Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Adventures of Robin Hood ( 1938 )

"I'll never rest until every Saxon in this shire can stand up free men and strike a blow for Richard and England!"

Never has there been a more joyous swashbuckler filmed than Warner Brothers' The Adventures of Robin Hood ( 1938 ). The centuries old legend of the bold outlaw who robbed from the rich to give to the poor comes to life in this glorious adaptation which brims over with thrilling swordplay, sweet romance, a stellar cast, a thousand resplendent costumes, and a rousing orchestral score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Verily, the film serves up a right merry feast of entertainment.

No archer ever lived that could speed a gray goose shaft with such skill and cunning as Robin, nor has any actor embodied a character as well as Errol Flynn does in his portrayal of this lusty rogue.

The legends of Robin Hood date back to the 14th century when tales of the famous outlaw were spread across the shires through ballads. Innumerable authors have passed the stories down in various tellings throughout the ages but it is undoubtedly Howard Pyle's inspired adaptation of the legends in his 1883 masterpiece "The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" that set the tone for this film.

                  
Like the book, The Adventures of Robin Hood transports its audience to an England of yor; a time of grand pageantry, when knights roamed errant through virgin countryside in search of adventures and the world was bathed in the glow of medieval romance. It was also a time of oppression for serfs who were under the rule of scoundrelly noblemen, such as Sir Guy of Gisbourne.

Storybook thrills abound in Norman Reilly Raine and Seton Miller's script, which weave elements of romance, comedy and adventure in its simple story of tyranny opposed and virtue triumphed. Robin Hood and his band of merry men, loyal to King Richard, set things right for England when the King's dastardly brother, the Norman Prince John, usurps the throne and wrenches tax money, yea, and the very blood, from the oppressed Saxons. The King's royal ward, Lady Marian, despises Robin Hood and his thieving ways until she sees the broken, destitute masses which he cares for in the forest. Then her heart goes out towards him and his noble cause and she becomes the outlaw's ally, eventually saving him from the gallows.

James Cagney was originally cast as the archer in green tights when Warner Brothers began development on Robin Hood in 1935. The studio was slowly expanding its output to include adventure films and prestigious historical dramas in an effort to compete with its rival Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and reach a broader audience.

After the success of Warner's A Midsummer Night's Dream ( 1935 ), costume designer Dwight Franklin suggested that the same formula could be translated well to another period piece, that of the tales of Robin Hood. Executive producer Hal Wallis decided to reunite most of the principle cast for this project, including Anita Louise as Lady Marian, Frank McHugh and Allen Jenkins as some of the merry men, and Hugh Herbert as Friar Tuck.  Ho! but during the development stage James Cagney had one of his frequent rows with the studio and walked out on his contract, not returning for nearly two years.

Since much time and money had already been invested in the story, Wallis decided to cast the studio's rising star, Errol Flynn, in the lead. The part of the charismatic Saxon knight was a glove-fit for this devilishly handsome actor who had a roguish air and an athletic knack for leaping over parapets.

Fate dealt a fortuitous hand with Cagney's departure, for Flynn's arrival precipitated a complete overhaul of the project. What resulted was a film which could not be more impeccably cast. Claude Rains cloaked himself in red as the villainous Prince John, a urbane schemer who finds the feather-capped archer's exploits wryly amusing. Basil Rathbone had a long career portraying villains and did a stellar performance as the wicked pirate Levasseur in Captain Blood in 1935. For this film he donned the garb of the egotistical Sir Guy of Gisbourne.


Lady Marian could not be envisioned more lovely than Olivia de Havilland, who had just launched her film career three years prior with her appearance as Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Once Errol Flynn was cast as Robin Hood there was no doubt that de Havilland would portray his "bold Norman beauty", since the two were such an ideal couple in Captain Blood and The Charge of the Light Brigade. They would go on to make six more films together.


Robin's rakish derring-do would be for naught without the aid he received from his motley band of merry men : Alan Hale had portrayed the bearish Little John in the 1922 Douglas Fairbanks version of Robin Hood, so it was a natural choice that he reprise the role for this film. Hale and Flynn were a right jolly team and, over the course of their careers, were united for 13 films. Patric Knowles was Robin's lyre-strumming comrade-in-arms Will Scarlett ( a role originally intended for David Niven ) and Eugene Palette, the portly Friar Tuck. 

Also cast was Herbert Mundin as cheerful Much, who casts a favorable eye on Bess, Marian's twittery lady-in-waiting, portrayed by Una O'Connor; Ian Hunter as King Richard, and Melville Cooper as the oafish Sheriff of Nottingham.

Shafts of sunlight streaming down through the leafy canopy of Sherwood Forest were captured in the splendor of three-strip Technicolor by the perceptive eyes of cinematographers Tony Gaudio and Sol Polito, who were utilizing the newly developed Technicolor cameras. This was a cumbersome and costly process but it lent the film an unsurpassed richness in color. This beloved Sherwood of Robin's just happened to be Bidwell Park located in Chico, California. Never had England seen so much sunlight in one summer.

Director Michael Curtiz took over the scepter of command from William Keighley midway through production and deserves much credit for the sprightly pace of The Adventures of Robin Hood. He captured the grand-flourishing manner of silent day swashbucklers with their crowd-pleasing heroics and bold swordplay. Some of the sequences were even filmed "undercranked" which sped up the action on screen in silent-era fashion. 


Errol Flynn was Douglas Fairbanks reincarnated with his broad-gestured displays of machismo. Stuntmen were used in some shots of the film, but many a daring-do was performed by Flynn himself who wanted it known that he did not shy away from physical feats.

The Adventures of Robin Hood was an enormous hit upon its initial release on May 14, 1938, with critics praising its sheer exuberance and audiences of all ages coming to take a pilgrimage to the land of medieval fancy. Robin's arrows soared through the air to land with a resounding ffffrupp! on the bullseye of entertainment. Warner Brothers gathered nearly $4 million into its purse and the film went on to win three of the four Oscars it was nominated for at the Academy Awards ( losing the Best Picture award to You Can't Take it With You ).

The Adventures of Robin Hood remains a favorite amongst cinephiles nearly eighty years since Robin made his heroic entrance into Sherwood Forest. It is still considered one of the best films of its type and possesses all of its initial zest and vitality, in no small part due to Errol Flynn's exuberant portrayal of Robin Hood. He shows us a character so supremely alive that to him all of life is a lark. What makes him so wonderful to behold is he lights the fire of life within the audience as well. Our cares disappear and we wonder why we take our petty problems with such seriousness when Robin could face death innumerable times without ever losing a feather in his cap.

Numerous remakes have been undertaken over the years but none have been able to capture the essence of Robin Hood without cynicism or postmodern mockery. This film was made with sublime innocence in an decade when righteousness and evil could be presented to the audience in simple black and white imagery without brushing virtues and sins together into murky grays. The cast and crew of Robin Hood set out to make the picture, not as a technical masterpiece, but purely for the aim of providing entertainment to the masses, and verily, this task was accomplished with thunderous success.

This post is our contribution to the Classic Movie Blog Association's annual spring blogathon The Fabulous Films of the 1930s. Be sure to head on over to CMBA's website to check out all the wonderful posts celebrating the grand films of the 1930s. 


Friday, April 24, 2015

Classic TV Channels Over the Airwaves

Less than ten years ago non-cable-television subscribers had very little chance of catching any classic TV programs over the airwaves via analog signals, let alone seeing any pre-1975 films on television. For classic TV couch potatoes, the cancellation of analog broadcasting in 2009 and the arrival of digital broadcasting meant purchasing a small digital converter box with the possibility of catching THIS TV or Retro TV on one of the new "sub-channels". Eventually digital flat-screen televisions replaced the necessity of having a converter box altogether. 

Today, there are seven different "over-the-air" ( FREE ) stations available which play 24-hour classic TV/movie programming....a sheer delight for hobby-less baby-boomers, mesothelioma victims, and incontinent housewives. We never thought we'd live to see the day when we'd utter the words "there is too much on television!". During a Hart to Hart commercial break we can now hop on over to MeTV and watch The Andy Griffith Show, or click on RetroTV and see Doctor Who, or even catch the ending of The Trouble with Angels on the GET TV channel. Holy TV overload, Batman! 

Anyway, as a tiny service to any of our Eastern readers who were not aware of what cult-classic riches were lurking within their boob-tubes, we have put together this brief post highlighting some of these stations and their current scheduling. Note : some of the stations change their schedules for summer. 





The Mega-Four: 



MeTV - Channel 19.2 in Cleveland. Click here to view the schedule in your area. 

Antenna TV - Channel 8.2 in Cleveland. Click here to view the schedule in your area. 

COZI TV - Channel 5. 2 in Cleveland. Click here to view the schedule in your area. 

Retro TV - Channel 29/35 in Akron. Click here to view the schedule in your area. 


 _______________________________________________________

MORNING 


8:00AM   

The Andy Griffith Show - MeTV ( 2 Episodes )
Father Knows Best - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
E/I Programming - Retro TV 
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp - COZI TV ( 2 Episodes )


9:00AM 

Daniel Boone - MeTV
The Patty Duke Show - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Black Beauty - Retro TV 
The Lone Ranger - COZI TV ( 2 Episodes )


10:00AM

Perry Mason - MeTV
Mr. Ed - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Moviestar - Retro TV 
Walt Disney's Zorro - COZI TV ( 2 Episodes )


11:00AM 

Quincy M.E - MeTV
Green Acres - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Crosswords - Retro TV ( 2 Episodes )
Dragnet - COZI TV ( 2 Episodes )


AFTERNOON 


12:00PM

The Rockford Files - MeTV
Bewitched - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
The Doctors - Retro TV ( 2 Episodes )
Adam-12 - COZI TV ( 2 Episodes )

1:00PM 

Gunsmoke - MeTV
I Dream of Jeannie - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Naked City - Retro TV 
Starsky and Hutch - COZI TV

2:00PM 

Bonanza - MeTV
Dennis the Menace - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Route 66 - Retro TV 
Charlie's Angels - COZI TV

3:00PM

The Riflemen - MeTV ( 2 Episodes )
Leave it to Beaver - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
The Campbells - Retro TV ( followed by Ozzie and Harriet )
Murder, She Wrote - COZI TV

4:00PM 

Star Trek - MeTV
Mr. Belvedere - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
The Cisco Kid - Retro TV ( 2 Episodes )
Murder, She Wrote - COZI TV

5:00PM

Emergency! - MeTV
Three's Company - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Tarzan - Retro TV ( followed by The New Zorro
The Dick Van Dyke Show - COZI TV ( 2 Episodes )

EVENING


6:00PM 

C.H.I.P.S - MeTV
Barney Miller - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Lucy Show/Beverly Hillbillies/Petticoat Junction/Dusty's Trail/Soupy Sales - Retro TV ( followed by The Joey Bishop Show )
Here's Lucy - COZI TV ( 2 Episodes )

7:00PM

MASH - MeTV  ( 2 Episodes )
Sanford and Son - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Highway to Heaven - Retro TV
Make Room for Daddy - COZI TV ( followed by My Favorite Martian )

8:00PM

The Andy Griffith Show - MeTV ( 2 Episodes )
Good Times - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Doctor Who - Retro TV ( 2 Episodes )
Hart to Hart/Starsky/Six Million Dollar Man/Charlie's Angels/ or Murder She Wrote - COZI TV


9:00PM 

Hogan's Heroes - MeTV ( followed by The Twilight Zone
All in the Family - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
The Doctors - Retro TV ( 2 Episodes )
Hart to Hart/Starsky/Bionic Woman/Magnum P.I/ or Murder, She Wrote - COZI TV 

10:00PM

The Odd Couple - MeTV ( 2 Episodes )
The Jeffersons - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Police Surgeon - Retro TV ( 2 Episodes )
It Takes a Thief/Knight Rider/Bionic Woman/Magnum P.I/ or Murder, She Wrote - COZI TV 

11:00PM

Carol Burnett and Friends - MeTV  ( followed by Perry Mason
One Day at a Time - Antenna TV ( 2 Episodes )
Cold Squad - Retro TV 
Miami Vice - COZI TV ( followed by The Avengers


SATURDAY PROGRAMMING


COZI TV, MeTV, and Retro TV continue on the Saturday Morning Cartoon tradition with a line-up including The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, H.R Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, Harveytoons, Archie, Lassie, Mr. Magoo and He-Man : Master of the Universe. 

The afternoon arrangement changes with Antenna TV featuring Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, Mr. Ed, Flipper, The Monkees, and The Partridge Family. Retro TV has a Saturday Movie Matinee at 1pm for the big-kiddies, followed by Hopalong Cassidy, Sherlock Holmes, and One Step Beyond to cap off the afternoon. MeTV gives us westerns galore with The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Wanted Dead or Alive and The Rifleman, while COZI has two feature films ( usually 1980s flicks ) followed by several comedy episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show to wash away the taste of the former. 

Things take a turn to the horror/sci-fi genre for the evening with MeTV's line-up of Batman, Wonder Woman, Star Trek and the mystery/cult movie hosted by Svengoolie ( who, just for the record, copied off of the Cleveland icon Ghoulardie ). Retro TV has the classic Doctor Who and Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Antenna TV tries to tickle your funny bone with comedies such as Small Wonder, The Ropers, Doogie Howser, and Too Close for Comfort, while COZI concludes the day with Miami Vice, Fantasy Island and I Spy. 


SUNDAY'S FUN DAY


The week kicks off with MeTV's Sunday lineup which includes back-to-school classics such as Welcome Back Kotter, Gilligan's Island and Saved by the Bell before beginning their Sunday Brunch with four episodes of The Brady Bunch followed by The Love Boat, Remington Steele, and The Streets of San Francisco. Sunday nights are "murrrrder!" as Lionel Stander would say, and MeTV puts The Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-O, and Black Sheep Squadron in the mix before Columbo begins at 8pm. Then it is spy time with The Man from UNCLE, Mission Impossible and Get Smart. 

COZI TV got My Favorite Martain, The New Howdy Doody Show, and Maverick with a Make Room for Daddy marathon in the afternoon. In the evening, Here's Lucy acts as the appetizer for two episodes of Murder, She Wrote and the Sunday night flick. 

Retro TV rotates some of their weekly programs with Robin Hood, Ozzie and Harriet and The New Zorro starting off the lineup while Bonanza, Movin' On and Mystery Science Theatre 3000 play until the Sunday night movie begins. 

Lastly, Antenna TV gets off to a flying start with The Flying Nun, Gidget, The Monkees, Green Acres, Small Wonder, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie before beginning their 1970s sitcom programs : All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Sanford and Son.


THE WEE HOURS


Some of the best programs get the worst time-slots and all four stations seem to have the gems playing in the night : The Saint, Peter Gunn, Mr. Lucky, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Real McCoys are just some of the titles. 



THE FILM CHANNELS 


Get TV : Sony's own classic film channel features some rare Columbia Pictures films and a lot of the big name films from the Sony Pictures archive. Features include the Get Out of Town westerns on Saturday, Get Groovy Tuesdays ( 1950s/60s films ), Afternoon Delights spotlighting legendary actresses, and an Icon of the Week ( usually in conjunction with a stars birthday ). Channel 61.3 in Cleveland. 

Click here to visit their website. 

Movies! : Since Fox owns the lion's share of this classic film network, you can be sure that a lot of 20th Century Fox rarities will show up here, but some Columbia and Paramount Picture releases sneak in upon occasion as well. Some of their titles included : Anna and the King of Siam, Rhubarb, The Flying Tigers and the Mr. Moto collection. Channel 55.3 in Cleveland. 

Click here to visit their website. 

THIS TV :  This channel puts a few good titles in the mix ( especially among the westerns ), but mainly their focus is on 1960s/1970s films and some really corny 1980s movies. They also toss a few television programs in such as Sea Hunt. Formally Channel 55.3 in Cleveland. 

Click here to visit their website. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

George Brougham in The List of Adrian Messenger ( 1963 )

The devil in disguise. That is the only phrase that can be used to describe George Brougham, portrayed with admirable ferociousness by Kirk Douglas in John Huston's overlooked dark thriller The List of Adrian Messenger ( 1963 ). He is the most vile of villains for he has no conscience to reprimand him and will equally do harm to man, woman, or child. Murder is only a means by which he can accomplish his objective. One by one he crosses off the names of his victims from the list he keeps in his little black book until only one remains; the name of the final person standing in the way of his diabolical plan. However, writer Adrian Messenger ( John Merivale ) discovers his ghastly scheme while doing research for his memoir and duplicates the list of intended victims, all of whom are bound by a common thread. 

When Messenger dies in a plane bombing, his friend, former MI6 agent Colonel Anthony Gethryn (George C. Scott ), decides to investigate the list of contacts that was left in his care. Aiding him in his endeavor is Raoul ( Jacques Roux ), the sole survivor of the plane crash and the only man who overheard Messenger's cryptic last words. Together they discover that seven of the eleven men on the list have already perished in "accidental" deaths. 


So clever is Brougham that each one of his victims appears to have been a passenger in a mass transit accident or came to an abrupt demise on their own. No two of his crimes are alike. Drowning, stabbing, bombing, hit and run....he employs all methods. As a double insurance against being discovered, Brougham utilizes heavy disguises while in the preparation of annihilating his victims. These were not unpremeditated crimes he was committing, each one was strategically planned with no room for error. 


The List of Adrian Messenger was released in late May of 1963 and was heavily promoted for its mystery gimmick - five leading actors were selected to be buried under cakes of makeup and the audience had the fun of trying to spot who is who and who is not whom they seem to be. Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum were the actors who provided cameos, but so thick is their makeup that it is difficult to distinguish them, save for Robert Mitchum.


John Huston had just completed filming Hud and wanted to delve into a project that he could relax with. The List of Adrian Messenger provided him with an excuse to return to his ancestral home of Ireland and indulge in one of his favorite pastimes : fox-hunting. Some of the most impressive scenes in this fun thriller revolve around the hunt sequences. 

This unique endeavor also allowed Huston to work alongside screenwriter Anthony Veiller whom he collaborated with on Beat the Devil ( 1953 ) and, later, on The Night of the Iguana ( 1964 ). Veiller crafted his script from the first book in the Anthony Gethryn series created by novelist Philip MacDonald ( "The Lost Patrol", "X v. Rex" ).


George C. Scott is excellent as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, trying to put himself into the shoes of the killer and anticipate his next move before he strikes, but he finds it is a fiend more cunning than Moriarty that he is up against. Jacques Roux is also very good as his Dr. Watson, acting as a sounding board for the brainstorms of the retired agent. Playing his love-interest is the stately Dana Wynter, and rounding out the cast are some of Hollywood's veteran Brits : Herbert Marshall, Gladys Cooper and Clive Brook. 

Even with such an impressive cast it is Kirk Douglas, who is credited on the original posters only as a "cameo" actor, that steals the film with his portrayal of the devious George Brougham. He is an egotistical killer who, in his warped mind, derives immense satisfaction in his own cleverness. 


Jerry Goldsmith penned a wicked tango theme that plays in a leisurely fashion during each of Brougham's scenes, emphasizing the gentle patience in which Brougham goes about executing his crimes. Unlike some villains who are so evil they're good, George Brougham is just plain evil. He is a villain beyond hope of redemption and, ultimately, he receives his just punishment.

This post is our contribution to The Great Villain Blogathon being hosted by Speakeasy, Shadows and Satin, and Silver Screenings running from April 13-17th. Be sure to head on over to their sites to check out all the dastardly villains being dished up. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game


This is an easy screenshot to guess for those familiar with the film, but those who are not familiar with the film it may prove to be rather difficult. We know who the actor pictured is and so do you, now all you have to do is give us the title of the movie! 

As always, if you are unfamiliar with the rules to the game or the prize, click here

GAME OVER. 

The Tactful Typist is the winner with her correct guess of Walt Disney's The Moon-Spinners ( 1964 ). This actor, Andre Morell, portrayed the captain of the yacht which Pola Negri sailed on. Morell did many Hammer film productions and was married to English actress Joan Greenwood, who also starred in The Moon-Spinners

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bill Thomas - Costume Designer

Fortunately, Hollywood costume designers have always received well-deserved recognition of their contribution to the art of making a motion picture, but alas, even in this note-worthy profession there are the few who have fallen into obscurity. Yes, even a giant star can be lost in a vast galaxy, and so is the case with Bill Thomas. He was one of the busiest and hardest working costume designers in Hollywood and yet today his name has become forgotten among such talents as Edith Head, Adrian, and Irene. 

Ah, but even though his name was dwarfed by these giants, his work was not. How could it be? Bill Thomas dressed actors in over 300 films ( including just about every Walt Disney production ). His handiwork was evident in a wide array of films but I do indeed believe it is through his Disney work that he will be especially remembered.

Who does not fondly recall the striped shirtwaist worn by nanny Mary Poppins while doling out spoonfuls of sugar to her wee charges; or Miss Eglantine Price’s oversized motoring habit she wore while zipping through town on her motorbike to fetch her latest Correspondence of Witchcraft package; or Susan and Sharon’s matching blue and white Camp Inch uniforms, the envy of even a full-fledged Girl Scout? His skill in costuming contributed greatly to all of these classics. Although he did a marvelous job on all of the films he worked on, I will be focusing on his work for the Walt Disney Studios....just because they are so colorful. 
First, a brief look at the history of this man: Bill Thomas was born on October 13, 1921 in Chicago, Illinois. After high school he pursued his love of art and design at the Chouinard Institute, where another famous Disney Imagineer, Herbert Ryman, also received his education. In Hollywood, Bill worked at Universal Studios getting his start in motion picture costume design in films and serials such as The Desert Hawk, Mystery Submarine and westerns like Wyoming Mail. It was not long after this that his work was beginning to be recognized and he found that more and more dress designing assignments were coming his way.


Color films were a medium that Bill was especially adept at making costumes for and during the early 1950s he exercised this skill and was busy working on such rousing adventure films as The Flame of Araby, Yankee Buccaneer, The World in His Arms, and The Pirate – where he designed Judy and Gene’s comical garb for the famous 'Be a Clown' number.
                
Director Douglas Sirk found Bill’s work very eye-catching and had him design gowns for Lana Turner, Jane Wyman and Dorothy Malone in many of his lush Technicolor tear-jerkers such as Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, and Imitation of Life (1959 ). Bill provided the perfect look of simple elegance for these leading ladies.


For the 1960 epic Spartacus, Bill Thomas again was called on to design strictly the leading lady’s wardrobe ( Jean Simmons', that is ) and this Romanesque work garnered him an Academy Award, along with chief costume designer Valles. It was one of nine Academy nominations he was to be honored with during his career. 

In 1961 he received his first of many, many assignments for Walt Disney Studios – The Parent Trap. Oh, and what a wonderful job he did creating these costumes!
                
" You know Margaret, I’ve got to hand it to you, it certainly shows strength of character not to go with the new fashion trend in clothes "
               
Yes, Maggie’s transformation from a "mature" middle-aged mother of two to a ravishing modern mom was due in no small part to that stand-out lime green ensemble he designed. And the girls were not neglected in the fashionable dress department either….Bill had previously worked on teen-themed films such as The Restless Years ( with Sandra Dee ) and Tammy and the Bachelor ( Debbie Reynolds ) and knew well-nigh how to dress young women in the fashion of the time.
               
During his tenure at the Walt Disney Studios, Bill Thomas had time to do many freelance projects with other studios as well. One of these films was the mad cap comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World ( 1963 ) and he had an enormous cast to design costumes for in that one. Ethel Merman and that flower printed dress and straw sunhat she wore as the “mother-in-law”, will be forever associated together in my mind. Oh, but poor Mr. Thomas…the majority of his costumes were either ripped, splattered with paint, or layered in dust and dirt by the end of the film. ( No wonder you won’t find any It’s a Mad,Mad,Mad,World costumes in Debbie Reynold’s museum ).

He also designed the wardrobe for Dean Martin and Yvette Mimieux in Toys in the Attic; Vivien Leigh and Simone Signoret in Ship of Fools; Bob Hope and Anita Ekberg in A Global Affair; and James Garner and Julie Andrews in The Americanization of Emily during this time.


Bill Thomas was a very imaginative designer and he created elaborate costumes not only for period settings, but for classic book characters ( Barnaby in Babes of Toyland with his black caped suit, tights and matching top hat, and Robin Crusoe’s native straw-wear in Lt. Robin Crusoe USN ) and for monkeys. Lots of monkeys. There were monkeys in space ( Moon Pilot ), monkeys at balls ( My Man Godfrey ) and monkey grape pickers in France ( Monkeys Go Home! ).
               
But it was lovely period summer dresses that Bill designed best, and Summer Magic ( 1963 ) had some of the most beautiful ones : Deborah Walley was the pink of perfection in her pink chiffon picnic dress which set off her red hair nicely;  Hayley Mills wore a more playful sailor themed croquet romper while she made faces at Debbie’s flawless style and, during the finale, Hayley got the eyes of admiration turned upon herself when she appeared dressed in a light yellow and white dress, arm in arm with her dashing suitor ( who was handsomely fitted too ) at the Halloween Ball.


Of all of Bill Thomas’s creations, Mary Poppins' attire is undoubtedly the most memorable. Why, Mary Poppins would not be the Mary Poppins we know without her long black coat, blue tailor-fitted dress, black hat ( with flower of course ) and talking parrot umbrella. Even today his original designs are respectfully duplicated in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. Each and every costume he created for all the members of Mary Poppins can be indelibly linked to the character and helps to add to their personality. 
The outfits he designed for the Jolly Holiday number were simply….jolly! Candy-like colors abounded and Mary Poppin’s summer-in-the-park dress was the tip of the top, crème of the crop loveliest of dresses to be seen.



Another beautiful ensemble of costumes were created for the Biddle and Drexel families in The Happiest Millionaire ( 1967 ). Light, airy pastel toned fabrics were used throughout to enhance the cheerful story and help soften the image of the early 20th century.  The two matriarchs of the families not only had a verbal repartee during their children’s engagement party but were engaging in a battle of fashion as well, with each of them bedecked in the most sumptuous of Bostonian wardrobe.
A brief change from the period setting came when Bill was called upon to design numerous costumes for gnomes ( and humans too ) in The Gnome Mobile ( 1967 ). During the finale, head gnome Grandpa Knobby looked on as his grandson was being chased by a myriad of beautiful gnome-gals all wearing fairy-like costumes - in the short mini-skirt fashion of the times – eager to catch their would-be husband.
               

Bill Thomas received his second Academy Award for Best Costume Design for his garmenting of Eglantine Price, the witch who helped end the war, in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Each costume was designed simply and in the keeping with the war-time restrictions of the more expensive fabrics, such as nylon and silk.


During the late 60s he strictly designed costumes for Walt Disney films and some of these movies included Blackbeard’s Ghost, The Love Bug, One and Only Genuine Original Family Band, Never a Dull Moment, and The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit, Island at the Top of the World and Pete’s Dragon. His last motion picture for the Studio was The Adventures of Pollyanna….a sequel to one of the few Disney movies he did not design the original costumes to.
             
After doing a few television movies, Bill retired in 1982. During his long career, he had collected many of the costumes he designed, as well as many famous pieces and had become quite an authority on movie memorabilia. He was often called on as a consultant at studio auctions. Bill Thomas passed away on May 30th, 2000 in Los Angeles at the age of 79.




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