Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)

Maggie McNarmara, Dorothy McGuire, and Jean Peters star in this Academy Award nominated film about three American secretaries working abroad in Rome, Italy.

Charade (1963)

Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant star in this delightful romantic comedy involving spies and missing money. Set in Paris. Walter Matthau also makes an appearance as a CIA agent.

The Best of Everything (1959)

Original tagline: "These are the girls who want the best of everything...but often settle for a lot less!" Mid-century drama following the lives of three young career women living in New York City.

High Society (1956)

Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra star in this delightful musical comedy remake of the beloved classic The Philadelphia Story (1940).

Far From Heaven (2002)

Set against a spectacular autumn palette, Juilanne Moore, Dennis Quaid, and Dennis Haysbert star in this compelling drama which grapples with issues of race and homosexuality in conservative 1950s Connecticut.

Death In Venice (1971)

An aging German music composer sojourns to Venice in hopes of improving his health and finds himself enraptured by the beauty of a young adolescent boy. A visually mesmerizing film.

Cracks (2009)

Based on the novel of the same name, Eva Green stars as a young, charismatic teacher at an all-girls English boarding school.

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

Based on the true story of the Windmill Theatre in London, Judi Dench stars as a wealthy, eccentric widow who purchases a theatre and turns it into a somewhat Moulin Rouge-esque venue that featured nude performers.

Desk Set (1957)

The introduction of computer technology renders the reference jobs of three women potentially useless. Stars Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Sylvia (2003)

A biopic of writer Sylvia Plath set in the 1950s starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig.

Howard's End (1992)

Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter star in this E.M. Forster classic set in turn-of-the-century England.

December 19, 2012

Downton Abbey (Costumes & Sets from Series 1 & 2)

Much like the rest of the western television watching world, I was quickly gripped by Downton Abbey fever after the series premiered two years ago in 2010 (has it really been so long since?!). The lovely 
Mrs. Michelle Obama made headlines recently for requesting ITV to provide her with DVDs of the new Series 3 a couple months ahead of the scheduled January 2013 U.S. release and I can totally understand why! But fortunately I've been across the pond this half of the year and was able to actually watch series 3 as it aired on in real time. But out of respect for those who haven't seen it, I am holding off posting images from the latest episodes until later and instead present to you some selected ones from the first two series below. I hope you enjoy them!

August 21, 2012

Rosemary & Thyme: Full-time gardeners, part-time sleuths

While I prepare my next massive post on Poirot, I just wanted to quickly drop in and say "Hello!" and briefly mention this lovely little British TV series that I stumbled upon on Netflix. Having consumed all there is to watch when it comes to screen adaptations of Agatha Christie's detective novels, I needed something else to scratch my itch for crime mysteries and Rosemary & Thyme did just the trick! What I love most about this delightful series is that although each episode involves murder, the scenes themselves are not graphic and the overall tone is that of a light-hearted one. So if you're a fan of shows featuring elderly female sleuths such as Miss Marple, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, or Mr. She Wrote, you might consider checking out Rosemary & Thyme. 


The pilot starts off with horticultural professor Rosemary Boxer (Felicity Kendal) getting sacked from her university due to budget cuts and ex-policewoman turned housewife with a penchant for gardening Laura Thyme (Pam Ferris) in the throes of a divorce after discovering that her husband of 20-something years had been cheating on her with a 23-year old blond who "is as thin as a bloody rail." The two middle aged women meet under coincidental circumstances and after solving homicide together, realize that they make quite the team and thus decide to start a new chapter in both of their lives by becoming business partners (as landscapers).

The chemistry between Laura and Rosemary is great and the duo prove to be a delight to watch but this show might be particularly enchanting for the gardening enthusiast because you are treated to breathtaking settings such as these below:

the perfect seating area


grand English estate with beautifully manicured lawns




such gorgeous brick archways!


the private gardens behind the large row houses in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London




Because Rosemary was previously an academic and traveled far and wide in the spirit of research, she has friends and colleagues all over the world and the wealthier ones always seem to be in need of a garden over-haul. Thus, Rosemary and Laura are frequently invited to France, Italy and Spain and we as viewers get to indulge in locales such as this one below:

somewhere along the French coast

an drool-worthy villa with a magnificent set of stairs leading up to the main entrance


a Moorish-influenced garden in southern Spain:


I haven't written a post featuring noteworthy locations/settings in a long time but this one was too wonderful to pass up. I hope you enjoy the images! Rosemary & Thyme is available on Netflix.

July 12, 2012

Ms. Lemon: Secretary Chic (Agatha Christie's Poirot)

What does one do when cooped up in the apartment due to incessant rain and insufferable humidity? Pay the bills? Tackle mountains of belated paperwork? Catch up on unread books?  Commit to studying the local language? No, one watches endless hours of Poirot episodes.

In the last couple of weeks, I have managed to plough through the first six seasons of the endearing British crime series starring David Suchet as Agatha Christie's ingenious lil' Belgian detective with the iconic moustache. That amounts to approximately forty-five hours of television consumption in mere days! Appalling! :::lowers head in self-disappointment::: However, I suppose my time wasn't entirely wasted in the process, as my pathological attention-to-detail tendencies have compelled me to take note of the esteemed fashions featured in the show - so much so that I have compiled a rather extensive set of screencaps totaling over 150 images... Not quite sure of how to present them to you in blog post format, I figured I'd start with the character of Ms. Lemon, Poirot's hard-working secretary whose diligence and perfectionism match his own.

Having never read the Agatha Christie novels, I confess to knowing nothing more about the characters and their backgrounds other than what was conveyed through the television show (of which I was told stayed pretty well in-lined with the original cases). From mere deduction, Ms. Lemon seemed to have worked for Poirot from sometime toward the end of WWI through the mid-1940s. The character in the ITV series was portrayed by Pauline Moran, who appeared in 8 seasons, 31 episodes from 1989 - 2001. The series is still in production, and is set to film its 13th (and final) season this year, after which all the Poirot novels would have been completely adapted for screen (that is, with the exception of one short story, The Lemesuirer Inheritance).

The bulk of episodes that I watched in which Ms. Lemon was featured seemed to have taken place sometime in the 1920s-30s. Art Deco influences could be seen in just about everything from that period, with the design aesthetic spanning from architecture to interior design to fashion and jewelry, etc.

Keeping with her fastidious character, Ms. Lemon embodied "secretarial chic" by appearing in stylish but appropriately subdued dresses, low heeled shoes, and understated jewelry. While not always "fashionable," she made certain to appear well-groomed and "put-together." She also wore tortoise shell eyeglasses and set her auburn hair in the popular "finger waves" style of that era. The length of her hair varied but when it was longer, she would pull it into a tight bun (sometimes two smaller buns) seated at the base of her neck. Never did she go with "loose" hair. Finally, her makeup was generally light and minimal, with the exception of the occasional bright red lipstick choices.

The buttons and middle embellishment on the front of this gray dress is very "art deco". 
{from episode: "The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb"}

March 5, 2012

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)

The great and incomparable Vivien Leigh, star of some of the most iconic characters in cinema history - Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) - married for twenty years to the equally legendary Laurence Olivier and to whom my dearest Maman dedicated one of my middle names, has been on my mind a lot lately, in part due to the the impending Academy Awards that are set to take place this coming weekend but also because those lovely folks over at Turner Classic Movies (kindred spirits, I secretly refer to them as) have been running a month-long "31 Days of Oscar" series that routes itself to ancient Rome this week.

Never quite the avid scholar of Ancient Classics, when on the subject of Rome, my mind conjures up instead images from Hollywood's love affair with the city, and with the entire country of Italy for that matter, and I start to wax nostalgic films like Roman Holiday (1953) and Three Coins in the Fountain (1954, see my post here). Another mid-century film set in Rome that probably doesn't get nearly as much mention as it should is The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961) starring no other than the aforementioned Ms. Leigh and the then newly anointed "It Boy" Warren Beaty, who - that same year - was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the critically acclaimed "coming of age" story Splendor in the Grass (1961) with Natalie Wood.

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone was based on a novel of the same name by Tennessee Williams and the story centers around a renowned but aging actress at the so-called "end" of her career (despite only being middle aged) who, after the sudden death of her husband from a heart attack, retires to Rome to cope with her loss and eventually takes on a younger lover to help fill her days.

Leigh was only 47 years old at the time of filming and one can easily draw parallels between her and her character, as Leigh was then also experiencing the "loss" of a husband (she and Olivier divorced that year) and her once indomitable star power seemed to be on its last breaths. It is perhaps less known that Leigh also suffered from manic depression (or bipolar disorder), a tormentous illness which she struggled all her life to conceal but whose devastating effects increasingly unraveled, ending her marriage to Olivier and contributing to the rapidly declining state of her mental and physical health. In his autobiography, Olivier wrote, "Throughout her possession by that uncannily evil monster, manic depression, with its deadly ever-tightening spirals, she retained her own individual canniness – an ability to disguise her true mental condition from almost all except me, for whom she could hardly be expected to take the trouble." On top of that, she also battled with recurring tuberculosis and in May 1967, while rehearsing to appear in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance with Michael Redgrave, the disease reared its ugly head once again. On July 7, 1967, Leigh was found dead in her bedroom by her then lover and fellow actor John Merivale, lungs filled with water, at the age of 53. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered on the lake at her home, Tickerage Mill, near Blackboys, East Sussex, England.

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone was directed by José Quintero, with Production Design by Roger Furse, Art Direction under Herbert Smith and Costume Design by Beatrice Dawson (A Tale of Two Cities (1958), The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951)). Leigh's character of the actress Karen Stone starts off dispirited, melancholic and in mourning, for the sudden death of her husband and perhaps more figuratively, for herself and for the ending of her career.

black dress, pearl necklace, and a large broach pinned to the collar, a style that is repeated frequently on later outfits.

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