Fashion Inspiration: Kim Novak in Bell, Book, and Candle (1958)

As part of my Halloween viewing for this year, I saw Bell, Book, and Candle for the first time. This film has been on my radar as the cast includes the remarkable duo of Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak (and was released in the same year as Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Vertigo, also featuring the two leads).

In Bell, Novak plays Gil, a witch who uses her powers to do her bidding and to catch Jimmy Stewart for her own. The film starts off with a scene on Christmas Day and makes for some cozy, cold weather viewing. The fashion reflects this as Gil is ensconced in gorgeous capes, cloaks, and gloves.

While the Academy award nominated costumes were designed by Jean Louis, whose most famous creations included Rita Hayworth’s gown in Gilda, Marlene Dietrich’s elaborate stage wear, and Marilyn Monroe’s barely there “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress, all of Gil’s clothing in the film look extremely comfortable to wear and have a cool, relaxed vibe while still being elegant, refined, and stylish.

As I was completely charmed by this movie and fell in love with Kim’s character and her amazing wardrobe, I thought it might be fun to gather some inspiration from Gil’s looks that can easily be incorporated into your own winter wardrobe and holiday looks for this year. Enough talk…on with the visuals!

black and red ensemble

When we are introduced to Gil, she is wistfully contemplating her life in her shop while the snow descends steadily on the streets of New York City. She is wearing a black sweater with black cigarette pants and a red tunic – a festive and cozy outfit for Christmas Day.

leopard print cape

Images: https://alisonkerr.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bell-book-candle-leopard-print-cape.jpg (left); https://theclassicmoviemuse.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/91c2e-kimnovakleopardcoat.jpg (right)

I cannot get enough of Gil’s leopard print cape. Seriously, how gorgeous is that?! Luckily for us, leopard is all over the fashion scene. Not into capes (or can’t find one)? Pull out a coat instead, or just keep it in the accessories. I love these casual reinterpretations of Gil’s look, totally appropriate for a fun day time outing.

Images: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/4e/74/12/4e741296fb5f7df861cf8ec1000838bd.jpg (left); https://the-sister-studio.com/2018/11/leopard-shoes-sweaters-under-50/ (right)

Here’s a look for the office that can transition easily to date night with Gil’s signature style written all over it.

black and leopard outfit

Image: https://alisonkerr.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bell-book-candle-black-snood-outfit-with-glimpses-of-leopard-lining.jpg

Image: https://alisonkerr.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/bell-book-candle-black-snood-skirt-suit.jpg

Gil’s leopard cape is reversible as we can see in this scene where she wears an all black ensemble with only hints of the print peeking through. This is a somber scene in the film, accented perfectly by Gil’s ensemble. Her outfit is sophisticated but subdued.

Image: Pinterest

Keep the rest of this outfit simple and let the leopard do the talking. Pair black basics with a variety of textures for visual interest and top it off with some fun accessories. Neutrals never looked so chic.

burgundy velvet dress

Images: https://professorpski.tumblr.com/post/182580123945/what-the-modern-witch-wears (left); https://serenitywomble.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/reddress1.png (right)

https://time.com/3821160/life-magazine-animal-covers/

Gil wears a burgundy velvet backless dress with jeweled bangles on the sleeve for her night out at the Zodiac Club. It’s when she invites Shep (Stewart) to her apartment that the magic begins. Velvet (or velour) is the go-to for holiday wear from tops, to pants, to dresses, and is not hard to find around this time of year. If you pick a dress, go for a high neckline and a lower back, and don’t forget the bangles to recreate Gil’s look.

Images: Pinterest

I hope you enjoyed looking at some of the pieces in Gil’s wardrobe with me. I only picked a few out of the offerings on display. You’ll have to watch the film to see the rest!

Italian poster for the film: Imdb

Bell, Book, and Candle is great fun. In addition to an excellent cast and a memorable score, there is another added bonus. If you’re like me and struggle to find a semi-festive flick to watch between Halloween and Christmas, (or you love Halloween so much you don’t want to let it go yet) let me tell you, your search is over. Bell, Book, and Candle is the perfect “in between” movie! So get your cozy sweaters out, grab your furry friend, and prepare to be enchanted by this wintry, magical tale.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Grace and Kate: The Princess and The First Lady of Cinema

Grace and Kate. Kate and Grace. Could there be two stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age any more different from each other than these two? Both of these women made their indelible mark on film history with their individuality, remarkable talent, and unwavering determination. As different as they were, there still are many notable similarities. My purpose in this post is to uncover those similarities, thereby giving us a double take of these two legends.

-Images are in the Public Domain unless otherwise noted-

The Early Years

Images: https://forums.thefashionspot.com/threads/grace-kelly-3.207135/page-30 (left); Pinterest (right)

Grace was born into a wealthy family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father, Jack Kelly, was a three time Olympic champion rower who encouraged his family to participate in any and all manner of athletics. Grace’s mother was a champion swimmer who became a physical education teacher for ladies at the University of Philadelphia. She also modeled for a number of years.

Every summer the Kelly family retreated from the hustle and bustle of Philadelphia by vacationing in Ocean City, New Jersey. In Ocean City they enjoyed the beach, boardwalk, and quiet life along the shoreline.

When Grace was a teenager she was part of her school’s hockey and swim teams, and she loved to dance.

Young Grace dreamed of being an actress; however, her parents were not keen on the idea. At nineteen, they permitted her to go to New York to study acting so she could get it out of her system. Little did they know she would be quite successful, and that it would change the course of her life.

Image: Pinterest (right)

Kate was born in Hartford, Connecticut, to a prosperous family. Her father, Thomas Hepburn, was a doctor at Hartford Hospital, and her mother was the director of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association. Her family had a summer home in Fenwick, a borough of Old Saybrook, where the Connecticut River flows into the Long Island Sound. Kate’s father believed in the importance of physical activity, and Kate learned boating, fishing, and swimming at an early age. She also grew an affinity for tennis and golfing, becoming a state semi-finalist in the latter.

While attending her mother’s alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, Kate grew interested in acting. She participated in some of the college plays and decided that was what she wanted to do. Her parents weren’t entirely thrilled, but Kate pursued her dream nevertheless.

Negotiations, Camera, Action!

In 1952, Grace was offered a role that she simple couldn’t refuse. Mogambo would give her the chance to work with two of her heroes, John Ford and Clark Gable, and the film would be shot on location in Africa; however, in order for her to accept the role she would be tied in to a seven year contract with MGM. Grace made two stipulations: that she could return to her first love, the theater, one out of every two years, and that she would be permitted to live in her apartment in New York City. MGM agreed to the terms, proving that Grace, though still very new to Hollywood, could call the shots.

I signed with MGM because Mogambo offered the opportunity to work with John Ford and Clark Gable, and to make the picture in Africa. If the production had been scheduled in Arizona, I wouldn’t have signed the contract. But I did – at the departure desk of the airport, on my way out of the country.”

Grace kelly

In 1942, Kate really was the woman of the year. Having collaborated on the story with a playwright, she brought the idea for the film to the studio heads at MGM. She demanded a fixed sum for her services as well as for the story writers. When the terms were met, she also chose her director, Stevens, and co-star, Tracy.

“I was fearless…and lawless.”

katharine hepburn

Woman of the Year (1942) was Kate’s first film with Spencer Tracy, and it was so successful that it led to a series of films they made together, (nine in total) as well as the blossoming of their legendary romance. Kate also signed a contract with MGM during the making of the film.

The Philadelphia Stories

When Grace Kelly set out for New York to pursue her acting career, she applied and was accepted to the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York City. After making her Broadway debut and completing her training at the academy, she played Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story for her commencement performance.

Images: https://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/HolyCinema/archives/2018/02/09/3-good-reasons-why-you-should-skip-the-fifty-shades-trequel-and-see-high-society-instead-this-v-day (left); https://www.marieclaire.co.uk/fashion/10-of-grace-kelly-s-most-beautiful-on-screen-outfits-21124 (right)

In 1956, Grace was cast in the film version of the play with a few changes. High Society, as it was now called, was a splashy Technicolor musical, made in the grand MGM fashion. As Tracy Lord, Grace was given a duet to sing with co-star Bing Crosby. MGM wanted to bring in a singer to dub Grace, but Bing insisted that Grace had a good voice and that she could carry her part. The result was pure magic! Grace and Bing’s tender duet, “True Love”, won a gold record – an amazing feat for someone unknown as a singer.

High Society turned out to be Grace’s last film in Hollywood – a fine swan song for the actress who in five, short years rose to the top. When filming was complete she started making preparations to leave America to marry her fiance, Prince Rainier of Monaco.

In 1939, Kate was at an all time low in her career. She had just endured a series of flops which had earned her the label, “box office poison.” She was determined to make a come back and turn things around. A friend of hers, Philip Barry, had just the thing. He wrote a play with her in mind for the lead character. The Philadelphia Story opened on Broadway and was a smash with Kate playing Tracy Lord, the haughty, flighty socialite. Kate had made a risky business move in the venture, but it paid off. She did not ask for a salary, and instead asked for a percentage of the play’s profits. Kate’s boyfriend at the time was the multi millionaire Howard Hughes. He purchased the film rights to the play for her, setting her next move in motion.

Kate sold the rights to MGM studio chief, Louis B. Mayer, for $250,000. Other studios had offered her more, but Kate wasn’t after money; she wanted creative control. In exchange Kate got her pick of the director, producer, cast, screenwriter, and she would play the lead once again.

The Philadelphia Story (1940) became Kate’s ticket back into the ranks of beloved star, and she continued acting into her eighties. She said of her character, “I gave her life, and she gave me back my career.” The film won two Oscars and endures as one of the most loved classics of all time.

Icon Status

Images: Pinterest (left); https://baghunter.com/blogs/news/princess-grace-kelly-history-of-hermes-kelly-bag (middle); Pinterest (right)

Grace is known for her classic, feminine, elegant style. Whether a star or a princess, she always dressed the part beautifully. When she became a bride, she stunned the world with her wedding dress, forever setting the prototype for bridal wear. When pregnant with her first child, she used her beloved Hermes handbag to hide her baby bump. Shortly thereafter, it became known as the “Kelly bag” and remains as such till this day.

Image: http://hamptonroadsfashionandstyle.com/2014/09/top-10-style-icons-of-all-times.html (left)

Kate never followed anyone else’s style – she created her own. She brought menswear inspired clothing into the spotlight, making it more fashionably acceptable for women. Kate loved wearing wide leg trousers, loafers, blazers, and collared shirts. These looks were worn by Kate in her films and her fans imitated her style, setting a trend that has lasted for decades.

And there you have it…two extraordinary ladies that made their place in history by living their lives unapologetically, with a lot more in common than one might think.

Thank you for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Book Nook – Hitchcock's Heroines by Caroline Young

Hitchcock’s Heroines, by Caroline Young, is a beautiful coffee table style book that is written from a unique perspective – that of the leading ladies and their working relationship with the famous director. This topic has been discussed in the past, but never with such style and visual splendor.

This book takes us on a guided tour of (almost) each film that Hitchcock made. Each film is given eight spreads which cover the production of the movie, how each actress was cast, her personality and style preferences, and what she thought of the Master of Suspense. In addition, the plot of the film and a brief biography of each actress are clearly and neatly presented.

Full page black and white and color images abound, making this a real treat for the eyes. There are numerous costume sketches, behind the scenes photos, costume test and production photos – enough to warrant repeat viewings of this book.

what did i enjoy?

I love how Hitchcock’s stylistic choices for his characters are discussed in detail and how these choices contributed to the storytelling. I also enjoyed learning how the actress’ personal style choices came through in the final design for her character.

Edith Head, the legendary costume designer, gets some time to shine in this book as well, as she was part of Hitchcock’s “dream team” and worked on some of his most successful films. It’s great to hear her personal thoughts about collaborating with the director and how she worked to make his creative visions come to life.

what would i change?

I was surprised that not every Hitchcock film was included in this book. The one that immediately comes to mind is I Confess along with Strangers on a Train. Granted, those films are not as well known as The Birds and Vertigo but I still would have liked to see them included and learned the behind the scenes facts about them as well.

who is this book for?

I’d recommend this book for any fans of Hitchcock or Grace Kelly. Since Grace has been called” the ultimate Hitchcock blonde” there are lots of photos and commentary about her and Hitch’s collaborations, making this a must for any Grace fan. I’d also recommend this book for those interested in costume design, Old Hollywood style, and female character studies.

want to know more?

Those who would like to know more about this topic might enjoy Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and his Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto. I haven’t read Spellbound, but Hitchcock’s Heroines seems like a coffee table version of Spoto’s book.

Warning: this book DOES contain spoilers! If you want to avoid them I’d suggest watching the movie you’re interested in learning about before reading the related section.

You can buy today’s book, Hitchcock’s Heroines, by clicking here.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart in a promo shoot for Rear Window (1954)

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!