Silver Screen Modes is again awarding the Most Glamorous Gown Award for the  stars and their most glamorous gowns worn at the Oscars red carpet in 2016. I started this award in 2010  for my previous blog The Silver Screen Modiste in 2010 and have been awarding it annually ever since.

The gowns this year have been a combination of classic glamour and creative flights of fashion fancy, with beautiful results but that sometimes  overpower the delicate beauties they dress.

The Most Glamorous Gown Award goes to Naomi Watts in an Armani Prive cobalt blue and red highlighted  columnar strapless  sequined gown. She looked so fabulous and so very glamorous.

Photo by Jason Merritt
Photo by Jason Merritt

Other three star (runner-up) gowns were very striking.  Saiorse Ronan wore a stunning Calvin Klein emerald green column gown of bugle beads. The star of  Brooklyn said she wore green to honor Ireland.

Oscar Most Glamorous red-carpet-saoirse-ronan

The young star Margot Robbie looked like old Hollywood glamour in gold Tom Ford snake-skin print gown with its plunging neckline. Classic

Oscar Most Glamorous margot-robbie-

Alicia Vikander is proving to be a fashion savvy young star. Her canary yellow Louis Vuitton had a unique silhouette with its gathered hemline and beaded embroideriess.

Oscar Most Glamorous-alicia-vikander

Best  Actress winner Brie Larson wore a stunning blue ruffled Gucci with an eye-catching silver belt.

Oscar Most Glamorous 3 Brie-Larson


Fashion trends have their place on the red carpet, although the bigger trend over the last several years has been the interplay between actor, stylist, and fashion designer. As stylists have taken on more influence, there have been fewer “what was she thinking” moments on the red carpet. The result has been an over-all improvement in the beauty (and glamour)of the gowns. But as some stars become more daring in their fashion choices in  a sort of revolt, we see gowns and outfits that don’t quite work.  Cate Blanchett, the perennial fashion plate, wore a light blue-green feathered Armani-Prive gown that, while it flattered her figure, the abundant feathers competed with her fine facial features.

The Golden Globes have also become more formal in recent years, increasingly competitive with the Academy Awards for the glamour of the red carpet gowns.  The January 10 event showed a couple of fashion trends, though there are perennial glamour favorites. One is the plunging bustline, exposing daring views of breast and ample skin. This can be worn on a gown of satin, chiffon, or most popular of all, sequins of various colors and in gold or silver. There’s nothing like sparkle. The other trend is the deep side slit with the posed jutting leg, made popular ever since  Angelina Jolie started it at the 2012 Academy Awards in a black Versace gown. These trends continued at the Academy Awards of 2016.


Actress Angelina Jolie arrives before the 84th Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Angelina Jolie at the 84th Academy Awards in 2012. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)


Last year’s MOST GLAMOROUS GOWN AWARD went to MARGOT ROBBIE in a black Yves Saint Laurent  gown with a very deep décolletage and with sheer long sleeves. The petite blonde Margot looked stunning in black.


Oscar Margot

Previous winners have been: Charlize Theron wearing a Dior Haute Couture black decollete  gown (2014); Jessica Chastain in a copper-colored Armani Prive (2013); Milla Jovovich in a white sequin Elie Saab gown (2012); Anne Hathaway in a red Valentino (2011); and Sandra Bullock in a gold-beaded Marchesa (2010).

Mad Max: Fury Road won for Best Costume design for Jenny Beavan. This was a a very creative and inventive costume fantasy, and a bold pick for the Academy voters.. Mad Max had won at the English BAFTA awards and in the Fantasy category at the Costume Designer’s Guild Awards.




Bonnie and Clyde was an unforgettable movie in 1967, setting new cool fashion styles for the 1960s generation.  For many young people the characters of Bonnie and Clyde, albeit the ruthless killers that they were, represented protesters of the government and the powerful.  symbols of their own times in the 1960s.  To older citizens the protagonists were murderers and losers, and the film was an orgy of violence. Among the latter was Jack Warner, head of the studio that made the movie. After screening the completed film he asked how long the movie was. When told, his reply was, “Well, that’s the longest {expletive} two hours and 15 minutes I’ve ever spent.”   Warner subsequently refused to market the film, relegating its release to drive-ins and second-tier theaters. This from the studio that had made its mark in the 1930s with gangster films. But Bonnie and Clyde under Arthur Penn’s direction took movie violence to a new level. In the era of the Viet Nam war, the depiction of shootings by victims crumpling to the floor with no evidence of blood, was no longer going to cut it. In Bonnie and Clyde, explosive squibs of red color were amply used: men were shot in the face at point blank; and (spoiler) the multiple-shooter ambush of Bonnie and Clyde was filmed in slow-motion. The latter was inspired by Akira Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai. At one time, Francois Truffaut had been considered to direct the film. He was too busy but one of his ideas remained: some jump-cut editing popular with the French New Wave.  No, this was not Jack Warner’s gangster film.  But then shortly after, Jack Warner sold Warner Brothers to Seven Arts Productions. Warren Beatty was the producer, director and lead actor in Bonnie and Clyde, and he managed to convince the new owners to re-release the movie with wider distribution and marketing, with his agreement to a reduced profit participation.

The cast, a mix of new talent, character actors, and a veteran Broadway actress, was anchored by Warren Beatty. This was Faye Dunaway’s second movie and she almost stole the show, except for the goofy Michael J Pollard character of C.W. Moss, who made a big splash. It was also Gene Wilder’s first movie.  It was nominated for eight Oscars: Best Picture; Actor; Actress; two Supporting Actors for Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard; Director; Costume Design; and Screenplay. It won Oscars for Best Supporting Actress for Estelle Parsons and Best Cinematography for Burnett Guffey. It was also the second-highest grossing film of the year for Warner Bros-Seven Arts.

The positive side of the film’s influence was on fashion. With its mostly youthful audience, the beautiful Faye Dunaway struck a chic but devil-may-care attitude that fit the times just right. The costume designer was Theadora Van Runkle, a chic woman who could model  the very clothes that Faye Dunaway wore. Like Miss Dunaway, Theadora Van Runkle was new to the movie business. She had been a fashion illustrator for the I.Magnin stores in Los Angeles. This was when art illustrations of new fashions were advertised in the newspapers. She had also done some costume illustrations for the Designer Renie for the movie Sand Pebbles starring Steve McQueen.  She had gotten the Bonnie and Clyde  job as a referral from designer Dorothy Jeakins. The job for any costume designer is to help develop character and advance the plot. In doing so Theadora looked over old photos of Bonnie and Clyde, and read the script, and in talking to director Arthur Penn and producer Warren Beatty, she developed ideas on how to dress the actors for their roles. She was self taught as a designer, and looked over old photos of gangsters and period clothes. Theadora once related that she was shopping for fabrics for Faye’s role as Bonnie and ran into Edith Head. She explained to the doyenne of costume design that the story took place in the 1930s. “Just dress her in chiffon,” was Edith’s advice. Although Theadora did not dress Faye Dunaway in chiffon, she impressed Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn with her costume sketches.

bonnie & clyde sketch

Costume sketch above for Faye Dunaway as Bonnie, signed at bottom, Theadora. The photo of Faye is shown below in the Norfolk jacket that was designed in the sketch.

Bonnie & Clyde 2


Theadora 1
Theadora Van Runkle

Warren and Arthur wanted to put Faye in dresses, just like she appeared in the original photos, but with more style.  Faye said that , “The look for Bonnie was smack out of the thirties, but glamorized and very beautiful….they were all cut on the bias and they swung.” The look of the smart skirts, paired with a form fitting sweater, Faye’s braless dressing, and a saucy beret cut an unforgettable image. This especially in Bonnie and Clyde’s line of work. As Bonnie stated, emphasizing each word, “We rob banks.” But it was Faye’s berets that launched a fashion trend. Theadora liked the look, taking off from a photo of Bonnie Parker wearing a beret-looking hat, and designed several of Faye’s outfits topped with a beret. When Faye Dunaway was in France after Bonnie and Clyde had premiered there, a box full of berets were delivered to her room at the ultra luxe George V hotel. They came from the village in the French Pyrenees where the traditional French berets were made. After the film came out demand in the U.S had caused production to jump from 5000 to 12,000 berets a week. American manufacturers were fabricating thousands of them as well.  Skirts lengthened also as the long skirts in the film led to the trend toward maxi-skirts.

bonnie-sketch sketch 2

Theadora’s description in her sketch above reads: “Yoke & revers of black worsted navy & black striped worsted   fagotted blouse of ivory silk”

The costume is shown in the photo below.



Warren Beatty’s costumes were common for men of the period. Most men in cities and towns, other than blue-collar workers, wore shirts and ties, often with vests.  The cap was more working class than a fedora. The costume sketch below shows alternate shirt colors, although Warren wore mostly white shirts under his vest.


Bonnie & Clyde sketch 3

Theadora’s pencil notations on the sketch top right state, “All dressed up to rob a bank.”

Both the outfits of Bonnie and Clyde, Bonnie in her beret, sweater and and skirt, and Clyde in his vest, are the defining look of the “bank-robbing” “gangster” couple for costume parties and Halloween sorties.


Bonnie & Clyde sketch 4

Faye Dunaway looked fetching in black, as seen below. At this point in the movie they are on the road dodging the “manhunt” that has intensified. They are living out of their car and it’s hard to be glamorous. Yet the real Bonnie continued to write poetry and ballads until the end.


bonnie & Clyde 4

Theadora Van Runkle was nominated for three Best Costume Oscars: Bonnie and Clyde; Peggy Sue Got Married; and The Godfather Part II. She never won. She also designed Bullitt, Mame, Myra Breckinridge, The Thomas Crowne Affair, New York, New York, and The Jerk, among others. She died November 4, 2011.



The end of celluloid film has been happening steadily over the last few years, with each new blow seemingly the knock-out punch. But its devotees refuse to give up the fight.  “If I can’t shoot on film I’ll stop making movies,” said Quentin Tarantino in 2014. He was talking on radio station KCRW’s “The Treatment”  in L.A, “The fight is lost if all we have is digital DCP presentations. To me, that’s just television in public.” he added. The DCP he refers to is Digital Cinema Package, the computer hard drive that contains a movie’s audio and video. It is sent to a movie theater where it is ingested into the projector for digital projection. Like reels of film before it, the DCP can be sent on to another theater, only its a lot cheaper for the studio to produce. This is not the latest technology, as many theaters can get their films directly by satellite transmission.

The use of 70 mm film stock in movie-making had already died by the end of the 1960s.That’s when studios used it to pry people away from their TV sets and TV dinners and into theaters to watch movies like South Pacific, Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, and It’s a Mad Mad, Mad Mad World.  But like many old movies, 70 mm was ripe for a sequel. Tarantino’s last movie, The Hateful Eight, recentlywas shot on 70mm (actually 65mm) film stock. Director Christopher Nolan stated , “I don’t want anyone telling any filmmaker they can’t shoot on film any more than telling David Finch and Steven Soderbergh that they can’t shoot digital. It’s the director’s right. It’s their choice.” Christopher Nolan shot Intersteller in 2014 on 70mm film stock (65mm). Warner Brothers released the movie two days early to those theaters that still had film projectors. The iconic TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood acquired film projectors for the occasion. Several smaller theater chains that had already converted to digital projection squwaked. “I can’t afford to get the projectors out of the warehouse,” said Joe Paletta of the Spotlight Theaters in Georgia, “and I don’t have anyone to operate them [the film projectors].” For Nolan, it was an opportunity to incentivize and reward the theaters that had kept projecting film.

A projectionist readies a 70mm IMAX print of "Interstellar," at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square Theatre in New York City. DAVID MORGAN/CBS NEWS
A projectionist readies a 70mm IMAX print of “Interstellar,” at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square Theatre in New York City. David Morgan/CBS News

In 2002 Star Wars Episode: II Attack of the Clones became the first movie to be shot entirely in digital. But now, the latest Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was shot on 65mm film stock by film proponent J.J. Abrams, with the encouragement of George Lucas. Part of the idea was to recapture the look of the original trilogy. This was important to Lucas because, as Abrams added “…  the movie, in a way, goes backwards to go forwards.” George Lucas wants the future episodes to be shot on film also.

Film 70mm

Yet the world of film still teeters on the abyss. The new Star Wars was only shown on 70mm film at IMAX theaters . Nearly everywhere else it was projected on a digital transfer. But film’s qualities come in different shapes. For the movie Carol, director Todd Haynes wanted a muted look in the cinematography. This was in keeping with the bleak times in Cold-War New York during 1952 when the story took place. The story was based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Haynes and his team including cinematographer Ed Lachman referenced the work of women photographers of the time: Ruth Orkin; Helen Leavitt; and Vivian Maier. They were especially intrigued by the photographers’ use of Kodak Ektachrome film and its muted colors, and  wanted to achieve that look. This meant shooting on film rather than digitally. And more unusually, Ed Lachman used Super 16mm. His reasoning was that if he used 35mm, by the time it was converted for digital projection there would be no difference in the finished look – the “grain” would have all disappeared. “The feeling and texture of the grain reinforced the emotionality of the story,” said Lachman.

But the world of film still teeters on the abyss. In New York, Technicolor and Deluxe, long-time processors of color film for the movie industry, had been amalgamated as the Film Lab New York. After processing Carol the Lab went belly-up. After Ed Lachman found out that the lab equipment was going to be tossed, he made arrangements to salvage it all. Technicolor had already closed a plant in Glendale California.

Yet digital cinema, the current master of moviedom, is showing signs of the panic that befell the Hollywood studios in the late 1950s and 1960s. Recently we were given 3-D movies, a trend already showing signs of fatigue. Then we were offered dining and wine with our cinema, and reserved seating. Reclining seats are the next trend, with news of the introduction of sensory enhancements like vibrating seats and the diffusion of smells (didn’t Smell-O-Vision come out in the 1950s too?). Perhaps the thinking is that  bombarding the senses with smells, booming sounds, vibrating seats, and explosions on the screen will get us all into the theaters.

It’s a rarely disseminated fact that movie attendance has been nose-diving steadily and surly since 1930. Back then, 80 million people, or 65% of the U.S. population, went to the movies a week. In 2015, that number has dropped to 25.7 million people a week, less than 10% of the U.S. population.  A  yearly chart, covering 1930-2000 can be found here. The attendance numbers have continued to drop since 2000. Back in the 1930s, to lure all those movie-goers, each of the seven big studios released 30 to 40 films a year. But we know that The U.S Courts broke up the studio-system in its Anti-Trust ruling in 1948, forcing them to sell of their movie theaters. How laughable  with the multi-media, multi-national, corporate conglomerates we now have running movie studios.

MGM Developing process 1
M-G-M’s film processing lab circa 1936

In 2015, in a busy year for the busiest studio Warner Brothers, it released 21 movies. Movie revenues are freely quoted, which seem very impressive, and is helped by the always escalating prices for theater tickets. While this has nothing to do with whether or not a movie is film-based or digital, it is connected to movie industry economics – which  brought us digital based film projection. And of course, as Kenneth Turan the film critic of the LA Times said in writing about Hollywood, “The one big  thing it knows how to make is sequels and superhero movies and sequels to superhero movies.”

But which medium is best for the preservation of the content, one might wonder? It seems intuitive that digital is best as a preservation medium. And certainly that’s what we have been hearing for the last several years. But Martin Scorsese doesn’t think so. “Film is still the only preservation medium that we know to be durable.,” he said. “We just don’t know about digital storage systems. They haven’t been around long enough, and more importantly, they’re always changing. I think it’s important t to preserve our pictures on film, no matter how we shot them or finished them. That means negatives, and it means prints.” Mr. Scorsese is the founder of the Film Foundation, whose mission it is to preserve movies. Of course film has had a very rocky history. Approximately 90% of American silent films are considered lost, as well as 50% of sound films made before 1950. The combustible nitrate-based film of the silent era is partly responsible, leading to major fires at studio vaults. M-G-M had an electrical fire in 1967, destroying most of the studio’s cartoons, silent films, and films from the earlier Metro, Goldwyn, and Louis B. Mayer Pictures. Similarly, a fire at Fox Pictures destroyed its pre-1935 film negatives. Huge efforts have been made to preserve older films and newer ones since, but the job is colossal.


MGM film vaults
M-G-M film vaults circa 1936
Archival film storage at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences


This blog post is disseminated digitally. Part I appeared in February 2014.