Flattery will get you everywhere: Gone With The Wind Q&A with Bob Mackie

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

I often opine that no one reads my blog. That’s not exactly true anymore, but like comedians I’ve loved – Kathy Griffin, Carol Burnett, Don Rickles, the late Jonathan Winters, and recently departed Robin Williams and Joan Rivers – being self-deprecating is a way of life … and a good strategy to try to keep the gremlins away. So, if somebody reaches out, tells me they read this blog, and asks me to share something nifty with all 12.5 of you readers out there, I do it!

Warner Brothers checked out my humble efforts here and sent me a transcribed interview with top fashion designer Bob Mackie who is best known for costuming entertainment icons such as Carol Burnett, Cher, and many others, providing his signature approach to costume design.

 

 

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Y’see, 2014 is the 75th anniversary year for producer David O. Selnick’s masterpiece (and my mom author Susie Duncan Sexton‘s favorite. film. ever.) Gone With the Wind. And all kinds of fancy stuff has been planned in celebration….and here’s the commercial: Warner Brothers upcoming limited and numbered release, Gone with the Wind 75th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray™ packaged with new collectible packaging, new memorabilia and new special features ($49.99 SRP) goes on sale September 30th at your favorite retailer.
From Warner Brothers –

Gone With the Wind‘s wardrobe is among the most celebrated in cinematic history and continues to influence designers today. The film impacted fashion designer Bob Mackie who has said “Mr. Plunkett was one of the most esteemed period costume designers of the Golden Age of film.”

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

More than perhaps any other movie, the costumes in Gone with the Wind brought the story to life.  From the crinoline hoops to the underskirt cages, costume designer Walter Plunkett and his team of seamstresses went to painstaking lengths to create the hundreds of elaborate costumes – including the famed ball gowns that epitomize the Southern Belle – for the film.

Many of the gowns required multiple versions reflecting different states of wear and tear to correspond with the different phases of the movie – pre-Civil War, during the war and after the war.  Consider that the war made it difficult, if not impossible, to access the luxurious fabrics and details because the fighting made the trade routes too dangerous, you’ll see this reflected in the costume design.  It’s the details like this that transport you to another world and which inspired so many other fashion designers.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Below is a transcript of the Mackie interview …

 

WARNER BROS. TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW WITH BOB MACKIE

You designed the famous curtain dress for Carol Burnett Show for the infamous parody segment back in 1976. This year, Gone With The Wind celebrates its 75th year.  How did the parody come to be?  Where did your inspiration come from?

On the Carol Burnett Show we often did parodies of classic old movies.  It was inevitable that we would eventually take on Gone with the Wind, probably the most iconic and most seen film of the time.  Everyone in the TV audience knew the moment “Starlett” (Carol) took the drapes down from the window and dragged them up the stairs that she would soon reappear wearing a dress made from the drapes.  For me, in the real film when Scarlett appeared in her curtain dress, it was already hilarious.  So for several days I agonized over what to do with the drapes.  When an audience expects one thing and you surprise them with something else, usually you get a reaction.  Well, when Carol proudly came down the stairs wearing the drapes – with the curtain rod included – the audience went ballistic.  They say it was the loudest and longest laugh ever recorded on television.  As a costume designer I was relieved; I got my laugh.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

What elements of the famous dress worn by Scarlett O’Hara did you incorporate into the parody dress worn by Carol Burnett?

In the film, Scarlett was often quite ridiculous (thank God for Vivien Leigh).  For Carol to parody her was not a real stretch, and what juicy material to satirize.

What do you most love about Gone With The Wind?

Gone with the Wind is one of those films I can never turn off.  If I come upon it while channel surfing, I will stay up all night ’til it finishes.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

How did the movie inspire you as a Fashion Designer?  Does it continue to resonate with you today?

The film’s costume designer Walter Plunkett called me after seeing our show and asked me if he could have my sketch of the television version of the curtain dress.  I was honored and thrilled!  Mr. Plunkett was one of the most esteemed period costume designers of the Golden Age of film.  He also designed my favorite musical film Singing in the Rain.

What fashion secrets can real women borrow from Scarlett O’Hara and Gone With The Wind?  Should women give a damn about what others think?

The film Scarlett was ruthless in her fashion choices.  She knew what she wanted and was never afraid to push the boundaries of what the proper lady of the 1860s would or should not wear.  She certainly didn’t care what other people thought.  Today fashion is a little too free, easy and sloppy.  Oh, well.  Time marches on.

 

Thanks, Warner Brothers for helping me with my easiest (and darned quickest) blog entry ever! Fun reading these insights from Mackie – I will be sure to check out the box set … and NOW here’s MY commercial (below) …

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view. In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

 

True family values: Saving Mr. Banks (PLUS – Steve Jobs, Vivien Leigh, and The Way Way Back!)

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[Image Source: Wikipedia]

Christmas is rough. It’s an emotionally, physically, financially exhausting gauntlet. And, please, no “reason for the season” kickback. I can’t take anymore cornpone trumped-up “War on Christmas” and “you better honor my good old fashioned values” talk when someone dares to suggest this end-of-year retail bonanza is anything but an overhyped, overbaked marketing ploy foisted on us all.

(And I might add: that internationally embarrassing and entirely unnecessary dust-up about the Southern-fried dipsticks in Duck Dynasty and their inane social views has about finished me off on any and all “values talk” at this point. Sarah Palin, you should be proud – your insidious, brain-dead buffoonery is complete. The nation has become completely addle-headed. Cue spooky lightning bolt and thunder effects.)

I love my time with my family over the holidays – the movies and card games with my parents in Indiana, the quiet moments after the holiday has passed at home in Michigan enjoying the new gifts and getting ready for shiny Baby New Year’s imminent arrival. Unfortunately, this year Typhoid Roy hit and I managed to infect everyone in my path with the ugliest cold/flu hybrid this side of a Michael Crichton novel. Consequently, our standard film marathon was trimmed to just one flick – the delightful Saving Mr. Banks – while the rest of the holiday was spent dozing with visions of NyQuil and Kleenex dancing through our heads.

Fortunately for us, Banks is a keeper. The film is an exploration of the unending challenges Walt Disney faced convincing author P.L. Travers that he and his film studio would respect the spirit of her literary creation in bringing Mary Poppins to cinematic life. The movie suffers from a rather conventional narrative structure with a few too many clunkily intrusive flashbacks to Travers’ girlhood in dusty rural Australia. Overall, though, Banks is a gem.

Emma Thompson takes the fussy personage of Travers and spins comedic (and dramatic) gold from the character. Travers’ unease with the Mouse House’s carnival huckster ways leads her to throw barrier upon barrier in Disney’s unceasing path. The poignant joy of the film is the discovery as to why Travers is so resistant … and I’m not going to spoil your potential “fun” (fun being debatable, as I suspect you will shed as many tears as I did).

She is well met in Tom Hanks who succeeds marvelously in the unenviable task of taking on the iconic role of Walt Disney himself. With a twinkle in his eye, Hanks resists the urge to play too far to the cuddly “Uncle Walt” end of the spectrum, tempering his portrayal by hitting all the right notes of Disney, the canny businessman. Hanks and Thompson dance a fine tango of two strong personalities, scarred by life but undeterred in their respective visions.

The supporting cast is outstanding, including Paul Giamatti as Travers’ relentlessly cheerful driver, Jason Schwartzman as one of the songwriting Sherman Brothers, Rachel Griffiths as a Travers’ family member who may (or may not) have inspired the Poppins character, Kathy Baker as Disney’s impish executive assistant, Bradley Whitford as the put-upon screenwriter, Ruth Wilson as Travers’ long-suffering mother, and most notably Colin Farrell as Travers’ beloved, fancy-free, ultimately tragic father.

Farrell is in great respect the heart and soul of the film, turning in a deeply felt and moving portrayal of a father, whose steady diet of whimsy and rye leads him to a number of questionable if well-intentioned parenting decisions.

Ultimately, the film serves as a Valentine to true family values, the ones whereby we in the present try to honor the spirit and aspirations of our forebears. Travers is depicted lovingly and honestly by Thompson as an artist who struggles to make meaning of a fractured childhood, exploring the written word to create an indelible flight of fantasy that could provide sanctuary to others like her and that would honor and redeem the father she dearly loved.

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[Image Source: Wikipedia]

Postscript…

Given that rampant illness kept me generally confined, there are a few home viewing options to mention. Jobs with Ashton Kutcher (!) in the title role as Apple’s storied founder is a meandering dud. Everyone in the cast seems to have done less research than reading half a Vanity Fair article on Silicon Valley’s hey day, mumbling their lines ‘neath shaggy 70s ‘dos. I was bored silly and I don’t think that was the influence of my cold medicine.

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[Image Source: Wikipedia]

The Way Way Back on the other hand is a witty and touching romp, detailing the travails of a poor sad-sack kid stuck at a summer beach house with his mother (the always dependable Toni Collette) and her stultifyingly arrogant, menopausal-jock-bully boyfriend (the also great Steve Carrell playing the drama for once and eerily reminding me of some relatives whom I would just as soon forget). It’s one of those “aren’t we proud to be an indie film!” movies with a lo-fi pop-punk soundtrack and plenty of glowering, but there is much sweetness afoot, particularly when the boy finds his muse in Sam Rockwell’s scruffy water park lothario.

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[Image Source: Wikipedia]

Finally, I read a book. Yes, a book! Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean. In both visual and written detail, the book rhapsodizes over the talent, beauty, and ambition of the once and forever Scarlett O’Hara. Leigh’s dynamism leaps off the page. The author stumbles a bit with a near canonization of Leigh’s husband Laurence Olivier, whom I’m not convinced was as saintly as implied. Regardless, the book is an exuberant and frothy look at a true star who blended celebrity and craft with genius-level precision and who left this world too soon, haunted by a career that lends itself too easily to wildly veering swings of colossal fame and crushing rejection.

Post…postscript…

To come full circle, happy 45th wedding anniversary today (December 28th) to my parents Susie and Don Sexton – I’m very proud of them! And, yeah, it happens to be my birthday today too. I told you the holidays are something for my family! Thanks for reading…