Monday, March 28, 2011

Teal time Pt. 2

I purchased this 1950s day dress from the very fabulous Fab Gabs just around a year back, when I fell for its rich teal color, the collar detail and the hip pockets. However, it look me a little while to be able to wear it comfortably because it was a tad on the snug side for me back in the day. Well, last time I went back home I tried it on again and - tada - it is now the perfect fit! So I brought it with me to London and, paired with a light cardi, heels and red lippy, it has become one of my favorite uniforms of this spring.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Song of the moment - "Ladytron"

I've always thought that had I lived in 1970s London, I would have been the biggest glam whore in the city. I'm a shameless glam rock fan and Roxy Music's "Ladytron" is one of my all time favorite songs. Lets whip out some glitter and platform shoes and dance, dance away the weekend!

La dame vêtue de noir

One of the films that I've had the pleasure of seeing this week on the big screen at BFI Southbank is Robert Bresson's Les dames du Bois de Boulogne (1945). Seeing a classic film in cinema, as it was originally intended to be seen, is always very special to me... Especially to see something filmed in such a lush way as Bresson's picture is, quite frankly, awe-inspiring. I truly consider BFI one of the (many!) big perks of life in London; in my home country it really is a rarity to view an old film in cinema.

I love classic femme fatales and I simply adored the stunning María Casares' portrayal of Hélène in Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. This femme fatale, believing her lover's feeling for her have cooled, sets about tricking him in a scandalous affair with a cabaret dancer (who is, essentially, a prostitute).

I was especially taken by María Casares' costumes, which are breathtaking. The statuesque Spanish beauty wears sweeping black gowns throughout the movie and rocks some very fabulous hats, capes and pearls, which give the character a distinct, iconic look. Sadly I don't own the movie on DVD so I couldn't snap screencaps but I thought I'd post a couple of pictures. Hopefully these will encourage you to pick up the movie if you haven't seen it before. It is well worth a watch!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sylvia Plath sightseeing in Primrose Hill

Sylvia Plath is an all time favorite poet of both me and my partner-in-crime's. It has been a long time wish of mine to visit places related to her life in London ever since I first visited the city well over a decade and a half ago. For one reason or another, I never got around to it before - before yesterday, that is. It was another gorgeous spring day in London and we decided to head to the beautiful area of Primrose Hill to visit the two flats that Plath lived in from 1960, upon her return to England, to 1963. Here's a little bit of background information on Plath's final years in London, courtesy of A celebration, this is, which is one of my favorite sites dedicated to Sylvia.

In April 1960, Plath gave birth to a daughter, Frieda, at home. In 1961, she suffered an appendicitis and a miscarriage before channeling her creative efforts into her novel The Bell Jar. After this, Plath's creative writing escalated to such a degree that by October 1962, she was writing poems that would make her famous. By the Autumn of 1961, Plath and Ted Hughes purchased Court Green, in North Tawton, Devon. Her son, Nicholas, was born in January 1962. Within the year her marriage collapsed and she moved back to London in early December 1962. The Bell Jar was published in January 1963, and within a month, she took her life.

The following photos are from 3 Chalcot Square, where Plath and Hughes lived from 1960 through August 1961. It is a truly charming little square with beautiful pastel colored houses and a cute little park. Sylvia has her own blue plaque at this address. It would be a dream come true to live in one of these houses some day.

We also visited 23 Fitzroy Road, which is located right off Chalcot Square. Plath lived here for the last few months of her life, from December 1962 until her death on February 11, 1963. The Fitzroy Road flat is the one where Plath committed suicide. The Irish poet and dramatist W.B. Yeats lived in the house as a boy, a fact that once upon a time pleased Sylvia and was something that she considered to be a good omen. Very sad. There is no plaque dedicated to Sylvia outside of the house. Instead, there's one for Yeats.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring in London

A little picspammy of our stroll around London yesterday. It was such a beautiful day so we wandered in St. James's Park (which is the oldest of the Royal Parks of London) and walked along the Thames before heading to the Courtauld Gallery to look at some Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. Even though it is still pretty chilly outside, spring is certainly making way here. The signs of spring, such as cherry trees in bloom, make me a very, very happy lady.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Harlow happenings & wrap of the Baby blogathon

"What made her so popular? Well, the face, the figure and the blonde tresses were certainly all a plus factor. Check her out in 1932's Red-Headed Woman and you'll see what a difference the color of hair did make. Other Harlow assets: that spunky 'I hear you knockin' but you can't come in' attitude that she flaunted so deliciously. Another reason people adored her then, as new audiences do today, is because she was a brightly gifted actress and comedienne who despite the tough exterior seemed, at heart, a kind, sensible, immensely likeable human being. Costars and friends such as Myrna Loy and Rosalind Russell certainly thought so. They were among those who, three decades after Harlow's death, were so insulted by a salacious book about their longgone friend that each went on numerous television talk shows with fire in her eyes to repudiate the author's words and defend Harlow's reputation. It takes an extraordinary person to inspire that kind of devotion."

- Robert Osborne on Jean Harlow (more here)

Today is the final day of the Jean Harlow Blogathon, hosted by The Kitty Packard Pictorial. It has been both educational and oh! so much fun going through all of those blog entries about Jean this past week. And there's still more to come so keep your eyes peeled on Carley's amazing blog! Thank you to all of those who have played along here at Harlean's and left such lovely comments. As always, I appreciate each one of your input! Also, don't forget to pick up Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937, written by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Vieira. I went around London looking for my copy a couple of days back and was, unfortunately, left empty handed; apparently the book doesn't release in the UK until July! I'd really love to hear thoughts from any of you who were able to pick up the book this week. Please don't hesitate to leave a comment if you've been able to go through this fantastic gem already.

Today I wanted to highlight some very exciting Harlow related happenings. Firstly, as some of you may have heard, the Hollywood Museum, located in the Max Factor Building, is hosting the new Jean Harlow Exhibit. It is guest curated by Darrell Rooney and runs from now through September 5, 2011. The exhibit features Jean's personal and studio related items, such as letters, contracts, autographs, photos, posters and costumes, as well as the infamous Paul Bern/Jean Harlow Mural that once hung in the couple's home. Sadly it seems like I won't be able to visit Los Angeles during the time of the exhibit but I really hope some of you are able to check it out - and, of course, report back with your thoughts!

Also, TCM has named Jean its Star of the Month for March 2011 to celebrate her Baby's Birthday! This means that TCM will show 20 of our Baby's movies each Tuesday night this month, starting next week. What a wonderful treat, especially considering the fact that many of these are still not available on DVD! Read on for the schedule of Harlow films.

Tuesday, March 8

8:00 PM Red-Headed Woman (1932) - An ambitious secretary tries to sleep her way into high society. Cast: Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Una Merkel. Dir: Jack Conway. BW-80 mins, TV-PG, CC

9:30 PM Three Wise Girls (1932) - Three models try to snag husband's but the ones they find are already married. Cast: Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke, Marie Prevost. Dir: William Beaudine. BW-69 mins, TV-G

10:45 PM Riffraff (1936) - Young marrieds in the fishing business run afoul of the law. Cast: Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy, Joseph Calleia. Dir: J. Walter Ruben. BW-94 mins, TV-G, CC

12:30 AM Suzy (1936) - A French air ace discovers that his showgirl wife's first husband is still alive. Cast: Jean Harlow, Cary Grant, Franchot Tone. Dir: George Fitzmaurice. BW-93 mins, TV-G, CC

2:15 AM City Lights (1931) - In this silent film, the Little Tramp tries to help a blind flower seller to see again. Cast: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers. Dir: Charles Chaplin. BW-87 mins, TV-G

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Song of the moment - "House of the Rising Sun"

Sure, may be some things in this world that are better than British music circa 1960s... But, honestly, I can't think of too many. Enjoy "House of the Rising Sun" performed by The Animals, a song that is currently getting quite a bit of play on my iTunes!

"Like an uncensored movie": Red-Headed Woman and the Code

Today, as part of the Jean Harlow Blogathon, I will discuss how the Production Code affected MGM’s Red-Headed Woman (1932, directed by Jack Conway and starring Harlow), a vice film of the Pre-Code era. It is an interesting case study, which illustrates the extent of Code activity during the earlier period. I will aim to demonstrate that even though the Production Code was not officially enforced until 1934, Red-Headed Woman underwent many revisions ordered by the Studio Relations Committee and was, in fact, heavily affected by the Code. The following write-up is based on one of my recent university essays, in which I discuss both Red-Headed Woman as well as Warner Bros.'s Baby Face (1933).

The Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code after Will Hays, was the set of censorship guidelines that governed the production of the majority of movies released by major American studios between the years 1930 and 1968. Every story considered, script written and film produced was subjected to a thorough cleansing by industry censors before reaching the screen. The Code was a form of self-censorship on behalf of the film industry. It was created to rehabilitate Hollywood’s image after a series of notorious scandals and keep away the involvement of federal censorship. The Code marks the beginning of Hollywood’s “Golden Age”, which began with the birth of the Code - and ended with its demise. It was an integral part of the studio production system.

The Pre-Code era spans the duration of four years: from March 31, 1930, when the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) formally pledged to abide by the Production Code, until July 2, 1934, when the MPPDA empowered the Production Code Administration to enforce it. During the Pre-Code era compliance with the Code was a verbal agreement and it was supervised by the Studio Relations Committee (SRC), which Hays created to implement the guidelines. The SRC worked closely together with the studios to remove material that would offend censors and thus potentially harm the studios’ financial investments. It should be noted that in 1930 neither Hays nor the SRC had authority to order a studio or film-maker to neither remove material nor ban a movie from being screened. Pre-Code Hollywood did not generally adhere to the strict regulations on matters of sex, vice, violence and moral meaning forced upon Classical Hollywood Cinema after 1934. It is commonly argued that little censorship activity took place during the Pre-Code era because compliance with the Code was a negotiation between the SRC and the studio in question.

The Great Depression and the decline of cinema attendance during the 1930s lead the studios to seek profit by new ways, and the films containing racy and violent content resulted in high ticket sales. Vice films, also called “sex films” by the censors, were hugely popular during the Pre-Code period. The films feature aggressive and heavily sexualized female protagonists of two kinds: the bad girl or the fallen woman. Although the Production Code was adopted in 1930, it is widely understood that it was most often ignored by the film-makers and studios during the Pre-Code era, and the embrace of sex, violence and vice in the content of the films made during the period can be read as a testament to that. The producers viewed the Studio Relations Committee as advisory and saw state censorship boards and other censors as a minority effort, not as representative of mainstream America.

Red-Headed Woman stars Jean Harlow as Lillian 'Lil' Andrews, a young woman who targets her rich, married boss, Bill Legendre Jr. (Chester Morris) - and any other male - for social and financial advancement. In the film Lil breaks up a marriage, has multiple affairs, pre-marital sex and attempts to murder Bill by shooting at him. At the end of the film she gets away with all of this without any form of punishment and ends up living in luxury in Paris. Even Bill refuses to prosecute Lil despite her having moved on to a more powerful man by the time of the shooting. Maltby notes that the difference between Red-Headed Woman and previous examples of the vice film is that it lacks any sense of melodrama and provides a comic rather than melodramatic conclusion. The ending certainly is a strikingly unusual feature in the picture, considering the time it was made in. The film also features brief nudity and sadomasochistic elements. Red-Headed Woman was a box office success and not only ensured the commercial viability of Harlow’s upcoming releases but also resulted in Hays’ fear that other studios would feel themselves obliged to imitate and outdo each other in competing for the sensational element with future cinema releases.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3, 1911- March 3, 2011: 100 years of Harlean!

Jean Harlow was born Harlean Carpenter on March 3, 1911 in Kansas City, Missouri.

She would have been 100-years old today.

Happy birthday, Baby!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A look at Jean Harlow's casual style

The topic of today's Harlow discussion here at Harlean's Heyday, as part of the the Jean Harlow Blogathon, is Jean's off-screen, everyday style. Jean's casual looks are quite a departure from the dramatic, curve hugging bias-cut gowns that largely mark her formal and on-screen style. It is actually her everyday style that I personally find the most inspiring.

In her own home you'd most frequently find a make-up free Jean Harlow wearing a pair of shorts, a polo shirt and tennis shoes. She didn't wear stockings, not even during the winter months. Jean was an athletic lady, who played golf and tennis, rode horses and enjoyed swimming. Her flair for sports is certainly evident in her casual style.

I've gathered together some of my very favorite casual Harlow looks and key pieces. Unlike her bombshell, glamour looks, Jean's casual ensembles are a lot more forgiving so even those of us with non-Harlow figures can easily rock styles like these. Items similar to Jean's signature pieces, such as angora sweaters, slim skirts and wide leg trousers, are easy to come by in various repro shops and are not an impossible sight even in high street stores.

Please click on the images for larger versions, as per usual.

In the photos above you can view examples of Jean's colder weather ensembles.

Sweaters, cardigans, polo shirts (note the "H"!) and a lovely ensemble showing a matching hat and jacket.

Move over, Katharine Hepburn - it is Jean who rocks a pair of trousers like no other!
She especially loved wide leg, sailor style trousers.

Adorable looks of Baby pairing slim skirts with sweaters and low heel shoes.

Harlow showcasing her sport chic whilst playing tennis, golf and dancing it up.

And, finally, a special mention goes out to what is, quite possibly, my all time favorite Jean Harlow look. A darling white sailor style dress with buttons, pockets and an anchor belt, which she's topped with a bow and matching white pumps. Positively swoon-worthy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

100+ followers!!

Harlean's Heyday has reached 100+ followers today - 102 at the moment, to be specific! What makes it extra special is that it happened during the week of Miss Harlow's 100th birthday celebration, whom I named this very blog after. You can be sure I will be toasting in honor of both occasions this week!

Thank you so much to all of the people who follow me and leave such darling comments! I really and truly appreciate it! ♥

High glam a la Harlow

Today I am looking at some of Jean Harlow's most iconic looks for the Jean Harlow Blogathon. This post is all about gorgeous gowns, flamboyant feathers, high glamour and high drama! "You have to have faith in your clothes, just as you have to have faith in yourself, to be successful in dressing," Jean told Modern Screen magazine in 1933.

When one thinks of the Jean Harlow look, what comes to mind first is her iconic look in the George Cukor directed movie Dinner at Eight (1933). To this day it still largely defines the quintessential Harlow look. All of those long, sweeping, bias-cut white gowns created by MGM costume designer Adrian highlight her every curve and stunning silhouette. They are an essential element of the character of Kitty Packard. "Even Jean's clothes show emotions. They live and breathe with her," the designer said.

Simplicity is the key to a Harlow look. In real life, she favored simple négligées, most often in white or black, which are her signature shades. White, especially, worked with her pale skin and platinum blonde hair and gave her a luminous look. Jean loved materials like satin and silk. She did not care for lace. Harlow rarely wore any jewelry with her evening gowns because she believed that a dress of fine material should be permitted to stand out by itself. Jean often paired her gowns with short boleros, capes or fur to keep warm. "An ermine coat or any good fur coat goes with everything and it lasts for years. That's why I'd rather have fur coats instead of cloth ones," she said. Jean topped her costumes with tilted little hats, often with a lace veil, and finished a look with cute satin pumps or sandals.

Harlow was a smart dresser who favored good materials and invested in a few quality key pieces that she could wear for a number of years. "I'd rather have a few dresses of very fine material than a whole closet full of fussy, cheap-looking things. I find you don't tire of anything that is lovely in quality and line," she said. "It saves you money in the long-run to get a good dress of which you're always proud." Another actress, noted for never wearing the same dress twice, once went up to Jean and exclaimed, "Oh, darling, I've adored you in that dress all the times I've seen you in it for the past two years!" And Jean sweetly replied, "Yes, I like it too. That's why I keep wearing it." Hear that, ladies! There's no reason not to rock the same stunning frock multiple times! It was good enough for Harlow so it should be good enough for us.

This is what Jean had to say about the bias-cut gowns she is so famous for: "They require more poise than any other kind of formal dress. You can't slouch in them - or walk heavily in an un-gainly manner. If you do they become a travesty of fashion. Something terribly un-smart. You have to hold yourself up and carry your head high to give them the right line. Sixty-inch satin is a favorite for these dresses because it lends itself to an unbroken line in cutting, doing away with seams, from bust to hemline."

Jean already had an undeniably strong influence on fashion back in her day. Today, over 70 years since her passing, you can easily spot Harlow inspired looks on the red carpet and runway as she continues to be a muse for contemporary fashion designers and stars. Indeed, her glamorous numbers are so timeless that they are still as fashionable in 2011 as they were in the 1930s. This is a testament to Jean Harlow's legacy as a true icon of fashion.

Quotes from Harlow are sourced from a 1933 Modern Screen article, which is available at the Jean Harlow Platinum Page.