Updated: Feb 7
Diana Ross channels Billie Holiday's 1930s style, Sandra Dee gets the Jean Louis treatment, and '70s chic is on display via Robert Evans.
Great costumes from the 1930s through the 1970s are showcased in the latest Blu-ray releases—no matter whether you love musicals or outstanding film-industry documentaries, each enjoys at least one stylish entry this month:
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Costumes by Ray Aghayan, Norma Koch and Bob Mackie
Diana Ross was nominated for an Academy Award for her no-holds-barred portrayal of jazz legend Billie Holiday; it was one of five Oscar noms for the Sidney J. Furie-directed biopic, but it was Ross's first film, and it's an understatement to say that she took the critics by surprise, embracing the gritty scenes of Holiday's heroin use with as much gusto as the glamorous performances of signature numbers like "My Man" and "Good Morning Heartache." Designers Bob Mackie, Ray Aghayan and Norma Koch also were among the Oscar nominees for their work crafting the beaded gowns and other looks worn by Ross, many of which seem to channel '30s style through a lens of the relaxed femininity of the 1970s (ultimately they lost to Anthony Powell for Travels with My Aunt). One of those costumes today resides at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History & Culture.
Fans of Lady Sings the Blues should be excited by this first-ever release of the film on Blu-ray, also because it features such bonuses as a commentary track including Furie with executive producer and Motown founder Berry Gordy, as well as seven deleted scenes and a making-of featurette.
That Funny Feeling (1965)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Starring Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin
Directed by Richard Thorpe
Costumes by Jean Louis
One of those 1960s trifles that seems cast in the mold of iconic Doris Day-Rock Hudson sex comedies like Pillow Talk or Lover Come Back, That Funny Feeling adds a touch of dream casting for a studio publicist, starring the real-life wife and husband Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin (make no mistake, Dee received top billing). Warren Beatty originally was cast opposite Dee, which is almost impossible to envision now, not only because Beatty's career trajectory didn't include such saccharine scripts, but also because Darin had already starred with Dee in 1962's If a Man Answers. Fold in Darin's work on the soundtrack, and he's clearly the better choice for That Funny Feeling, in which he plays a wealthy playboy who is smitten with a young woman who turns out to be a maid-for-hire—a fact he discovers when Dee brings him to his own apartment (which, unbeknownst to him, she's been cleaning) and tries to pass it off as her own. Dee's subterfuge also allows her the opportunity to float through scenes in breezy dresses by Jean Louis (who also worked with the actress on a parade of glam gowns for If a Man Answers).
My Dream is Yours (1949)
Warner Archive Collection
Starring Doris Day and Jack Carson
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Costumes by Milo Anderson
My Dream is Yours was only Doris Day's second film role, but the success of Romance on the High Seas the year before is reflected in how the actress and singer was positioned in this film's marketing—Jack Carson was a major star in 1949, but Day's sunny personality and spectacular voice were easy reasons to put her front and center on the posters as her fame quickly skyrocketed. You'll also find plenty of meta moments in My Dream is Yours, the story of a radio singer who enjoys a meteoric rise to stardom, partly due to Carson's tireless work as her manager. Lee Bowman also plays a temperamental star and client of Carson's who gets his comeuppance as Day becomes more successful; love and her role as a single mother also complicate things, but love and motherhood conquer all by the film's end.
Michael Curtiz had directed Day in Romance on the High Seas and, recognizing both her talent and that the camera simply loved her, he took on double duty as director and executive producer of My Dream is Yours and created an enviable showcase, stocking the film with a supporting cast that included Eve Arden, Adolphe Menjou and S.Z. Sakall, while Milo Anderson once again crafted Day's wardrobe. Ultimately this Blu-ray release, which features a new master, is a terrific way to watch Hollywood stardom spring to life, both in fiction and reality.
The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)
KL Studio Classics
Featuring Robert Evans, Ali MacGraw, Steve McQueen and Jack Nicholson
Directed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen
If you're seeking an always honest, often glamorous and sometimes funny chronicle of Hollywood in the 1970s, don't miss The Kid Stays in the Picture, which is based on the autobiography of the same name by Robert Evans, the producer and starmaker who shepherded films like Love Story and The Godfather to the screen for Paramount Pictures before formally producing Chinatown, Marathon Man and Urban Cowboy. Evans started out as an actor in Hollywood, so we see his moments in films like The Sun Also Rises and The Best of Everything, before Evans realized his talent was stronger in deal-making behind the camera.
The narration is taken from Evans's own audio-book recording of his autobiography, so you get his singular takes on how no one wanted to make The Godfather, how Love Story made Ali MacGraw a star, and how he found out that MacGraw, by then his wife, had started an affair with Steve McQueen while on location filming The Getaway. Hooked yet? The Kid Stays in the Picture—the title is a line from Darryl F. Zanuck, exclaimed after others wanted Evans booted from The Sun Also Rises—does not disappoint, also because he explores the ups and downs of his life, warts and all. Through it all, you can't help but feel that Evans, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 89, viewed life only through the ups, even when it seemed like he was down and out.