You may recognize the scene at right of Dustin Hoffman and Kelly Jean Peters from 1970's Little Big Man. In the film, Hoffman receives a Swedish mail-order bride in the form of Peters and they have a period of time as general store shopkeepers until Hoffman's scheming business partner does them out of their share and they wind up heading west.
Later, even though they've been assured that there is no danger to fear from the local Cheyenne, Peters is captured and eventually absorbed into their tribe. You'll notice that in the pictures provided, Peters is sporting a gray woven jacket with scarlet trim along the collar, sleeves and front closure. The costume piece in question was by then thirty-one years old.
This is a more recent shot of the garment, which has significance in the history of cinema costuming because it had previously been worn by a top Hollywood star in one of the industry's all-time successes.
Yes, this jacket was once found upon the back of Miss Olivia de Havilland in her role of Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939.) You'll note that when it was first created, there was more fluffy embellishment down the front than when it was later trucked out for use on Miss Peters in the more rugged, less affluent tale of Little Big Man.
De Havilland wore the jacket in a reunion scene with her on-screen husband Leslie Howard (with Vivien Leigh as Scarlett also on hand as usual!)
When the jacket belonged to "Melanie Wilkes," there was also a fetching hat to match. No clue whatever became of that (We assume Ali MacGraw never picked it up for use in Love Story, 1970!) There was also a matching muff, whose location is equally unknown at this time.
What may surprise you even more is that Little Big Man was not the first time that this costume was employed for another character on-screen. In a first season episode of The Big Valley ("The River Monarch," 1966), Nick Barkley (played by Peter Breck) is shown with a girlfriend played by Katherine Justice (in her on-screen debut.)
The story proceeds with Justice's father embroiled in a convoluted scandal over the long-ago sinking of a Barkley-owned ship called The River Monarch, which had been carrying a million dollars in gold. As Breck goes to Justice's home late at night to wring information out of her father, she greets him at the door in - you guessed it - the crocheted (or knitted? What do I know!) jacket from Gone with the Wind!
As shown here, the garment was already stripped of its frills by this time, twenty-seven years after the initial appearance. (Down to just one button, I believe?) One last bit of intriguing trivia: In this episode, Justice's character's name is "Melanie" and her father even refers to her occasionally as "Melly," just like de Havilland's immortal character!
"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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