Finding Your Tribe at the TCM Film Festival 2014: Part 4

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That’s passion, pet

When you invite a Passionate Beauty to the party, you’ll know it by the slight sense of unease you have about what MIGHT happen. We’ve encountered several Star Style types on our recap of TCMFF 14, but the pair of doozies yet to come are two of the most reviled and revered when they come from the high voltage end of the spectrum.

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Passionate Beauties come first, but lounging calculatedly in the background are the Sensual Bohemians, ready to pounce the moment your guard is down and you leave your man wandering the place alone. Passionates come in assorted flavors, but they all have a wattage that never fails to take center stage when they enter a joint–and boy, can they make an entrance! Let’s meet three of the more prominent Passionates from this year’s TCMFF. If this is your tribe, you’re one of those unforgettable, dangerously attractive types the Silver Screen usually assigns to stir up trouble.

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Wind, hell, more like a twister

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The most unlikely Passionate is the tough-as-nails troublemaker in Douglas Sirk’s gutbucket soapie, Written on the Wind. In contrast to her sister-in-law, demure Lauren Bacall, Dorothy Malone’s vampy-trampy role as the Mamboing hellcat is a revelation.

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At least, it was for the audience who thought she was such a nice young lady.

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Wearing skintight sheaths in fierce fabrics…

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transparent negligees…

ff dot coralrevealing gowns…

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dramatic lounge outfits…

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and overstated accessories…

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Dorothy chews up the scenery and makes every man within ten miles sit up and take notice.

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Dorothy won an Oscar for her no-holds-barred portrayal of an insatiable man-eater and she deserved it.

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Watch her ignite the screen in an assortment of gowns that are inches away from a wardrobe malfunction in this nice clip from the film.

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Shocking colors, dramatic add-ons, and body-conscious silhouettes are the Passionate’s calling cards and Dorothy runs the gambit.

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For this role, Dorothy’s poured-on/painted-on costumes line up with Sirk’s aesthetic dictates of major color themes. The eye-popping aggressively Pepto pink opening get-up says “I’m a WOMAN, GET IT?” (Get a load of that neckline plunge, will ya? Wowser!)

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The underpinnings of assertive hyper-femininity and frankly alluring motifs signal we’re in Passionate Beauty territory. And Dorothy is leading the pack.

vlcsnap-2014-05-18-12h34m36s49Go, Dorothy, GO!

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 This girl is on fire

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I adore Ann Miller and never more than when she’s educating poor dumb men as a delicious diva. (Ladies, notice the whopping big appetizer she has on her plate.)

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In Easter Parade, Ann’s lucky enough to flounce around in ensembles that typically include accessories of the canine variety.

ff annEven in period clothes, the differences between a nice Girl-Next-Door like Judy Garland’s Hannah and Ann’s Nadine are screamingly obvious and perfectly delineated by costumer Irene.

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Nadine’s glamorous outfits usually involve fur or feathers–or both–must-haves for the Passionate.

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Nadine has trained her minions well–Fred and handsome Peter Lawford know better than to show up without candy, gifts, toys, a hat, and/or flowers. Passionates are NOT subtle ladies. You bring tribute when you come to call.

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They make their preferences known by a few choice words or a withering look that communicates heavy scorn. They belong to themselves, know what they’re about, and typically rule their own lives as they see fit. A trapped Passionate is rare and not a pretty sight.

ff ann easterThey light up a room when they enter it.

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Heads turn, orchestras toodle a few bars of their theme songs (every Hollywood Passionate has a theme song), and men adjust their neckties. And then, she begins to dance…Now, ‘fess up. Who are you looking at in this scene?

ff ann tapKnowing this film’s backstory (and a more apt term is impossible to find) makes Ann’s dynamic performance even more stunning.

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I won’t relate the whole thing (you can find details about the incident and more Ann lore here), but suffice to say that even a broken back didn’t stop her from auditioning for this part (originally Cyd Charisse’s) and from dancing up her usual storm.

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Look closely; in certain scenes you can SEE the bust-to-belly taping that held her in one piece. Each night, after hours of grueling dancing, she returned to excruciating traction.  Now THAT’S a Passionate all over the place and that’s why I love them.

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Fire is their element and baby, it’s marvelous to see that energy explode on the big screen. Here’s Ann’s blistering her “Shakin’ The Blues Away” number—watch it and see if you can keep from clapping at its conclusion. Whatta dame!

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Wind, hell, more like a typhoon

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Few things in life make a Passionate Beauty happier than being the center of attention. And few things make this force of nature less happy than being ignored. One of the first visions of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind is her being queen bee surrounded by drones at the Twelve Oaks barbecue.

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Mammy’s dire warnings go unheeded as Scarlett brazenly flouts social expectations and “properness” to obtain what she wants. This is one of the keys to a Passionate’s life–she knows what she wants and typically goes after it, hang the consequences.

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Passionates stride through life with a supreme disregard for convention and the certain knowledge that they deserve what they want.

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Rarely is there a lot of plotting and planning, though, like Scarlett, she has a goal and relies on her luck, charm, and power to make it happen. She has energy to burn and she’s never going to wait for life to bring something her way. She’ll just reach out and grab it, thank you very much. Other women might not be allowed to do something but the rules don’t apply to Scarlett.

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She is a goddess, above Nature and beyond the rules of society.

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Rhett recognizes it in her and reinforces it by buying her scandalous attire that underlines her moral wantonness and demonstrates her reliance on situational ethics. Does this bother her? Oh, hell no.

ff scarlett green dressing gownScarlett’s wardrobe in GWTW is a masterpiece of iconography. From the picnic frock of green and white figured lawn with green velvet trim (BTW, velvet is another weapon in the Passionate’s arsenal)…

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…to a sequined and bedazzled velvet-and-feather dress in her namesake color, Scarlett wears high-end vulgarity like royal robes. And why not? She is the queen of all she surveys.

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At the TCMFF, many audience members gasped appreciatively when each gown swept into view.

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It’s one thing to see them parade across your TV set and quite another to see the rippling tumult of that velvet dressing gown trailing behind Scarlett on the epic Chinese Theatre screen.

ff scarlett red dressing gownI can honestly tell you that there are Walter Plunkett gowns in this movie that move me to tears, they are so incredibly beautiful.

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Alas that Bob Mackie ever made Carol Burnett’s hilarious mockery of Scarlett’s drapery gown–the rich green velvet stunner has been reduced to a punch-line.

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Modern audiences start laughing the moment Scarlett eyes Tara’s drapes speculatively, somewhat diminishing the impact of the scene. Rhett, however, is just as astonished as ever at Scarlett’s post-war glamour.  

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I was lucky enough to see the actual gown at an exhibit once. First of all, it’s TINY! (see more reflections on the Lilliputians we call stars here.) Scarlett’s waist, for all she mourned it, is puny. Secondly, her fetching hat has rooster feet on it. REAL ROOSTER FEET! With those nasty talons and spurs intact. Yes! No other Star Style type drapes herself with quite the assortment of pelts, paws, and body parts as the Passionate Beauty. After all, she IS a hunter.

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I don’t remember this dress from the film (more’s the pity) but check out the number of birds attached to it.

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Clothes for the Passionate Beauty are both vibrant self-expression and offensive weaponry and few wielded that deadly combination better than Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett. For generations, her blistering beauty stands for the unquenchable, undeniable spirit of the tiger in womanhood.

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Her beauty is like a trumpet blast played by Gabriel, Louis Armstrong, and Harry James.

ff viv hairI can’t tell you the number of women I’ve met for whom Scarlett is a role model and rallying cry. Many of us raise our fist to the sky and vow we’ll never be hungry again, no, not us nor our kin.

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Proud, haughty, commanding. That’s our Scarlett and we love her for it.

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All you can say is “She’s magnificent.” And you’re right. There’s a glory about the Passionate Beauty that’s astonishing. If this is your tribe, own it proudly. Raise that ratty polo shirt to the sky and vow you’ll never wear khaki again!

Let’s get sensual

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A sister to the Passionate Beauty is the Sensual Bohemian. When I first cataloged the Star Styles, I called this type the “Sensual Femme Fatale” but that term frightened that tribe’s modern-day sisters (a bit too obvious) so I toned it down a bit. Both these types are what today’s corporate world would call “customer-facing”–that is, these girls keep their eyes on the prize. And the prize is men.

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The biggest difference between the two is energy level and expenditure. Passionate Beauties have an almost inexhaustible fire that keeps their eyes wide open and alert. Sensuals reserve their energy for big doings–their typical attitude is languor and repose. Their eyes are sleepy; their glance is sidelong, but they are not in the least bit unaware of their surroundings or their audience.

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Double trouble

Mention Double Indemnity to a classic film fan and watch their face light up. Barbara Stanwyck’s remorseless portrayal of a conniving murderess is chillingly wonderful.

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When your “heroine” shows up for her first scene in a towel and an ankle bracelet, you know you’ve gotten ahold of a Sensual Bohemian. Bare feet are only on the wardrobe list for 3 Star Style types: Girl-Next-Door, Naturally Charming, and our Sensual sisters. It’s all about freedom and earthiness for the Bohos.

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They don’t like to be trapped or caged in anything but their own devices. Her toes must be free to caress, say, a tiger skin rug or get tickled by meadow grass or feel the cool kiss of the surf. Tactile input is vital to this type.

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Everything about Barbara’s marvelous Edith Head wardrobe indicates a Sensual Bohemian trapped like a caged animal in the suburbs. While the silhouettes are average, the way they’re worn is anything but.

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You almost never seen Phyllis standing or sitting straight up. Posture is for ladies. The Boho gal lounges, leans, reclines, slouches, cuddles, lolls, sprawls, stretches, and tilts.

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Barbara’s print blouse is marvelous…heavy satiny silk with a bold carnation print (which I suspect is deep red). Prints are Boho bread-and-butter. “The more the merrier” is her philosophy.

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Wearing a sweater, especially cashmere, is second nature for Bohos–it’s warm, hugs you back, and moves languorously with you. When you alluringly reach for your cigarette holder, the sweater cooperates. A tightly fitted cloth jacket does not. Outlining a curvy figure is a sweater’s job and it does the work admirably. Bohos love sweaters.

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Off-beat articles of clothing, especially romantic ones, are another weapon in the Bohos arsenal (we’ll see a lot of that in our next Boho below).

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Phyllis aligns herself with her tribe by wearing wrapped-and-tied blouses, bold tribal jewelry, and lots of textured fabrics, especially liquidy ones, like satin.

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Wearing an ankle bracelet under your nylons to a business meeting takes brass–don’t do it. Phyllis’ Boho soul won’t be denied. She’s tagging herself in an unmistakable way and declaring “I do what I want…and you’ll like it, baby!” The femme fatale knows what turns men on and she plays to that strength (or weakness).

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Even though Phyllis is evil incarnate, her 21st Century sister Bohos can still pick up a few fashion tips from her and incorporate a few of her less blatant ways to add the luxe your gypsy soul craves.

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Luxurious fabrics are the key and show-stopping prints–grab a few blouses like Phyllis’ marvelous floral print, stock up on cashmere, and add some oomph to your workday wardrobe (just leave the ankle bracelet at home).

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Playing footsie

Speaking of bare feet, Kim Novak’s are on display for much of Bell, Book, and Candle, surely a contender for oddest Christmas movie ever. I personally have to ignore the May-December romance angle–no one, not even Jimmy Stewart, believes that the sexy witch Gillian would go for Mr. Nobody upstairs. But, hey, it’s Hollywood and since they were such a hit in Vertigo, the studios figure why mess with success.

ff kim jim barefootJean Louis’ slinky, jungle cat designs are fantastically sensual and purrrrrrrrrrfect for the practically liquid Novak.

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This was Kim’s year–critics were taking her seriously post-Vertigo and she pours it on in this terrific role.

ff kim catGillian’s witchy wardrobe is a dream-come-true for bohemian types…accessorized by tribal jewelry and with nods to medieval sorcery, it’s what the well-dressed witch is wearing this year.

ff kim bbc stillsHooded capes over 14th-century inspired gowns give the very modern Kim that air of mystery that sensuals love so much.

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See the bejeweled sleeve bands below? Pure Morgan Le Fay. The deep garnet red is the perfect shade to accent Kim’s “lavender blonde” crop.

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Sensual Bohemians are the Star Style that loves to drape themselves in extremely romantic clothes.

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They wear vintage at the drop of a cloche. In fact, that’s one of the tell-tale marks of a boho–the allure of the past is expressed in every garment, somehow.

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Gillian’s animal prints are another hallmark of her tribe–both Sensuals and Passionates enjoy adding touches of nature and tactile excitement to their ensembles.

ff kim bbc 4Here, Jean Louis drapes his witch in leopard, a jungle-bred cousin of the Siamese Pyewacket, Gillian’s medium.

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Few Hollywood sex symbols wore sensational tops better than Kim–her signature was the deep, deep neckline, either plunge or oversized cowls that revealed skin at every slow-motion stretch.

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And an equally seductive flip side.

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The biggest disappointment to me (and many other fans of this film) is when Gillian goes over to the light side. Her fluffy, frothy, “nobody here but us girls” dress at the finale is a Peter Pan-collared disaster. It looks ridiculous on her, but pleases her standard-issue suburban fiancée, so I guess that’s all that matters.

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We can only hope she took a look in the mirror one day, kicked off her pumps, sent Jimmy on his way, and roared back to voluptuous life.

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If you can’t pass a display of cashmere sweaters without petting them, love wrapping men around your little finger with a sigh, adore satin and velvet, wear sentimental jewelry, feel you were born in the wrong era, simply must try on hats, and crave fur even while you’re feeling slightly guilty about it, this might be your tribe.

ff kim bbc 3BONUS: Kudos to Kim

Sensual Bohemians are usually sensitive, artistic people who wear their souls on their sleeves, which makes Kim an ideal icon for her tribe.

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I thought this was the perfect forum to share a bit about Kim’s post-Oscar night meltdown both to illustrate some truths about this Star Style tribe and report on a pretty significant event. Kim’s Oscar night embarrassment has been shared many times via many media, so I won’t belabor it. But, if you missed it, she showed up at the Oscars apparently tipsy to present an award alongside Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey honored his upbringing by covering her script lapses and by graciously putting his arm around her to guide her through the segment. A true Southern gentleman, for my money. He even said “Yes, ma’am” at one point. I could have kissed him.

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The media exploded almost immediately, shredding everything from her ‘botched plastic surgery” to her woozy delivery. Kim, by her own words, was devastated by the brutal (but predictable) attacks and retreated into her former reclusive state. Then, something in this emotionally fragile woman snapped. She stood up and fought back.

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At her introductory remarks for Bell, Book, and Candle at the TCMFF, she asked Robert Osborne if she could address “the elephant in the room.” rather than chat about backstory to a room full of fans who could probably spout more trivia about the making of that film than she could. Robert (whom I later found out had already agreed to this topic diversion before showtime) was honored to help set the record straight.

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Knowing that Turner Classic Movies fans were bound to be among her most loving and loyal, she shared with them her pain and her determination to use her public humiliation to lift others up. She did so beautifully, and possibly gained more respect and fans with her honesty and humanity than she had with her uneven Hollywood career.

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Kim’s Facebook page statement follows: KIM NOVAK SPEAKS OUT ABOUT OSCAR BULLYING

It’s time to address the elephant in the room…the Oscars. I was very excited when I was asked to be a presenter on the show. I was excited, yet nervous.

Years ago, I walked away from Hollywood partially because I didn’t stand up to the bullies. I caved in to the pressure instead of fighting for what I felt was right…and I didn’t have the courage to prove myself to my peers through my work.

After my appearance on the Oscars this year, I read all the jabs. I know what Donald Trump and others said, and I’m not going to deny that I had fat injections in my face. They seemed far less invasive than a face-lift. It was done in 2012 for the TCM interview special. In my opinion, a person has a right to look as good as they can, and I feel better when I look better.

When I was honored at the Cannes Film Festival last year, I received an overwhelming standing ovation. Yet, in Hollywood, after the Oscars, I was bullied by the press and the public on the Internet and TV. The only difference that night was that I had taken a pill to relax—that I shouldn’t have taken. I had been fasting for three days and it affected my behavior. I regret taking it.

However, I will no longer hold myself back from speaking out against bullies. We can’t let people get away with affecting our lives. We need to stand up to them in a healthy way by speaking out, working out and acting out. I am speaking out now because I don’t want to harbor unhealthy feelings inside me anymore.

One of the reasons I enjoy exercising and painting so much is that I can let out my frustrations and reactions to what’s happening in the world around me by working it out in a healthy way. It helps me, and doesn’t hurt anything or anybody. People need to get these things out of their systems and stand up to bullying. I believe there would be less suffering and violence, too!
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Amen, Kim!  

Women on the march

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When TCMFF fans arrived at the Egyptian Theater this year, they were greeted by a banner from 1939’s The Women. I’ve held off including any of the Star Style types from this film (and there are many!) as it deserves its very own post, so I’ve reserved it for my final report on this year’s eventful TCMFF.  I think it’s one of the most brilliant, beautifully costumed studies of misanthropy ever made and would love to tell you why in my next post. See you then!

Here’s the first part of our TCMFF 14 review here where we see how the Smartly Tailored and Charmingly Natural tribe is represented. Here’s the 2nd part, where we take a look at the Girl-Next-Door. Then, we examine the Sophisticated Ingenue in Part 3. Enjoy!