February 05, 2015

Miriam Hopkins in Pre-Code Mode

 In 1930, at the height of Hollywood's Pre-Code era, Miriam Hopkins starred in her first film at Paramount studios. Resident costumer and one of the 20th Century's most creative designers, Travis Banton, dressed her in gowns of  velvet, satin, sequins and lame. Whether she played the good girl or bad girl, Hopkins possessed an aura of upper class sophistication, making her a true Pre-Code paradox. 

Fast and Loose, 1930:

Wealthy Marion Lenox of  the Long Island Lenoxes, falls for handsome Henry Morgan, an auto mechanic, much to the chagrin of her parents.  Who could resist her--in these pale, shimmery satins?

Miriam Hopkins as Marion Lenox

To add insult to injury, Marion's brother, Bertie, brings home a chorus girl--played by Carol Lombard, whose screen name was changed by an error in the credits to "Carole".

With Henry Wadsworth, who plays "Bertie" Lenox

Fluffy-haired Miriam in satin with wrap

Miriam/Marion with Charles Starrett as 'Henry Morgan'

The Smiling Lieutenant, 1931:

As Princess Anna, Miriam Hopkins is treated to a 'lingerie makeover' (how Pre-Code), courtesy of Claudette Colbert--all for the romantic attentions of the Lieutenant, played by Maurice Chevalier.

Softly pretty as Princess Anna

"See, sweetie, that's how it's done."

Captivating in lacy new lingerie

Slinky new lingerie--side view

The finished product: soft fur wrap over sequin beaded gown.

Is the Lieutenant impressed?  (See film title.)

24 Hours, 1931:

Rosie Duggan (Hopkins) is a night club chanteuse having an affair with alcoholic married man, Jim Towner (Clive Brook).  Rosie's ex, mobster Tony Bruzzi (Regis Toomey), is not thrilled and wants Rosie back.

Miriam Hopkins has a tete a tete with Clive Brook
Brook and Hopkins as Jim and Rosie


Miriam Hopkins' two-toned sequined gown in the nightclub  while a change for her, is a total knockout.

Tony  Bruzzi (Regis Toomey) puts the moves on Rosie

Belting out a tune atop a truly 'grand' piano

Sadly, complications and misunderstandings lead to Rosie's murder and Jim Towner is the main suspect.

Above, Rosie before and after the murder. For the scene, Travis Banton designed a shawl-collared, satin wrap dressing gown.
Two Kinds of Women, 1932: 
 Emma Krull, the daughter of a southern Senator, travels to the Big Apple and falls in love with a married man, Jim Bishop, played by Phillips Holmes. 
Miriam with Phillips Holmes
Jim Bishop and Emma enjoy the Manhattan night life
Hopkins as Emma in bias cut satin by Travis Banton

Dancers in the Dark, 1932:

Gloria Bishop, a taxi dancer, is engaged to marry 'nice guy' Floyd Stevens.  Bandleader Duke Taylor thinks she isn't good enough to marry his pal.  Gloria's ex, gangland type Louie Brooks, complicates matters by trying to win her back and travel to Mexico with him.

Miriam with Jack Oakie as Bandleader Duke

Taxi-dancing with George Raft as old flame and mobster, Louie

Nice guy, William Collier Jr., as fiance Floyd

Miriam's Gloria Bishop dances in a stunning low-cut and backless dress with sequin detail and straps. 

The World and the Flesh, 1932:

During the Russian Revolution, famous Ballerina Maria Vaskaya (Hopkins) is terrorized by the brutish Kylenko, played by George Bancroft.

Maria Vaskaya dazzles in fur-trimmed paisley beaded velvet

Off the shoulder velvet gown with jeweled straps

Below, two classic Lobby Cards featuring George Bancroft and Miriam Hopkins--wearing the above velvet gown, beautifully accessorized with a glittery hairband--a Hopkins signature.

Lobby Card #1

Lobby Card #2


Miriam as Maria Vaskaya-velvet gown with string of pearls
Trouble in Paradise, 1932:

Master thief Gaston Monesu (Herbert Marshall) meets and falls for beautiful pickpocket Lily (Miriam Hopkins).  Together they high tail it to Paris, planning to liberate some wealthy folks from their riches--specifically famous Perfumer Madame Colet (Kay Francis). 

Lily dazzles in Travis Banton's cowl neck, bias-cut gown

Chic hairband and brooch; Gaston approves...

Early 1930s prerequisite: back detail to die for


Better view of Lily's cowl neck, pleating and  brooch

Miriam as Lily in white satin with fur wrap


Satin, lace trimmed peignoir with bell sleeves

The Story of Temple Drake, 1932:

Southern wild child Temple Drake falls in with some shady characters, specifically bootlegger and mobster, "Trigger" (Jack LaRue), rather than marry her intended, lawyer Stephen Benbow (William Gargan).
This adaptation of William Faulkner's novel, Sanctuary, shocked America.  Not only was it banned in some states but expedited the enforcement of the impending Hays Code.

William Gargan, Miriam Hopkins, Jack LaRue

Gargan and Hopkins with Lack LaRue in shadow

Lobby Card showing Temple's strappy bodice

Temple looking good in satin gown with fur trimmed wrap

Design for Living, 1933:

Gilda Farrell, a commercial artist, meets not one, but two available, attractive men, who just happen to be best friends. The three hit it off and decide to live together in Paris.
Miriam Hopkins, Frederic March and Gary Cooper
Portrait by Eugene Robert Richee
Gilda's glittery gown: low-cut sweetheart neck; cap sleeves; bias cut
Gilda's signature gown-bodice detail
A portrait of Gilda in the garden

Bonus--Eugene Robert Richee negatives: 
In 2010, these four original camera negatives of Miriam Hopkins, by photographer Eugene Robert Richee for Paramount Pictures, were sold at auction for US $1200.00.  They are dated 1931-2. 
Satin gown with cascading ruffle-costume still, circa 1931-2
Above dress with jacquard cover-up

Publicity photo circa 1932

Miriam Hopkins, while not the quintessential Pre-Code starlet, added glamour and sophistication to the genre.  As he had done earlier for Evelyn Brent, Travis Banton gowned Miriam to elegant perfection.  Eugene Robert Richee iced the already yummy cake with his exquisite photographs.  The result was a delicious,  simultaneously nice and naughty treat. 

Definitely Crème de la Crème!


No comments:

Post a Comment