Archive for Lady Sings the Blues

The Secret of Kim

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on April 15, 2013 by dcairns


An arresting and unusual credit from THE NOTORIOUS LANDLADY.

The first thing one asks, I imagine, is how much is concealed within that simple phrase “executed by.” And of course we can’t know without seeing the drawings.

Let it be admitted, however, that many professional costume designers really ought to have similar sub-credits. Some famous names will scribble a few indecipherable lines on a bit of card, skim it at an underling, and say words to the effect of “Execute that.” The assistant must interpret, design and realize the squiggly  “concept” with no real credit at all. At least la Novak admits she had help.

(And in those days of costume department heads, somebody like Edith Head [the Head of heads] could get a credit and pick up an Oscar for something she might not have worked on at all, except possibly in some kind of abstract supervisory role. We’re also told that Head got her first movie job by walking into the studio with a portfolio full of her students’ drawings. Such versatility!)

The next question is, are the costumes designed for Kim Novak by Kim Novak as good as the ones designed for Kim Novak by, say, Adrian? The answer would have to be NO, they are not. But some of them are very good. They lack consistency, and that may be because the job was split between Novak and Courtney or because some are mainly KN and some are mainly EC, or because Novak lacks consistency.

So if they’re not as good as what you can get by employing Columbia’s regular man, what is the point, beyond a little ego-boost for a top box office star who ought to be getting all the flattery she needs?


I note with amusement that Courtney’s only non-Novak credit is for LADY SINGS THE BLUES, again with a star (Diana Ross this time) who liked knocking together her own frocks. Fiona actually remarked that the strange triangular sleeves sported by Novak reminded her of those disfiguring Diana Ross’s arms in MAHOGANY. My theory on this preference for isosceles sleeves: a triangle has one line less than a rectangle, and so is easier and quicker to draw. A valuable labour-saver if you also have a movie to act in.

On the other hand, it must be said — this is nice —


Am anxious to hear of any other cases of movie stars designing their own gowns.