Finding Your Tribe at the TCM Film Festival 2014: Part 1

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I discovered just how Southern I am at this year’s Turner Classic Movie Film Festival (TCMFF).  It happened during my virgin voyage on John Ford’s Stagecoach.

ff stagecoachWhile the rest of the audience was swooning over a baby-faced John Wayne effortlessly swinging his rifle into place, I was falling headlong for John Carradine. Yes, THAT John Carradine; the human praying mantis whose lantern-jawed visage and deep baritone brought an odd dignity to dozens of perfectly awful films.

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All he had to do was rumble politesse about offering his protection to a very pregnant woman traveling alone to meet her Cavalry husband and I was hooked. Why? 1. He recognized a lady when he saw one and responded to her as befitted his Southern upbringing. 2. His courtly manners and melodic phrases whispered “home” to this daughter of Old Maryland, once known as the “Home of Gracious Living.” Oh, and 3. He’s taller than me. From his first utterance, I saw a fellow tribesman in his character, and tears clogged my throat and hung in my eyes at every word he spoke and every chivalrous act he performed.

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There’s nothing quite as moving and empowering as finding one’s tribe.

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The theme of this year’s TCMFF–Family–The Ties that Bind–couldn’t have been more perfect, as many attendees have pointed out that this festival was more family reunion than endless screenings punctuated by pizza and power naps. Fellow fans we’d only known on Twitter as part of the TCM Party or in teeny avatars in our Going to the TCMFF Facebook group became first friends, then relatives. We’d found our tribe.

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Unlike our “real” families who often think we’re crazy for loving films as we do, our “reel” family member next to us during City Lights was laughing and crying as hard as we were (well, almost as hard). And that feels great. The people in your tribe “get” you–they’re related to you in a basic way–and when you’re with them, you feel accepted and, dare I say it, beautiful. Kim Novak experienced the power of her tribe at this festival (more on that later) and many of the rest of us did, too.

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Which leads me to my take on this festival–seeing the films as a glorious red carpet of the various Movie Star Makeover Star Style “tribes.”

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Typically, when I work with a client, I have to do quite a bit of spadework to convince her of the beauty I recognize in her. She might start our session begging me to transform her into a Sophia Loren when she’s really a Debbie Reynolds at heart, but once I help her understand her Star Style is as attractive as any other, I’m home free.


Hopefully, this TCMFF catalog of legendary lovelies will help each reader embrace her individual beauty and her tribe. Hmmmmmm…whom shall I write about first…?

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Smartly Tailored

It figures this take-charge tribe would take the lead in our parade of beauties. At this year’s festival, you can’t beat Rosalind Russell, in her role in My Sister Eileen. Roz’s personality and style are perfectly meshed…she’s witty, sharp, strong, and no-nonsense–a perfect example of the Smartly Tailored Star Style.

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Menswear fabrics, notched collars, crisp lines meshed with dandified touches–the Smartly Tailored gal isn’t afraid of trends. Like Roz, she seeks out snappy ensembles with dash and daring–clothes that speak of her intelligence and verve.

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When these gals stride into a room, they often assume a leadership role and others look to them for a witty remark, a sly observation or a question that cuts through the baloney. These bold, beautiful women have the crystalline attraction of a powerful beam of light.

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Jean Arthur’s hard-bitten lady reporter in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is another Smartly Tailored.

ff jean loopHer hard-working wardrobe has the long slim, non-frilly lines of a career gal–nothing overtly fluffy or girly about her wardrobe.

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Jean’s whippet-like body is perfectly framed by her slim woolen dresses and crisply collared blouses.

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Stripes, military touches, and smartly angled hats tell us all we need to know about her. She’s one smart cookie!

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Norma Shearer is presented in primarily Smartly Tailored togs in The Women, but that film is very problematic when it comes to costuming, so we’ll save that discussion for later.

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If you have a smart aleck remark for almost any situation, will not be silenced during a heated debate, feel like a church lady in a floral print dress and sneer at frilly, silly garments, Smartly Tailored might be your tribe.

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Naturally charming

I get a lot of questions about what the difference is between these two types–Naturally Charming women often wear tailored, simple clothing. The main distinguishing mark? Smartly Tailored women dress sharp. They follow fashion right to the cutting edge and find the sharpest, snappiest clothes each season. They won’t wear any old thing; they know part of their power lies in a crisp, fresh, clean-edged look, whether by contrasting colors, stark lines or dramatic, often masculine silhouettes.

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Naturally Charming women are just as comfortable in an old pair of jeans and a white shirt as they are in a beloved skirt and sweater. They don’t put on airs and their lack of pretentions allows everyone around them to relax and be themselves. They seldom wear makeup except in professional situations and allow their hairstyle to be dictated by the natural inclination of their hair’s temperament.

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They favor simple, “classic” clothes–tried-and-true pieces that seem to never go out of style, because these gals really don’t like to shop all that much. While they like to look nice, they aren’t slaves to fashion. I find these women beautiful by their very grace of manner and self-ease. They usually have soft, kind eyes and an expression that welcomes everyone to stop and talk for a bit.

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Any shell-shocked soldier would love to come home to the arms of Teresa Wright.

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Her sweet, strong character and lovely voice would be a balm to the weary soul. Teresa is beyond beautiful in The Best Years of Our Lives; she is hearth and home, embodied.

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Teresa’s strong woman’s heart is the axle around which this story turns.

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Her younger neighbor, played by Cathy O’Donnell, is cut from the same homespun cloth. Brave, wise, sweet, courageous and loving–she accepts that her childhood sweetheart will just need a bit more help now that he’s lost his hands to war.

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Hers is a charm and appeal that cannot be found in a jar or on a shelf. It’s to the bone.

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These lovely women don’t need fashion-forward clothes or tricky hairstyles for allure–their loveliness blooms from within a deep spring of goodness. The ignorant and shallow regard this type of woman as “plain.”  We know better.

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Kind, gracious Melanie in Gone with the Wind is of this tribe.

ff olivia blueThese days, it’s much more likely that women yearn to be like passionate, fiery Scarlett, but it’s Olivia de Havilland’s dulcet-voiced Melanie who manages to convince others to do the right thing.

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It’s like that old proverb–the sun and wind bet on which of them can get a man to remove his coat; the sun’s coaxing warmth is more powerful than the blustery wind. Melanie’s glissading, viol-like voice and sympathetic eyes embody genuine concern and caring. She is beautiful in every sense of the word.

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Can anyone look at Irene Dunne as a stout-hearted, selfless Swedish mother in I Remember Mama and question her beauty? No one could call her glamorous, but for timeless beauty, Mama stands alone.

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Dunne gained weight to play the role, understanding that Mama’s attraction was her lack of vanity–her every thought was for her beloved family. I find that far more beautiful than the lasered-and-lipo’ed reality TV stars who represent “glamour” to some today, don’t you?

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If your friends and family come to you with their woes and worries and go away comforted, cheered, and strengthened, this might be your tribe.

ff mamaNow, off to bed, chickies! Next up, we’ll meet two other Star Style types as seen on screen at this year’s Turner Classic Movies Film Festival! The Sophisticated Ingénue and Lively Girl-Next-Door are just around the corner of our personal red carpet and there’s plenty to be learned from them about how to be your prettiest, best self!

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