August 21, 2009

Sex and the Single Girl (1964)

My Ratings:
Production Design (wardrobe/hair+makeup & set design & milieu) = 7
Performances/Direction = 6.9

It's intolerably hot, humid, and sticky so let's end this week with a raunchy sex comedy befitting of this weather.

Sex and the Single Girl stars Natalie Wood as a 23 y.o. psychologist (with a PhD! :::rolls eyes:::) who just recently wrote a bestselling book by the same name encouraging women to "own their sexuality." Tony Curtis plays a sleezy, underhanded magazine writer set on exposing her either as a virginal fraud who actually knows nothing about sex or relationships or as a nymphomaniac floozy who's thrown all her morals out the window (yeah, because apparently a girl can't be anything in between).


I will get the scoop, I will!

It's got all the stereotypical criteria of a fun, screwball comedy - mistaken identities, marital strife, suggestive sexual innuendos, and over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek performances. It's also got heavyweights Richard Quine as the director, Joseph Heller (yes, of Catch-22 fame) as the writer, and Lauren Bacall, Henry Fonda, and Mel Ferrer as supporting actors. Natalie Wood was adorable and Tony Curtis....erghh...well, Tony Curtis should only be shot in black & white but whatever, I'll deal. And it's got loads of allusions - almost too many - to the box office hit Some Like It Hot (1959) in which Curtis starred with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe so it would help if you've seen that too.

So let's start off with the interior/set design. I know I've been neglecting my design enthusiasts in favor of fashion lately and I apologize. I'll concentrate on Dr. Helen Brown's (Wood) office and apartment since hers are more interesting. The color scheme for both is a very chic and modern black & white. Notice her desk has black trim/sides and white rattan (?) frontal screen. The black & white carry over to the chairs, lamps, rug, and upholstery.


Black & white striped seat back. Also, notice the white phone.

Black & white striped chaise lounge.

Now we move over to Dr. Brown's apartment, where we seen more black & white. Striped drapes. White sofa. White lamps. White walls. White carpet. Black & white end tables...the list goes on and on. Btw, nice symmetry with the lamps/sofa/console table set-up.

Her bedroom. Love the ornate black headboard with the scrolled pillars. There are better shots of it in later images where I talk about her robe. Also, charcoal drawings of women hang on the wall; appropriate since she's an advocate of female empowerment in the bedroom.

In stark contrast, sleazy Bob Weston's (Curtis) apartment is full of color. Green armchairs, red rug, dark metallic lampshades, and warm mahogany toned wood furniture. It's also very cluttered, full of whimsical collectibles.

Ignore the scantily clad woman on the right and focus on that gorgeous antique book stand!

This isn't Bob's house - it's actually his next door neighbors' - but I like the rack (left) that holds the hats and canes/walking sticks.

Okay, now we can move onto the clothes!

We start with Dr. Brown, whose obsession with black & white carries over into her wardrobe too. Except for one outfit at the very end, those are the only two colors she wears. Note, cute glasses, rhinestone hair pin and large cocktail rings.

Pearl earrings, white wool coat, black gloves, scarf + purse.

B+w houndstooth coat, black fur hat + stole + gloves. And cat-eye sunglasses, which she has already taken off.

White cashmere sweater, b+w checked tweed shirt, long black leather gloves, long pearl necklace.

This white satin cocktail dress is sooo gorgeous. Fantastic bust detail - notice, small rhinestone pendant dangling from the center. Also, long white gloves and a large pearl bracelet over the glove (right). And white telephone again.

This little sexy number is supposed to be a robe! I like how they used rope as the tie. Also b+w striped sofa pillow.

A full-length shot of the "robe." Whoa, look at that slit up the side. Also, you can see her headboard in better detail in this image.

Completely black outfit.

Side view of her tall pillbox (?) hat. Nice damask upholstery on the settee. And the screen panels in the background.

Finally here she is wearing a gorgeous canary yellow dress. It's the only outfit she wears that isn't b+w in the whole film. I suppose one can say that the donning of such a bright, happy color is indication that she's finally fallen in love.

The fabric is so feminine and flowy and notice the chiffon scarf attached to one shoulder.

Now we move onto Lauren Bacall who plays Sylvia, one half of the husband-wife team who lives next door to Bob Weston. Henry Fonda plays her husband Frank but his outfits are uninteresting so I don't have many images of him. Sylvia and Frank quarrel all the time, mostly because Sylvia tends to get very jealous. Frank is in the women's hosiery business so he's surrounded by beautiful leggy models all the time. Bob (Curtis) eventually uses Sylvia & Frank's marital problems to his advantage and poses as Frank to get to Dr. Brown, becoming one of her patients.

Sylvia in two different shades of purple/violet. Notice that magnificent stone (marble?) fireplace in the background. The mantel also contains a large mirror flanked by ornately carved figures.

You can barely see it, but notice that small strip of ribbon across the top of the lampshade (left). I like that idea. Very DIY. Also, white telephone again. Oh, and that's a dress she's wearing, not a robe.

Sylvia in a yellow sleeveless button-up dress. I think it's made of wool.

Close-up of Sylvia's typical 1960s hairstyle.

Sylvia's grayish tan dress with matching capelet.

Here's her hair partially pinned back.

In a glamorous black sequined dress.

Pink coat + white gloves and handbag. Like the large shiny buttons on the coat.

Below is Bob Weston's secretary. A complete airhead but a delight nevertheless. She had the best hairstyle out of all of the characters in my opinion.

The back of her hair.

She's knitting when she should be working. Also, notice the pretty cup full of newly sharpened pencils.

The matching beret is so cute.

Here is Gretchen, Bob Weston's "girlfriend." They just casually together, nothing serious. She always has really big hair in every scene.

The back of her hair.

Another up-do but this time, she has a headband underneath.

Really cute equestrian inspired outfit, with the olive green plaid coat, black leather gloves, and hat.

A full-length view of that same outfit.

Never mind who the girl is below. She's not very important. But look at her hair. Oh dear, what is going on there? Look at all these meticulously constructed curls.

Side view of her up-do.

Just for laughs, here is Dr. Brown's secretary who, after reading her book, undergoes a "transformation"....
sexsinglegirl_secretaryunbuttoningblouse letting her hair down and adding color to her wardrobe!

Okay, maybe she went a little too far...not really age appropriate...

Oh, and one last thing. Here is Frank & Sylvia's anniversary cake. I think the boxing ring is a cute idea - because they fight A LOT. It's always a boxing match between those two.

Okay, I'm off to upstate NY for a few days to help usher the lil' bro into college. He'll be attending my alma mater so I have to show him around, tell him where all the best bathrooms are on campus, how to sneak food out of the dining halls, the best places to take naps between classes, etc. - you know, all the important stuff. He's almost a decade my junior and I can't believe how quickly the years have flown by. I shall return next week!


So funny that you did this one. I've been thinking about tracking down a copy of this book for awhile. I love those outdated guides on how a woman should act.

I also just finished (a day ago) a book about costume designer Edith Head and how she wouldn't admit she ever used breast pads or padded bras but it was obvious she had for Natalie Wood in this movie. However, I expected the use to look more obvious from how the book made it sound. So, I guess Natalie was "famously" flat or something?

Isaspacey - It's funny you mentioned the breast pads b/c when I first saw Natalie Wood in the white cocktail dress, the FIRST thing that popped into my head was, "WHOA! Where did she get THOSE?!" I did not know that they padded her up. I actually thought - did she just have a baby? But she didn't give birth until much later. She wasn't completely flat but I guess they needed to boost her up a bit to fit the tone of the movie. Everything is pretty over-the-top in this one.

Oh, and I forgot to say - yes, I LOVE those outdated etiquette and social conduct books. I find them really amusing to read. The ones from the Victorian period are my favorite.

I thought Natalie Wood was at her cutest and most endearing here. I know you liked the secretary's hairstyle best, but I thought Natalie's looked really good too.

Some trivia: Tony Curtis' "sort of" girlfriend here is Fran Jeffries, who was married to the director, Richard Quine, and his dingy secretary is played by Leslie Parrish, who later married Richard Bach, author of "Jonathon Livingston Seagull".

Does anyone know who did the artwork in her office. You can see them in the back ground in the first picture. Any help would be great thank you.

am also looking for who did the artwork in her office did you find out

I SO love the set design in this movie!!! I am using the black and white as inspiration for my master bedroom. Set designer did not seem to get much billing on this movie, and I really think both Natalie's apartment and office are amazing.

I loved the wardrobes in this movie ! All of the lady's looked fabulous. Hoe can yo ynot love Lauren Bacall and Natalie Wood?

Boris Artzybasheff is the artist! Cheers!

What wardrobe! The outfit, these long leather gloves....Wow so elegant and appealing to our eyes. The truth is western gals used to dress better and more femininely back then. Interestingly, Eastern women (e.g. Russians) still dress more femininely and more often than not, will dress up even to go grocery shopping, and will wear make up accordingly. The way my Russian girl friend dresses reminds me of those movies from the 60s, and quite often her outfits will include long gloves. Extremely elegant and sexy in my book.

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