Friday, August 19, 2011

William Holden (1954)

Dig, if you will, this beautiful 1954 color photo of silver screen legend William Holden...

I am sure some of you have seen it before. But take another look. Soak it in. There is a lot of good things going on. First, some background. This was shot during production of Billy Wilder's feature film Sabrina some time in 1954. The film was released in early September, so we can speculate it was Spring or so. Every reference to it says it was shot on Wall Street and the background bears this out. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a photo credit, so please do let me know if any of you out there have this information. A couple of words about Holden's role in Sabrina if you have never seen the movie. In it, Holden portrays a "playboy" type, the younger of two brothers. Interestingly, the film-makers chose not only to equip him with Nash-Healey roadster (also known as "America's first post-war sports car"), but also to outfit him primarily in an Ivy League-styled wardrobe in much of the film and attendant promo stills.

Fortunately, I was able to dig up a couple of other photos from the same shoot. What primarily concerns me here is Holden's clothes. Quintessential American Ivy League Style at Mid-Century! For starters, I would like to enter the first photo as evidence that the sack suit is a boxy, unflattering cut. Depending on the angle this particular example even veers towards slim. Custom suitmaker Jonathan Behr reckons it is a J. Press suit and presents his reasoning here. Regardless of the maker, it's a well cut 3/2 sack with a perhaps a bit more shoulder padding than one might expect - but, hey it's 1954! Zoot Suits were still a recent memory, so we'll go easy on him. Otherwise, all of the requisite Ivy hallmarks are there: button-down soft roll collar shirt, regimental stripe tie, and moccasin (possibly Bass Weejuns, my mind is not 100% on this point yet) loafers. Add to that a nice straw fedora and a TV-fold pocket square, plus just the right amount of color contrast for some élan.

Oh, did I mention the film co-starred Audrey Hepburn? If you can take your peepers off Audrey for a moment or two, be sure to check out some more of those details in Holden's ensemble.

Time Magazine had named William Holden the Top Star of the year in May of '54, so one can only imagine the influence his style had on the American male populace when the film was released in the Autumn.

Side Note A: Now would be a great time to point out that 1954 was also the year the Miles Davis adopted the Ivy League look, at least according to this article. Photographs pretty much bear this out.

Side Note B: As a contrast, Mark Robson's equally fine film Phffft! released just around the same time as Sabrina features Jack Lemmon, in a starring role, trying to shake his square image to show his ex-wife (played by the wonderful and underrated Judy Holliday) that he can be a playboy. His square duds are other great examples of Ivy style, while his "playboy" image includes such frivolities as a striped waistcoat and a mustache! The end result has definite Continental flair, which is a nice historical example of this then emerging style trend. It just so happened 1954 was something of a watershed for that look as well. Read on, if you are interested.


Supermod said...

Great write-up and, again, great attention to detail.

Although the style of the outfit is slightly out of my comfort zone, I really do like how the colors of the hat, tie, and shoes bring the whole ensemble together.

I last saw Sabrina over 10 years ago at a theater in LA... I may have to drop by the video shop again this weekend!

davidblunt said...

Love this site discovered via Mod Male. Can you add a 'follow on Facebook' function? Like many, fb seems to be my preferred alert for blog posts these days.

Nick Rossi said...

Thanks David. I must some degree of ignorance when it comes to adding some customized functions. It does not look like Blogger has a baked in "follow on Facebook" function and I have yet to set up a FB fan page for the site as it seems some other blogs have done. You can follow by email by subscribing at the bottom of the blog page. In the meantime, I will continue to work on your request.