Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gowns By...

Gilbert Adrian 1903-1959

You all know his name and his work.  If by some chance you don't, than I'm guessing you mistakenly stumbled onto this blog in a failed Google attempt to find a Felix The Cat emblazoned lug wrench.

It's funny, I'm so used to associating Adrian with dazzling confections like this....

...that it often escapes my mind that he's responsible for probably the most iconic piece of movie wardrobe in history:

I guess I'm so used to thinking, 'Ruby Slippers-Judy Garland' instead.  But it was Adrian who sent the red faille pump by Innes Shoe Co. to Western Costume Co. with the order that they be covered in 1/16" red sequins sewn onto red/orange silk Georgette.  They were then to be topped with a 2" bow encrusted with 46 rhinestones, 42 bugle beads and 3 jewels all red.  When he added the magic, I'm not sure.

Adrian Adolph Greenberg was born in Connecticut in 1903.  It was evident to his immigrant parents from early on that he was a very talented boy.  Determined that he would have the best in opportunity they sent their 18 year old to the New York School for Fine and Applied Arts (known now as Parsons) and at 19 in 1922 he transferred to the school's Paris campus.  He had barely sampled the quiche when Irving Berlin spotted one of  Adrian's costumes on a model while attending the Beaux Arts, and back to New York he went to do the costumes for Berlin's Music Box Revue.  He was now doing shows for Berlin, George White and Billy Rose.  Here are sketches from "Cinderella" for the Greenwich Village Follies:

You can already see the not so embryonic beginnings of the Marie Antoinette costumes.

It was around this time he is rumored to have had an affair with Valentino, and whether true or not, it is at this time that we, Enter The Crazy Lady.  Natacha Rambova, (Mrs. Valentino) brought Adrian to Hollywood to create for her husband's films, and fortunately for Gilbert as Valentino didn't have many movies left in him, he was able to catch the eye of others.  He did a Connie Thalmadge/Ronald Colman picture for Joe Schenck.  Then Mr. DeMille grabbed him.  He became, for his next 25 pictures, part of the DeMille Pictures Corporation in house design team which also included (before he became a director) another of Adrian's lovers, Mitchell Leisen.

Adrian found his permanent home at MGM when the DeMille operations moved there in late '28.  In 1929 he signed a contract with LB Mayer at $500 a week that included the sumptuous credit line:  Gowns by Adrian.  Whole encyclopedias could be written about Adrian's MGM years.  And they already have.  So let's just have a look at a few iconic pieces that influenced the fashion buying public and carved the legacy of the Adrian name.

The Garbo Slouch Hat

Harlow in bias cut silk satin.

And if you think I'm gonna bring up Harlow without including this, well then, you just don't know me, now do you.

This one is so famous in both the worlds of film and fashion history
that it's simply known as "The Letty Lynton Dress".
Macy's carried a knock-off of it and reportedly sold
a half million copies--In the middle of the depression!
(I've never liked this dress. Sorry.)

Though this one is from his work for Crawford on "Humoresque", it is the sort of end-game of the 
'Crawford Shoulders Project' that the two of them undertook years earlier.

Norma Shearer as Marie Antoinette.

I can't imagine that he ever had more fun than doing the
Sylvia Fowler character in "The Women".

Stop me if you've seen this one.

The wonderful Kate in "The Philadelphia Story".

Hedy Lamarr in "Ziegfeld Girl"

Now in all fairness,  it was Madame Vionnet who began the bias cut and Schiaparelli who started padding shoulders, but it was Gilbert Adrian who, personalizing those looks, stuffed 'em with the Garbos, Crawfords, Harlows and Shearers and made the real-life shop girls pry open their meager purses.

"It was because of Garbo that I left MGM. In her last picture they wanted to make her a sweater girl, a real American type. I said, 'When the glamor ends for Garbo, it also ends for me. She has created a type. If you destroy that illusion, you destroy her.' When Garbo walked out of the studio, glamor went with her, and so did I."  

Now don't think that Adrian spent his retirement from the studio on booze, boys and debauchery.  For starters, he walked out of the MGM gates on Washington Blvd. as a husband and father!  In 1939 he married semi retired actress Janet Gaynor and within short order, she produced their son, Robin.  While this was, no doubt, a lavender marriage (Bob Cummings famously quipped, "Janet Gaynor's husband was Adrian, but her wife was Mary Martin.), the child was apparently created in the 'conventional' manor.  The story is told that when Gaynor was going through a brutal and difficult labor and delivery, a doctor told Adrian that she might very well lose the child.  A nurse overheard him whining, "Oh no, I'll have to go through that again."

The opening of Adrian Ltd. on Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills couldn't have happened at a better time.

The Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 had effectively cut all information of what was happening in French fashion off, and American designers suddenly had the uninterrupted attention of a captive audience.  Adrian stepped up to the plate to deal with severe fabric rationing and a mood of patriotic sacrifice by producing simple, elegant suits that utilize a genius of piece work cutting and detail.  He also selected one store in every major city that carried his collection.

And when the war ended and materials were once again available, he let loose.

He created two perfumes in '46:  Saint and Sinner.
In 1948 he opened a boutique in Manhattan.

I am fascinated by this Penn portrait of 
Adrian backed into a corner.

In 1951 they redecorated the house:


All was well until 1952 when he suffered a heart attack.  Just like that, he quit designing and the family moved to a coffee plantation in Brazil.  Mary Martin and her husband Richard Halliday (who did the decorating and cooking) lived across the road. Hmm.

In 1959 while back in the states to do the costumes for the Broadway play "Camelot" Gilbert Adrian died.  The news said heart attack, others say his death was later ruled a suicide.

The big, fat surprise of this wonderful man's wonderful work, is that since the Academy didn't begin awarding Costume Design until 1948, Adrian never received an Oscar.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Gal That Got Away

I don't know whether I live in Hollywood because I have a worshipful reverence for it's history or vice-versa.  I suspect it's a combination of the two.  Over my years here, I've been fortunate enough to actually meet some of it's legends as I step gently through their land.  But this morning as I read TJB's wonderful essay about the jinxed Tom Neal/Barbara Payton Affair, I recalled the time of my near brush with greatness.

During the summer months, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (eternal home to Rudolph Valentino, Marion Davies, Harry Cohn, Adrian, Janet Gaynor, Tyrone Power and many, many others) has film screenings on Saturday nights.  Since I live about a block and a half away, and since so many people attend these that if I move my car after 5pm on a Saturday there's no place to park when I come back, I often attend.

One night in May of 2006, they were showing the $20,000-budgeted, six-day-shooting-schedule, 1945 noir, "Detour", that stars Neal and Ann Savage.  Now, I'd seen this film before many times.  I even own a copy of it on DVD that I got at the 99 cent store (it's been in the Public Domain forever), but the temptation of a group viewing with 2000 other film savvy Hollywood Hipsters was too great, so a group of us walked over.

I can say, without a doubt, that lying on a blanket, on the ground in a cemetery next to Douglas Fairbanks' massive monument to himself and watching such a great film, hugely projected on the side of an enormous white marble mausoleum building that houses Valentino, Peter Finch, Peter Lorre and hundreds of others, made for the most satisfying viewing of this most satisfying picture.  That the movie is so wonderful is due to one element, and one element alone.  Her name is Ann Savage.

A born Army Brat, Savage (Bernice Maxine Lyon) and her mother relocated to LA after the death of her father.  Deciding the actor's life was for her she performed her first screen test at MGM when she was 17.  She did not receive the key to the city for it.  So she spent the next few years taking training at Max Reinhardt's School and getting her teeth capped.  Bert D'Armond, the manager of the Reinhardt school became her agent.  Her reward was a contract with Columbia, where, unlike many others, she remember Mogul Harry Cohn as the "friendly Uncle type".  D'Armond's reward was having Savage become his wife.

She enjoyed a film career that, while hardly earth shaking, was at least steady though the 40's.  And she did dabble in Television in the 50's.  And then, well, that was about it.  For acting anyway.  She and Bert had each other and were very happy.  They lived in New York for years and when he died in 1969 she returned to LA to be close to her mother.  Taking odd jobs to finance flying lessons, she became a licensed pilot in 1979.  She loved flying it kept her close to God and Bert. 
She also became a legal secretary at a law firm here in LA.  Then, in the 1990's and 2000's when Noir Fever hit, she kinda got re-discovered and appeared at screenings and retrospectives, as well as Guy Maddin's "My Winnipeg" filmed in 2006.

About her performance in "Detour", it is nothing short of delicious.  To say that she is committed and goes there, is as understated as saying that there is a whiff of mystery about Garbo.  As Vera, she grabs the movie and everything in it and devours it, with a transparent skin that let's you see all the desperation, pathology and sadism inside.  Unlike most stars of the day, she allowed herself to be ugly.  Wim Wenders has said that her acting was at least 15 years ahead of it's time, and supposedly Savage was the first person that Brando wanted to meet when he got to Hollywood.

That night at the cemetery, I was joined by my best friend (an actor) who had seen the movie before, and two virgins to the picture.  Back at my house after the movie, we were all talking over each other nonstop about Ann.  We decided to Google her and to my utter shock I discovered that, at age 85, she had a Myspace Account!  Here's what her interests were listed as:  ACTING, flying, guns, diamonds, MEN MOVIES MOUNTAINS.  After everyone left, I opened an account just so I could write her a fan letter.  I gushed like a little girl.  About her performance, about seeing it at the cemetery, about my friend "Allen" also being an actor and how much he loved her work.  I told her that we'd love to take her to lunch and thank her in person.  Only after I hit 'send', did my head clear enough to realize how much I was embarrassing myself.

The next day, SHE WROTE ME BACK! :

Hello Philip,

Well, thank you so much for all your kind words and for your support of Detour. You have nice hair, honey.

I am not too sure I like the idea of watching movies at the cemetery, but one day I will be there along with my Mother and Husband Bert, so I am sure it will be a welcome diversion from my long rest. Until then, I am sure you can understand that I am in no hurry to join the others who got there ahead of me!

I am grateful to you for taking the time to send me your lovely letter. Give my best wishes to your friend Allen and tell him that I wish him the best of luck in this crazy business, and to stick to his guns and NEVER give up, no matter how much crap the bastards in charge throw at him. Also, tell him NEVER do anything for free! The people that want free are usually cons with nothing to offer anyone with genuine talent.

I can't think of anything else to say right now. I am not going to lunches these days, but I really appreciate the invitation. I just made a movie in Winnipeg and am still recovering. Sometimes I show up at the Egyptian or around town and will send out a bulletin and let you know. I will look forward to meeting you then. For now, I am laying low. Acting is hard work. Believe it.

Best to you and Allen,


I was stupefied.  But more than that, I was stupid,  I never went back on Myspace to follow up with her.

After a series of strokes Ann was moved into the Motion Picture Home where she passed away on Christmas Day 2008 in her sleep.  She has joined Bert and her Mother at (you guessed it)  Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jaynie's Big Pink.....Palace.

Let's all tag along with those pesky photographers as Jayne Mansfield takes us on a tour of her house! 
Though typically shy, she's letting the cameras in just this once.  As she recently noted, “Publicity has always come to me. I haven’t gone to it, but I’ve been cooperative.”  What a trouper!

No uniformed maid or butler for our Jaynie, she answers the door herself (she's so regular) and, if you can believe it, apologizes for her apeance!  She said she had just gotten home herself, from a full day of PTA meetings and her volunteer work.  She excused herself to freshen up as the lens man snapped her heading up stairs.  She tells us that she finds all those framed magazine covers of her terribly embarrassing and asks us to make our selves at home.  It wasn't until I saw the photo some weeks later that I realized just what an incredible Actress she is.  To look at her you'd think she actually likes those pictures going up the stairs.  Boy, what a talent.

We had no sooner settled in the tasteful living room when, Surprise!  Jaynie appears on the vestibule looking just swell.  It was then that I saw, first hand, that even picking up chihuahua doo-doo can be glamorous if you dress for it!

It's a lucky gal that gets a handsome guy, and Jaynie's shining knight is a Mr. Mickey Hargitay.  He is a foreigner and rather difficult to understand, but he's very nice and very devoted to little Jayne.  Here they are in the 'office' sharing the kind of domestic monthly chore we all face:  paying the household bills.  I guess it's not all glamor all the time!

After such a long and busy day, nothing relaxes and refreshes a girl like a long, hot bath.  Finally, with all the days responsibilities finished, it time for a little girl talk.  Gotta get caught up on the latest gossip, right Jaynie?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It's Our Turn To Act For Them

Recently, a comment on Norma Desmond's Blog brought my attention back to an issue that's been one of great sadness for me for over a year.  Thank you for the reminder 'researcher'.

It is the proposed closing of the Long Term Care facility at the Motion Picture and Television Fund's Woodland Hills campus.  Fondly known as The Old Actors Home, the Country Home was opened in 1942 and the Hospital in 1948.  There are people residing there right now with names that you know.  Other residents are the artistic technicians who worked behind the camera and are no less responsible for our entertainment than the marquee 'names'.  I am crushed at the thought of this facility being no more.  I've been there and it's fantastic.

Thankfully, 'researcher' put a link on the comment to an organization called Saving the Lives of Our Own.  There is a petition there that you can sign.  (I did 3 days ago and I haven't received any spam yet)  Their goal is 5000 signatures and at present, there aren't even 1500!  Please do this folks.  The residents have given us countless hours of joy and, just now, they need our help.

Below is a list of former residents many of whom ended their days in these beautiful surroundings.

Famous residents

* denotes died while resident at hospital

Thanks very much.

Been There!

Medium? No. Very Curly? Never.

Personally, I've always been the loose and casual type.

Betty Furness. How To Easy Bake--Your Kid!

Your child is done when toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Drag Music

While this is really a test to see if I can bring you some favorite music on occasion, I do hope you'll enjoy this entry from 1976 by the late Yvonne Fair.

In the late '70s any drag queen could easily earn enough tips for the next gown by performing this one.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Most Talented Couple I Know

Okay, call it shameless promotion if you will (and it is) but at least it's not shameless Self promotion.

Today, I'm introducing the majority of you to a couple of kooky kids named Rob Giles and Caterina Scorsone. Last June they became husband and wife in the Bride's hometown of Toronto. If it's possible to have a crush on a couple--I got it bad.  They are beautiful, they each have ridiculous amounts of talent, and they are my friends.

So, as I was raised with proper manners, let's have ladies first, shall we?

Caterina has been a working actor since the age of 8. Her professional associations include being directed by Eric Stoltz and Emilio Estevez and acting with Ed Harris, Mel Gibson, and Kathy Bates as well as starring in the TV series', Crash and Missing (1-800-Missing).

No flighty actress girl she, Cat also attended Trinity College in the University of Toronto, where she learned literary studies, comparative religions and obtained a poli-sci degree.

In the very recent past, she starred in the Syfy Network's mini series of "Alice" playing the title character in the re-imagined update of the Lewis Carroll classic. It's never a safe bet to re-imagine a classic, and this certainly is a departure from the original "Alice In Wonderland". Caterina's Alice, in addition to being an adult in the 21st century, is tough and urban. She teaches martial arts! But there is a fine line the actress walks brilliantly. She plays her cynical and rigid, and at the same time, you are always aware of a very wounded little girl inside that longs for fairytale endings but is terrified that one more abandonment will be her undoing. It was a blast of a roller coaster ride to watch with mind bending art direction and if you missed it, it'll be on DVD in March.

Up next for my favorite smarty pants is the nail biter "Edge Of Darkness" starring Mel Gibson and it opens at the end of this week (Jan 29), see you there.

And now the gentleman. It is impossible to fully articulate the genius of Rob Giles, the artist or the man. Our friendship began the day we met 5 years ago. We have learned much from each other, and each has carried the other through some harrowing times. The rest of the time, we just laugh. He is one of the funniest people I've ever met. Hailing from Dallas, Texas, as a teen he taught himself to play the drums. Then guitar. Then bass. Then keys. After graduating from the Berkeley School of Music, it was off to New York for a bit, then Nashville for a while, and finally L.A.

I realize I could be accused of being prejudiced, but trying to be as objective as possible, he is my favorite singer/songwriter. And it's really no surprise that he and Cat found each other as he certainly wasn't short changed in the Brainiac department either. He is becoming a much sought after record Producer here. As a writer his melodies are beautiful but always interesting and quite often unexpected. The lyrics are no joke. Intelligent poetry, all at once modern and timeless. His guitar work? Just give him a capo and he can coax an orchestration out of a six string acoustic! And as a singer his voice has many colors and facets and his breath control is simply astounding (especially considering that when I met him, he was still smoking a couple of packs a day). In the performance below (taken with someones iphone, so there's not much quality), he starts a phrase at 2:40 and draws his next breath at just after 3:00!

This song is on his latest album "This Is All In Your Mind"

Go to itunes or cdbaby and get it right now.  I've never mislead you.

His next solo album, "The Ghost of Gran Via" will be out in March. (I've heard it, you want it.) If that isn't enough, last year he became the fourth member of the amazing group, The Rescues. Imagine one other man and two women, all with Rob's caliber of musicianship rolled into one supergroup! The Rescues new album "Let Loose the Horses" will be out in April on Universal Republic records.

Now that Cat and Rob taken care of your entertainment needs, carry on. Fabulously.

Art? Or Bust.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It Was Bound To Happen Sometime

One of the things I abhor about facebook is the ridiculous questionaires that 'friends' suggest you take.  This is the reason you find me on facebook about once every month or so.  So imagine my disdain when I discovered that my fellow Blogosians have their own version called a Meme.  Well I've been tagged in one entitled the "Kreativ Blogger Award" (I'm clearing a place on the mantle) and while very notion makes me reel, I've decided play along.  This time.  Following are the criteria to be satisfied.

1.  Thank the person who nominated you for this award.

Thank you, TJB from the always informative Stirred Straight Up With A Twist.

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.

It's a real honey, ain't it.

3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.

See criteria #1.

4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

a.  I was a child model for 2 years when my family lived in Niagara Falls, NY

b.  I have been cursed with the "sports fag" gene (not as far as participation goes, though) and love watching any and all sports, excepting  hockey.  My favorites are tennis and football.  My team is the Washington Redskins which means that I have been heartbroken for many, many years.  Sing it with me:

c.  I once went around the world with a pop music tour as a Wardrobe person in the employ of an artist who's name starts with "M" and ends with "adonna".

d.  To make a gag work in a movie, I once had to fit Rodney Dangerfield with a strap-on dildo.

e.  I have been very unlucky in love, and more than compensated with spectacularly loving friendships.  At this stage, I actually love being single.  Being single on a grander scale, I'm the only member of my family still living.

f.  At age 50, I still have a 28" waist and have never been to a gym.  Fast metabolism and lots of speed in my youth.

g.  In February, I will be clean and sober for 28 years.

5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers and post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

Cafe Muscato

Chateau Thombeau

MJ at Infomaniac

Donna Lethal at Lethal Dose

Poseidon's Underworld

Kabuki Zero

Stephen at Post Apocalyptic Bohemian

6. Someone forgot to include a sixth rule.

7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Doubt it.  If they're not regularly checking in with me, let 'em find out the same way I did.  On the streets.

Literary, Bent

There is an appalling misconception about people in Hollywood.  It is commonly thought that we don't read!  I am here to set the record straight.  I happen to be a voracious reader, and my particular love is the classics.

I am just finishing one right now that I wanted to share with you.

Do take it in when you have a chance.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Love Means Keeping A Civil Tounge In Your Head!

The film "Love Story" was released just before Christmas of 1970.  I was eleven years old at the time and certainly aware of the film from reading copious coverage about it's stars Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal in Tiger Beat and Sixteen.  By the time it got around to playing the burbs it was almost springtime of '71.  Unfortunately, my parents were not the movie going types.  My father always reasoned, "Why spend the money when it'll just be on TV in a few years."

That's where Mrs. Hutchins came in.  We had only moved to Clinton, Md. (a DC suburb near Andrews AFB) a couple of months before.  Mr. and Mrs. Hutchins lived behind our us in an old house that butted up to our 5 year old sub-division full of split-level colonial houses.  They were in their 60's and their children had long since moved away.  Mrs. Hutchins had taken a great liking to me, the way some older women do of 'special' and 'sensitive' boys.

One day she suggested we have a 'movie date' and go see the picture.  She had heard it was a very romantic picture and thought that she was in for a Loretta Young redo. My parents were fine with it and I was thrilled that I would finally be able to see what all the talk was about.  So off we sped  the seven or so miles to the Marlow Heights Shopping Center Cinema in her '69 Chrysler New Yorker.  For 5'1" and barely able to see over the steering wheel, she sure drove like a daemon.  I adored the movie, even though I was periodically uncomfortable sitting next to an elderly woman that I didn't know very well while watching such intimate and adult subject matter.

Apparently my sentiments were not shared, as Mrs. Hutchins sat stiff and ramrod straight through the whole picture.  When the movie was over and my thoughts were turning to how I could become a beautiful and smart aleck young woman so that I could get a gorgeous and rich young man like Oliver (even if it meant I'd have to die young), Mrs. Hutchins grabbed my arm and steered me in a beeline to the car.  She turned the key, looked at me and delivered her verdict, "With a mouth like that, she deserved to die!"  With that, she jammed the car into drive and we took off.  Not another word was spoken on the drive home and there was never to be another 'movie date'.

Erich Segal has passed away in London at age 72.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Frankly, I Wouldn't Mess With Either Of Them.

With the three little words, "Yes I do," today's birthday girl Janis Joplin holds her own against the titanic Gloria Swanson.

Of course the real victor of this tete-a-tete was the viewer.  As Dave, Jay and Conan battle for supremecy in the watered down prescripted informercial world that is now late night talk television, we fondly remember a time when mighty forces, and polar opposites like Swanson and Joplin would come together for a chat with Cavett.  EVEN WHEN THEY DIDN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO SELL!

It's Tuesday, Why Don't You...

...sing your song!

Can't ever see this too many times.

Monday, January 18, 2010

When Bloggers Collide

I just returned from a fabulous luncheon with the devastating Donna Lethal!  It was also our first face to face meeting.  I could hardly eat in the presence of such wit, beauty and glamor.  It is safe to say that she effortlessly lived up to all I had dreamed her to be.

Our historic meeting took place at Victor's Restaurant.  A family eatery that is Beachwood and Bronson Canyons' answer to a Denny's.  Only with really good food and great coffee.

And what do bloggers eat for lunch?  Donna:  Eggs Florentine, half order and coffee (didn't I tell you she was glamorous!)  Felix:  Two eggs, sunny side up, hash browns, buttered rye toast, simply amazing sausages and coffee.

It's pouring and cold today in Hollywood, but the blooming of a fast, furious and wonderful friendship brought sunshine and warmth to the Victor's Square Shopping Center.

Now, when can I meet the rest of you.  Victor's is open for dinner!

We sat in the large rounded banquette on the left under the photo