Updated: Dec 8, 2020
A quartet of Hitchcock films, Jean Harlow and Myrna Loy in Dolly Tree dresses, and a new Rita Hayworth boxed set debut this month.
As the holidays near, boxed collections are enjoying a healthy number of releases – and why not? It’s a perfect gift idea for yourself or the classic-film fan in your life. Let’s dig into the latest:
Alfred Hitchcock: 4-Film Collection
Warner Archive Collection
This compilation is a great companion for a four-disc set that Universal Studios released in September: While that bundle included Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and Rear Window, all filmed from 1954 to 1963, this group highlights films produced between 1941 and 1956 features Dial M for Murder, Suspicion, The Wrong Man and I Confess, making the pair of sets a quick way to build the library of any Hitchcock fan.
From a costume-design perspective, Dial M for Murder and Suspicion are the delights of this collection: In Dial M, Grace Kelly wears a spectacular red lace dress with bolero by Moss Mabry in the film’s opening scenes, and because Hitch was always keenly interested in his heroine’s style, it’s necessary to pay attention as Kelly transitions from that lady-in-red moment to the more somber tones and fabrics she wears after the murder that isn’t the one you initially suspect. And in Suspicion, Joan Fontaine’s Lina goes from prim and a bit severe to feminine and elegant, thanks to her love for Cary Grant’s Johnnie and some swanky clothes by Edward Stevenson. The Wrong Man, meanwhile, is designed with such a gritty feel that no costume designer seems needed nor mentioned, while in I Confess, Orry-Kelly is listed in the credits, but other than a few basics for Anne Baxter, the most fun he gets to have is designing Montgomery Clift’s priest robes.
Speaking of fun: This edition of Dial M for Murder includes both the 2D and 3D versions; the latter is perfect if you bought one of the 3D-capable TVs that were enjoying a hot minute a few years back.
Libeled Lady (1936)
Warner Archive Collection
Starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy and Spencer Tracy
Directed by Jack Conway
Costumes by Dolly Tree
Jean Harlow’s Gladys has her sights set firmly on marrying boyfriend Warren, a newspaper editor played by Spencer Tracy, but he’s too busy fending off a libel lawsuit brought on by socialite Myrna Loy to pay his fiancée the attention she deserves. Fold in William Powell as Tracy’s friend and former reporter, and the screwball hijinks are plentiful from this A-list quartet.
Libeled Lady isn’t only a terrific example of a 1930s comedy, it’s a great showcase for costume designer Dolly Tree, who also outfitted Loy for The Thin Man, Evelyn Prentice and other films (she also did Wife vs. Secretary, starring Loy, Harlow and Clark Gable, the same year as Libeled Lady). Tree was skilled in giving women in Depression-era audiences the luxe, escapist fashion they were craving, even as history has relegated her to the background in favor of her more high-wattage colleague at MGM, Adrian.
As was traditional with 1930s comedies, after navigating arguments, convoluted schemes and cocktails, everyone is partnered up as they should be by the end, and they’re also the best of friends. Libeled Lady was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (it lost to The Great Ziegfeld) and remains a favorite among fans of the decade’s comedies. This Blu-ray features a new 4K restoration of the film, as well as the original theatrical trailer.
Rita Hayworth: Ultimate Collection
Mill Creek Entertainment
It’s easy to side-eye any boxed set that bills itself an “ultimate collection” of Rita Hayworth’s films, but doesn’t include Gilda. Or, for that matter, Cover Girl or You Were Never Lovelier. But there are some jewels here, including Pal Joey and The Lady from Shanghai – and if it’s a Hayworth-Astaire pairing you’re seeking, 1941’s You’ll Never Get Rich is featured in this collection as well.
This Blu-ray set includes 12 films, in fact, over six discs, ranging from 1940’s Music in My Heart to 1959’sThey Came to Cordura. The former was Hayworth’s first chance to shine in a musical after her breakout role in 1939’s Only Angels Have Wings; meanwhile, They Came to Cordura is set in 1916, but that’s not glaringly obvious from the equestrian looks Hayworth wears by an uncredited Jean Louis – in some scenes she’s more suited to a Ralph Lauren runway (that is a compliment).
For Hayworth glamour, of course, The Lady from Shanghai and Pal Joey (both again featuring looks by Jean Louis) are the high-definition treasures of this set. As Hayworth’s go-to costume designer, Jean Louis also created some fab goddess gowns in another film in this set, 1947’s Down to Earth, in which she plays Terpsichore of Greek mythology and through a series of wacky circumstances ends up in a Broadway musical. The plot is a bit pretzel-like, but Hayworth looks gorgeous in Jean Louis’s take on Grecian-goes-Hollywood. It’s a sure bet that any fan of Hayworth, iconic costumes or film noir already possesses a copy of Gilda, so consider this collection a terrific option to help the Hayworth fan in your life fill out his or her collection.
Wuthering Heights (1939)
Warner Archive Collection
Starring Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier
Directed by William Wyler
Costumes by Omar Kiam
Was 1939 Hollywood’s greatest year? The inclusion of William Wyler’s Oscar-nominated Wuthering Heights makes a good case for it, as there’s never been another version that comes close to this production of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel, the tragic love story of Cathy and Heathcliff amid the moors of Yorkshire.
Aside from the stellar cast and the smoldering performance that made Laurence Olivier a star in the U.S., there’s another reason classics fans love this film: the work of costume designer Omar Kiam, whose time in the industry was brief, just six years. Lured to Hollywood by Samuel Goldwyn after running his own studio in New York, Kiam contributed plenty of stylish designs to 1930s films, from his gowns for Ruth Chatterton in 1936’s Dodsworth and the fashion-show sequence in Vogues of 1938 to his work for Janet Gaynor in the 1937 version of A Star is Born.
Kiam also was known for his work on period costumes, and that’s most evident in Wuthering Heights. He had worked with both Merle Oberon and William Wyler in several films previously, but Kiam’s designs here may be his most memorable, especially the satin gown with a lattice-patterned ruffle Cathy wears in the moment of her epiphany: “I am Heathcliff.”
This Manufactured On Demand DVD includes an interview with Geraldine Fitzgerald and the original theatrical trailer. Wuthering Heights hasn’t yet been released as a Blu-ray; here’s hoping that when that happens, bonus features might include a look at Kiam’s contribution.