Bette Davis Project #1: “Fashions of 1934”

william powell and bette davis in fashions of 1934
William Powell plays Sherwood Nash, a con artist who fails at one con and, when he stumbles into newbie fashion designer Lynn Mason (Bette Davis), is inspired to create a new con: knock-offs of original fashion dresses. Nash’s true motivation is to irritate legitimate designers so they will hire him as a consultant to steal Paris’ fashions in the same way he stole theirs.

Bette is completely out of her element here. She’s put in ridiculous wigs (or so much Dippity-Do that it makes her real hair look like a wig), heavy make up and clumpy false eyelashes. She’s in the role of subservient, meek little girl who literally sits on the sidelines while the action goes on. She even alters her voice to mimic the upper class voice of early 30s starlets. Bette looks really lovely in the gowns, though, and while they’re not exactly her style, she certainly has a terrific figure. Thanks to the whims of fashion, though, her bosomy figure wasn’t the style in 1934.

bette davis in fashions of 1934

Speaking of figures, this movie was one of the last pre-code films to come out before the July 1, 1934 enactment of the newer, harsher code. There are tons of girls in their underwear, including a surprisingly well-endowed Bette, and all the girls in the Busby Berkeley ostrich feather number are practically nude. There are a lot of double entendres, and the resolution of the trouble involves the fake duchess’ birthmark in a very intimate spot.

Not a bad film, but definitely just an excuse to show fashions and have a musical number. That’s not going to stop me from posting my extensive “Fashions of 1934” photo gallery. And by “extensive” I mean “eleven”.

fashions of 1934

fashions of 1934

fashions of 1934This is actually Bette in Jimmy the Gent (1934), but it’s a great picture, so here you go.

fashions of 1934

fashions of 1934

fashions of 1934

verree teasdale in fashions of 1934

fashions of 1934

 

 

fashions of 1934

fashions of 1934

fashions of 1934

FURTHER READING:
sixmartinis and the seventh art: memories of busby
1934 review of “Fashions of 1934” from New York Times
Trailer for “Fashions of 1934” on YouTube

17 Comments

  1. Lolita says:

    I don’t care if it’s just an excuse to show fashion – the combination Powell+Davis is irresistible! Thanks for the lovely photos.

  2. Lolita says:

    I don’t care if it’s just an excuse to show fashion – the combination Powell+Davis is irresistible! Thanks for the lovely photos.

  3. addie says:

    I agree with Lolita, The fashions, plus Powell and Davis, Wow!
    Also I looked up who did the make-up. Since you said it was quite overly done, I had a feeling I knew who it had to be, I was right, it was, “Pancake Perc” Westmore, himself.
    In just the past year or so I have realized that I can figure out when Perc Westmore has done the make-up on a film because he puts it on so thick and I mean thick. it is practically a trademark. lol

  4. addie says:

    I agree with Lolita, The fashions, plus Powell and Davis, Wow!
    Also I looked up who did the make-up. Since you said it was quite overly done, I had a feeling I knew who it had to be, I was right, it was, “Pancake Perc” Westmore, himself.
    In just the past year or so I have realized that I can figure out when Perc Westmore has done the make-up on a film because he puts it on so thick and I mean thick. it is practically a trademark. lol

  5. Stacia says:

    LOL “Pancake Perc”! I love it! Come to think of it, the makeup was a bit heavy in “Hollywood Hotel”, too. Now I’m going to have to look for it.

    Lolita, Powell really is good in this film. He’s good in everything, honestly, but he is a LOT of fun. Verree Teasdale is a hoot too, and I even liked Hugh Herbert. But Bette really wasn’t all that great, which was disappointing.

  6. Stacia says:

    LOL “Pancake Perc”! I love it! Come to think of it, the makeup was a bit heavy in “Hollywood Hotel”, too. Now I’m going to have to look for it.

    Lolita, Powell really is good in this film. He’s good in everything, honestly, but he is a LOT of fun. Verree Teasdale is a hoot too, and I even liked Hugh Herbert. But Bette really wasn’t all that great, which was disappointing.

  7. Brad W says:

    I actually loved this movie – it definitely tried to combine a sophisticated Lubitsch/Trouble In Paradise vibe with the fashion parade genre, and did a pretty good job of it. Thanks for posting.

  8. Brad W says:

    I actually loved this movie – it definitely tried to combine a sophisticated Lubitsch/Trouble In Paradise vibe with the fashion parade genre, and did a pretty good job of it. Thanks for posting.

  9. Princess Fire and Music says:

    One of those pictures looks familiar. ;) I found it through Google, though — never heard of this film, although naturally now I need to see it. Even if Bette’s not at her best, it looks like it’ll be worth it for the fashion and the Powell.

  10. Princess Fire and Music says:

    One of those pictures looks familiar. ;) I found it through Google, though — never heard of this film, although naturally now I need to see it. Even if Bette’s not at her best, it looks like it’ll be worth it for the fashion and the Powell.

  11. Stacia says:

    Hey, it’s your profile pic! I found it on sodahead.com according to my notes, and not in a search for the film but in a search for early Bette pictures. That’s exactly the hairstyle and makeup she has in the film though, so I’m sure it’s a promo from the movie

  12. Stacia says:

    Hey, it’s your profile pic! I found it on sodahead.com according to my notes, and not in a search for the film but in a search for early Bette pictures. That’s exactly the hairstyle and makeup she has in the film though, so I’m sure it’s a promo from the movie

  13. Lolita says:

    Stacia:
    I love Powell! I saw My Man Godfrey just today – wonderfully sick screwball!

  14. Lolita says:

    Stacia:
    I love Powell! I saw My Man Godfrey just today – wonderfully sick screwball!

  15. Cinema Du Meep says:

    These are gorgeous.

  16. Cinema Du Meep says:

    These are gorgeous.

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