Thursday, March 30, 2023

Designer Double-Dip: Belfry and the Bats

If you come here much, you know that every so often we like to point out the recycling of movie and/or TV costumes. It can be really fascinating to discover that something you've seen in a famous or favorite movie has turned up on the back of someone else later. There are precious few movies more famous or more of an overall favorite than the one we're looking at today, the 1965 international blockbuster The Sound of Music!

In the course of the film (spoiler alert!), novitiate Julie Andrews opts to avoid life as a nun in order to become the wife of ex-naval captain Christopher Plummer and mother to his seven children.

The sisters of the abbey provide a staggering locale for the nuptials. And the movie's costume designer Dorothy Jeakins provided Andrews with an iconic gown.

A simple, but expertly tailored dress of ivory silk was extremely clean in its lines, offset by a billowing, diaphanous veil which succeeded in giving Andrews an eye-poppingly angelic, appropriately chaste, appearance against the dim, archaic surroundings.

There are few bells and whistles with this gown (think of the monstrosities we've all lived through since then!), but its elegant simplicity won over the hearts of many a viewer.

The wedding sequence isn't terribly long and there aren't really all that many opportunities to see the dress up close. But here you can see the body of it pretty clearly. It sported a stand up collar with one side folded over the other in front and many little fabric-covered buttons on the arms.

Barely visible here are a long line of said buttons up the back of the gown as well. The wedding in The Sound of Music is a marvel of pale simplicity amidst a wealth of glorious gilt, stone, statuary and varnished wood. Such a ceremony would be the dream of virtually any girl.

Here in this on-set photo we get a really good look at the garment. But what ever became of it after shooting wrapped in 1964? Reportedly, the dress was simply turned over to Western Costume, ostensibly for use in future projects.

In 1966, the year after Music took the world by storm and had become an immortal favorite of so many moviegoers, the TV series Batman came to the airwaves. It, in its own way, was a smash hit as well. It's broadly campy tone and colorful, comic book look scored with youngsters and their parents alike. Here in episodes 21 & 22 (the stories were always told in multiple parts with a cliffhanger in-between), we find Burgess Meredith as The Penguin. He's pretending to go "straight" and wins the heart of a wealthy heiress played by Kathleen Crowley.

In truth, he's really after Crowley's dough. And one big part of it is this "dowry" of expensive wedding gifts that his henchmen are seen inventorying. (The one facing us is Harvey Lembeck, who did so many of the Beach Party films.) I'll explain the array of buckets in a moment...

Remember... this is a wacky, comic-book inspired show, so the plotlines are not going to be out of Faulkner or Hemingway. Meredith has invited a host of luminaries to attend his wedding ceremony in a hotel suite, but has a trick up his sleeve. He causes several water pipes to burst within the room! This will create the need for the guests to use umbrellas, which he has on hand, naturally.

When his bride arrives on the scene, she is startled to discover the dripping water pouring from various parts of the ceiling. And we are doubly startled to discover that she's wearing Andrews' dress from The Sound of Music!

Now is a good time to mention that Julie Andrews was 5'8" tall. Miss Crowley was a mere 5'2". So the dress, which had been carefully fitted to Andrews' frame, was altogether too big for Crowley. Not to mention, Andrews had very long arms, as well.

This meant that the gown needed considerable alterations done on it.

Whereas before, the front of the collar was folded across one side, it's now been crudely sewn together up the middle...!

The whole wedding becomes a total fiasco as water is falling, then all sorts of streamers and confetti come falling down and then Meredith gasses Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara. During the melee, Meredith makes off with his loot, leaving the bride behind. I will return to what effect this had on the gown in just a bit. 

First, though, we're going to shift our attention to another 1960s show, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, starring Hope Lange. Based on a 1947 movie by the same name, it involved a widow who lives with her children and a housekeeper in a New England house, which is haunted by the ghost of a sea captain. In this pic, Lange is welcoming a pair of stranded motorists (no, not Brad & Janet.)

The couple, Jonathan Daly and Yvonne Craig, are about to be married, but their car has broken down nearby and they need a place to be sheltered from the rain.

Lange is kind enough to put them up (in separate rooms), but ultimately the ghost has other plans for them. If you haven't already made the connection, Miss Craig had her own association with the aforementioned series Batman...

In order to perk up that show's third season, she was brought on board as Batgirl!

Now toothy Daly, best known for sitcoms like Petticoat Junction, The Jimmy Stewart Show and CPO Sharkey, is not my type at all, but... as I am a completist about such things, I have to report that he is shirtless for about a fourth of his time in the ep.

Anyway, as I was saying, the ghost has his own ideas about what should be going on with Daly and Craig during their stay at "his" house. So Lange (seen here with her housekeeper, the always captivating Reta Shaw) arranges a late night wedding for the couple. 

To perform the ceremony, they drag this poor guy out of his bed. Do you recognize a toupee-free Charles Nelson Reilly, in a surprisingly understated performance??

Also on hand is one of the cutest damned dogs I have ever seen...! Scruffy as Scruffy. LOL What a sweet little pooch.

As the ceremony unfolds, Lange can't help but notice the longing gaze she receives from the ghost (Edward Mulhare.) Their unusual romance was the crux of much of the gently comic series. This was 1968 and Lange was but 35 years-old, yet is very often shot through a heavy filter (which, in my cattier moments I sometimes refer to as "being shot through an Indian blanket!")

But you know why we're here, right? For the wedding ceremony! Here comes Craig into the parlor for her nuptials.

And soon enough we find that yet another gal has donned Julie Andrews' dress!

Yvonne Craig was 5'3", just one inch taller than Crowley, so the dress basically fit her, too. (The altered sleeves look a little bit short on Craig, though.)

This time out, perhaps as a result of a bust measurement difference (?), the collar has been reworked in order be more like the folded-over look it originally bore. (Though on Craig, the flaps are reversed.)

I cannot be certain, of course, but I think this third outing was the final time this gown saw use in a TV show or movie. We do know what finally became of the gown, but one mystery remains...

This is a photo of the once-luminous gown as it appeared in 2013. As you can see, it had been distressed and damaged along the front and bottom. I know how, where and when that happened.

During all the watery, confetti-strewn squalor of that Batman episode, the delicate ivory silk was trashed by residual water spray! Complete disregard for the well-being of the garment. What I  don't know is how, two years later, the dress was seen on Muir looking bright, undamaged and stain-free. Perhaps that one was a duplicate or it was somehow cleaned, but then later the damage slowly reappeared over time? 

The dress eventually landed in the hands of former child star turned commercial zenith "Josephine the Plumber," Miss Jane Withers, who was a devoted preservationist of Hollywood memorabilia (along with noted fellow archivist Debbie Reynolds.) The gown sold at auction for $23,000 in 2013 and is hopefully being loved by whoever it was that bought it. 

I doubt that even Dame Julie Andrews is aware of the path that her famed costume took once she removed it for the last time. Noted as having adored it, I doubt she would be pleased to know that it was carelessly damaged in the making of a "zany" television episode! I know it did me no great favor to see it splashed with water and coated down in debris. But this was info I didn't feel I could keep to myself once I discovered it! Till next time...

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Beauty Paget

Over the years, we've sort of kicked around the idea of profiling today's featured actress. A recent viewing of one of her key films sealed the deal and led me to go for it. Debra Paget, an actress who would be widely regarded for her portrayals of exotic, ethnic, dazzlingly-bedecked heroines, she hailed from... Denver, Colorado! Born on August 19th (which happens to be my own birthday!), 1933 (not my birth year...!), she was practically destined to achieve some level of fame. You see, her parents had five children and the mother (a former Vaudeville performer) had them move to Los Angeles in order to get one or all into the biz. Her brother acted for a time prior to successfully segueing into cinematic makeup and two of her sisters also had their turn at bat in the movies.

Older sister Teala Loring was in the movies from 1944-1950, retiring to marry. Younger sister Lisa Gaye did movies in the 1950s & '60s, supplemented by many TV appearances.

Paget first appeared on stage at age 9 and at 11 was enrolled at the Hollywood Professional School. She was soon doing Shakespeare and also played Joan of Arc on stage. When 20th Century Fox was having difficulty with a small, but key, role on one of their upcoming films, Paget's mother landed her a test there for it.

The movie in question, Cry of the City (1948), called for an innocent-looking 18 year-old to play Richard Conte's girlfriend. Two other actresses had already filmed the part and then had their work discarded! Paget - at 14! - won the role. (And I think you can see a little of her Joan of Arc stage role in this sequence.)

Delighted with her work, the studio signed her to a six-month option and soon enough she was used in the Loretta Young comedy Mother Is a Freshman (1949) and the baseball comedy It Happens Every Spring (1949), as seen here with leading lady Jean Peters.

She was then reunited with Richard Conte for House of Strangers (1949) as his fiancee. Still only 15, she was 23 years younger than the man playing her intended. But this wasn't anything too unusual at the time. At MGM, Elizabeth Taylor was playing the wife of the 21 years-older Robert Taylor in Conspirator.

1950 brought her breakthrough role, this time as the love interest of 25 years older James Stewart in Broken Arrow! (Stewart nearly had a fit when she celebrated her 17th birthday on set, though he was about to marry his longtime wife Gloria in any case.)

As was customary at the time, her role of a highly-prized Indian maiden was portrayed by a Caucasian. For the role, she was outfitted with brown contact lenses made of glass which burned heinously under the strong lights needed for Technicolor filming.

In what easily could have become a preposterous role, Paget imbued the part with immense subtlety and appeal. She is completely winning in the role and wins over not only Stewart but the viewer as well.

If you've ever seen other ladies (some more famous that Miss Paget) in these Native American guises, wherein they immediately come across as phony, anachronistic or just playing dress-up, you can understand how wonderfully the young girl portrayed this part.

Her next role was not exactly a reward (though was likely planned before Broken Arrow came out.) She was but one of an ensemble in Fourteen Hours (1951), about a man who's threatening to jump from a tall building while a variety of people on the ground watch in suspense. She was paired with Jeffrey Hunter.

About this time, Paget was becoming better-known and was being featured in movie magazines, in this case with her showbiz family.

In Bird of Paradise (1951), she was cast as a Polynesian princess. The dye was being cast as to her procession towards the exotic. But she was now receiving star billing.

As a visiting Frenchman who takes a liking to her (and to sarongs for himself), we find Louis Jourdan. (Paget's Broken Arrow costar Jeff Chandler was also on hand.)

The cosmopolitan Jourdan does not exactly look at home in this publicity still...!  Nonetheless, both stars were complimented warmly in reviews of the day.

The very same couple found themselves cast again as husband and wife in Anne of the Indies (1951), with Jean Peters as a female pirate. Jourdan and Paget play a Frenchman and his wife who are threatened by the swashbuckler.

Regardless of the adult roles she'd been playing, Paget was still only 18 when she was cast in Belles on Their Toes (1952), a sequel to the big hit Cheaper by the Dozen (1950.) She was one of the many children of Myrna Loy in the film.

All along as her star began to rise, she was tirelessly photographed by the 20th Century Fox publicity department in order to keep her face - and physique - in the public eye.

Always stunning in period finery, her next movie was Les Miserables (1952) portraying Cosette. Do you recognize her young costar? Initially intended as yet another pairing with Louis Jourdan, the role instead went to Cameron Mitchell.

A real change of pace came next with Stars and Stripes Forever (1952), the musical biography of John Philip Sousa. She was paired with Robert Wagner and they played fictional characters in order to supply young love interests. The film was successful and maintains a decent reputation, though I have to confess I've never seen it and, in fact, had never heard of it before now!

As 1952 turned into 1953, Paget had a strangely fallow period despite how busy she'd been to this point. A fair amount of the year was spent filming her next project, which wouldn't do her much harm, but became a blight on its star's resume.

Paget and Wagner were re-teamed (along with Janet Leigh) in what would emerge as one of Wagner's more embarrassing films, Prince Valiant (1954.) Faithful to the comic strip on which it was based, it was not successful and Wagner had to endure remarks about his pageboy wig.

Here we see Paget in costume for her supporting role in Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954), a total blockbuster and a sequel to The Robe (1953.) Victor Mature and Susan Hayward were the principal stars.

At last Paget achieved top-billing in a motion picture. Originally conceived as a vehicle for Marilyn Monroe and Tyrone Power (the mind reels...!), Princess of the Nile (1954) had it's budget cut and wound up with Paget and former costar Jeffrey Hunter being paired.

This was Paget at her most beguilingly exotic to date. As a princess who leaves the palace via a passage beneath her bath (!), she was wet much of the time when not gussied up in revealing costumes. The movie used sets from Demetrius, but at least was lensed in color to help accent the stars' glorious looks.

She had a sensual dance number in the picture as well that showed plenty of Paget for 1954! TV was becoming a problem for the cinema and studios were trying to get rear ends off the couch and back into theaters. So admired by moviegoers by this point, her level of fan mail at the studio was topped only by Monroe and Grable.

After costarring with Dale Robertson in The Gambler from Natchez (1954), it was back to the plains for Miss Paget. She played a Cheyenne who falls for a land surveyor played by former costar Robert Wagner in White Feather. Fox having a closely-knit stable of young players at their disposal, Jeff Hunter was her brother. Both blue-eyed stars were outfitted with brown contacts. This part had been earmarked for Rita Moreno initially.

She and Hunter were together yet again - with their real eyes - in Seven Angry Men (1955), which starred Raymond Massey as militant abolitionist John Brown. Note Guy Williams - later of Zorro and Lost in Space - just behind Paget.

MGM ran into trouble on The Last Hunt (1956) when Anne Bancroft fell off her horse and was injured, so they quickly borrowed Paget for a part she could now have played in her sleep, an Indian maiden. It was her third and final time in that capacity, though she would still portray women from other cultures and backgrounds. The shoot was unpleasant for several reasons, including a winter setting shot in 100-degree heat, Stewart Granger's mutual loathing with the director Richard Brooks and those darn brown contacts again!

Along about this time, Paget began appearing occasionally on television. There was Matinee Theatre, an episode of 20th Century-Fox Hour (opposite Robert Wagner) and Climax!, as seen here with John Ericson. But she was about to be selected at the eleventh hour for what is likely her most enduring role.

Paget was the final principal cast member selected for Cecil B. DeMille's massive epic, The Ten Commandments. The famed director had long followed her career and felt that she was perfect for the part of water-bearing slave girl Lilia who is forced into sexual servitude to a shifty informant.

The informant was played by Edward G. Robinson, who'd starred in Paget's film House of Strangers a few years before. As her (hunky) love interest Joshua and potential rescuer, DeMille cast John Derek.

Paget was saddled with the brown contact lenses this one final time. This would not, however, be the end of her association with graven images or, as seen here, cobras! But first, there was a notable TV appearance on The Milton Berle Show, where she performed a complicated dance and then took part in a bit with another guest.

Paget was scripted to go ga-ga over Miltie's popular guest vocalist, young Elvis Presley! Little did either of them know that within months, they'd be sharing the screen together in his acting debut.

Love Me Tender (1956) was the film debut for Presley. He was third-billed under Richard Egan and Paget. The Civil War-era drama had two brothers in love with the same girl.

In real life, Presley was quite taken with his pretty, 23 year-old costar. And he was invited to her parents' home, eventually proposing to her! But it was not to be. (Paget claimed that her parents forbade her to wed him. And she had also carried a torch for the elusive Howard Hughes for two years, who in time married her fellow actress Jean Peters!)

In any event, it's been said that Presley's future wife Priscilla knew how much Elvis had been drawn to Paget and that she - already resembling her - began to style herself in a similar fashion in order to gain his attention when they first met in 1959. Hmmm.

For her own part, though, Paget went through a startling change in appearance in 1957. She apparently wanted to give Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl a run for their money in the redhead stakes. (For the record, I prefer her as a brunette!)

This was for what proved to be the final film under her 20th Century-Fox contract, The River's Edge. It was a crime drama set in Mexico with Anthony Quinn as her husband and Ray Milland starring as their antagonist.

Her next film, at Paramount, was Omar Khayyam (1957), about the famed Persian poet. Cornel Wilde was cast in the title role.

The alluring Paget was the love of Wilde's life (and the inspiration for some of his verse), though happiness was not to be. (You may be forgiven if you thought this portrait was of Ann-Margret and I included it by accident. But it is Paget!)

Shot in 1958, but not seeing the light of day in theaters until 1961(!), was the film depicted here, Most Dangerous Man Alive. It had a tormented production history and made nary a ripple when it finally came out.

Blonde now for a brief period, Paget's next movie was From the Earth to the Moon (1958), which starred Joseph Cotten and George Sanders. This was just as some major shifts were about to take place in Paget's life.

In January of 1958, a beaming 24 year-old Paget had gotten married for the first time. The hubby was a 41 year-old singer named David Street and this was his FIFTH marriage already. He had a habit of marrying actresses and seeing the unions dissolve swiftly. When, on their honeymoon, a couple of his exes came after him for thousands of dollars of back alimony, the writing was on the wall. The marriage was annulled by April.

Her next fiance was even more bizarre...! I'm kidding. This is her pet gibbon, to whom she was saying farewell as she headed off to Europe for a new chapter in her career....

The often-exotically-cast Paget had been selected by veteran German director Fritz Lang to play a Eurasian dancer in a colorful two-part epic he was filming in India. Part one was called The Tiger of Eschnapur (1959.)

The dazzling Paget was outfitted in a wide variety of filmy, bedecked costumes and eye-popping jewelry. Her dancing was showcased several times within the story as well.

To say that some of the costuming was suggestive in an understatement. Take the "oval" shaped red ruby between her legs in this get up. And check out the gold eye shadow. This costume is actually reworked from the earlier Princess of the Nile. Perhaps she'd hung onto it as it would have been made just for her 5'2" frame.

The second part was called The Indian Tomb (1959) and it went even further in its splendor. Lang did everything he could to make the film eye-popping and colorful. (The two parts were also trimmed down significantly into one feature, called "Journey to the Lost City.")

Having been used many times as alluring, picturesque females, this was the ne plus ultra of such for Paget. But even this is not what really stood out.

The everlasting highlight of The Indian Tomb had her appearing in a cloak and using her bejeweled hands as the head of a cobra only to suddenly cast off the cloak and seem practically nude but for some strategically arranged patches of material!

As a looming, big-boobed statue and a passel of eunuchs watched in awe, Paget proceeded to gyrate all over the place, tantalizing the aforementioned cobra (as well as many a male heart in the viewing audience.) This was some heady stuff for 1959.   

Still not finished with these sort of figures, she starred in the Italian-made Cleopatra's Daughter (released in 1960.) At this time, foreign movie-makers were paying American stars generous salaries to headline their epics. While it most often applied to men, there were actresses who also got in on the action.

Back in the U.S., she costarred with Terry Moore in Why Must I Die? (1960), which while not a direct rip-off of I Want to Live! (1958), did share a few similar elements. In this film, it was Moore who was facing the electric chair, despite Paget's emoting here.

Still unlucky in love, Paget wed for a second time in 1960 to veteran director Budd Boetticher. Boetticher found his greatest success with a period in which he took a small amount of money, a star whose luster had dimmed a bit (Randolph Scott) and turned out a series of well-received, compelling westerns. Sadly, this marriage was over with in less than a month! (My favorite thing about this photo is the dog nestled against Miss Paget's hip.)

Some things just never change. Debra Paget at 28 was cast as 51 year-old Vincent Price's wife in a segment of 1962's Tales of Terror. It was (and sometimes still is) the case in Hollywood, so it's not a personal knock on Price.

In fact, things went along so swimmingly that they were married on screen again the following year in 1963's The Haunted Palace.

Now looking at 30 on the horizon, struggling to maintain a secure place in a changing movie landscape (the studio system was crumbling, films were changing in tone and content, etc...) Paget was working on television in shows like Tales of Wells Fargo and Rawhide. However, she was soon to land in clover.

Paget, after years of portraying glamorous, well-to-do seductresses, had caught the eye of a spectacularly wealthy oil magnate. Louis C K'ung was a Chinese business executive, son of the richest man in the Republic of China and a nephew to Madame Chiang Kai-shek, one of the most powerful women in the world! They wed in 1962 and had a son, Gregory. (Good luck finding a viable photo of this couple.) 

This 1965 appearance on Burke's Law as a possible murderess would be the last time viewing audiences would lay eyes on Paget for quite a while. She left the acting profession and concentrated on her new life as the wife of an influential businessman and the mother of their boy. The two resided in Texas as part of the oil concern, but divorced in 1980.

As part of a family who'd always held strong religious beliefs, Paget was raised as a Christian. But after the dissolution of her third marriage, she was at a crossroads and weighed the option of returning to acting. She did do one play, but finally opted out of a return to the screen as an actress. However, as a Born-Again Christian, she would eventually find herself in front of the cameras once more.

In 1991, a still well-preserved Ms. Paget arrived at the TBN cable network. The Trinity Broadcasting Network was founded by Paul and Jan Crouch, who you may have seen at one time or another. (She often sported voluminous lilac-tinted wigs.) She hosted her own show called An Interlude with Debra Paget.

Now listen... If you are a person who enjoyed snorting over Brenda Dickson's over-the-top "Welcome to My Home" video, you owe it to yourself to watch at least part of this broadcast. I thought '80's glitz died by 1991, but no... it just slinked onto TBN, apparently! Paget looks radiant and amazingly fit. But the flower-filled set is off-the chain. And her guest is fellow BAC Donna Douglas of The Beverly Hillbillies.

The ever-lovely Paget continued to appear on TBN at one time or another for quite a few years. I, myself, have never gone in for this sort of thing, but it very obviously gave her a great deal of peace and satisfaction. Debra Paget is still with us today, living in Texas at age 89.

We salute the beautiful and beguiling Paget for her myriad of roles, both down-to-earth and otherworldly. More than just a pretty face, she was a talented actress and dancer as well.

When she departed the acting scene, we were denied the opportunity of seeing her penetrating gaze in whatever roles she might have inhabited, but in the end she decided to live on her own terms and not participate in projects she felt were too crude in language or exceptionally violent in content.