January 13, 2011

Royal Wedding (1951)

This is a bit late in coming but in honor of the recent engagement of Prince William and his long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton, I thought I'd post about the film that immediately popped in my mind when I saw that #royalwedding became one of the top 10 trending tags on Twitter. The film is Royal Wedding, a sweet lil' picture made in 1951 starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell as a brother-sister dancing duo who take their act to London in time for the royal wedding of Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

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Art direction was helmed by Cedric Gibbons and Jack Martin Smith and set decoration by MGM loyalist Edwin B. Willis. The clothes in this film are absolutely lovely. Let's start with Jane Powell's:

Loved the schoolboy-like leather handbag but moreso, check out the vivid blue tie matched with a gray tweed suit jacket on Fred Astaire.
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Need an idea for your 4th of July party? How about this outfit?
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Hurrah for red suits and dramatic wide-brimmed hats!
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I have seen versions of this striped shirt at Banana Republic or Gap countless times.
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What I love most about the clothes in the movie is the bright colours on Astaire. That canary yellow cardigan is wonderful on him. Men shouldn't be afraid to wear colour! Take note, GQ!
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Just drivin' along, lookin' perfect.
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That tan wool coat (although it looks like a cape) with the checked lining and oversized pockets looks so cozy and perfect for the weather right now. I want one!
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I love the dress on Powell. Lovely sleeve and button detail. And the tie at the collar.
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I believe my mother owns this same outfit. I like the golden clasps on the gray dress.
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Here's another view of the gray dress.
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Here's a shot of that same outfit with a hunter green wool cape.
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Checked blouse.
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A view of the back of the blouse.
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I wasn't too fond of this pink dress (looked too much like something one would wear to junior prom). And the neck bouquet is a bit awkward.
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However, this black dress with the bright yellow waist and the sheer green wrap is to die-for. I also adore the little black hat.
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Another bright red dress on Powell. Love the cut of the collar and d├ęcolletage.
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Moving on to the other female lead: Sarah Churchill plays Anne, Astaire's love interest in this film. If you're thinking, Churchill...could there be any relation to...the answer is, YES. Sarah was Winston Churchill's daughter!

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Here she is, among other dancers during an audition.
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This is the first time I have encountered Sarah Churchill in a film and I was pleasantly surprised by her understated performance in it. Since I didn't know who she was at first, I thought, she must be a famous dancer....because it seemed rather unusual for an actress of say, her peculiar looks, to be cast in such a coveted role alongside Mr. Astaire. I also wondered if her influential connections were partially responsible for her screen and stage career...but nevertheless, I did greatly appreciate the contrast she brought to the film. One would expect a pretty young starlet to be Astaire's love interest but instead we were given a more "matured" woman (Churchill was 37 at the time) and this made the romance far more realistic and shall we say, endearing.

It's interesting how plain the clothes were that Churchill was given to wear. Was this to highlight Britain's pragmatism in contrast to Hollywood's flair for glamour? We see her character mostly decked out in drab, matronly boxy suit-dresses.

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Here are a few images of some of the outfits worn by the other male characters in this film (I'm saving Fred for last).

Great pop of colour in that striped scarf the cabbie is sportin'.
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Quintessential English gentleman's three-piece tweed suit, with hat and cane!
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Same character as from above, slightly different outfit and here we see his shoes! What is that particular style called again? They look like oxfords but it seems like the top part is made out of fabric? 
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That tie on the guy in the middle screams Versace....It's not though.
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Tan suit + burgundy tie combos.
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And last but not least, the legendary Mr. Astaire himself! We've already seen him (and his outfits) in several of the screencaps above but there are a few of just him by himself.

Key word: Colour!
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Matching neck scarf and belt (the belt being not a traditional belt at all).
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Again, notice his belt is actually a cord looped around twice and tied to the side.
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So dapper!
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Alright, so there was a bit of camera magic involved....
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But still so cool!
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Overall, this is a fun little movie that I hope all of you get the chance to check out one of these days. Okay, that's all for now, folks. Have a great weekend!

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15 comments:

The fabric over the shoes is called a spat (or spats). I think. That's what they were called when I was in marching band, at least. I love all the bright primary colors in this movie! I especially love that first outfit you have Sarah Churchill in, with the green skirt and flats. So cute! Too bad the rest of the stuff she wore was so stifled.

Great post! The color and cheer in those great screencaps is just what I needed on a gray January day.

Was there ever a more elegantly dressed man than Fred Astaire? He had such an eye for detail and always looked so jaunty and put together.

The colors & patterns on the clothes are just the *best* in this movie! One of my all-time favs! :)

I am always so envious of how teeny the ladies' waists were back in the day! Even with a girdle I can't imagine being that wasp-y.

Yes, those spats are made of a sturdy fabric, and they typically fasten under the shoe and button (or zip or, these days, velcro!) up the side. LOVE them! And I think Churchill's dour wardrobe is a reflection of the "Britishness" of her life, vs. the upbeat Yankee clothes sported by the 2 Americans. Powell's a teeeeeeny litte thing --look at the darting on her blouse. Today's blouses rarely have darts and most of us wind up looking like guys! Churchill wasn't teeny at all! ...we see (again) that she has to wear flats to make Fred look taller!
Thanks for the EXCELLENT crisp screen caps. They are marvelous!
Fun one!

Great choice! Love this movie!

I'm excited for your month of travel. I saw this blog post today and it made me think of you. Hope you find some great tips:
http://pretavoyager.blogspot.com/2011/01/social-travel-network.html

Colleen - Spats! Thank you so much for the info! My knowledge of wardrobe vocabulary is still very limited and I am always greatly appreciative any contributions from y'all!

Happythoughtsdarling - Happy to have brightened up your day! Yes, Fred Astaire had great style! I wish men nowadays would wear more colour. Bright yellow is just so striking!

Hannah B - Hurrah! I'm glad you love it as much as I do. :)

Miss Tami Lee - Goodness, I know!! It seems like they had smaller frames overall though. I'm pretty petite myself but unfortunately do not have a tiny waist! I'm very curious to whether they developed those waists as a result of tight-lacing? I thought girdles were slowly being phased out by the 50s?

Marline - Thanks!! I really appreciate your input! My of costume/fashion history is so deficient, which is another reason why I like keeping a blog so when I see something interesting but don't know what it is, you all wise folks can educate me!

Josephine - Ooh, thanks for that great link! I'll definitely check it out! I'm really really excited too!!

Love how Mr. Astaire wears his clothes. So much style.

I just LOVE your blog. I discovered it some months ago and I have decided to follow it!

I am an Image Consultant from Barcelona who just adore films from the 40's,50's and 60's so this blog is a kind of dream came true! Hope you post more often!!

CONGRATULATIONS!!

Patricia
http:// misstoptenimage.blogspot.com

Just found your blog through Colette Patters. Lovely screen caps.
Regarding Miss Churchill - Fred Astaire also had a connection with the British upper class - his sister Adele was married to the brother of the Duke of Devonshire - hence Adele became the aunt-in-law of Kathleen Kennedy, sister of John F.

any idea who the costume designer was for this film . I can't find it anywhere

@Anonymous - I'm not sure who the costume designer was either (and I also can't seem to find the information online) but since Royal Wedding was a MGM picture, there is a possibility that the credit might go to Adrian? I think he was still the head designer for MGM around that time?

Oops, correction. Adrian left MGM to start his own business in 1941. He was replaced by Irene Gibbons who left in 1949. Helen Rose and Walter Plunkett then become the lead designers after Irene left.

Just got done watching this movie and love your blog! However, I have one bad comment about the movie's costumes. Who the heck put the women in those awful foot sacks in the "I Left My Hat in Haiti" number? I'm not sure I've ever seen the whole number because I keep staring at those shoes!

So, who the heck was the costume designer??? Have searched everywhere. TCM lists tons of cast and crew members down to who sang for Keenan Wynn, but nothing for costumes . Is not on movie credits. Thanks.

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