A Bette Davis melodrama, Doris Day’s film debut and Elizabeth Taylor’s stunning jewels are highlighted in this month’s releases.
Here’s a look at four June releases worthy of inclusion in the library of any fashion-in-film fan:
Starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains
Directed by Irving Rapper
Costumes by Bernard Newman
Make no mistake: 1946 was a terrific year for film noir — among the best, actually, with Gilda, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Big Sleep and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers among the year’s releases. Film-noir fans love to debate whether or not a story fits the genre, but Deception seems to fit the bill, albeit with some melodramatic undertones. Bette Davis stars as a pianist and music teacher who thought her lover, a cellist played by Paul Henreid, was killed in the war, so when he turns up alive and they get married, she quickly realizes she must hide the nature of the relationship she had in the interim, with a wealthy and mercurial composer played by Claude Rains. If that cast sounds familiar, it’s no accident: The trio starred in one of Davis’s biggest hits, Now, Voyager, four years earlier, a film also directed by Irving Rapper. Bernard Newman took over for Orry-Kelly in this outing as costume designer, but it’s the story that’s the star, as Davis goes to great lengths to ensure Rains doesn’t divulge their previous arrangement to the man she loves. That action alone puts Deception squarely in the noir genre — while it’s not quite the high-wattage hit that Now, Voyager was, this title still belongs in the library of any Davis fan.
Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
KL Studio Classics
Starring Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson
Directed by Charles Jarrott
Costumes by Margaret Furse
Filmmakers have mined stories of the Tudors and the Stuarts throughout the entire history of cinema, and this telling is notable for highlighting a pair of acting titans: Vanessa Redgrave in the title role and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth I, two cousins fighting for their place in the world amid religion, politics and men with their own agendas. The latter includes Patrick McGoohan as Mary’s brother, James Stuart, and Timothy Dalton as Lord Darnley, the vain nobleman forced into a marriage with the Scottish queen. Redgrave was nominated for an Academy Award, as was Margaret Furst, designer of the sumptuous costumes (she won the Oscar just a year before for her work in Anne of the Thousand Days, made by the same producers). Bonus features include a new audio commentary by film historian and critic Sergio Mims.
Romance on the High Seas (1948)
Starring Doris Day, Jack Carson and Don DeFore
Directed by Michael Curtiz and Busby Berkeley
Costumes by Milo Anderson
Doris Day fans are sure to love this release, a new restoration of the 1948 musical that marked the icon’s film debut. Day was billed fourth, though that’s hard to believe now, as Day’s personality — and captivating voice — leap off the screen. She plays a nightclub singer who’s asked to take an ocean voyage under an assumed name so a wife can remain behind and spy on her husband, whom she suspects of philandering. The story is filled with comedy based on that initial subterfuge, though it all really seems like an excuse to get the audience from one musical number to the next, all directed by Busby Berkeley. The highlight, of course, is Day’s performance of “It’s Magic,” a song that became one of her signatures and in this film helped propel her to stardom. The costumes by Milo Anderson include lovely gowns that surely influenced ready-to-wear designs of the late 1940s, made al the better when featured in Technicolor. This 4K restoration is taken from the original nitrate Technicolor negatives, while added features include the original theatrical trailer and a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
The V.I.P.s (1963)
Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
Directed by Anthony Asquith
Taylor's costumes by Pierre Cardin
Just two months after Cleopatra was released, Taylor and Burton starred in this soapy drama with a stellar cast, all set in a fog-ridden Heathrow airport. Their on-set Cleopatra romance had turned Taylor and Burton into front-page headlines all around the world, making the timing of The V.I.P.s release not at all accidental; they star as a married couple who have drifted apart, yet as Burton’s character takes his wife to the airport, he has no idea that her plan is to run away with a gigolo played by Louis Jourdan. The script is reportedly based on the true story of Vivien Leigh’s attempt to run away with actor Peter Finch, but a fog delay enabled Laurence Olivier, Leigh’s husband, to get to Heathrow and convince her to come home.
Like many A-list films of the 1960s, Taylor enlisted a French designer to create her wardrobe — in this case, Pierre Cardin — but the jewels she wears throughout the film are her own, from a Bulgari emerald and diamond brooch from Burton to a tiara seen during the opening credits, famously given to the star by her third husband, producer Mike Todd. In addition to Jourdan, great supporting performances come from Orson Welles, Rod Taylor, Maggie Smith in an early role, and Dame Margaret Rutherford, who would win both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, as a dotty duchess anxious to save her ancestral home.