Hollywood Halloween: DIY Film Themed Costumes

If you’re like me (or any other classic film fan), the character or actor you want to dress as isn’t at Party City. There are only ill-fitting $80 Marilyn Monroe costumes from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” No one sells a “Gigi” costume so you can be Leslie Caron or a frumpy, loud costume to be Barbara Stanwyck in “Stella Dallas.” So that’s why we make our own.

Starting in my last year of college, I decided I wanted to dress as my favorite stars so I started making my own costumes for Halloween. Of course, I make these costumes fully knowing that the only people who will understand them are my Twitter followers and readers of Comet Over Hollywood. Here are my Halloween costumes since 2010:

 

Carmen Miranda Halloween costume in 2010

Carmen Miranda: Halloween 2010
As a huge musical fan, Carmen Miranda is always a bright spot. This was a fairly easy costume of gathering together various vibrant pieces to simulate the Carmen Miranda feel, rather than mimic a specific costume from one of her films. The only purchased clothing was the vest and skirt, which were vintage from eBay. While known as “the Lady with the Tutti Frutti Hat,” not all of Miranda’s hats involved fruit — some included umbrellas, butterflies or were simple, bright turbans. However, I decided to go with the fruit design since it was most identifiable. The hat was made of a baseball cap with the bill cut off and fruit from the five and 10 cent store glued and sewed on. No one knew who I was and only called me Chiquita Banana, who was inspired by Miranda.

 

Cyd Charisse in “Band Wagon” (1953)

Cyd Charisse in the Girl Hunt Ballet number in “Band Wagon” (1953): Halloween 2011
Cyd Charisse’s red costume in the “Girl Hunt Ballet” is probably one of her most recognizable looks (though of course, no one knew who I was). My sisters and I took dance for many years and my older sister’s 1998 tap costume looks similar to Cyd Charisse’s bodice. All it was lacking was a skirt. I took the costume, tacked on a similar sequined fabric, added some gloves and was ready to dance with Fred Astaire. The only thing I regret is now is not getting a black wig.

 

Louise Brooks in “Now We’re in the Air”

Louise Brooks in “Now We’re in the Air” (1927): Halloween 2013
I’ll confess, this costume was inspired by the fact that I found a short, black wig on sale at Wal-Mart the day after Halloween in 2012. So for a full year, I knew I was going to be Louise Brooks in some capacity. Her publicity photo for “Now We’re in the Air” (1927) is one of her most famous so I decided to mimic this. This was a relatively simple costume to make, but finding the exact items I wanted was the only challenge. Locating a plain black tutu was difficult, so I used an old dance costume. “Now We’re in the Air” is a previously lost film that was found in 2017.

 

Sigourney Weaver in “Ghostbusters”

Sigourney Weaver as “There is no Dana, only Zuul” from Ghostbusters (1984): Halloween 2014
After revisiting “Ghostbusters” (1984), I was struck by how beautiful possessed Sigourney Weaver’s costume was. I thought it would be a piece of cake and that I would only need to find a similar orange dress and make some alterations, right? Wrong. Unable to find what I needed, I made my own dress. I bought a 1980s dress pattern off eBay of a similar style. I then bought bright orange slick fabric, see-thru shimmery fabric as a sash and a bit of gold fabric to go along the slit of the dress. Since I can’t sew a dress pattern and don’t have a sewing machine, my friend Katie was wonderful helped me (or did the bulk of the work) by helping me cut and sew the pattern. I used the see-thru fabric as sash tied around the waist. As for hair, I have extremely straight hair that doesn’t curl well. So the easiest solution to mimic Sigourney Weaver’s hair was to wear a very curly brown wig.

 

Full costume for “The Red Shoes”

Makeup detail for “The Red Shoes”

Moira Shearer as Victoria Page in “The Red Shoes” (1948): Halloween 2015
This is my second favorite costumes for several reasons: I loved doing the enhanced ballet eye makeup, it was comfortable, and this was probably the easiest costume I have ever done. I was inspired to recreate this look from the Powell and Pressburger film after seeing several people I know attending screenings. Creating this costume mainly involved locating and ordering the various pieces. The most complicated part was finding an appropriate red wig (I found a long wig and cut it). Above is a photo of the costume and a close-up of the makeup. The red makeup around the eyes is lip liner. Of course, no one knew who I was in this costume, but I didn’t get any weird looks. They just assumed I was a ballet dancer. I was happy and comfortable throughout the evening out.

 

Hedy Lamarr in the “You Stepped Out of a Dream” number in “Ziegfeld Girl” (1941): Halloween 2016
This is my favorite Halloween costume (thus far) as far as outcome and looks go. It wasn’t perfect and an exact match to Adrian’s costume creation, but I was pretty darned pleased. That said, it was also the most difficult and time-intensive costume I have made to date, and I’m tired just thinking about it. This is a recreation of the gown Hedy Lamarr wore as Tony Martin sings “You Stepped Out of a Dream” in the MGM film, “Ziegfeld Girl.” It’s the big reveal of the new Ziegfeld Girls (Judy Garland, Lamarr, and Lana Turner), who all premiere for the first time. Costumes in Florenz Ziegfeld shows were outlandish and Hedy’s wasn’t even the most difficult of the bunch exhibited in this number. I started buying and creating this costume at least a month out before Halloween. It involved cutting out hundreds of fabric and paper star, lots of gluing and some engineering help from my dad for the elaborate star headdress. Again, no one in person knew who I was and I kept stepping on long dress (I left the headdress in the car once it got too crowded), but people were impressed even if they didn’t know who I was.

 

Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer. (Photo illustration by Brandon Brown)

Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer (1955–1959): Halloween 2017
Still tired from the “Ziegfeld Girl” costume, I almost skipped Halloween this year. But inspired by my Annette Funicello Fridays on social media, I tried to throw together a simple Mouseketeer costume. This involved only buying a blue skirt and some iron-on letters — I already had Mickey Mouse ears from a 2007 trip to Disney World. While I adore Annette, my straight light hair wouldn’t have worked well. And a short, curly wig would have just looked terrible. So I dubbed myself Mouseketeer Jessica and was ready for roll call! (I guess I could have been Darlene or Karen).

Color detail of Mouseketeer costume

What are some of our classic film costumes? Share below! Happy Halloween

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Musical Monday: Sweethearts (1938)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
“Sweethearts” (1938)– Musical #292

Studio:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director:
W.S. Van Dyke

Starring:
Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Reginald Gardiner, Florence Rice, Mischa Auer, Herman Bing, George Barbier, Fay Holden, Allyn Joslyn, Lucille Watson, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, Terry Kilburn, Olin Howland, Douglas McPhail, Betty Jaynes, Irving Bacon (uncredited)

Plot:
Husband and wife Broadway stars Gwen Marlowe and Ernest Lane (MacDonald and Eddy) have been happily married for six years and are in their sixth year of performing Victor Herbert’s operetta “Sweethearts.” They are exhausted due to constant singing obligations and decide to go to Hollywood. Their Broadway producer (Morgan) and his staff hatch a plan to drive the couple apart and keep them from going to Hollywood.

Trivia:
-This is MGM’s first full-length feature in three-strip Technicolor and the first color film for either Nelson Eddy or Jeanette MacDonald
-Filming began on June 17, 1938, in black-and-white. After two days, however, the production was interrupted, all the black-and-white footage was scrapped and filming began again in Technicolor, according to the American Film Institute (AFI)
-Pianist José Iturbi was to make his acting debut in Sweethearts (1938), but he didn’t end up in the completed film. Iturbi was not in any films until 1944, according to AFI
-The “Sweethearts” number uses the set from the “Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” number from The Great Ziegfeld (1936).
-Fifth pairing of Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald
-Costumes by Adrian

Highlights:
-Gorgeous Technicolor
-Broadway lights montage at the beginning
-Jeannette MacDonald’s dachshund
-Jeannette MacDonald’s vibrant hair and costumes
-Shopping montage

Notable Songs:
-“Sweethearts” performed by Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald
-“Wooden Shoes” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Ray Bolger
-“On Parade” performed by Nelson Eddy
-“Pretty as a Picture” performed by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

Awards:
Nominated for:
-Douglas Shearer for Best Sound, Recording
-Herbert Stothart for Best Music, Scoring
Won:
-Honorary award for the color cinematography of the M-G-M production Sweethearts to Oliver T. Marsh and Allen M. Davey

My review:
“Sweethearts” is unlike any other Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy musical. This musical feels fuller and elaborate. It features larger musicals numbers to simulate a Broadway show, rather than just operatic duets. The costumes are bright and elaborate, and Jeanette does a bit of dancing in some of the Broadway numbers.

Adrian costumes in beautiful Technicolor

On top of all of this, it is in beautiful Technicolor. The cinematographers and costume designer Adrian fully took advantage of this. Jeanette MacDonald’s red hair is fiery bright and Adrian’s costumes are in every color of the rainbow: from a baby pink tulle costume, a chiffon mustard yellow gown, and a sequined blue evening gown.

The cast is also filled with magnificent characters actors: Frank Morgan, Florence Rice,
Ray Bolger, Reginald Gardiner, Mischa Auer, Herman Bing, Fay Holden, Lucille Watson, Gene Lockhart, Kathleen Lockhart, and Terry Kilburn. George Barbier plays Benjamin Silver, the head of the studio trying to sign Eddy and MacDonald’s characters. Judging by the logo of the fictional studio and how Barbier was dressed, I wonder if MGM had in mind that they were trying to make him look like their own Louis B. Mayer.

We also see young singers Betty Jaynes and Douglas McPhail who were married the same year “Sweethearts” was released. Jaynes and McPhail co-starred in “Babes in Arms” (1939) the next year with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. The two play understudies to Eddy and MacDonald, which is interesting because McPhail was signed to be “the next Nelson Eddy.”

Jeanette MacDonald, Frank Morgan and Nelson Eddy in “Sweethearts”

The only issue with having so many wonderful supporting actors is that some of them felt wasted with little screen time. For example, we only really see Ray Bolger dance at the beginning and then he is never seen again. Reginald Gardiner isn’t in the film very much either.

Along with being insanely beautiful and chockfull of stars, this is a funny musical. Hollywood and the entertainment industry makes fun of itself. In one scene in Benjamin Silver’s office late in the evening, studio workers rush in exclaiming about all the issues they have had during filming that day. “She fainted after the 24th take!” said Irving Bacon’s character. Later, while Reginald Gardiner is convincing Eddy and MacDonald to Hollywood, he talks about how they have all their evening to themselves and you only have to take one take and then you are done with the scene forever. This scene is humorous because you know it’s all so untrue.

While Rose Marie and Maytime are my top two favorite Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald films, “Sweethearts” probably falls at number three. It’s so beautiful to look at and also fun. Even if you don’t love opera music, I feel like this movie is more than just Eddy and MacDonald singing to each other. It’s beautiful and filled with gorgeous costumes and humor.

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