Moonfleet (1955)

Did you catch Moonfleet (1955) on TCM the other day? Is George Sanders in every movie ever made in the 1950s? Check your home movies; he’s probably in those as well.

Seeing from the info guide that Sanders was on the roster I had to watch it, even though it had already run for about 20 minutes by the time that I turned it on. The film actually stars Stewart Granger as Jeremy Fox, the anti-hero, and Sanders is a villain, chewing up the scenery as only he can.

The two men collude to smuggle stuff and make a fortune from it.

To put a wrench in Fox’s plans, the plot throws him a little boy (Jon Whiteley) to take care of. [His nephew? His son?] The boy discovers a  clue to a missing diamond that all the adults are looking for, and the boy becomes a valuable asset to his new caretaker. The self-absorbed Fox must choose whether to become less selfish when he’s faced with having to save the boy and risk his own neck.

Oh yeah, and Granger’s character is smooching with Sanders’ missus. Lady Ashwood is played by Joan Greenwood with that distinctive, mellifluous voice, who, if she merely says hello you‘d think she‘s flirting with you.

The plot is inspired by a very popular 19th century novel  by J. Meade Falkner with pirates and smugglers and derring-do. But I mention this film to talk about the costumes and their designer, Walter Plunkett. Gorgeous! The relentlessly brilliant color; Fox's red coat contrasting wonderfully with everything around him; Lady Ashwood's opulent dresses accented with a small black and white terrier; Lord Ashwood lounging comfortably at home in his lilac velvet coat . . .  It’s all so mesmerizing!

By this time, Plunkett was well known as the go-to costume designer for period films. He had designed for Singin’ In The Rain (1952), The Three Musketeers (1948) and Gone with The Wind (1939).
Walter Plunkett
Originally considering a career in law, Plunkett switched his major to English at the University of California at Berkeley, nourished a love of the arts and became a self-taught costume designer for the stage. Eventually making his way to New York and back again to the golden state, in 1925 Plunkett landed at the old F.B.O. Studios, which would become the famed RKO. Plunkett would freelance his talents to many studios.

When David O’ Selznick accepted his award for Gone With The Wind, the producer noted, "It's too bad there isn't an Award for costume designing, too, because Walter Plunkett would have received it."  Later, Plunkett would be nominated for the Academy Award ten times, finally sharing one with Orry-Kelly and Irene Sharaff for An American  In Paris (1951).


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