Sunday, June 30, 2013
A Conversation with Edith Head
We recently attended "A Conversation with Edith Head: An Evening of Wit, Wisdom and a Whisper of Gossip", Susan Claassen's incredibly engaging and entertaining one-woman show, at the National Arts Club.
About 10 years ago, while watching a TV documentary about the legendary costume designer, Susan was struck by her uncanny physical resemblance to Edith Head. That was the start of it all. She exhaustively researched the designer's life and discovered Paddy Calistro's book Edith Head's Hollywood and eventually collaborated with Paddy on this play, based on Paddy's book and 13 hours of taped interviews with Edith herself. Having this record of the designer's distinctive voice undoubtedly added to Susan's accurate interpretation of Edith's unique vocal cadence and deadpan delivery. To learn more about Susan Claassen and her show, click here or go to her website at http://edithhead.biz/ For an additional perspective on our evening at the National Arts Club show, check out Malinda Knowles'"take" on the show at http://malindaknowles.net/2013/06/24/susan-claassens-conversations-with-edith-head-at-the-national-arts-club/
One of the designer's favorite actresses was Bette Davis, and the respect was mutual.
This is a recreation of the costume Bette Davis wore in "All About Eve", for which Miss Head won her third Oscar in 1950. Although it photographed as black in the film, in real life it was decidedly brown. The films for which she won her eight Oscars were: The Heiress, 1949; Samson and Delilah, 1950; All About Eve, 1950; A Place In the Sun, 1951; Roman Holiday, 1953; Sabrina, 1954; The Facts of Life, 1960; and The Sting, 1973. Before 1967, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave separate Oscars for Black and White and for Color films, which is why Edith was able to win 2 Oscars in the same year: Samson and Delilah was in color and All about Eve was in black and white.
The mock Oscars which appeared on the set were courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
This is a sketch of the gown that Elizabeth Taylor wore in A Place in the Sun, for which Head won her 1951 Oscar.
Onstage is a recreation of the gown worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the film, which showcased her 19-inch waist.
Head always wore a necklace made of round ivory opera passes dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. She bequeathed it to Elizabeth Taylor in her will. In 2011, it went up for auction at Christie's in New York, where it sold for over $314,000! (Christie's lowball estimate: $2,000.) Here is a shot of the actual necklace.
And here is a close-up. Susan wears a beautiful recreation on stage.
Below, a costume worn by Katherine Hepburn in the western Rooster Cogburn in 1975.
Miss Head and her star on Hollywood Boulevard.
Here is Jean's lousy shot of the on-stage sketch of Edith's sketch of Paul Newman and Robert Redford for The Sting, for which she won her eighth and last Oscar in 1975.
After the show, Susan Claassen, still channeling her inner Edith Head, greeted members of the audience and bestowed a gold metal foil sticker with her seal of approval which read: "Edith Head Approved"! We would have been devastated had we not gotten one each. If you look closely at the photo of Valerie and Linda Z above, you can see they are both sporting their gold seals!
As an added treat, not only did the star of the show pose for photographs, but she also emailed everyone a copy. (Can Edith "vogue" with the best of them or what?) Here's our photo. Thanks, Susan!!!