16 thoughts on “Costume Designer Danilo Donati: The Frock Flicks Guide

  1. Has to be Romeo and Juliet. I have fabric envy–so much yardage to make all these! :-)

    1. Totally agree. Romeo and Juliet. I recreated the red dress using gold corduroy for a Halloween party in ’70. I was 15. The movie holds a place in my heart.

  2. THANK YOU!!! This man was one of the reasons I became interested in movie costumes.

    I was wondering if some of Danilo Donati’s credits were going to keep him from getting fully examined here, but this overview was wonderful– and you didn’t shy away from covering the more controversial films.

    (I saw SALO in a rare theatrical showing when I was visiting NYC about 40 years ago, and afterward, a woman walked over and verbally accosted me in the lobby because I was smiling as I walked out of the auditorium. She literally screamed, “How DARE you smile after that!” right in my face. Seriously.

    That’s how controversial that film was– and is.)

    I’m a HUGE Pier Paolo Pasolini (and Federico Fellini) fan, so I enjoyed seeing costumes from his “historical sex romps”– or as they were then billed, “The Trilogy of Life” (to which SALO was the anti-thesis).

    The costume from THE DECAMERON was– not surprisingly– for a character billed as “The Queen of Skulls” (Monique van Vooren), who only appears for a few seconds (as a vision, IIRC), so you don’t get to focus as much on that outfit as you see it here.

    And that is indeed the Wife of Bath (Laura Betti) in that shot from THE CANTERBURY TALES, and the man she seduces in that segment was a pre-DOCTOR WHO Tom Baker!

    The “Trilogy of Life” films were not only well-reviewed in serious film journals, but appealed to the exploitation crowd, so they were heavily imitated (as was FELLINI SATYRICON) resulting in a whole cottage industry of Italian historical sex films with “Canterbury” or “Decameron” in the title.

    BAWDY TALES– which I managed to catch on Netflix streaming about a decade ago– was an offshoot of that, with a script co-written by Pasolini and his frequent collaborator Sergio Citti, brother of frequent Pasolini star Franco Citti, who’s seen in the photo. And that hat is about the most interesting costume from the film, as I recall.

    I enjoyed seeing the shots of costumes from museum exhibits showing the details, particularly all the texture added to the costumes from FELLINI’S CASANOVA. One thing along those lines that really surprises me is a quote I read decades ago about the making of the costumes for FELLINI SATYRICON, or possibly CALIGULA.

    They were having to execute all the elaborate Roman jewelry pieces and running out of time and budget, and someone (not sure if it was Donati), snapped, “Well, what do you expect me to do? Just make it out of pasta?”

    And supposedly, that’s exactly what they did do– glue various pasta shapes all over the tiaras and earrings and pendants for “texture” and then gild them. Probably not for any of the main characters, but I could see it as a solution for background figures.

    I’m a little disappointed you didn’t have anything from one of Fellini’s most popular films, AMARCORD, which is a period piece though not as flashy as some of the others. Magali Noel as Gradisca got a few nice outfits, even though there’s a lot of drab black-clad housewives and school uniforms.

    But overall– Brava! Brava! Grazie mille!

    1. I’ve been fascinated by Danilo Donati’s work even tho’ I’ve only seen a few of his movies. Every time pix show up of his costumes on display, I’m stunned by all the detail, it’s just amazing. Pity that the actual films are getting harder to track down these days. In college / grad school, I had brief Fellini phase aided by the local art house movie theater playing things like La Dolce Vita & 8 1/2, but sadly they didn’t play the historical-ish flicks & now nobody seems to.

      1. Unfortunately, it’s increasingly hard to see any of the films from this period.

        Home video killed off the “art house/revival theater” for the most part, and streaming has eliminated video stores– and even worse, has largely done in physical media itself.

        The larger DVD/Blu-ray manufacturers are only interested in current mainstream material, and the niche companies only offer small limited editions that quickly sell out.

        Even worse, the reputation of the films themselves has shifted over the years. Sure, it’s great that we’ve gone more “global” and have a much more inclusive film Pantheon, but it’s at the cost of making European and older U.S. directors less accessible.

        (And I say this as someone who ran a university film program around 30 years ago and tried to give as much exposure as possible to “other voices”– women and LGBTQ filmmakers as well as films from Asia, Africa and South America.)

        And on top of that, rights issues have made a lot of these films practically “lost films” even though pristine prints and negatives exist, because the copyright holders want too much money in relation to the actual market for the title.

        So you have to track down unsubtitled prints on questionable websites out of foreign countries, and hope you aren’t getting malware installed or being flagged as a video pirate.

        Ain’t the 21st century great, kids?

        1. Oh I know, & as the Frock Flicker here who loves pre-1980s movies (having seen more of them), it kills me that I struggle to find those movies to review for this blog :( Turner Classic Movies & the Criterion Collection are some help, but there are vast gaps in their catalog sigh

  3. Romeo and Juliet followed by both Fellini films, Brother Sun, Sister Moon. And I want the pink Court suit from Casanova.

  4. I love to compare “Shrew” and “R&J”… both set in Northern Italian Renaissance but one much earlier in the period than the other.
    And I love “Flash Gordon” which tho’ not historical, is friggin’ amazballs! Can you say “bugle beading”?

    1. Yeah– even though I hate the film, I love the Danilo Donati costumes, especially the red costume Ming the Merciless wears on the poster.

      It’s like Joan Crawford’s bugle beaded Adrian gown in THE BRIDE WORE RED re-interpreted by Alex Raymond, the creator of the FLASH GORDON comic strip.

  5. Wow, I didn’t realize how many of his moves I’d seen! All of them are so beautiful. I may have problems with the source, but Romeo and Juliet is breathtaking to watch.

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