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Which Designer Was Inspired By This “Now, Voyager” Scene?

Classic-film fans love to find each other, and such was the case the first time I interviewed this renowned designer — early in our conversation he briefly mentioned his love of classic films, and after that we were off and running. Our enthusiastic discussion of his favorite movies included this iconic moment from Now, Voyager, which inspired one of his collections.

Who was that designer? Discover the answer below the image:

Bette Davis in an iconic style moment in 1942’s “Now, Voyager.”

Manolo Blahnik is a huge fan of classic film, including Now, Voyager starring Bette Davis

Manolo Blahnik is a passionate and lifelong fan of classic films — when making personal appearances in the U.S., he prefers to stay only at hotels in which Turner Classic Movies is among the in-room TV channels offered, he says. “Every single hotel I stay at in America, I call and ask,” the legendary designer explained from his London studio. “Even at the Beverly Wilshire, they don’t have it, and I never understand it. Film is the art form born in America. Everyone should embrace it.” In his typical spontaneous style, Blahnik name-checked a quintet of his favorite fashion-in-film moments:

Jezebel, 1938: “When I was a boy, I was absolutely destroyed thinking all the time about Jezebel. Orry-Kelly did such an amazing job; he was so good for Bette Davis, he knew just how to design for her body. She wasn’t tall, and she had a rather large bust — can we say bust? — and he used little tricks to make her look incredible. And that red dress! I loved the idea of what it represented, a Southern woman going to a ball in a red dress when all the unmarried women should wear white. It’s a black-and-white film, but you just know that dress is deep red. Marvelous.”

The Women, 1939: “I have to say, I was never mad about The Women, the color bit when they go to see the fashion show. It was the studio’s chance to showcase Adrian, the costume designer, but I just didn’t like the dresses. A better example is How to Marry a Millionaire [1953]: Travilla did the costumes for that, and the fashion show is much better.” 

Now, Voyager, 1942: “That’s Orry-Kelly again, and when Bette Davis steps off the ship, what a glorious moment: The camera starts at her spectator shoes and goes all the way up to her hat. I think it was in the ’70s, I did a whole collection based on those spectators and called it the Dark Victory collection. That’s an entirely different Bette Davis film, of course, but I just liked the name.”

Double Indemnity, 1944: “Isn’t Barbara Stanwyck incredible? When she meets Fred MacMurray, he flirts with her by talking about her anklet, and the camera shows it above this mule she is wearing, and the whole look is so divinely trashy.” 

Bonnie and Clyde, 1967: “Every girl I knew wanted to look like Faye Dunaway in those slinky dresses. Who did those costumes? I think Theadora Van Runkle, yes? In my opinion, it’s the last time a film totally influenced a whole generation.”

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Marc Kagan
Marc Kagan
Mar 10, 2020

In the film Now, Voyager (1942, Warner Brothers), Bette Davis has not one but two "Star" entrances in the film. Even before we meet Charlotte Vale, we realize that, ugly and unloved as she may be, she is nevertheless the center of everyone's attention. The films opens by dramatically setting the stage for Charlotte's entrance. There is heavy rain pouring down outside a city mansion. Inside is a world of wealth and luxury, vast halls and sweeping staircases. It is 4:00 p.m., teatime, as an anxious butler and nervous maid get ready to cope with the demands of Charlotte's imperious mother, well played by Gladys Cooper. The arrival of a kindly psychiatrist (Claude Rains) and Charlotte's sympathetic sister-in-law (Ilka Chase)…

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