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Pirate Chic? Maureen O’Hara Shows Us How

Why do I like the 1952 pirate film Against All Flags? It’s very simple. It’s the scarf. That scarf had me at hello.

And the boots.

In fact, if I have to be a pirate, if I was forced into it, if someone pointed a gun at me and told me I had to be a pirate, I would want her wardrobe. I’d even take the hat with the purple feathers and the pistol. I’d probably take it if I wasn’t a pirate.

Anthony Quinn is mildly surprised

Another reason to like the film is that it stars Maureen O’Hara and Errol Flynn. She is a pirate named Spitfire and he is a British Officer pretending to be a deserter so that he can infiltrate the pirate island stronghold and scupper their cannons so the British navy can clean the pirates out.

This is a  latter-day swashbuckler for Flynn, though a somewhat more harassed Flynn than the derring-do Flynn of the 1930s. He still derring-does, but frequently wears an expression of….well, harassment. He’s trying to do this job, but has run into Spitfire and rather inconveniently fallen in love, which ignites distinct hostility and jealousy from Anthony Quinn’s pirate captain. Not to mention the slightly loopy Indian princess he rescues from a fate worse than death, who keeps flinging herself on his neck, which ignites the jealousy of Spitfire. It’s difficult to get a job done with people either trying to kiss you or kill you.

Spitfire, on the other hand, is the only woman of any influence on the island and inherited her pirate ships from her father. She was raised to be an excellent markswoman, the better to defend her honor. She will even fight her own duels if necessary. She’s also not bad at fencing, though we are, alas, deprived of the pleasure of seeing her fight against Flynn. He gets to fight Quinn while she takes on some nondescript pirates. Phooey!

Though having lived as a pirate her whole life, she doesn’t have any particular loyalty to them. She is a woman who has learned of necessity how to get along in an aggressively male world and by the time she meets Flynn has decided that she is tired of constantly warding off the unwanted attention of other pirates. It’s exhausting to be in a perpetual state of fending off rapacious men. She wants to try out a different life, one with maybe more room for wearing dresses and letting her hair down, so to speak.

She does actually wear some dresses in the film, but it’s her pirate costumes that catch one’s eye.

The pirate ships look more like sets and Flynn seems to have a double for his fight scenes, but the film is lighthearted and O’Hara in particular seems to be having fun striding about the scenes and fencing…and wearing those awesome boots. I’d make that movie for the sake of wearing those boots. And the scarf. And the hat with the purple feathers. And nearly everything else about her attire. If you have to be a pirate, you might as well be a stylish one.

This is my contribution to the “Swashathon,” hosted by Movies Silently. Make sure to read all the other piratical postings, here!

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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Movies

 

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Characters in Costume Blogfest: A Masterlist

x-men-3Critca Retro Laughter, guilt and taboo: A brief history of dressing in drag at the movies

In The Good Old Days of Classic HollywodHush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), and Whater Happened to Baby Jane (1962) Costumes 

Prince of Hollywood – Cinema’s First Swashbuckling Hero

Little Bits of Classics –  The Costume of the Little Tramp – A Moment of Inspiration or a Huge Theft?

Literature and Lamp Posts – Grendal from Beowulf

The Wonderful World of Cinema – Irene Sharaff’s Costumes for The King and I 

The Flapper Dame – Grace Kelly and Edith Head

Into the Writerlea – Describing Memorable Characters: Elizabeth Bennett

Into the Writer Lea – Describing Memorable Characters: Anna Karenina

Into the Writer Lea – Describing a Memorable Character: Miss Havisham 

FictionFan’s Book Reviews – A Few Good Men 

Old Hollywood Films – The Costume of the Wicked Witch of the West

Silent-Ology – John Barrymore’s Amazing Transformation in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

Christina Wehner – Dorothy Lamour and the History of the Sarong Around the World

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – The Fashion of Fred and Ginger’s Characters

Cinematic Scribblings – Cabiria, Inside and Out: Nights of Cabiria (1957)

The Costume Vault – Disney’s Cinderella(s) and the evolution of the “princess” aesthetics

Realweegiemidget Reviews – 4 (Un)Deadly Dracula Reawakenings

Lifesdailylessonsblog – Outlander Costumes: From Fiction to Film – Designer Terry Dresbach

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies – Costume Dramas of Golden Hollywood

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Books, Movies

 

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Dorothy Lamour and the History of the Sarong Around the World

lounging-dorothy-lamour-with-flowerApart from being remembered for accompanying Bob Hope and Bing Crosby on the road so often, Dorothy Lamour has been immortalized as “The Sarong Girl.” She made her debut in The Jungle Princess in 1936, playing a Malaysian native wearing an Edith Head designed sarong. The sarong was to become an inescapable part of her persona; which she humorously poked fun at repeatedly in the Road movies.

(for more information on Dorothy Lamour and her sarong, check out “Dorothy Lamour: Fashion Icon of Old Hollywood,” by Old Hollywood Films.)

Ultimately, she only wore a sarong in “about six” movies (perhaps most famously in John Ford’s The Hurricane), but she never really did get away from her image as an exotic native, draped in clothe, at home on the beach, perhaps swimming in the ocean or singing a song.

In America, the sarong has ever since been associated with swimwear, often as a wrap or even (like in the case of Lamour) a short dress. However, the sarong actually has a long and varied history around the world

History

Though I used to associated the sarong with South Sea islands, the term “sarong” comes from Malaysia, and the sarong itself (known by a variety of names around the world) is believed to have originated in Yemen (called a futah). Its use has expanded around the world, originally through Arab traders during the 1300s. The sarong is still commonly worn in Indonesia and in the Arab peninsula. It’s use can vary by location, from religious observation (the sarong is especially identified with Islamic culture), ceremonial use, daily life, comfort, and national and cultural identity. In some places, only men wear the sarong, in others, women and children wear sarongs, too.

women_making_batik_ketelan_crop

examples of batik

The colors and patterns of the sarong can also vary greatly. Some are plain, some checked, some with geometric shapes, and others with floral patterns. In Indonesia (especially Java), they color the fabric using the batik method. Patterns are created by applying wax to the fabric in the desired shapes, then the fabric is dipped in dye, after which the wax is removed.

The shape of the sarong is described as being like a tube (sarong means “scabbard” in Indonesian) and you step into the sarong before pulling it tightly and securing it at your waist. For women, the sarong can also be worn not just at the waist, but also up to the armpits. There are also, evidently, many other uses for the sarong – such as a blanket, headgear and even as a knapsack.

I confess, I had no idea the sarong was so ubiquitous, multi-purposed and traditional. It shows, as Phyllis Loves Classic Movies also showed in her post on “Costume Dramas of Golden Hollywood,” that Hollywood is all about flavor. They derive inspiration from around the world (or from novels) and distill it down into a specific flavor. Sometimes it’s artificial flavoring and sometimes it’s natural flavoring.

I will admit, however, that I’ve always had an affection for Dorothy Lamour’s films. Perhaps it’s the good humor in which she approached all her work – whether comedy or South Sea romance. Or perhaps it’s her voice and songs. She seems, somehow, unaffected, even though she’s not what one would consider a natural actress. Always gracious, somehow.

In closing, here is Dorothy Lamour singing the song that would become most associated with her: “The Moon of Manakoora.”

And a video on the many ways to wear a sarong in Indonesia.

Sources

http://1worldsarongs.blogspot.com/2015/09/the-history-and-origin-of-sarongs.html

http://www.batikguild.org.uk/whatisbatik.asp

http://www.oldhollywoodfilms.com/2016/03/dorothy-lamour-fashion-icon-of-old.html

http://www.travelfoodfashion.com/indonesian-skirt-famous-indonesian-sarong/#

http://lifeinbigtent.com/wearing-tube-sarong/

This post was written as part of “The Characters in Costume Blogfest,” which I am honored to be co-hosting with Andrea of Into the Writer Lea! Click here for more marvelous posts from Days 1, 2, and 3.

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Posted by on October 29, 2016 in Movies

 

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