I watched a campy classic movie last week which I was initially drawn to because of the cast. Shirley MacLaine, Gene Kelly, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum and Paul Newman star in What A Way To Go made in 1964. The movie tells the faintly ridiculous but utterly enjoyable story of Louisa May Foster (MacLaine) who marries for love but each time she does so she ends up a rich widow. Convinced that she is under a supernatural curse, Louisa relates her story to a psychiatrist and we see her life in flashbacks.
The movie contains pastiches of other film styles and I particularly enjoyed the “Lush Budgett” interlude, wherein Shirley wears evermore luxurious, outrageous and glamorous costumes as a trophy wife to her third husband. It’s hysterically funny and in terms of over the top costuming it’s reminiscent of the Sex And The City films, except it doesn’t take itself half as seriously!
I had never seen MacLaine as a young woman and was stunned by how gorgeous she was. Her beauty and enviably slim figure was highlighted throughout the film by the wonderful costuming by legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head. As Maclaine herself said:
“This was my fantasy film! Every young girl has a fantasy about starring in a film that has lavish benefits. Well, how about a half dozen superstar leading men, seventy-two costumes designed by Edith Head with a $500,000 budget, seventy-two hairstylists to match the gowns, and a three-and-a-half-million-dollar gem collection loaned out by Harry Winston of New York. Pretty good perks, I’d say.”
Edith Head was costume designer to the stars and she worked with everyone from the Hollywood Golden Age. She was nominated for thirty five Academy Awards and won eight times (more than any other woman). She took a collaborative approach to her job and had a relaxed low-key style which made her a favourite of many of Hollywood’s leading women. In her career she worked extensively with Hitchcock and also with actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis. There’s a couple of great books on Edith’s work on Amazon and they have just been added to my wishlist! Below are just some of Edith’s iconic designs.