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Sight and Sound (2012) - The same cloth: Edith Head and Alfred Hitchcock




LFF blog: The same cloth – Edith Head and Alfred Hitchcock

Thirza Wakefield, Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The doyenne of Hollywood costume designers was a perfect perfectionist match for the Master of Suspense, finds Thirza Wakefield.

“Next to a tenor, a wardrobe woman is the touchiest thing in show business,” warns Thelma Ritter’s Birdie in All About Eve, chastising actress Margo Channing for letting an outsider deliver a costume to Mrs Brown in Wardrobe.

Eight-time Oscar-winning costume designer Edith Head was no wardrobe mistress, but as Deborah Nadoolman Landis made clear in her London Film Festival lecture on the collaboration between Head and Alfred Hitchcock on Saturday, she was no shrinking violet either. Lacking skills as a draughtswoman, the young Head clinched an interview at Paramount Pictures by passing off as her own the costume sketches of fellow students at Chouinard Art College. In Nadoolman Landis’s words, she was hired “on chutzpah alone”.

Naturally ambitious, Head hardened with long experience and came to feel proprietarily about her role in Hollywood. Speaking of her disappointment at the results of the 1956 Academy Awards, she attributed the success of Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing to its “very popular theme song”: “so it carried a number of awards that year, including what should have been my costume design award. That may sound egotistical, but a creative person must have a healthy ego.”

As a costume designer herself (The Blues Brothers, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Trading Places) and curator of ‘Hollywood Costume’, which opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum later this month, Nadoolman Landis provided rich insight into the bread-and-butter ...