Archive for Coco Chanel


Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2021 by dcairns

Victor Saville’s film FIRST A GIRL is the middle film in the cycle begun by Reinhardt Schünzel’s VIKTOR UND VIKTORIA and concluded, as of this date, by Blake Edwards’ film VICTOR VICTORIA and musical play, Victor/Victoria. Though dealing with male/female impersonation (a woman pretending to be a male impersonator), all iterations of the story seem as much gay as trans.

It’s very interesting that these films, made before our modern attitudes semi-coalesced, should seem so modern and forward-thinking. The Schünzel original was a spoof of the English music hall, with its omnipresent drag artistes, but an affectionate one. The character played by Sonny Hale in Saville’s film, reads as Obviously Gay, even though (a) he’s played by the husband of Jessie Matthews, the female lead, and (b) an unconvincing hetero romance is contrived for him in the third act. The object of his affections is Anna Lee, who gets a sexy shower scene and seems the least ambiguous figure, but even she can’t wholly dismiss the whiff of acidulated queeniness Hale projects so ably.

Jessie Matthews is never not obviously a girl, even when clad in a tux, just as Renate Müller was always a girl in the original (Julie Andrews does suggest a Bowie-like androgyny), and the obvious artifice probably helped everyone feel comfortable, who might otherwise be inclined not to be (the original came out in Germany in 1933, an extraordinary thing). Griffith Jones is a bit dull as lead boy, but he’s handsome at a time when so many British leading men were scarred, stout or snaggle-toothed, and has an ambiguous quality that suits the part. The most daring aspect of the film is the hero who falls for a girl he believes to be a boy. You can see how a German film doing this might be poking fun at the British, but a British film doing it is quite close to playing the notion straight, as it were.

Matthews is a delight, gets several spectacular musical numbers, costumed by Coco Chanel, and while the plotting isn’t perfect — Lee has to step up to the role of villainess, then hurriedly step down — it’s simpler and more efficient than Edwards’ multivalent farce narrative. And it’s huge fun.

FIRST A GIRL stars Millie the Non-Stop Variety Girl; Freddie Rathbone; Bronwyn; Narcy; Wackford Squeers; and Miss Havisham.

Old Sparkie

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by dcairns

Joan Blondell goes to the chair — fer poimanent!

Sorry, that shouled have read “Joan Blondell sits in a chair for a permanent.”

Ina Claire, left, costumed by Coco Chanel.

Film: THREE BROADWAY GIRLS, AKA THE GREEKS HAVE A WORD FOR THEM. Apparently Goldwyn insisted on changing the play’s title from The Greeks Have a Word for It, further proof of his lack of taste and sense in my opinion. And then i guess the film didn’t do so well so they went for a blander title.

Smashing pre-code Goldwyn! The original of HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE, great performances by Claire and Blondell, decent support from Madge Evans, that oddly appealing drip David Manners, and suaveness machine Lowell Sherman, who also directed. Lots of spicy and amoral content, including Ina discarding her garb for an unparalleled fur-coat-and-no-knickers scene. Some combination of the Goldwyn quest for “quality” (that drab chimera), the theatrical origins, the limitations of ’30s technique, and Sherman’s direction, makes the film just a little stiffer than the very best pre-codes, but it benefits from the ability of the characters to constantly surprise us by stepping outside the norms of behaviour later enforced by censorship. Like so ~

No 3.

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on November 2, 2009 by dcairns


‘No,’ said the girl in the perfumery department, ‘I’m afraid I don’t quite see it…’

‘I’m sure you’ve got it … how can I describe it? It smells something like freshly dug earth, like withered flowers.’

‘Unless you mean Chanel No. 3.’


‘It’s not being made any more. You might find a bottle in a little shop that had some old stock. I’m afraid we can’t help you.’

~ D’entre les Mortes, by Boileau & Narcejac.

Fiona, my resident scent expert, observes that freshly dug earth and withered flowers might actually be something you could blend into an attractive perfume, but perhaps not as a dominant note. Also, Boileau, Narcejac and I were all unaware of the famous story about Coco Chanel and No 5, but Fiona explains that Coco was offered five prototypes for her perfume, and chose number 5, deciding on a whim to name it that. So Chanel No. 3 consisted of a single prototype bottle, unlike to turn up in “a little shop that had some old stock.”

Now Fiona is off to bid for some vintage Coty’s Emeraude.