Edith Head: Queen of Hollywood Costume Design
Even if you’re not an aficionado of classic Hollywood Cinema, chances are good that you are familiar with costume designer, Edith Head. Head reigned as the leading Hollywood costume designer for nearly five decades, earning thirty-five Oscar nominations and winning eight awards1 for costume design — the most for a woman in any motion picture category.2 But did you know that this legendary designer began her career as a romance languages teacher in a private girls’ school?
Edith Head’s Early Teaching Career
Born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, California in 1897, and raised in the small mining town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith earned a Master’s degree in French from Stanford University in 1920. She soon obtained a position as a language teacher at The Bishop School in La Jolla, California and later taught French at Hollywood School For Girls where she would be asked to also teach art.2 “To improve her drawing skills… she took evening art classes at the Chouinard Art College”3. Edith soon discovered that she very much enjoyed working with figures and costumes.2
Producer Joseph Levine, actress Carroll Baker and Edith Head on the set of Harlow (1965). Photographer unknown.
Edith Head’s Early Work At Paramount
Despite having no real professional experience in design or costume, Edith Head applied for a position as a sketch artist with Famous Players-Lasky Studios (later to become Paramount Studios) in 1924. She landed the job and soon was working as an assistant costume designer.2
Edith Head’s work during this period was often overshadowed by Paramount’s then head designer, Howard Greer then later under Travis Banton. After Banton resigned in 1938, Head was promoted to Paramount’s chief costume designer. She received public notoriety for Dorothy Lamour’s “sarong” dress in the films The Jungle Princess (1936)3 and The Hurricane (1937)2.
It was during this time that Edith Head’s marriage to Charles Head, a salesman with a drinking problem, dissolved, but the designer would continue to use her first husband’s name throughout her career.4 “In 1940 Edith Head married one of her best friends, Wiard Boppo (Bill) Ihnen, a Paramount set designer”4. (Ihnen himself won two Academy Awards for Wilson and for Blood on the Sun.)5 The couple remained married until Ihnen’s death in 1979.4
Silly Saturday: Marilyn Peep Show
Karyn Zupke, Marilyn Monroe (n.d.). Copyright 2012 PeepTopia!
Apologies for the rather misleading headline, but we just couldn’t resist. If you look closely at the image posted here, you can see that the Andy Warhol inspired portrait of actress Marilyn Monroe is made of Peeps® marshmallow candies. How Sweet it is!
Visit PeepTopia to view more Peeps® masterpieces.
Esquire Theatre, The ‘Classiest’ Movie House in Chicago
Our friends in the Windy City, designslinger, have devoted a recent post to the Esquire Theatre, located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. The Esquire was designed by brothers architect William Pereira and designer Hal Pereira for the two younger Balaban brothers, Harry and Elmer. (You may be familiar with the elder brothers, motion picture business pioneers Abe and Barney of the Balaban and Katz Theatre Corporation.)
According to designslinger, in its day the 1400-seat Esquire, “with its streamline details and elegant appointments was dubbed the city’s ‘classiest’ movie house in Chicago.”
Incidentally William and Hal Pereiera, both enjoyed successful careers as Hollywood art directors. William was the production designer on the film noir classic, “This Gun for Hire” (1942) and also on “Jane Eyre” (1943)1. Hal worked on over 200 films and won an Academy Award in 1955 for his art direction on “The Rose Tattoo.” Hal also later served as one of the production designers on the long-running television series “Bonanza”2.
See more great photos and read the entire post on designslinger.com.
William and Hal Pereira, Esquire Theatre, Chicago, IL (1938). Photo: Copyright 2012 Designslinger.
- Wikipedia (2012). William Pereira. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Pereira
- Fandango.com (n.d.). Hal Pereira. http://www.fandango.com/halpereira/biography/p106081
Film Making Museum Coming to LA
Design and Desire is very excited to learn from SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Web site, that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is collaborating with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on the development of a museum dedicated to film making. The article states that while there is no definite timeline, it is hoped that the project could be completed within three to five years. A former May Company department store building located on Wilshire Boulevard is slated to become home for the new museum. Read the entire story on SFGate.
Keep following Design and Desire; we’ll post any updates on the museum’s progress as we find them.
Albert C. Martin & S.A. Marx, May Company Department Store Building, Los Angeles (1939). Photo credit: Anne Cusack (AP)
Audrey Hepburn’s Classic “Modern” Style
“The classic timeless beauty of Audrey Hepburn, coupled with the elegant and modernist styling of her many fabulous costumes, are now being appreciated by a new generation. Many iconic images of Ms. Hepburn have been seen in some new places, introducing her iconic images to legions of new fans.”
Funny Face Audrey Hepburn (1957). Photographer uncredited.
Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011)
Andy Warhol. Liz Taylor, Lithograph (1964). 21 5/16 x 21 5/16 in. Cleveland Museum of Art.
A tribute to Elizabeth Taylor on Classic Movies Digest.
Fashion in Films of the Thirties
As the Oscar ceremonies are behind us and the classic film festival Cinefest will be held in Syracuse, New York this month, it seems quite fitting to post a link to an excellent classic cinema related article that first appeared on Wearing History. The costumes of several iconic 1930s films such as The Women and Roberta are discussed, as well as those featured in some less well known movies as Artists and Models Abroad (1938).
Poster for The Women (1939), director George Cukor.