A Conversation with Edith Head

In the past couple weeks I have developed an obsession with Old Hollywood. In all honesty it started way back in August, when my husband and I were sitting in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, sipping cocktails and discussing Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy and Hollywood Babylon.

In the interim months I read “The Long Goodbye” and “The Big Nowhere,” trying to capture some sense of L.A. of the past. (By the way, if anyone in L.A. wants to hire me, I’m ready to move there any time!) I’ve watched any movie I can get my hands on that depicts Hollywood of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. Some movies include: L.A. Confidential, Girl 27, Mommie Dearest, Hitchcock, Sunset Strip… oh and episodes of Mysteries and Scandals on youtube. Did I mention I was obsessed?

Anyway, imagine my luck when I saw a production titled “A Conversation with Edith Head” would be playing nearby for one weekend. I jumped at the opportunity to see yet another point of view of the Classic Hollywood era, and from the costuming perspective too? What a treat!

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The play is a one woman show, i.e. Edith Head, circa 1981 at her bungalow on the Universal lot. Based on the book “Edith Head’s Hollywood” by Edith Head and Paddy Calistro, actress Susan Claassen truly seemed to embody the prolific costume design in both appearance and word. The play did not skimp on behind the scenes stories, but Mrs. Head tactfully refused to get into any gossip. It was a very enjoyable evening. As the youngest person in the front row, I also had the pleasure of making Mrs. Head feel old… yay? “I was working with Olivia de Havilland thirty years ago. Were you even born yet?” Er… no sorry, I wasn’t even born before 1981!

Anyway, how can I call myself a costume blog without a few words about Edith Head?

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Edith Head worked in show business for almost 60 years (44 years at Paramount). She received 35 Academy Award nominations and won 8 Oscars in costume design. She holds the record for the most nominated woman and the woman who has won the most Academy Awards (Walt Disney holds the record for both distinctions on the male side with 59 noms and 26 wins).

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Head claimed to have worked on 1,131 films and the extensive filmography in Calistro’s book confirms at least 781 titles.

Trivia:

She is the inspiration for Edna Mode in “The Incredibles.”

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“Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” is dedicated to Edith Head, her last film.

She was honoured with a Google Doodle in October 2013, for her 116th Birthday.

More information:

The Play: A Conversation with Edith Head
The Book: Edith Head’s Hollywood

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