Though mention of Vincente Minnelli's The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1962) was included in my podcast with Turner Classic Movies, unfortunately the discussion on its significance in style was not. Because the movie really showcases the classic style voice of the great MGM costume designer, Helen Rose, I definitely wanted to take the opportunity to share the wonderful wardrobe with you here on GlamAmor.
The Courtship of Eddie's Father is really a culmination of everything that Helen had played with and practiced at MGM. First and foremost, the overarching lesson here is definitely COLOR. In other movies, Helen used it in clever accents such is seen in Mogambo (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and Butterfield 8 (1960). But here her entire movie wardrobe is a cavalcade of color...there are shifts, sheaths, and suits in a rainbow array. What's interesting is the way that Helen used color and even fabrics to really distinguish between the three leading ladies. Stella Stevens as Dolly Daily, the vibrant yet naive small town girl in the big city, is in outifts of peaches and cream. Dina Merrill, as the sophisticated style consultant Rita Behrens, is the only lead seen in black and the other shades she wears are strong and most often primary--red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. Helen also dresses her frequently in fur to reinforce her character as an independent and strong working woman. And Shirley Jones, who plays the caring nurse neighbor and eventual love interest Elizabeth Marten, remains in shades of virtuous white.
The women in this movie--both stars and extras alike--are the perfect combination of sophisticated and sexy. Notice that no one wears anything too revealing, yet there is strong sex appeal that comes from the body conscious shapes throughout. Helen also makes outfits look interesting both coming and going--many have either buttoned-up backs, deep back necklines, or even completely backless. I am attracted to details like this in my own wardrobe of vintage dresses and collection for GlamAmor. Not surprisingly, seeing this movie was highly influential on me...the dresses combine bright uplifting color with conservative classic shapes that make them work for the office and beyond. There aren't too many outfits in this movie that I wouldn't enthusiastically take as my own.
As you will see, the costume design on this shoot was extensive. There are many wardrobe changes for each of the three leading ladies, and pay close attention to all the extras wearing Helen's fabulous clothes as well. From the very beginning of the movie, you will see that everyone looks incredible decked out in classic Helen Rose.
Tom's receptionist in a great green wiggle dress
Tom's secretary in a hot pink silk suit
Norman's (Jerry Van Dyke) radio program is popular with the ladies,
who are all in incredible Helen Rose dresses
Our introductions to the leading ladies...first, Elizabeth (Shirley Jones) in her uniform and apron because of baking
Then the delightful Dolly (Stella Stevens) in a flowing white dress a la Marilyn with black patent accessories
And the ever-elegant Rita (Dina Merrill) in matching tweed hat and coat with mink collar,
an outift that really sets the stage for the rest of her character's exceptional wardrobe
In a classic black and khaki suit for Rita's first date with Tom
In a sleek black sheath with pearls, leather gloves, and fur hat for dinner with Tom and his son
Rita showing one of Helen's "unusual color combinations,"
yellow and orange for a playdate with Tom and Eddie
The evolution of Tom and Rita's dating told in dancing...first friendly dancing in teal silk...
...and finally dancing cheek to cheek in--what else?--a red backless gown
with sequin straps that seem like they're just about to come undone in Tom's hands
Then there's Dolly in peaches and cream meeting Norman for the first time
More peaches and cream for her first date with Norm, but the color is now a more passionate orange
All dressed up in white lace for New Year's Eve (above) and an orange suit for her engagement...
with Rita in a fabulous feather hat as well
Wedded bliss in a sweet and conservative suit for Dolly
Rita stands out in leopard at the reception,
and though she catches the bouquet she has a feeling her relationship with Tom is not to be
Elizabeth is quite the contrast to the other girls...
her wardrobe speaks to a comfort with Tom when she has discussions with him twice in bathrobes
As I mentioned, the bulk of Elizabeth's wardrobe is in innocent shades of white
Yellow belted brocade adds a slight dash of color to her subdued wardrobe
After the New Year's party with Rita and Dolly,
Tom finds Elizabeth coming home at the same time and ends their evening with a kiss
Tom and Rita ending their relationship in his white tuxedo
and her light blue chiffon cocktail dress reminiscent of the white chiffon in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Eddie playing matchmaker and telling Elizabeth to answer a phone call...from his father
And they live happily ever after, of course!