August 1, 2009

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005) Pt. 2

My Rating (from 1 to 10):
Production Design (wardrobe/hair+makeup & set design) = 9
Performances/Direction = 7.5

Mrs. Henderson Presents is an Oscar-nominated film based on the "true story" of the Windmill Theatre in London during the WWII era. After her husband dies, the wealthy widow buys a dilapidated theatre on a whim, hires Vivian Van Damm as manager, and together they turn it into a commercial success.

a computer enhanced London during the late 1930s
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Bob Hoskins as "Vivian van Damm" and Dame Judi Dench as "Mrs. Henderson":
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The Windmill Theatre lit up at night.
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At first, what set the Windmill Theatre apart from all the others was their continuous back-t0-back performances during a time when theatres only had 1-2 shows a day. They called their vaudeville variety reviews "Revudeville" and it proved to be a very profitable enterprise until everyone else started to copy their methods.

As a solution, the bold Mrs. Henderson suggested adding female nudity to the performances. After all, they were already doing it in Paris at the Moulin Rouge. But the UK was more prudish and such a shocking display private bits was outrageous at the time. Fortunately, Mrs. Henderson happened to be good friends with the Lord Chamberlain and managed to convince him to allow it on the grounds that the actresses would stay perfectly still, like figures in a tableaux so it could be considered "art." The concept proved to be a huge success.

here are the girls during rehearsal, practicing how to hold their positions.
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i really love their silk robes. this green one goes so well with her blond hair.
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One of the tamer naked silhouettes. I'm showing this b/c I think the set-up is actually quite lovely and classy.
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Then WWII broke out. But the theatre stayed open even as London was being bombed because its auditorium seating was actually below ground and thus considered relatively safe during the air raids. The performers bravely gave new meaning to the phrase "the show must go on!" and were known to get right back up to continue even after nearby bomb blasts collapsed the sets.

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her blond hair is just gorgeous against the royal blue
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Here's a few screencaps of the girls in the dressing room. I've always loved the glamour associated with vanity mirror lights so I could resist sharing these images:
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the b&w photo at the bottom of her mirror is of the legendary Louis Brooks.
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reading the cards that came with the flowers sent in by admirers.
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love the hair.
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love her red silk embroidered robe and her teal headband/scarf (left)
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This is also the best of I've seen Judi Dench look in a long while. The costumes they put her in were exquisite. I also love her hats. They are mostly all in the same style but in different colors to match her outfit for the day. It's sort of a like a beret but one side is gathered and the folds are held together by a long hair-pin like thing. Does anyone know the official term for a hat of this style?

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Love the long teal coat/robe with the gold floral embroidery. And her diamond tiara+earrings+necklace set. Very regal.
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Check out the gorgeous coral bead necklace and the green drop earrings.
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Love her chunky jade necklace and the black Asian robe.
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Now for some other images. Here's Mrs. Henderson's best friend in the middle, surrounded by actresses from the show. Loving the long gloves on her. Wish someone would bring those back in fashion.
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The colorful plaid coat and red beret make me long for autumn.
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INTERIORS:
Love the soft yellow wallpaper with the pink floral motif.
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Love the green chinoiserie wallpaper in the dining room.
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Here's a closeup of the green-gold wallpaper.
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More great wallpaper.
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Mrs. Henderson at her husband's funeral.
Does anyone know what those spikey things on the roof of the car are called?

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Love the design on these seat backs!
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Overall, my feelings toward the film can best be described by the words of Roger Ebert, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is not great cinema, and neither was the Windmill great theater, but they both put on a good show. It's a decent film. Both Bob Hoskins and Judi Dench gave quality performances. Even Kelly Reilly (remember her as the red-head Brit in L'Auberge Espagnole?) shined.

3 comments:

Some of the actresses seemed more uncomfortable in the clothes than they did out of clothes! Not Dench, of course -- she was born to wear the past perfectly.

You often wish that old style flourishes would come back -- I just wish that men would match our attempt at style the way they used to! How many young women do you see looking well turned-out next to men slouching along in 'everyday' clothing? Which inevitably means something is stained or torn, or simply very low class. Scruff is usually involved.

And since I'm digging Vivian's clothing immensely (older men & waistcoats... mmm) how about giving us your view of 'A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy'? The actors don't just wear the clothes -- they employ them as props, metaphors, diversion, enhancement -- it's really ALL about the clothes!

Both my husband and I loved Mrs. Henderson presents, and thought a lot more of it than Roger Ebert did. But then we are both really into the 30s and 40s when it comes to design inspiration, clothes and the interiors. For me particularly, Judi Dench's costumes capture that sort of grande dame style of the older woman in 30-40's films, which just has so much presence!

some wonderful 'safe' photos, from that movie!

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