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: Down Argentine Way (1940)

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.

Poster - Down Argentine Way_01This week’s musical:
Down Argentine Way” — Musical #273

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Irving Cummings

Starring:
Betty Grable, Don Ameche, Charlotte Greenwood, J. Carroll Naish, Carmen Miranda (as herself), Henry Stephenson, Leonid Kinskey, Fayard and Harold Nicholas (as themselves)

Plot:
Ricardo Quintana (Ameche) travels from his home in Argentina to New York to sell his prized race horse. His father (Stephenson) tells him not to sell his horse to any relative of Binnie Crawford (Greenwood), who’s brother cheated him and the two have been in a feud ever since. In New York, Ricardo meets Glenda Crawford (Grable) and falls for her. She also wants to buy his horse, unaware of the feud. When he learns who she is, he takes back his agreement to let her buy the horse. Glenda angrily follows Ricardo to Argentina.

Trivia:
-Remake of the 1938 film, “Kentucky” starring Loretta Young, Richard Greene and Walter Brennan. “Kentucky” is set in the American south and also deals with horse racing. Young and Greene’s families are feuding, because of an incident that occurred during the Civil War.

-Originally supposed to star Alice Faye, who had to drop out. Caesar Romero was supposed to play Leonid Kinskey’s role. The film ended up being a break through film for Betty Grable, who had been in films since the early 1930s, according to Hollywood Musicals Year by Year.

-First screen appearance of Carmen Miranda. Her scenes were shot in New York at the Movetone studio in Manhattan and edited into the Hollywood film, so her only film appearances are two songs and no dialogue with the characters. Miranda was performing on Broadway in “The Streets of Paris.” She made an impression on audiences and was signed to 20th Century Fox, according to Memo from Darryl F. Zannuck.

-Film gossip columnist Louella Parsons compared Don Ameche to Rudolph Valentino in this movie. She said he “has a good singing voice, but he has never been the least exciting until this movie,” she said in a Oct. 6, 1940, column.

-Don Ameche’s role was originally offered to Desi Arnaz, according to Life on the Hyphen: The Cuban-American Way by Gustavo Pérez Firmat

-Director Irving Cummings originally wanted to cut the Nicholas Brother’s three minute tap dance scene, according to Brotherhood in Rythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers by Constance Valis Hill.

Highlights:
-The Nicholas Brother’s tap dance performance.

-Carmen Miranda’s first screen appearance.

Notable Songs:
-“Down Argentine Way” sung by Betty Grable
-“Two Dreams Met” sung by Betty Grable and Don Ameche
-“Mamãe Yo Quero” sung by Carmen Miranda
-“South American Way” sung by Carmen Miranda

Betty Grable and Don Ameche in "Down Argentine Way"

Betty Grable and Don Ameche in “Down Argentine Way”

My Review:
“Down Argentine Way” may be looked upon as another colorful, fluffy Technicolor musical. But it’s an important step in two of the star’s careers and in Hollywood’s involvement with American foreign relations.
Catapulting star careers
Betty Grable, known for her “Million Dollar Legs,” started in films in bit roles in 1929. From 1929 through the late 1930s, she appeared as chorus girls-even in Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films. “Down Argentine Way” was her first major Technicolor film, showcasing her beauty and musical talents. After this film, she became one of 20th Century Fox’s top stars.
Carmen Miranda arrived in New York via Brazil in May 1939 and started in Broadway in June 1939. “Down Argentine Way” was released in October 1940, only a little over a year from the time she arrived in the United States. Her brief appearance in the film, launched an American career, primarily from 1940 to 1945, and dubbing her the Brazilian Bombshell.
Foreign policy
Now it’s time for a brief history lesson thanks to my South American History and Policy class at Winthrop University. (I even semi led a Carmen Miranda discussion in the class):
During the President F. D. Roosevelt administration in 1933, FDR said (in a nutshell) that he wanted to be a good neighbor to other nations. The Secretary of State said no country had the right to intervene in internal or external affairs of another country. The United States had troops in South America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Due to the Good Neighbor Policy, the United States withdrew Marines who were occupying Haiti and Nicaragua.
To promote these neighborly relations, the United States worked to promote Latin America in culture. You can see the cultural impacts in films like “Down Argentine Way,” “That Night in Rio” or “Week-End in Havana.” Fashion was affected with espadrille shoes, fiesta blouses and peasant blouses. Music had a South American influence with bandleaders such as Xavier Cugat.
What does this have to do with movies? “Down Argentine Way” was one of the first Hollywood films that promoted the Good Neighbor Policy- showcasing the beautiful countries (via soundstage) and how wonderful and romantic the culture is.
“Down Argentine Way” isn’t the best film of Betty Grable, Carmen Miranda or Don Ameche. But it’s fun and beautifully colorful. The story is simple but it is important in the careers of a few Hollywood favorites.

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Musical Monday: Week-End in Havana (1941)

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.

Week-end_in_havanaThis week’s musical:
Week-End in Havana” (1941)–Musical #479

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Walter Lang

Starring:
Alice Faye, John Payne, Cesar Romero, Carmen Miranda, Cobina Wright, Leonid Kinskey, George Barbier

Plot:
Macy’s shop girl Nan Spencer (Faye) saves up her money to go on her first cruise to Havana. The only problem is, the ship hits a sandbar in Florida and the ship company has to reimburse everyone and offer them another trip. When ship employee Jay Williams (Payne)-who is also engaged to the boss’s daughter- is sent to reimburse the passengers and have them sign waivers, Nan isn’t satisfied with a check. She saved for years for this trip and also knows what the captain was doing when the ship crashed, which could threaten a lawsuit for the company.
Jay’s company sends Nan on an all expenses paid trip to Havana so she will sign the company’s waiver. Jay has to go along-postponing his wedding- to make sure Nan has a good time. Along the way she falls for Monte Blanca (Romero), who is the boyfriend/manager of Rosita Rivas (Miranda). Monte thinks Nan is wealthy and thinks he is using her to pay off his gambling debts.

Trivia:
-This is one of many films made in the 1940s with a “good neighbor” feel to it. Several films visited Latin American countries such as Cuba, Argentina or Brazil to showcase these countries and strengthen United States relations with Latin American government.
-Carmen Miranda’s second film.
-This was the second of three films Miranda and Faye made together. The other two films were “That Night in Rio” (1941) and “The Gang is All Here” (1943).

John Payne, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero in "Week-End in Havana."

John Payne, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero in “Week-End in Havana.”

Highlights:
-Every colorful Carmen Miranda performance
-Alice Faye and Cesar Romero dancing to “Romance and Rhumba.” It gives the audience an opportunity to see Romero’s smooth dance moves.

Notable Songs:
-Tropical Magic sung by Alice Faye and John Payne
-Rebola a Bola sung by Carmen Miranda
-The Ñango sung by Carmen Miranda complete with a lavish dance number
-Romance and Rhumba sung by Alice Faye and Cesar Romero

Review:
Alice Faye once said her singing voice was deeper than the plots of the films she made.
This may be the case with “Week-End in Havana,” but this film is a lot of fun. The colorful costumes and scenery are gorgeous in Technicolor, Carmen Miranda and Alice Faye are equipped with catchy songs and the two leading men are nice to look at.
The four leads seem to have fairly equal screen time- each delivering witty lines and offering scenes filled with charm.
Week-End in Havana” is a lighthearted 1940s “good neighbor” film, that is full of color and fun.

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Musical Monday: “Doll Face” (1945)

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:
Doll Face (1945)- Musical #474

doll face

Studio:
20th Century Fox

Director:
Lewis Seiler

Starring:
Vivian Blaine, Carmen Miranda, Dennis O’Keefe, Stephen Dunne, Perry Como, Martha Stewart (not the home decor woman)

Plot:
Mary “Doll Face” Carroll (Blaine) hopes to break out of burlesque and into the big time. When she is turned down due to her performing background, her manager Michael Hannigan (O’Keefe) decides to have a ghost written autobiography written about Mary. The author of the book Frederick Gerard (Dunne) begins to fall in love with Mary causing conflict with Michael, who also is in love with her. Using the publicity of the book, Michael begins to produce a Broadway show with the help of the other burlesque performers.

Trivia:

Carmen Miranda performing "Chico Chico"

Carmen Miranda performing “Chico Chico”

-Based on the 1943 play “The Naked Genius” written by burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee.
-Carole Landis was offered the lead in the film but turned it down, according to the book Carole Landis: A Most Beautiful Girl by Eric Lawrence Gans
-Carmen Miranda’s first starring film that is in black and white.
-“Eighty Miles Outside of Atlanta” from “Something for the Boys” can be heard in the background.
-Carmen Miranda’s song “True to the Navy” cut from the film. The song as filmed still exists. Paramount held exclusive rights to the song and wouldn’t allow 20th Century-Fox the song. It was performed by Clara Bow in “Paramount On Parade” (1930)
– “Doll Face” is one of four films Vivian Blaine and Carmen Miranda were in together. The other films included “If I’m Lucky” (1946), “Something for the Boys” (1945) and “Greenwich Village” (1944).

Notable Songs:
-Perry Como’s song “Hubba Hubba Dig You Later” became a hit for him after the film. It reached number 3 on the charts and was Como’s second Gold album, according to the book Perry Como: A Biography and Complete Career Record By Malcolm Macfarlane, Ken Crossland

My Review:
This film is fun and cute but forgettable. The songs aren’t very exciting either.
As a lover of classic films, I obviously enjoy films shot in black and white. However, casting Carmen Miranda, Hollywood’s most colorful performer, in a black and white was murderous to her career. Biographies on her life cite that her novelty was wearing off when Fox began casting her in non-color films.

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Musical Mondays: Something for the Boys (1944)

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, I’m starting a weekly feature about musicals.

something for the boysThis week’s musical:
Something for the Boys (1944) – Musical number #469

Starring:
Vivian Blaine, Carmen Miranda, Phil Silvers, Michael O’Shea, Perry Como, Shelia O’Ryan

Director:
Peter Seiler

Studio:
Twentieth Century Fox

Plot:
Three cousins find they are heirs to a southern plantation in Georgia. The cousins couldn’t be more different: singer Blossom Hart (Blaine), defense worker Chaquita Hart (Miranda) and con man Harry Hart (Silvers). The mansion isn’t quite what they expected and they turn it into a home for the wives of soldiers who are stationed at a nearby Army base. To help raise money for the home, they put on a show and Blossom meets and falls in love with soldiers Rocky Fulton (O’Shea).

Trivia:
-Ethel Merman starred in the original Broadway production that opened on Jan. 7, 1943 and ran for 422 performances.
-Judy Holliday can be spotted in a brief role six minutes into the film. This is her third film.

Judy Holliday in a brief role in "Something for the Boys" (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Judy Holliday in a brief role in “Something for the Boys” (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

-“Something for the Boys” is one of four films Vivian Blaine and Carmen Miranda were in together. The other films included “If I’m Lucky” (1946), “Doll Face” (1945) and “Greenwich Village” (1944).

Notable Songs:
-Carmen Miranda sings “Batuca Nega” and “Samba-Boogie.” Any Miranda performance in a film is notable for her energy and colorful outfits.
-Phil Silvers performs the song “Southland.” Though he’s from New York, it seems to be a running tradition in Silvers’s films to sing songs about the South. His songs are similar to songs Al Jolson would sing.
-We get to hear songs from popular 1940s singer Perry Como, who performs “In the Middle of Nowhere” and “I Wish We Didn’t Have to Say Goodnight.”

Perry Como singing "I Wish I Didn't Have to Say Goodnight" to Cara Williams. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Perry Como singing “I Wish I Didn’t Have to Say Goodnight” to Cara Williams. (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Highlights:
-A running joke in the movie is that Carmen Miranda has carborundum in her tooth filling from working as a machinist. Because of this, she always hears the radio, whether it is on or off. It’s pretty silly but a unique joke. At one point in the film, they use her to send Morse Code.

Due to Carmen Miranda's short wave radio tooth-she is being used to send Morse Code. Also pictured-Michael O'Shea, Vivian Blaine, Phil Silvers. (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Due to Carmen Miranda’s short wave radio tooth-she is being used to send Morse Code. Also pictured-Michael O’Shea, Vivian Blaine, Phil Silvers. (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P.)

-Judy Holliday says one line six minutes into the movie. Her line explains the problem Miranda may be having with carborundum in her teeth.
-Seeing Vivian Blaine star in the film. Blaine is an energetic, beautiful and talented performer who I enjoying seeing in any film. It’s a shame she is not as well remembered as other 20th Century Fox actresses.
-Jimmie Dodd of Mickey Mouse Club fame can be spotted 51 minutes into the film as a “gambling soldier.”

Vivian Blaine singing "Eighty Miles Outside of Atlanta" (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Vivian Blaine singing “Eighty Miles Outside of Atlanta” (Comet Over Hollywood/ Screen cap by Jessica P.)

My review:
Something for the Boys” is a light but fun musical filmed during World War II. It is in color, has catchy songs and gorgeous costumes, but it somehow falls short of other Fox musicals that starred Betty Grable or Rita Hayworth.
There are some very silly jokes such as Carmen Miranda’s short-wave-radio-tooth, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. My only complaint is that I find Phil Silvers annoying and Michael O’Shea to be a weak leading man.
It’s not a well-known film with a cast of stars who are fairly forgotten today, with the exception of Carmen Miranda and Phil Silvers.
However, it’s a glittering and colorful musical comedy that will brighten a lazy afternoon.

Carmen Miranda performing "Samba-Boogie" (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Carmen Miranda performing “Samba-Boogie” (Comet Over Hollywood/Screen cap by Jessica P.)

Check back next week for Musical Monday.

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Classic film in daily life: Room and Work space

Back in November I said I was going to start writing short snippets detailing classic film in my daily life.  You may remember my post about writing a Media Ethics paper researching whites playing ethnic roles in films. 

As I finish up my last week of college classes forever, I wanted to show how classic film helped to decorate my college dorm room and my desk at our student newspaper office.

I even cleaned up my room for all of you 🙂

My room:

My desk area with Nancy Drew, White Cargo, West Side Story posters on top and Brandon Flowers, Betty Grable and Doris Day below. Also on the desk is a "White Christmas" photo, Robert Osborne bobble head and my desk top background is from "Since You Went Away"

My closer has photos of LIFE magazine photos above it, I tried to be clever and put actresses looking in mirrors on my mirror, Deanna Durbin and Esther Williams autographs on top of TV and Im watching the Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine in "The Guardsman"

 

More LIFE magazines over my bed

 I also have different film books lying around (I’m currently reading Betty Hutton’s “Backstage You Can Have”) and several VHS tapes and DVDs trying waiting to be watched. I didn’t add those because that seemed a bit much.

 My desk in The Johnsonian office:

My desk. Thats me on the desk top background with "I love Robert Osborne" written on the photo. As a joke each editor had their mug shot set as the background and something that defined them written about themselves.

Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable help me work.

 

Ruth Chatteron, Harry James, Don Ameche and Betty Grable also decorate my desk.

 Hope you enjoyed your little tour 🙂

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Chica chica boom chic Halloween

Jessica Pickens by day, Carmen Miranda by night

This year I was Carmen Miranda for Halloween-other wise known as “The Lady with the Tutti Fruitti hat.”  Miranda was popular for her crazy outfits, samba singing style and was one of the highest paid actresses in the 1940s. I’ve always loved Carmen Miranda and decided to mix in my classic movie love with this year’s costume, even if some people thought I was Chiquetta Banana, I corrected in my attempt to educate my generation with classic film.

   Miranda was known as the “Brazilian Bombshell,” and lived most of her life in Brazil though she was born in  Portugal.  Brazilians were upset that she made her success with an exaggerated accent, colorful costumes and playing Americanized South American stereotypes. She was criticized when she performed this way in Brazil in the 1940s, but redeemed herself when she performed several samba style songs in Portuguese that made fun of her Americanized persona, according to the BBC documentary “Under the Tutti Fruitti Hat.”

Was anyone else anything classic film related for Halloween? Comment and share!

Check out of Carmen Miranda singing in “Weekend in Havana” (1941):

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