21 thoughts on “Costume Designer Edith Head: The Frock Flicks Guide

  1. “The Court Jester” and “Robin Hood” make an AMAZING double feature, and shows off Basil Rathbone’s massive fencing skills..wonder if he ever got frustrated at being forced to lose all the time because he played the baddie? (the chalice from the palace holds the pellet with the poison)

    1. (the flagon with the dragon hold the brew which is true!) 😁😁
      I read somewhere that Danny Kaye actually scared Rathbone because he was fast and wild and really got into it. Apparently an unpredictable amateur with a sword can be a real problem to an experienced fencer.

    2. “The Court Jester” might be my favorite family movie, ever. (Along with “George of the Jungle.”) Anyway, this whole portfolio takes me back to childhood and paging through my big sister’s movie magazines.

  2. What a lot of work for this post! A few of these are on Youtube for free. I do hate movies made in 1959’s America…but will try some for costumes.

  3. I love her gowns. Very clever stuff. I have one somewhere, and it’s really simple. A tube dress with a heavily ruffled top, and a huge ruffled shawl. Would have been easy, if tedious, to make. Yellow silk shot with gold, which is hella effective.
    She’d have had to provide a bunch of extras with costumes, so keeping it simple like that, and using splashy fabric would have made her job easier.

  4. I know it’s not a period gown, but the gown Edith Head made for Bette Davis in All About Eve — with pockets! — will always be my favorite.

  5. The Ten Commandments, FTW! I wanted to be Anne Baxter when I grew up, just because of those costumes. :)

    1. Oh yes. This this this. Moses. Moses. Moses. She looked so slinky and sexy and all those pleats and bling. Yes.

  6. What a designer.. not everything is historically accurate (and some aren’t even close) but as costumes they really work. I have to give it up to one of my favorite films, The Sting, for my favorite Edith Head design. :-)

  7. With regards to the photo of Anne Baxter, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual Egyptian representation of someone wearing bangs, as in “the Ten Commandments” (and other crappy entertainments too numerous to mention). And that couch is pretty ridiculous. But the dress itself isn’t bad–nice Ramesside pleats there.

    Can anyone weigh in on the authenticity of Inger Stevens’ costume in The Buccaneer? Her character is even more fictional than that of the princess in “Braveheart” (I’ve been rereading that post for laughs); Governor Claiborne did have a daughter, but she was only a toddler at the time of the Battle of New Orleans.

    1. After a quick check of AE artwork online I have to agree with you, some styles of wigs had a fringe of curls across the forehead but the misnamed Cleopatra bob was definitely not a thing. Women most often wore their hair parted in the middle or braided wigs in that style. Some of the jewelry in the Ten Commandments is very good, apparently copies from actual museum pieces.

      Isn’t the Bucaneer the one with Yule Brynner, with hair, as Jean Lafitte? And the gamin brunette gets the hero not the blond ingenue which I found refreshing.

      1. Yes, that’s the Buccaneer–remake of an older movie of the same title. One reviewer said that the problem with the Buccaneer (1959) was that Yul Brynner was still playing the King of Siam, and Charlton Heston was still playing Moses! Not very historically accurate, either, and I think Brynner was poorly cast. (Heston I can understand, even if he looked much too old to have been Andy Jackson at New Orleans.)

        Egyptian women’s hairstyles are reasonably diverse, but I can’t think of any artistic representation of bangs straight across the forehead. Someone here said that was a Victorian innovation. There is a royal mummy, possibly that of Queen Tausret, from the Valley of the Kings (KV 35 cache) that has an interesting upswept hairdo. And there are some female mummies with shaven heads, and some with hair extensions.

      2. Actual representations of Cleopatra (coins and a couple of sculptures) show her with her hair in a bun (you know how Hollywood types are likely to react to that).
        The relief of Cleopatra on the exterior wall of the temple of Hathor at Dendara shows her wearing a traditional Egyptian wig and a queen’s crown comprising horns and solar disk. And she probably did dress like that when a religious occasion demanded it, but for everyday head-of-state duties, she would have worn the Greek hairstyle and Greek costume, with the diadem (a cloth headband) instead of an elaborate Egyptian crown.

  8. Unfortunately I’ve seen very few of these, which I will need to work on. I always think it’s interesting when a designer has a long enough career that near the end there’s crossover between the when the “historical” films are set and when they had started working. I should hope there would be greater accuracy there!

  9. We had her autobiography , probably from a book club. I read it several times. She developed a Look to make herself fade into the background when dressing stars.

    Edith was a regular guest on Art Linkletter’s show giving style hints to real people.

    Yes, she could do period accurate looks; there are a few hints here. But her job was making Movie Stars look great in Hollywood Movies.

  10. There are some sweet stories about Head’s final film, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. She was going to design 4 dresses for the star, Rachel Ward. But then director Carl Reiner asked her if she could design something like Ingrid Berman wore in “Notorious” and she said “I designed “Notorious”! She certainly could do that. She also dressed Martin in drag as Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” as well as designing other outfits reminiscent of her heyday. She was weak, dying of cancer, but she came to Universal every day. She was a trouper.

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