Okay - right away - I don't want you to get your hopes up that I've somehow discovered that Scarlett O'Hara's wedding gown from Gone with the Wind (1939) was featured in a later movie. As far as I'm aware, that's not the case. I just came upon a bit of costuming info that I thought might be fun to share.
In the movie, Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) hastily agrees to wed a young man about to head off to fight for the South in The Civil War. The wedding dress designed by Walter Plunkett was deliberately intended to look different from the other clothing in the movie, as if it were her mother's (the divine Barbara O'Neil) dress from a couple of decades earlier, quickly put to use for the occasion. (In the first picture, you can see that it is a tad too long and that O'Neil is several inches taller than her on-screen daughter.)
When Alfred Hitchcock, who was under contract to Wind producer David O. Selznick at the time, prepared screen tests for his upcoming drama Rebecca (1940), he utilized this wedding gown to see how hopeful Joan Fontaine might look in the period gown she wears for a costume party in the film.
You'll note that while both Leigh and Fontaine were 5' 3-1/2", Fontaine did not possess quite the same wasp waist that Leigh did. For the screen test, the huge sleeves of the dress were pushed down a bit to show a wisp more shoulders and decolletage than when it was used for a wedding ceremony.
The costume pilfering didn't stop there, though. Most of us also recall the scarlet evening gown that Leigh wears to Ashley Wilkes birthday party the evening after she's been accused of trying to seduce him at her lumber mill.
Her husband Rhett (Clark Gable) makes her wear the most seductive and potentially scandalous gown she owns as penance (and even deposits her at the door of the party, leaving immediately himself without even entering so that she can face the music all on her own!)
Likewise, this dress was placed on (the virtually unknown) Fontaine's back for the Rebecca tests to see how she would look in a more form-fitting creation. Again, the shoulders are both pushed down rather than with one slightly up as Leigh wore it in the first film.
(There's an almost Madame X - the John Singer Sargent painting - quality to this look on Fontaine.)
This one is more flattering on Fontaine than the wedding dress, though, even taking into account the difference black & while photography makes, it has precious little of the impact that it had when Leigh wore it.
These legendary movie costumes are fortunately still in existence today and are occasionally displayed in exhibits. Their construction, under the ever-watchful eye of producer Selznick, was clearly second-to-none as they are now nearly eighty years old and still hold much of their original shape and lustre.
Both of them have been immortalized in Hallmark Christmas ornaments as well:
Here we see the Rebecca costumes (uncredited, but reportedly designed by Irene) which Fontaine wound up with in the end. The black gown with flowers was intended to look inappropriate on the naive second Mrs. de Winter. The costume party formal is, of course, based upon the portrait of the prior Mrs. de Winter, the Rebecca of the title.
What makes all of this interesting (to me, at least!) is that Fontaine tested for the part of the second Mrs. de Winter in the costumes of Vivien Leigh, who sought the part for herself! Not only that, but her husband Laurence Olivier was to be the male lead, Maxim de Winter, and he wanted her there, too. Leigh wanted the part tremendously and even tested for it as well. It was likely felt than anyone who had just convincingly played the gutsy Scarlett would have a hard time selling audiences that she was a timid mouse. If anything, Leigh brings to mind the sensual, manipulative Rebecca de Winter and it's possible that her own spectre really did hang over the production.
"To Jon-I really enjoyed your blog! Love Joan" -- Dame Joan Collins (via autographed menu supplied by a mutual friend!) Photos of Menu & Joan
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"Oh, and for those who are looking for fascinating, funny, often outré online reading about vintage, sometimes obscure, movies, TV shows and stars, try the blog, “Poseidon’s Underworld.” You’ll find everything from detailed and witty biographies to posts on how stars wore their clothes — or didn’t — as each show biz decade constricted or loosened up. Heavily illustrated and highly informative". - Liz Smith - Liz Smith - newyorksocialdiary.com
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