Old movie ho that I am, I can't believe that I hadn't encountered the 1949 film East Side, West Side until last Wednesday. It has a good director, Mervyn LeRoy (No Time for Sergeants, Gypsy). The cast is outstanding: Barbara Stanwyck vs. Ava Gardner (better than Alien vs. Predator any day) fighting over James Mason, supported by Cyd Charisse and Nancy (Mrs. Ronald Reagan) Davis. And for me, the most important thing, is its fabulous costume designer, Academy Award-winning Helen Rose.
Helen Rose, among other things, designed Grace Kelly's wedding gown, the white chiffon dress Elizabeth Taylor wore in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,
and perhaps my all-time favorite movie dress, the one worn by The Bad and The Beautiful's studio tramp when she descends the staircase to interrupt the conversation between actress Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner) and producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), thus destroying Georgia's dreams of a happy-ever-after with Jonathan forever. God bless the 1950s: the scene clearly implies that Ms. Studio Tramp and Shields were upstairs in Shields' bedroom doing something unmentionable when Georgia came knocking, yet she appears wearing the most architecturally elaborate New Look-style gown imaginable, the kind of dress that had to be applied by a maid and removed with a can-opener. Not the best thing for naughty business of any sort. Alas, I cannot find a photo of the Studio Tramp's dress.
Ms. Rose won one of her Oscars for The Bad and the Beautiful's costumes. She was great at channeling Dior's New Look.
The plot of ESWS doesn't live up to the cast or the costuming: like so many American movies, it starts as a rather hot film about adultery and turns into a confused murder and morality tale. The gorgeous Ava Gardner plays The Bad Girl, Isabel Lorrison (evidently "Lorrison" was a Writer's Guild approved mid-century hot-chick character name), and she makes her appearance wearing the most gorgeous strapless dress imaginable. As a rule, I don't like strapless dresses. Modern ones tend to be ill-fitting -- remember how Sarah Jessica Parker was always showing up to award ceremonies in strapless and quadra-boob, and in one instance, with her bra showing ? -- but Ava's dress fit perfectly, with nary a hint of under-arm cutlet. Of course, Ava didn't get her costume on loan, it was made for her and probably contained as much buttressing as a Gothic cathedral. Oh, those were the days, for dressmaking, if not for on-screen hot monkey sex.
For a while, Helen Rose had her own clothing line, and you can find her dresses for sale online. This beauty is offered by Fuzzy Lizzie at Babylon Mall. A gorgeous 1970s Helen Rose halter dress can be found at antiquedress.com, one of her cocktail dresses at Vintageous, and this gorgeous gown at thefrock.com. Enjoy!