities of the Great Depression, Adrian, Crawford and MGM adapted and prospered. Together, in the darkest of times, each played their part to keep the dream and fantasy of Hollywood alive.


Inge Gregusch said...

Love it! Shared it!

Caftan Woman said...

Hollywood's influence on fashion is such an intriguing subject. Adrian was so imaginative. I want more!

DorianTB said...

Marsha, I only wish my dear late mom was still here to "ooh" and "ah" about your lovely post about Adrian post, as Mom was quite the clothes horse herself! Excellent post! :-D


Adrian really knew how to dress women! Yet I wouldn't label Joan as "girl next door".. unless what we have next door is a castle! She is very glamourous in Sadie McKee!
Thanks for the kind comment!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. Adrian was nothing short of genius, I'm still inspired by his versatility - everything from Oz's munchkins to Crawford's coat hanger silhouette! He was instrumental in changing the perception of how fashion (NY especially) saw vulgar Hollywood fashion.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Inge. I treaded lightly in your neighborhood!

FlickChick said...

Hi CW - I want more, too. I could have flooded the page with endless photos. In some cases, a photo says it all.

FlickChick said...

Oh thank you, Dorian. Sounds like your mom had exquisite taste.

FlickChick said...

Hi Le! Well, Joan always started out as a working gal and somehow always ended up in the penthouse with a wardrobe to match!

FlickChick said...

Hi Girls. Just read your piece on Cedric Gibbons. MGM sure hired the cream of the crop, didn't they?

The Lady Eve said...

Did not know that Macy's once had a "Cinema Shop." Had I been around in those days, I'm sure I would have spent every cent there.

Silver Screenings said...

I didn't know Macy's had a Cinema Shop, either! If I were alive in the 30s, I would shop at said Cinema Shop which would be a huge mistake.

Stunning photos of Garbo and Crawford. That Adrian sure knew his stuff!

Thanks for another wonderful post.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

This was fun. Great photos, and you show how Joan and Adrian complemented each other.

FlickChick said...

Lady Eve - I am a Macy's shopper and you have no idea how much I wish they still had such a shop!

FlickChick said...

Silver Screenings - you bet I'd be there, too. Although, the modern outfits might not be what we have in mind!

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Jacqueline. Garbo & Adrian were a great combo, but he and Joan were not too shabby!