Fashions of 1938 – News Media Play
March 26, 2023
Cast: Warner Baxter, Joan Bennett, Helen Vinson, Misha Auer, Alan Mowbray.
The credits literally spin on a thread of silk. Full credit goes to the costume designers, make-up artists and haberdashers who contributed more to the 1937 look. Fashions of 1938 than director Irving Cummings did. In the exterior reveal shots, the new-fangled Technicolor camera can be seen as well as the New York skyline. It would be foolish to expect that an expensive novelty item, focused on the use of both fashion and Technicolor, would show much interest in telling a story. Opulence is the thing, from sparkly sparkles and extravagant gowns to PETA-loving furs, and tastefully matched with color designs – soft shaded dresses are lit and designed to stand out against earthy tones. Those interested in fashion will not go hungry. Nor historians who want to trace the development of color cinema. It’s the purists among you who’ve unschooled yourself on stripped-down Blu-rays whose cage I fear to rattle.
George Kerson (Warner Baxter, on loan from Fox) is a world-renowned designer, well-trained in the art of soothing spoiled widows. His successful fashion house in Beaumont on Park Avenue is constantly in the red, with a large portion of the profits going to W. Brockton’s (Jerome Cowan) Broadway musical. Eager to start a career in show business, his wife Mary Curson (Helen Vinson) pushes George to support the play. Wendy Van Clattering (Joan Bennett) is another woman, a sophisticated socialite who is willing to marry Henry Morgan (Alan Mowbray) for his money (and bedroom with 40-foot ceilings). No matter how many set pieces Mowbray chews, unlike the audience, Wendy is not amused. According to Wendy’s logic, she owes George more money than anyone else in town, making her the best customer. Rejecting her good fortune, Wendy leaves Morgan at the altar. Astute George decides to capitalize on her fame by offering Wendy a job as a model. Mary exits, the show fails, and with the kind help of Wendy, George is able to pool his resources and put on the best Technicolor fashion show the audience has experienced to date.
The three Technicolor strips only existed for a few years Fashions of 1938 was ready to raise the bar in terms of consistent color perfection. Wanger financed the visionary technical man Lone Pine Trail, the first film to take the cumbersome three-strip camera outside of the studio. (You’ll find more than your share of New York exteriors Fashions of 1938.) Two years after the release, Wanger and Bennett married. (Need a gossip distraction? Google “Walter Wanger”; “Shooting”; “Jennings Lang.” Have a ball!) Next to the Technicolor, new to the show is an Olympic trio of roller-skating duos (go figure) who are so fast spins on a round wooden cocktail table, the friction nearly setting the birch veneer on fire.
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America was going through a depression, but that didn’t stop Warner Bros. will fashion a row of chorins as coins to assure the audience that prosperity is just around the corner, with the melodic reminder, “We’re in the money.” Hollywood saw glamorous fashion as such an important marketing tool in the 1930s that MGM took a 6-minute break from George Cukor’s all-female comedy, women, to insert a Technicolor ball gown. Fashion 1934. Mannequin and A stolen holiday all advanced the concept of Hollywood as the fashion capital of the world. Even “Three puppets” made their own bright fashion show Wee wee monsieur (1938 year). Women go over their dresses while their better halves mentally undress Wanger’s group of “the most photographed girls in the world.”
Imagine New York Fashion Week if models were invited to perform. With only three days of practice, an angry Morgan seeks a court order banning Wendy from public appearances. Wendy models without being a model. She enters the stage not as a horse, but as a spectator to watch the performance. Unfortunately, both the musical numbers and the fashion show exceed the legal limit. Just when the catwalk is starting to look like it’s one after the other, crazy eccentric Misha Auer appears as Prince Muratov, a rival designer engaged to George’s secretary and backed by Morgan, who is bent on destroying the House of Kerson. His presence alone is enough to bring everything to an end.
Do you want the good news first? My interest was piqued by the distributor’s claim that this was never released on home video. At one point or another, every moviegoer born before the dawn of home video has experienced more than their share of bathroom shenanigans. From fuzzy TV presentations to scratchy second-generation 16mm prints shown at local film companies, it was the nature of the beast. Digital cinema has put an end to scratches and splicing. (If only they could get the jerk in the 10th row to turn off his cell phone.) Home video has never looked cooler. VHS has been everything from cataracts to glaucoma on DVD to laser eye surgery on Blu-ray “see it without your glasses”. Blu-ray pristine prints have changed the face of home video to the point that watching a print has a certain nostalgic appeal. While the ClassicFlix Silver Series presentation is far from Alpha Video’s illegibility, it’s a safe distance from digital restoration.
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