Classic Movie Makeovers | From the Draft Files

From the Draft file folder of this old blog, I find bits and pieces of unfinished ideas. Here is one about classic movie makeovers, which would inspire the article on Gene Kelly's multiple makeovers in Singin' in the Rain, and the fashion-centered review of Joanne Woodward's character in A New Kind of Love. Here are a few more random ideas from April 2014 that never made it to light.

Bells are Ringing (1960) - It's funny to me to discover how much blue jeans were associated with derelicts and ne'er-do-wells at one time. In this movie, Frank Gorshin's slovenly, sweatshirt-clad character wants to get a job in a play. So he auditions in his usual clothes and is turned away. When Judy Holliday suggests wearing a suit, he exclaims with indignation, "We got names for actors who wear suits!" Eventually, he decides to "cut out the blue jeans action" and buy a three piece. Voila! Instant success. He is Cinderella. (Or should I say cinder-fella?)

Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) - I think Holly Golightly - with all the tiaras, and opera gloves, and long cigarette holders- is a show even to herself. When she's in down time,  singing "Moon River," she's in jeans and loafers - a casual style. This is her real self.

Cinderfella (1960) - Cinderella is like Superman/Clark Kent - she changes outfits and suddenly her closest associates do not recognize her. Jerry Lewis goes for this classic Cinderella story point with great flair. Instead of the male Cinderella - whose name is Fella, by the way- just walking into the ballroom, he swaggers into the room, dancing down the long staircase, to the sounds of Count Basie and his Orchestra.

The only difference in his appearance from earlier in the movie is a streak of gray at his temple. This is his makeover. Oh yes, and a red suit. Otherwise, Fella is still unmistakably Jerry Lewis-ish. His relatives proclaim that this can't be Fella since the gray hair suggests he's a distinguished gentleman. It's a fun little knowing nod at the ridiculousness of the classic Cinderella makeover.
Gidget (1959)- This Sandra Dee surfing story is the anti-makeover movie. It's a coming of age tale in which Francie (Dee) wants to be curvy for the beach this summer like her friends. She even commits to strange and ineffective exercises to produce a busty look; she tries to lounge languidly on the beach, then becomes bored.

Before too long,  she ditches these ideas and concentrates on a new hobby- surfing. Then the movie begins in earnest. It's as if the film is saying, "Be yourself; pursue your own interests; messy sea-soaked hair is perfectly fine." The movie rewards Francie for being more interested in finding a new sport than in trying to become what she is not.

Easter Parade (1948)- This is another "Be Yourself" makeover movie. Remember when Hannah Brown (Judy Garland) - a girl of pedestrian tastes- is plopped into Nadine's sophisticated style of dress, with frills and feathers and she looks out of place? They finally let her dress in her own way, but a little more glammed up.She becomes a success as herself, not as a knock-off Nadine.

The Heiress (1949) - Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland) is two characters - the mousy, abused woman in the first half, then the suspicious and angry woman with better self-esteem in the latter half. What happens to this character is so tragic, that not only does her self-esteem change, not only does her voice change, but also her wardrobe changes.

Her hair in the first half of the film is pulled back into a tight bun; for the latter half of the film, it's looser and parted down the middle. Her dress is dark and practical in the first half, then light and fluttery with extra frills at the end.

Rear Window (1954)--For Hitchcock fans and film studies professors, there's plenty of symbolism in Grace Kelly's wardrobe in Rear Window.  However,  I'm most interested in is her last outfit. Much is made of the character donning a button down shirt, jeans and loafers at the end. She has spent the earlier part of the story in designer gowns, parading around her boyfriend's apartment as if it were a fashion runway in Milan.

James Stewart plays the lady's boyfriend, a hard-nosed investigative photographer who doesn't want to marry and plays hard-to-get. Grace Kelly plays a busy socialite who finds his gruffness an exciting challenge. Her makeover from the sublime to the mundane is one of compromise. Note  that she's reading a fashion magazine while he sleeps; she's not getting rid of everything.

Leave it to Hitchcock to do a make-under, to do something different.

That Touch of Mink (1962)- This film has that obligatory movie makeover montage for office worker Cathy Timberlake (Doris Day) who is going on vacation with a wealthy CEO (Cary Grant) and needs new clothes.  Her shopping spree also serves as a fashion show for the audience. Perhaps someone with a better eye for clothing can tell the difference between what she wears before and after. I can't. It's Doris Day-a person who looks glamorous even in a potato sack.

Both her at-home wardrobe and her vacation togs look equally fabulous, making it the most superfluous of all the unnecessary movie fashion montages.(I still love the fashion, though.)


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