Wednesday, May 25, 2022

This is "Fantastic"

Well, truly it depends on one's point of view. Few people in the U.S. felt it necessary to tune in to The Fantastic Journey when it debuted in 1977, thus it was toast by the time the ninth episode aired. Yet the show caught the imagination of various foreign audiences, who were quite upset when it ceased production after ten installments. (The premise involved a small band of random folks being transported across the space-time continuum and encountering various worlds.) I never once saw the dang thing, being 10 when it aired. We probably, like the rest of the nation, had The Waltons on instead. But recently a devoted diver of The Underworld pointed me in the direction of this relatively obscure show because of its costuming and so I just had to share some of that with the rest of you.

In all honesty, I'd been curious about this show and wishing to see at least one episode ever since I saw a photo of Joan Collins in costume from it many years ago. She guest-starred in the 8th installment and so that's where I began.

She played a female trapped in a world in which men reigned superior until... a few of her cohorts change it up and take over. If you don't know, Collins always did her own makeup, which explains how her iconic look was already in place well before Dynasty.

She did remove a substantial amount of it for a nighttime scene (a conceit that would soon disappear as the always-glitzy 1980s dawned.) Her skimpy gown really made my eyes pop until I realized that there was a flesh-tone insert sewn across the midsection.

Blessedly free of such measures were her fellow male costars in the ep. Here we find hirsute Paul Mantee, for whom I always had a soft spot ever since Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964.)

Even better, he and all the other men not only had their chests exposed, but also were garbed in clingy green trousers, which make quite an "impression!"

In the 5th episode, we find John Saxon (with cohort Morgan Paull on the right.) In what seemed to be a regular occurrence on the show, the men were garbed in very snug pants, this time of a glittering metallic fabric.

Pay no attention to that pointy red thing he has his hand on... Ha ha!

Seen here with Saxon's pants are series regulars Jared Martin, Katie Saylor, Roddy McDowall and guest Lenore Stevens.

It was really Paull, this time out, who tended to reveal the most with his impossibly tight pants.

He and the rest of the guards were shimmied into these form-fitting get-ups. God love '70s sci-fi!

In the 9th episode, we find Dale Robinette in a skin-tight jumpsuit.

This was almost Robinette's year as an actor, for he'd been pegged to costar in a Starsky & Hutch spinoff set to feature Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas, but it failed to be picked up. Now here we have another Designer Double-Dip! Recognize his jumpsuit at all? Turns out it had been worn in a prior sci-fi TV-movie pilot 3 years prior. 

None other than the aforementioned John Saxon headlined Planet Earth (1974), which was not picked up as a series!

I'm pretty sure Carole Demas' costume is also recycled from some other project, but I haven't been able to pinpoint that one.

Jumping back to the beginning for a moment, I just had to show you the way Martin first appeared in the pilot...! The original cast (which then included Scott Thomas, Susan Howard and Leif Erickson until they were written out to create a more unique collection of characters) first came upon Martin in skimpy Native American garb!

I should think it took a lot to live down this askew fright wig and that flimsy diaper-like confection he's sporting.

Martin was a handsome guy (many may recall him as Dusty Farlow on Dallas, who nearly won Sue Ellen away from J.R. Ewing), but his lean, hairless physique is the antithesis of what I'm typically drawn to. It was jarring to see him costumed this way for the initial part of the pilot.

"Do you like gladiator movies?"  "Ever seen a grown man naked?"

Not that he was ever a huge favorite of mine, but when it comes to chests, I'm more partial to ones like that of Jonathan Goldsmith. In episode 6, he played one of several practitioners of ritual human sacrifice. 

The costumes of the gentlemen involved in this are, once again, rather revealing!

Goldsmith (sometimes billed early on as Jonathan Lippe) does his part for the cause...

Years later, he would gain attention as the spokesman for Dos Equis beer, billed as "The most interesting man in the world." His pants are certainly interesting in this assignment.

See what I mean...??

We're about to wrap this up, but first I head to episode 3. You'll notice that it was filmed at the same distinctive location as the episode of Logan's Run I recently turned my attention to!

This is the ep which introduced McDowall as a sort of quasi-villain turned comrade. He's shown as the leader of a huge group of gold-clad inhabitants (who are later revealed to all be robots!) Seen with him here is guest star John David Carson.

Carson, along with all the other robots, is garbed in a super-revealing jumpsuit! When you take into account that McDowall's character is supposed to have created all of these beings, it really puts a whole new slant on things...!

Interestingly, some of the androids came with muffin tops, too?

It was fun to spot one actor making his screen debut here as a lifelike robot.

The blond gentleman in-between McDowall and Martin would soon become part of the sprawling cast of Eight is Enough as Susan's boyfriend. Later, he'd land on General Hospital and other TV shows and soaps.

It's blue-eyed, lantern-jawed Brian Patrick Clarke.

Clarke is not the only notable guest to appear on the show. Various eps include anyone from Mel Ferrar to Mary Frann. The final episode (not aired on schedule) alone had Richard Jaeckel, Lew Ayres, Nicholas Hammond, Gerald McRaney and soon-to-be Angel Cheryl Ladd!

Back to Carson, though. He is continuously shown walking towards the camera with his junk flopping all over the place.

It's no wonder Roddy signed on...! He had to be in hog heaven during this series' production.

Anatomically-correct synthetic son/manservant. I mean... everyone should have one!

Some eps are light on the bulging beefcake, but this one was by far the most pronounced in that regard. Which brings us to...

The End!

Friday, May 13, 2022

Designer Double-Dip: "Christmas" Re-Gifting

A close friend and I recently made another sojourn to The Rosemary Clooney House, a museum devoted to the gifted singer and sometimes actress. Hailing from Maysville, Kentucky, Clooney spent her last 20 years stationed in the cozy, nearby town of Augusta in a quaint brick home along the Ohio River. After her passing, the house was reinvented (and saved from condemnation) into a charming museum that has continued to fill up with genuine memorabilia since its founding in 2005. The museum is owned and operated as a non-profit organization by former Ky Lt. Governor Steve Henry and his wife Heather French Henry, who was Miss America 2000. Both have worked tirelessly to build the museum up from its initial set of offerings and new things are coming in frequently. (I might add, the $5.00 admission has never increased in these long and troubled 17 years since the opening - at which, naturally, I was present!)

Miss Heather Renee French-Henry and me on the day The Rosemary Clooney House was dedicated.

Her big night. The first Miss Kentucky ever to win the crown!

I've never been able to get her and the dress on the same day. Sometimes ya gotta improvise!

Mrs. Henry, who was the only Miss America contestant that I ever rooted for who proceeded to actually win, is boundlessly creative and not only sings, paints, designs ornaments, writes and endeavors on the behalf of disabled veterans, but she also, along with her mother, painstakingly recreated Rosemary's dress from the finale of White Christmas (1954), the original not believed to have survived. However, the "Sisters" dresses shown with it at left are the real deal. (I bet ya can tell which one was Vera-Ellen's!) These are only a few of the now many costumes which are found within the museum.
Longtime readers here know that I was at the museum the day that White Christmas dancer George Chakiris was on hand (with pal, former Miss America Lee Meriwether) to help present more memorabilia from that film. And since that, there has been still more recovered, including a green tuxedo like the one he wore and a paler one, worn by John Brascia, who was the featured dancer opposite Vera-Ellen in two numbers. The top photo here was not taken at the museum but rather at an exhibit, but all the clothing shown can be found at the museum now. So all that exposition out of the way, we can now move on to the gist of this post!

White Christmas was a (very) loose remake of an earlier film, Holiday Inn (1942), which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and also featured music by Irving Berlin. Holiday Inn was a smash hit (number 8 for the year of its release) and introduced the Oscar-winning song "White Christmas" to the world. Astaire chose not to do Christmas and, after Donald O'Connor had to bow out due to illness, Danny Kaye was cast.

During the making of Holiday Inn, the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and suddenly the war was on. The movie already had a gallery of holiday-themed numbers, but after we were entered into WWII, the Fourth of July number was expanded.

Note the eagles hovering over the star-spangled stage. 

Next comes a passel of patriotic pretties, all done up in striped skirts and glittery, star-dotted tops.

It would be hard to get any more "1940s" than the gals here with their iconic coiffures.

No, this is not an Ann Miller lookalike contest!

Edith Head was the chief designer at Paramount during this time, but I don't know if she merely oversaw or actually designed these costumes. The perky number is eye-catching, but we don't really get to know exactly what these get-ups would have looked like in color. Until now...

The chorine costumes from Holiday Inn can be seen in my first photo from White Christmas above as well as in this moment with Crosby. Note the red top hanging in the piece of luggage. The costumes are never part of a number or scene in Christmas, but they decorate the set multiple times as Crosby's company of performers rehearse at Dean Jagger's inn.

Here they help provide a backdrop for Crosby and Ms. Clooney.

Perhaps the best chance to lay eyes on them is during this rehearsal sequence. They are on hangers behind the cast and for a brief moment we get to see one of them, full-length and un-obscured but for Vera-Ellen's extended arm. It's a neat, almost secret, sort of connection between the similar, yet not truly connected, movies. Still, this is not the only example of designer double-dipping that I have for you today.

When folks recall White Christmas, so often they think about "Sisters" or the finale with the title number in all its glory. But truly one of its showstoppers is the spectacular production number "Mandy." In it, an impossibly slender Vera-Ellen emerges in a white getup against a striking scarlet set and proceed to dance herself silly.

The other costars are in the number as well and do their part...

...even providing a certain amount of hoofing.

However, in this particular sequence, they know their place.

The splendiferous number provides an explosion of color.

This white costume with removable train is housed at the Clooney Museum and so is one of the female dance ensembles (complete with "tambourine!") It's the dancing girls' getups I want you to take note of.

Nearly 70 years later, time has bled some of the red color from the ensemble, but otherwise its condition is remarkable.

Here we see Mr. Chakiris peering at Vera-Ellen. His boyish face and figure are featured throughout the film whenever dancers are required.

Here we see Brascia joining the star for what becomes a highly-energetic and athletic routine. (And again take notice of the dancing girls' clothing.)

For her part, Vera-Ellen is whirled around, stretched apart and hurled all over the place!

The remarkable sequence gets strangely overlooked and is made even more remarkable by the low number of edits in it. This is being performed for the camera in straight takes. (It's also easy, with everything going on, to miss Clooney in the background banging away on her tambourine!)

While Vera-Ellen is being yanked around and twisted like a pretzel...

...Bing, Rosie and Danny have a somewhat easier time of it.

So... the red-hued dancing girls of White Christmas did their part and then hung up their costumes in exchange for the next assignment. Were these confections ever seen again after 1954?

Yes! Ten years later, the outfits were dusted off, stripped of their bows and featured in the Elvis Presley/Barbara Stanwyck film Roustabout (1964.)

The once glitteringly glamorous getups from White Christmas were now morphed into cooch-dance costumes in a carnival! See what difference a few accessories can make?

Babs, at far left, doesn't seem too impressed.

Here's a closer look at the now-familiar pieces.

This is another Paramount/Edith Head production, so the recycling of the costumes makes sense.

The removal of the large bows on the back do leave a few of the gals showing more than had been intended the first time the outfits were filmed. But I guess it suits the "Girlie Show" setting.

See what I mean, Vern?!

So I'd say, all in all, that my dance card was pretty full today! I do have to take a moment here to credit (not to mention thank!) the warmly welcoming Mr. Henry for pointing out these costume overlaps to me. He and his wife's endless search for memorabilia continually provides documentation that leads to fun facts like these.

It fascinates me that Vera-Ellen and George Chakiris were both born in the neighborhood in which I currently reside and later wound up with thriving Hollywood careers. Chakiris had moved away only a few years after his birth, but Vera-Ellen was raised here.

In fact, I am only about two blocks from her childhood home. (It crossed my mind once that I should fudge the details and open up MY house as the "Vera-Ellen House & Museum!" LOL) She and Doris Day (who was only a couple of miles south!) used to carpool to dance class together. It's a remarkable region for those with burgeoning musical talent. (Of course Cincinnati also gave the world Charles Manson... so I'll quite while I'm ahead!)

That's all for this time, folks!