Friday, September 4, 2015

Movie Star Paper Dolls (1940's-1950's)

Good afternoon!

How's tricks? I was felled by illness most of last week, so I've been steamrolling along trying to catch up at work THIS week...but that doesn't mean I've forgotten my blood oath to return to a regular blogging schedule! Not in the slightest. The last week, in between book slinging here at work, I've been reading Glenn Ford: A Life on Overdrive, listening to a lot of New Wave via this Youtube channel, and poring over 1940's and 50's paper dolls on Google image search, all thanks to the ceaseless wonder we call the internet. Since the third topic lends itself naturally to a visual medium like this very blog, want to take a look with me at some of the particularly eye-popping instances of Hollywood high glamour? I knnooooow thatcha doooo.


Hello, gorgeous! I'm to the chapter in the Glenn Ford book where he's making Gilda, so doesn't that just dovetail nicely with this discovery!

When I was a young, American Movie Classics network obsessed kid in the 90's, I can remember seeing Tom Tierney's Hollywood and other historic paper doll collections in Waldenbooks and the like. The books were (and are) fascinating for fashionistas and cinephiles alike, particularly in the case of the movie-related ones as the screen-worn costumes were recreated in miniature manipulative versions for the titles ("Ah, look! It's her little tam o'shanter from the part where Dana Andrews says he's in love with another woman! And you can put the opera coat over the cocktail dress from the ballroom scene...but she might like the Walter Plunkett one from the first scene better...hmm..." ad infinitum).  Since then, I've seen my share of of-the-era vintage paper dolls at estate sales, and don't they always catch my interest for the gorgeous colors and heart stoppingly wonderful clothes illustrated in their little paper trousseaux. So many interests intersect here, and the best part, for a collector-- you can store like 1,000 outfits in a manila envelope. Do you know how much easier my life would be if this were true of clothes in the real world? 

Speechless with jealousy over this girl's estate sale find on Collector's Weekly's tamale....!! I spot at least two Hedy Lamarrs, a Greer Garson, two Gene Tierneys, a Dorothy Lamour and a Judy Garland...can you? #itsjustlikeispy

I know it's the not the same as having the original, lithographed print of these vintage pieces to gawk and gander over, but one of my favorite things to do on Google image is punch in the name of one of my favorite actresses along with "paper dolls vintage" in the search box and limit the results to supersized pictures so I can see every sketched button and bow on the costumes in question. While a simple search will yield up everyone from Rock Hudson to Jane Fonda (as a "groovy" young go-go type, no less, waaay pre-Vietnam and Klute), I chose just four of my favorite screen personalities from the forties' and fifties' to talk at you about today. Let's take a tour of "wardrobes I would like to own" by yours truly.

Lana Turner

Is the turban AND the star of India sized medallion too much? Nay, I argue that it IS NOT ENOUGH. Also those sleeves.
Laaaaaana Turrrrner. I feel like LT doesn't get mentioned as much as she should when people talk about the big stars of the golden age of American cinema, because how could you have gotten any "bigger" of a star than Lana Turner circa 1940-something? I never liked the original movie version of The Postman Always Rings Twice (I know, I'm crazy, but I couldn't get over my general disinterest in John Garfield to properly appreciate much more than Lana Turner's iconic all white ensemble in that entrance in that first scene between the two of them), but a recent viewing of Johnny Eager with Robert Taylor put me squarely in the pro Lana Turner camp....she's just. SO. CUTE. And cute isn't really the word for it, there's vulnerable, sex kittenish thing going on with her that's Marilyn Monroe without the forced bubbliness or vacuity of some of MM's roles. You feel like you might burst into tears if anything happens to her in her movies-- and as you would expect, that's exactly what filmmakers were banking on when they put her in properties where the male lead (from Spencer Tracy to Clark Gable and back again) was the love 'em and leave 'em type. Furthermore, her daughter Cheryl Crane (of the infamous Stompanato incident) wrote one of the best coffee table books on a movie star I think I've read-- I spent an entire snowday this spring up to my neck in Lana: The Memories, the Myths, the Movies, and my appreciation for the woman grew ten fold. 

And her clothes! From the book, the things you see here from her paper wardrobe are a lot like what she would wear in real life-- loud and splashy and fun without an ounce of tacky. She was one of the first people to wear jewels (real and paste) in the daytime in Hollywood, and WHY. NOT. You'd better believe if I had a jewelry box like  Elizabeth Taylor, I would be walking around looking like a Halloween costume of Mrs. Thurston Howell III morning noon and night. Shameless!

Anyway, look at how cute these midriff playsuit ensembles are:

I love the idea that there's nothing new under the sun-- you could take any of these pieces and pair them with a solid blouse or skirt in place of its coordinating piece and look as fresh as paint out on a sunny afternoon, though it be year of our Lord 2015. Do you ever notice with vintage clothing that just about the CRAZIEST print can go from costume to super chic with the addition of some toning-down element? When fall finally comes back around, I'll be busting out my all-over print polyester long sleeved dresses, which, solo, would give people seizures for the gaudiness-- however, pop a skinny black sweater vest on top of the same thing and it not only gives a better silhouette, but looks like perfectly acceptable office wear (in my mind, anyway...who can say about the rest of the world). Also, please see the crazy hat, for which I would give my eye teeth. 

I think  personally I would be more likely to wear one of these mint green outfits...ugh! I love that color so! I would never have thought to pair it with navy blue, as seen at bottom left, so that's interesting, but that big gold applique/possibly braided gold corsage on the shoulder is giving me life. One of my #1 physical regrets in life is that I have the height but not the body type for these kind of high waisted pants, because my GOD, would I be wearing them if I did. Another crazy hat, and could die for how much I love the entire outfit at upper left.

In summation: LANA4LIFE2015.

Rita Hayworth:

I've mentioned before on this blog how nuts I am Rita Hayworth (see Life magazine article post on her in the world was that almost four years ago?!), and safe to say nothing has changed. If I could swap corporeal forms with anybody it's a dead heat between Hayworth and Ava Gardner, they're just IMPOSSIBLY beautiful. The illustrator doing this set did a less than perfect job with RH's doll, but I think this transgression can be overlooked in light of the fact that the clothes are out of this world.

I mean:

I'm almost too thunderstruck by the outfit on the right to even say anything about the one on the left, though that canary yellow color and saucy flower placement would still look like a million bucks today. The slightly mutton leg sleeves of the red and cheetah print, plus the nipped in waist...too, too much to handle for this little heart of mine. This dress is one of those so-spectacular outfits that I would buy it out in the wild at an estate sale even if it didn't fit me-- you don't pass up something that will haunt you nights if you can help it, right? Uhhhhmazing.

I was interested in this page because I actually have all the items pictured-- you know about my mink situation, and I bought a winter muff like this at an estate sale as weird bout of "how Victorian!" washed over me. I have a dress in the attic that I doubt would fit me anymore, as it was sk-i-i-i-in tight in high school, but I bought it at a yard sale along with a Lily Munster-esque sixties' dress...probably late forties'/early fifties' black halter top with a voluminous print skirt. Do you ever think of things you've bought "before you were into that" and wonder what opportunities you must have missed when you weren't looking? Who KNOWS what else was at that same yard sale and seventeen year old me yet too ignorant to buy it. At least dumb luck brought me this jewel. I love the idea of wearing everything but the black purse together. Also--do you ever think about how Hollywood women of the era had whole rooms devoted to furs...and live in a climate where you wouldn't need them 90% of the time? I felt bad about my coat closet in mild to moderate Tennessee, but when you compare it to California, I'm sure it seems like Yukon territory w/r/t cold weather.

Last but not least, that dress and this cape. Note the crisp collar and gold epaulets, and the green lining. I am just as giddy as the 1940s child who would have cut these out about how LUXE that outfit is.

Judy Garland

GIVE. ME. THAT. OUTFIT. I don't know if my life will be right until I get a similar get-up together.
Judy, Judy, Judy! It's funny how, I guess grâce à her iconic performances as Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester and Dorothy Gale, people don't think of her as much of a glamour girl/clotheshorse but her forties' movies beg to differ. Stars back then were dressed to the NINES, and Judy in some of those off-the-production-line musicals looks better than a lot of us 100% dressed up for a Saturday night (one of my favorites is the outfit in this clip  from For Me and My Gal...I could stand up and cheer for it). 

As you can see from these, the illustrator was not playing around with kill-me-cute outfits:

It's interesting that they give the more petite girls these sun suits, I wonder if they look better in general or just give oomph to littler ladies. Even this tall one would love to get her hands on the navy middy inspired piece (THAT. SHOULDER PURSE. SHUT. UP) and the colorful necklace at the top.

I like in this set how each outfit has a corresponding hat. The black straw one paired with the rose dress is maybe my favorite-- I hadn't thought to add a coordinating ribbon to a black accessory to match it back to my outfit, but don't think I'm not going to now #knowledgeispower. That boxy beige coat over a skinny little skirt and sweater set is killing it dead. Not a huge fan of the plaid, but maybe if I saw it on someone I'd like it better?

Side bar: If you're a Garlandite, did you read that Stevie Phillips book that just came out this year? I read it on the plane back and forth from vacation and while I was kind of thrilled to hear a real gutbucket celebrity dish from the nuts-and-bolts part of show business (Phillips was one of the first female talent agents when there weren't a lot of women in the field, and rising from secretary to personal assistant to Garland to that position, no less), I wasn't a big fan of the horror movie like treatment of Judy in it. While I'm sure it was exactly THAT BAD when it was bad, I felt a little wrong/didn't like reading about it at all. #teamjudy [end side bar] 

Ava Gardner:

Last but not least, the aforementioned Ava Gardner couldn't escape my notice in the paper doll category-- she has not one, but TWO sets that I could track down.
This doll and outfit come from the first one, and I included them (and just them) because a) this doll looks the most like AG of all of them and b) that set was not nearly as gorgeous as the second one, in spite of its closer fidelity to the star's actual appearance (sorry, Charlie).

Now THIS set...I mean, just look at this set:

While the girl looks more like Paulette Goddard than she does like Ava Gardner (and she doesn't even look THAT much like Paulette Goddard), the pages of clothes are shockingly good. Take a look:

Can you imagine rooting through a suitcase or a plastic bin at the flea market and finding all this mess? I would lose my ever loving mind. The black hat and gloves with the pink dress and tied pearls is very much something I would like to wear, thank you, please bring these to me, Santa.

Did you or did you not flip when you saw that ski suit complete with stylish glasses? The western outfit is a little much with those pants (if you're going Nudie, go FULL NUDIE [as I trademark that bumper sticker] ), but I will take both the hot pants looking numbers at the top plus Ava Gardner's legs to go with it. Did you know she was only 5'6''? Like (the even shorter at 5'3'') La Crawford, she somehow reads on screen as being VERY tall...long torso? Not sure.

Hold your hats, kids:  the folder it comes in features these pages of "jewelry box" mock ups for you to imagine as you play dress up with AG's clothes closet. You didn't think she was going out unadorned, did you? One of the best parts of vintage children's toys and playthings like this is the aspirational aspect-- you hope to have a house JUST LIKE your dollhouse some day, clothes JUST LIKE your paper dolls or Barbie-- so think about where accessories like this fall in. Me, I just want that charm bracelet. BAD. Do you see the ice tongs?

I borrowed liberally from the internet for all of these, but I think you can find all of the sets (including extra outfits and commentary by the scanner) on the blog Miss Missy's Paper Dolls. You can also find more celebrity and non celebrity paper dolls alike-- the woman has THE BEST examples of vintage pieces and has obviously spent a lot of time scanning them for us to enjoy. I'm obsessed with the Movie Dressographs of Greta Garbo and Doug Fairbanks Jr she's just put up this week, along with a lot of other items 'round that way. So thanks, Miss Missy! And go check her out!

How about you? Seen any of these type of dolls out at the flea market or estate sales? Which starlet's wardrobe is your favorite? Did you have paper dolls when you were a kid? What kind of "things to shoot for as a grownup" toys did you have growing up? I'd love to talk shop!

Gotta get a move on, but have a FABULOUS Friday and I'll talk to you next week! Take care! Til then.

Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner (set one, set two)

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