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...


hsc said...

Thanks for doing another one of these looks at recycled elements-- these posts are always great!

You write that "Reportedly, the dress was simply turned over to Western Costume, ostensibly for use in future projects," but it should be pointed out that BATMAN and THE GHOST & MRS. MUIR were both 20th Century-Fox Television productions.

The costume probably stayed at Fox along with many other costumes and props until the legendary 1971 "housecleaning" studio auction, where it was likely purchased by Jane Withers; Debbie Reynolds got a number of items in her collection at this auction.

If it had wound up at Western Costume, it's less likely it would have wound up in Withers' collection.

Other than that one point, a GREAT in-depth look at an iconic movie costume and its ultimate spotty fate! (Kind of ironic how Withers spent her latter years telling us how to get rid of stains with Comet!)

Keep up the fabulous work, Poseidon! Love to all and be safe and well, everyone!

Poseidon3 said...

hsc, it did occur to me that maybe the gown stayed at 20th Century Fox, especially with the label still intact, but I had read the info on this site (see link) and unfortunately took it to be the case... (But then that's also why I used the word "reportedly.")

hsc said...

"Recycled Movie Costumes" is a lot of fun and generally a good site for this sort of thing, but I don't always agree with their "facts."

In particular, they maintain-- nay, vehemently *INSIST*-- that Glinda's iconic gown is recycled and modified from a gown Jeanette MacDonald previously wore in SAN FRANCISCO:

This is despite all visual evidence proving that beyond a general overall shape and the use of sequined tulle, they're substantially different-- and simply a favorite "go-to" design Adrian turned out versions of for other films like CAMILLE.

Not to mention that it defies logic that anyone would go to the degree of trouble to make the costume over to that extent-- given the level of changes, it would take as much time and expense to remake the costume as to build one from scratch. The RMC site seriously underplays just how much would be needed to rework this dress from one to the other, but it's easy to see if you compare large, detailed photos.

Additionally, it's a prime image in OZ-- as opposed to just another stage costume worn by MacDonald in SAN FRANCISCO-- and not only is it a character-defining element for Glinda, it's Billie Burke's *only* costume.

Burke basically got her butt kissed on that production, including a special mobile dressing room described by Margaret Hamilton years later. There's no way they would've just made over an old costume for *her* on a production where they're hand-striping the socks on "Munchkin" extras.

At best, Burke might be wearing a recycled petticoat or hoops *under* that gown, but everything seen on screen is clearly original.

Sorry for the digression and the rant, but somebody pulled this nugget out of their ass for a book years ago, and it's become "Recycled Movie Bullshit" ever since.

Dan said...

In hindsight, it is remarkable the big studios did not recognize the value of such iconic costumes and treated them so shabbily, but I suppose they were considered simply as assets to be used wherever, whenever needed. We should be glad any of them were saved.
Many years ago I attended a wedding in the historic Bruton Parish church in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was at Christmas, the church was lit primarily by candles, and the bride wore her mother’s c. 1945 gown. A few of us were seated in the choir loft over the entrance. We couldn’t help ourselves - as the bride walked to the altar we started softly singing, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?”

Gingerguy said...

Well first off, I'm going to be Reta Shaw for Halloween this year, so thanks for that! I love this dress, I'm uptight about wedding dresses and have known a few young women over the years who've gotten an earful from me. On the one day you could look regal why would you want to look trashy? There's a dress on Candice Bergen in "The Adventurers" that's also beautiful. I post and every dollar of that 23K is about The Sound Of Music, as much as I love "Batman" and "Ghost"

David Kenilworth said...

More connections:

1. Edward Mulhare guest-starred with Eleanor Parker (Sound of Music's Baroness) in episode 10, Season 3 of Murder She Wrote.

2. Reta Shaw was a featured actress in Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews' launch into cinematic stardom.

3. Rex Harrison won Best Actor the year that Julie Andrews won Best Actress. Harrison won for My Fair Lady, which Julie Andrews had made famous on Broadway, but she was not well-known enough for the film, so they got Audrey Hepburn, whose songs were dubbed by Marni Nixon, also featured in the Sound of Music. Harrison BTW had played in the film version of Ghost & Mrs. Muir, here noted as Edward Mulhare in the TV version. (See #1, above.)

Dan said...

On a side note - and as you probably know - the tradition of brides wearing white has nothing to do with purity or virginity. Queen Victoria started the fad when she opted to wear a white dress to highlight some favorite pieces of lace in support of the British lace industry. Until then, brides usually wore their best of any color.

Poseidon3 said...

Dan, true enough that if the studios spent, in some cases, top dollar to make something, it would seem their right to reuse it any way they pleased. It was startling, though, to see MARIA'S wedding gown being trashed on a TV show. That's funny about the wedding you went to. Something I would do, too, for sure... As for the white/virginal connotation - Yeah, I get that the tradition began without that association, but surely it developed anyway over time. I can still hear adults' voices in my head going on about how a divorcee could dare to wear white in a second wedding ceremony, etc... Three out of four of my own sets of grandparents (two of them "step") had marriage ceremonies that didn't involve a gown at all! The Depression didn't allow for such extravagance. Two of my grandmothers wore their best suits and one wore a print dress. The fourth (and youngest of all) did have a white satin gown. Thanks.

Gingerguy, if you want to go as Reta, you'll have to put in some time on her distinctive VOICE, too! Ha ha! I have done a tribute here to "The Adventurers" and Candice looked AMAZING (and very Grace Kelly-ish) in her wedding ensemble, hair, etc... I agree that the auction buyer wanted an important piece of SOM. Thanks!

David Kenilworth, I love all those sort of "trivia"l connections. Thanks for coming up with them. When watching season one of "Batman" recently, it made me smile that two stars of "All About Eve" showed up as villains, Anne Baxter and George Sanders. It made me wish that Bette had popped up. (She'd have killed as a "Batman" villainess!)

David Kenilworth said...

Since you asked ... :-)

Yes, too bad that Bette Davis was not a villainess on Batman. However, Tallulah Bankhead, arguably Bette Davis' alter ego, WAS a villainess on Batman ("Black Widow").

And whilst I am on a roll, remember that Bette Davis played the matron on the pilot episode of Hotel in 1983, but the role was then played by Anne Baxter when the show was sold.

David Kenilworth said...

OK, here's more trivia.

According to Doug McClelland's biography: Eleanor Parker: Woman of a Thousand Faces, Eleanor Parker was Aaron Spelling's first choice to play Alexis on Dynasty. Had this happened, she would have been reunited with Charlton Heston, her co-star in The Naked Jungle, in the four Dynasty episodes running up to the Colbys.

David Kenilworth said...

OK, here’s a true trivia-gasm.

Eleanor Parker starred in the pilot episode of Fantasy Island in 1977.

The connections:

1. Ricardo Montalban, the star of Fantasy Island, played Eleanor Parker’s love interest in the Bracken’s World (BW) episode “The Sweet Smell of Failure”.

2. Eleanor Parker played in the same Fantasy Island episode “Yesterday's Love/Fountain of Youth” (episode 154) which featured Dennis Cole, who starred in the first season of Bracken’s World.

3. Eleanor Parker and Dennis Cole had little interaction in Bracken’s World, except for the episodes “Closed Set” (24 Oct. 1969) and “The Chase Sequence” (26 Dec. 1969).

Re. Dennis Cole and Fantasy Island, DO NOT MISS the Jungle Man episode: -- Dennis Cole for the hour in a loincloth.

If you want to do a BW retrospective, please let me know: I have all episodes on DVD and know many of them by heart!

xo DK

Laurence said...

Studios have always considered costumes their property, which they were, of course. Sometimes if a star wanted to buy a favorite costume from a film the studio would sell it to them, but most of the time they were stingy and possessive.
And what actor would want to wear a sweat-stained costume they had worn for hours under hot lights, and were sick and tired of?
MGM created Elizabeth Taylor's lovely gown for her wedding to Nicky Hilton. When they divorced about 9 month's later MGM demanded the return of the gown, or so it is said. MGM also deducted the cost of the gown and the ceremony as part of the publicity expense for FATHER OF THE BRIDE.
Stars also had to pay the cost of the prints for their own pictures if they wanted a print for their private collections. When GONE WITH THE WIND was making millions for MGM, Clark Gable requested a print. MGM said he would have to pay $3,000. Gable said forget it.