Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cinemode: All About Eve

This post is reblogged from the October 13, 2010, edition of On This Day In Fashion.

In 1947 Bette Davis already had a dresser, the famed costumer Orry-Kelly, who had worked for Warner Bros. since the early talkies. But the two fought like cats, and Kelly’s ongoing bitchy comments about Davis’s aging looks and expanding figure didn’t help the relationship. Perhaps that’s how Paramount costumer Edith Head came to accompany Davis on a shopping trip to advise her on what to wear for the upcoming film, Winter Meeting, even though it was a Warner Bros. project. Head favored the longer hemlines that were coming into style and told Davis, “Don’t let anybody talk you into wearing a tight skirt. You’re not the type.” Davis was so smitten by Head’s straightforward advice that she bought everything Head told her to, and even copied her trademark schoolmarm haircut for her Winter Meeting role as a New England spinster and submitted a request to Paramount to loan Head out to her for upcoming projects, becoming the first star to do so. This is how Edith Head came to design the costumes for 2oth Century Fox’s All About Eve, which premiered on this day in 1950.

All About Eve is a deliciously sharp and snappy behind-the-scenes look at the cutthroat world of New York theater, and well-known for its biting dialogue, particularly the famous “fasten your seatbelts” line. But another quip, an aside from the comedic actress Thelma Ritter, who plays the maid to Davis’s Margo Channing, could have summed
up the back story of the costuming of the film: “Next to a tenor, a wardrobe woman is the touchiest thing in show business.” Indeed, the politics surrounding the wardrobes of All About Eve were as backbiting, paranoid and touchy as they come.

So fasten your seatbelts; I’ve got a bumpy tale to tell: To start with, Davis was a last-minute choice to play Margo Channing: Claudette Colbert was set to play the role but injured herself and no other actress would touch the part of an aging, bitter star. Davis’s own star was fading and her reputation as difficult preceded her; as a result she had very little work. So Fox reluctantly offered her the part (Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck “couldn’t stand” Davis) and Davis accepted under the condition [to read the full story, visit On This Day In Fashion]

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