Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Blithe Spirit (1945)

Good morning!

Photobucket

Um, who did the poster art for this guy? I'm...not seeing the resemblance?

On a very, very dull Sunday afternoon shift, I thought I would liven up my desk duties by pulling a book from the 800's (lit-rah-tuuure) and plowing through something "worthwhile" for a change (not that my usual Sunday routine of Us magazine and vintage interior design books is not enlightening, quite the contrary...but youknowwhatimean). When I hit the British plays section, my eye caught on old Noel Coward collected works and I realized, flipping through the familiar contents, that I'd never actually read nor seen Blithe Spirit, one of his most successful plays. I sat back down in the (relatively deserted) teen area and read the whole blamed thing, smiling to myself at the BONE DRY jabs exchanged, feeling satisfied that I'd used the good part of my brain for the better part of two hours. The plot has to do with the ghost of Charles Condomnie's first wife being accidentally summoned at a seance, and wreaking general havoc by only being visible by Charles himself. Lots of deft word play, naughty exchanges, "I wasn't talking to you, I was talking to her" 's going on in the course of it. You get the gist. Thoroughly enjoyable, for anglophiles and regular old readers alike.

If you, like pre-Sunday me, haven't been through it before, might I suggest the also-excellent, David Lean directed film version from 1945. For some reason, I'd always avoided it, thinking it was in cheap, British-films-from-the-forties' black and white (I was wrong) and that Rex Harrison was in it (I was right). What I was bowled over by, upon watching the film version, was neither of these elements, but the striking costumes and color palette of the film! What inspiration for home and dress. Wanna take a look with me?

Photobucket

First off, while I would still way rather live in something in between Pee Wee's Playhouse and the Draper living room before they added that hideous extramarital-affair-couch, I can't tell you how impressed I was with the Technicolor, English cottage style of the Condomines' country home. Pink walls, floral pattern against a cornflower blue background full length curtains, Victorian dressing table... again, while I'm more into Laura Palmer than Laura Ashley, I am definitely drawn towards the coziness and painted teacup prettiness of the style. Also, how adorable is that periwinkle and white striped dressing gown with the wide lapels? Lemme atter.

Constance Cummings, who plays the second Mrs. Condomnie, wears THE GREATEST. FORTIES. CLOTHES. And in Technicolor, you have a great opportunity to gawk and gossip about the shade and texture of the actual pieces. Look at the dress she wears for the seance, par example:

Photobucket

Shoulder pads, structured fit, kelly green with red rhinestone embellishment? I WILL TAKE IT, THANK YOU. Note her coral colored nails as well.

Photobucket

There's a lot of work done with brooches in this movie, something I need to get on, stat. I have so-o-o-o many pins laying around the house, unused, unloved, that could be giving me forties' realness in the wardrobe department.

Photobucket

Look at the head and the cat working together as bookends! I like the idea of finding two contrasting cement (or otherwise heavy) figures and using them as bookends. Think about if you had two very heavy garden gnomes of opposing size and stature on either end. The concept speaks to me!

Photobucket

You know why I put this one in. Forties' sunglasses: a subject of which I never tire. I tried a pair very similar to these on in Knoxville when I went up to visit Caroline, except the frames were more translucent. I couldn't decide if they made me look too much like an alien, so I left them. Now I feel I made the wrong choice!

Photobucket

Another classy brooch. Nice! The periwinkle and pink day clothes theme makes her look so feminine. Also, someday I will get around to following all those helpful Victory rolls and other WWII era updo tutorials I've been meaning to get around to. Some sweet, hair-rific day.

Photobucket

These next two are probably my favorite of all the costumes, this wacky little print-with-contrasting-collar number and the teal wrist-length gloves. There's a skirt that matches, but I couldn't get a good shot of it.

This! Red! Dress! I could actually die. See the flounced shoulder details and pretty, built-in pendant embellishment? I think I feel the life fluttering out of me. She died of envy! She died, I tell you.

Photobucket

Though they're not as cake-taking-and-eating-too as Cummings's clothes, I really liked that the medium, played by Margaret Rutherford, was dressed in such boho shabby elegant clothes that I had to include two of her outfits:

Photobucket Photobucket

The one on the right is something I would wear right this minute!

As I mentioned in the first section, I initially didn't watch the movie because of Rex Harrison. I'm not completely averse to his film work, so much as I take his being in a movie (excepting his great successes in the sixties' with My Fair Lady and Dr. Doolittle) as an indicator that whatever British producer or director did the picture couldn't get whatever suave British actor they wanted (Ronald Colman, James Mason, Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, etc) and just cut their losses and hired Harrison. He's not bad, but I just don't think he's particularly good, as a rule. Also, his actress wife's autobiography paints a realistic-sounding, unembitteredly nasty portrait of the guy (the intriguingly titled Change Lobsters and Dance, by Lilli Palmer, for the curious), so maybe that added to my distancing myself from the guy.

Still! During the course of the movie, I liked:

a) His typewriter/desk set up. Could that typewriter be smaller? Do you have to use a stylus to type on it?

Photobucket

b) His beige shirt/tan tweed jacket/robustly paisleyed tie combo here:

Photobucket

c) His tuxedo + martini shaker swagger here:

Photobucket

Aaaaand... that's about it.

Last but not least, the beautiful Kay Hammond reprising her stage role as Elvira, the first Mrs. Condomnie:
Photobucket

Her entrance in this first scene has such a breathless, David Lean signature beauty to it, with the billowing curtains and her red lips against her ghost face. While she's described as being "all grey" in the text, she's allowed a red lip and red fingernails for the forties' touch in the film version...and seems to vary from shades of grey to green (see the very top of this post). I like the dress she's wearing, at least.

Photobucket

Anyway, if you're in the mood for some catalog style eyecandy, come check out the film version of Coward's play. They tacked on a weird, pat ending to it, but you might, like me, better enjoy hearing the witty repartee than reading it. Even if it's Rex Harrison reading it (sorry, Rex). This movie is up on youtube and also available for instant streaming on Netflix. Give it a shot! :)

Which dress do you covet the most? Are you up for English cottage style coziness or does your house ban floral print throw pillows and needlepoint as a rule? Do tell!

Til next time.

2 comments:

  1. I just love the green dress! so 40s yet so... oh i dont know. how can you discribe love?
    i really really cant wait to watch this. and no... i dont see the resemblance (?)

    ReplyDelete
  2. You know, I share your distaste for Rex. I read Hollywood Babylon years ago and I remember seeing a picture of poor Carole Landis dead on her bathroom floor after committing suicide for the love of (married) Rex. And is it me, or is his head a trifle ..narrow..in this flick?

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...