Monday, October 28, 2013

Movie Monday: The Edith Head Edition

One of the parts of movie making that doesn't always get talked and written about, at least on a popular level, is costume design. And, since I'm a not a costumer (although I have friends who are), I'm not going to try to say anything technical about costume design.

However, I am going to write today about Edith Head, probably the best-known name in costume design for film in the United States. For a long period, it seems like she did designs for nearly every movie made. And, in fact, IMDB lists 438 costume design credits for Head. True, she designed from 1924 until nearly the day she died, in 1981, working for Paramount from 1924 until 1967 before leaving that studio to work at Universal until 1981. Still, that is a lot of movies (and a few television shows) to design costumes for.

Edith Head was not just a dressmaker, however. Before she became a designer, she taught French in La Jolla and then in Hollywood. That was after she had graduated with a BA, with honors, in French, from the University of California at Berkeley, and then with a MA in the romance languages from Stanford University. Even before that, Head was born on October 28, 1897, in San Bernardino, California.

Out of all the films she designed costumes for, Head was nominated 35 times for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, including getting a nomination every year between 1948 and 1966. That's 18 years in a row, for those of you keeping track. Out of those nominations, she won 8 times, more than any other woman in the history of the Academy Awards.

She even won twice in one year, 1951, when separate awards were given for costume design for black and white and for color films. That year, she won in the color film category for "Samson and Delilah" and in the black and white category for "All About Eve" (which is one of the best films of all time, as far as I'm concerned).

The full list of films she won Academy Awards for includes:

"The Heiress" (1950; black and white)
"Samson and Delilah" (1951; color)
"All About Eve" (1951; black and white)
"A Place in the Sun" (1952; black and white)
"Roman Holiday" (1954; black and white)
"Sabrina" (1955; black and white)
"The Facts of Life" (1961; black and white)
"The Sting" (1974)

Head designed costumes for all kinds of films, including several Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, including "Rear Window" (1954), "The Trouble With Harry" (1955), "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956), "Vertigo" (1958), and "Family Plot" (1996). She also designed for several of John Wayne's films, including "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "Hatari!" (both 1962), "Donovan's Reef" (1963), "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1965), "El Dorado" (1966), and "Hellfighters" (1968). So, she clearly did not just design sophisticated gowns for elegant ladies, although she did that, too. She also designed the costumes for at least two science fiction films, "When Worlds Collide" (1951) and "The War of the Worlds" (1953), as well as for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and for "Sometimes A Great Notion" (1970), which was about a dysfunctional family of Oregon loggers which starred Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, and Lee Remick, and based on the novel of the same name by Ken Kesey. I mention that last film because I think it is one of the great underrated films of the 1970s. The last film Head worked on before her death was Steve Martin's comedy, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", directed by Carl Reiner.

Here is the trailer for the Blu-Ray release of "All About Eve", one of two films Edith Head wan an Academy Award for in 1951:

This is the trailer that was created for the re-release of "The Sting" after it won the Academy Award for Best Picture - and also the award for Best Costume Design, Edith Head's final Academy Award:

...and the original trailer for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid", for which Edith Head also designed the costumes:

This is a scene from "A Place in the Sun", which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, another one of the films Edith Head won an Academy Award for, for Best Costume Design:

Edith Head also designed for some science fiction films, including "When Worlds Collide":

Here is an original trailer for "Sometimes a Great Notion", another film Edith Head designed the costumes for:

There is no way I could ever do justice to Edith Head's long career in one blog post. However, this sample of clips at least begins to show the wide variety of films she designed for.

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