Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cinema Style File--Veronica Lake Plays Peek-a-boo in 1940s Style


Whereas Brigitte Bardot embodies the style of the 1960s, Veronica Lake is a sophisticated stunner from the stylish 1940s.  Veronica became popular in the early part of the decade with a trio of back-to-back hits--Sullivan's Travels (1941), This Gun for Hire (1942), and The Glass Key (1942).  The last two were ones in which she established herself as a film noir heroine and she was paired with her strongest co-star, Alan Ladd.  The two would go on to do the film noir classic The Blue Dahlia (1946) together as well.  Interestingly, the style from these pictures actually had less to do with Veronica herself and more with the genius of Paramount's head costume designer and one of my personal heroes, Edith Head.  

Edith's biggest challenge was her star's petite frame--some sources say Veronica was only around 4'11".  Edith made the actress seem much taller by almost always dressing her in floor-length garments and keeping details to a minimum.  Sleek and simple.  Those long gowns disguised yet another trick, which was putting Veronica in enormous platform heels to increase her height next to her leading men.  Even Alan Ladd at only 5'6" was much taller than Veronica, and Joel McCrea was a giant next to her in Sullivan's Travels at 6'3".  As a finishing touch to make Veronica seem more voluptuous and statuesque, Edith employed ruching along the bustline...a trick that she used with Grace Kelly's nightgown in Rear Window as well.  

But as wonderful as those wardrobes and movies were, it was really Veronica's hair that became the hugest hit.  In fact, the studios experienced resistance from the public if they varied her hair too much.  Over the years, I have heard several stories surrounding the origins of her iconic style. One is that her hair simply had a natural wave and tendency to fall over one eye.  Another story is that the wave came as the result of clipping her hair to the side during one particularly bad hair day.  And yet another story is that she played peek-a-boo with the camera when a stray lock of hair fell over her eye during a photo shoot...hence how the style became known as "the peek-a-boo."  It actually seems quite reasonable that all of the above are true.

Though she didn't necessarily have the longest or most distinguished acting career, Veronica's legacy is that her look did indeed become iconic. Her "peek-a-boo" hairstyle continues to be popular even to this day.  The look is particularly strong right now for summer and can be seen in all the magazines. It's enjoying such a moment in fashion that we'll likely see the trend stretch into next season to accompany all those wonderful wardrobes for fall as well.  Perfect!



Trying to buy Sullivan some ham and eggs for breakfast at the diner after her evening out...
note how often Veronica's stomach was concealed due to her pregnancy while filming



Finding out that her handsome hobo is really a Hollywood producer hiding out to research the real world


Lounging poolside (check out those platform pumps!)
before hitting the road again as undercover hobos




Looking lovely while learning some lessons in love




Veronica surrounded by frequent co-star Alan Ladd (left) and Robert Preston


Sizing up the situation in sexy suiting



Stunning gowns for the songbird all have somewhat similar features--
floor-length, longsleeve, and v-neck front with ruching along the bustline



Great shots of the gown along with the iconic hairstyle that's copied time and time again





Veronica--surrounded by co-stars Brian Donlevy (left) and Ladd again--
was dressed in a lot more black for 1946's The Glass Key




She also wore a lot more hats--
in order to support the war effort, Veronica's famously long hair was styled shorter




4 comments:

ZenGirlie said...

She was so photogenic. She had such an air of confidence too. I love the stills.

Kimberly said...

Glad you enjoy the pictures! She WAS so photogenic, wasn't she? I watched THIS GUN FOR HIRE and BLUE DAHLIA last night on TCM for a night of their "Battle of the Blondes" and you just can't take your eyes off her. And the universe was really working when it brought her and Alan Ladd to Hollywood at the same time. Just perfect perfect perfect together.

DorianTB said...

Kimberly, having recently written a about THE GLASS KEY for my classic movie blog TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED, I was delighted to find that you had blogged about Veronica Lake, too! I enjoyed reading about the great Edith Head's little tricks to add pizzazz and smoldering glamor to the petite star's image. Though things didn't go too well for Lake after the 1940s, she's still quite the fashion icon even today.

If you're interested, here's a link to my GLASS KEY blog post:

http://doriantb.blogspot.com/2012/02/glass-key-littlest-gumshoe.html

As always, Kimberly, GlamAmor is great fun to read, and the pictures are an inspiration!

Kimberly Truhler said...

I LOVE your post, Dorian! First, I feel like I'm watching the movie when I read it. And also such great behind the scenes tidbits that cinephiles like myself just adore. Loved hearing about the close friendship between Bendix and Ladd, especially when they share the screen so much together.

And thrilled to hear that you were able to get some tidbits from my own post on the style perspective. It's ALL fascinating and THE GLASS KEY is one of my favorite film noir.

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