REMEMBERING LIZ TAYLOR AS SHE WAS… 1950s HOLLYWOOD SEX GODDESS

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For those who didn’t live in the days of her box office reign, it may be hard to imagine the huge Hollywood star and smoldering sex symbol that she truly was.  In my humble opinion, Elizabeth Taylor was never hotter than when she starred in Giant alongside James Dean.  Here’s a little reminder…

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1955– A young and nubile Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “Giant”– shortly after having her 2nd child.

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TEXAS’ OWN “GONE WITH THE WIND” | GEORGE STEVENS’ 1956 EPIC– “GIANT”

Icons James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson sharing the silver screen– ‘nuff said? Not quite. While I love the glamour, legend, and lore behind the making of “Giant” (and trust me, we’ll get to that), it rings the social bell– truly ahead of its time, during the largely superficial values of the 1950s.

George Stevens’ 1956 masterpiece “Giant” has been described as– Texas’ own “Gone with the Wind.” Star-studded, sweeping and epic– that bravely chronicles the evolution of the Mexican people from a subservient status to a people worthy of equal rights, respect and dignity through their hard-fought, slow-earned absorption and acceptance in America.  It’s a story about social change and ethnic growing pains that was told on the big screen– before the issue was thrust front-and-center in American living rooms during the civil rights movement.

America has a history of making the path to assimilation and acceptance (in this fine country of ours that I love) a downright bloody one.  Hatred comes from fear–and fear is born of ignorance.  I’ve been down that road myself– most of us have at some point.  Like it or not.  Maybe the melting pot analogy is fitting here– throw it all in, boil out the bones, cook under high heat until palatable, and serve up warm.

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“In the beginning of “Giant,” the rancher Bick Benedict is always correcting his Eastern-bred wife for treatingthe Mexican servants as deserving of respect. By the film’s end, however, Benedict, played by a young Rock Hudson, comes to blows with a cafe owner attempting to remove a Spanish-speaking patron from his restaurant. Above all its themes, “Giant” is about social change. Hollywood for the first time addressed anti-Hispanic racism.‘Giant’ broke ground in the way it celebrated the fusion of Anglo and Hispanic culture in Texas– and anticipated the social gains that Mexican-Americans would make over the next generation. The movie is as much about race as it is about Texas.”

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Benjamin Johnson (Author and Historian)

The Reata Ranch House (seen above in the background) in “Giant” is based on a actual Texas mansion– the Victorian era “Waggoner Mansion” that still stands today in Decatur, northwest of Fort Worth, Texas. George Stevens rejected the hacienda architecture of the traditional Texas ranch house (which is how the Benedict place is described in the Ferber novel). Stevens worried that a Spanish-looking house would be alien to non-Texan viewers. via The huge façade (of the Reata Ranch house) was built in Hollywood and shipped to Marfa on flatcars. It was erected in a corner of the Worth Evans ranch, one of the more imposing holdings of the region. And it was a strange sight, its towers visible for many miles, in the middle of the plains. As it was about a half enclosure rather well constructed, Stevens left it to serve the hospitable Mr. Evans as a hay barn. via

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1955– Elizabeth Taylor & James Dean in George Stevens’ “Giant.” –Image © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

“We were working on’Giant’, and we’re out in the middle of Texas. It was a scene that takes place just before Dean discovers oil on his land, where Elizabeth Taylor comes by and he makes tea for her. It’s the first time Dean has ever acted with her. But even though we’re out in the desert in Marfa, there are a thousand people watching us film behind a rope. It’s a scene where Dean has a rifle on his back. He brings her in and makes her tea, and then, suddenly, he stops. And he walks a couple hundred feet away to where these people are watching us, and in front of all of them, he pisses– facing them, with his back to the set. Then he comes back in and does the scene. So, later, we’re driving back to Marfa, and I said, ‘Jimmy, I’ve seen you do a lot of strange things, man, but you really did it today. What was that all about?’ He said, ‘It was Elizabeth Taylor. I can’t get over my farm-boy upbringing. I was so nervous that I couldn’t speak. I had to pee, and I was trying to use that, but it wasn’t working. So I thought that if I could go pee in front of all those people, I would be able to work with her.'”  –costar Dennis Hopper via

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1950’s BRIONI ROMAN STYLE TAKES TINSELTOWN | SACKING IVY STYLE

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Tailor Nazareno Fonticoli & socialite Gaetano Savini founded one of Italy’s most iconic fashion brands in Rome, 1945.  The pair wanted a name that would evoke both the ultimate in luxury, as well as being short and memorable for the American, fashion-forward men they were targeting. They chose “Brioni” — a small island off the coast of Croatia (once owned by Italy), that was playground to the rich and famous.

Fonticoli’s sartorial skill and Savini’s social networking prowess proved to be a potent one-two punch that rocked the boxy Ivy League sack suit, and stuffy Savile Row, back on their heels.  Their reputation and legend grew strictly by word of mouth, as Hollywood’s biggest stars (Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne to name just a few) became faithful customers and highly visible spokesmen for Brioni– a brand that would not see the need or desire to advertise in the traditional sense until some 40+ years later.

Along the way, they set the gold standard by preserving and innovating the art of fine Italian tailoring. In 1978, Brioni opened what is now one of Italy’s most highly regarded tailoring schools– offering a four-year program that not only keeps Brioni’s own talent teeming, but also the world’s best fashion houses and clothiers.  Bravo!

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Brioni Roman Style S.p.A. co-founder, Gaetano Savini with handsome Hollywood icon, John Wayne.

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In 1960, the young tailor from Abruzzo and the entrepreneur from Umbria made their mark as the world’s ambassadors of Italian Sartorial excellence.  Brioni melded ancient sartorial principles with modern industrial organization, thus staying ahead of evolving fashion trends and technology. via

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MARILYN MONROE & MONTY CLIFT | HOLLYWOODS DENIM-CLAD MISFITS

The Misfits Marilyn Monroe

1960, Reno, Nevada — The cast, writer, and director of The Misfits. Montgomery Clift as Perce Howland, Eli Wallach as Guido, screenwriter Arthur Miller, director John Huston, Clark Gable as Gay Langland, and Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Taber (and who had recently divorced Miller) — Image by © Underwood & Underwood

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There are certain films of the 1950s-60s that capture what I love best– Hollywood icons clad in cool denim.  The Wild One… Rebel Without a Cause… and the list goes on.  Wild, rebellious, good-looking misfits wreaking havoc on the mainstream squares– and doing it wearing denim all the while.  Yes.

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Marilyn Monroe Montgomery Clift The Misfits

Marilyn Monroe (in her Lee Storm Rider jacket) & Monty Clift (who wore Lee Riders jeans) in John Huston’s 1961 film The Misfits.

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Marilyn Monroe wore her fair share of denim back in the day– both onscreen and off.  In The Misfits, alongside costar Montgomery Clift, you see great Lee icons of denim history well worn by Hollywood’s finest. It’s an added bonus for a film that’s a true classic, and full of real-life  irony, sadness and loss of epic proportion– which just serves to add to my sentimental yearnings for this bygone Hollywood era.

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