Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter in Film, Hollywood Style: Hedy Lamarr's Peacock Gown in "Samson and Delilah", 1949

Easter was on TV on TCM this weekend and the biblical extravaganzas were featured.

Isn't this peacock gown designed by Edith Head for 1949's Samson & Delilah wonderful, especially on Hedy Lamarr?

Showing Hedy's bellybutton was not allowed. Did we notice that we weren't seeing it with all of that wonderful texture going on?

Lamé & silk velvet gown with peacock feathers, glass stones,  lead and metal stud embellishment.

Artful draping on the steps at a critical moment!

I saw this dress in the superb Hollywood Costume exhibit in London in 2012. No idea if the peacock feathers were replaced or if by a miracle the originals survived. 

This costume from the film in the costume collection of Debbie Reynolds was sold at auction for $12,000 a few years ago. Apparently the dress's turquoise fabric layer disintegrated and the applique and embroidery was saved and this is the underlayer or  more likely, the dress was re-made, but in a different color. 

Note how "multicolor" the embellishment looks on the nude fabric.

Here's a nice trailer someone made and posted to YouTube that gives a great idea of how it all looks!

From the book, "Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer"
by Jay Jorgenson: 

"For the final scene of the destruction of the temple, DeMille asked Edith to create a less revealing costume for Hedy, one that would demonstrate the power that Delilah had obtained. DeMille seemed hell bent that the costume should have feathers, and Edith contacted the research department to find out what kind of feather would have been available during Minoan times. Edith was told that perhaps there may have been peacocks, but there was no certainty of that. 

Edith worked up a sketch referencing a costume that had been created for Theda Bara in the 1917 film version of "Cleopatra" in which Cleopatra attended a banquet for Marc Antony in an ensemble appliqued with peacock feathers. DeMille loved the idea, but it totally went against Edith's school teacher sense of authenticity. But for a story set in Minoa with a very American Samson and a Delilah with a heavy Viennese accent, the film may have already been in trouble by Edith's standards. Due to the scarcity of peacock feathers, Edith was forced to use feathers from DeMille's own peacocks, which he kept on his ranch in Tujunga. She dispatched her staff during moulting season, and they returned with nearly two thousand feathers, which were sorted and applied to the costume". 

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