When a classic film fan hears the term “little black dress,” the first image that pops into his or her mind is probably Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Try to find a movie poster or publicity photo that depicts Holly Golightly in some other outfit — it’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not easy, either.
Although the little black dress will be forever associated with Audrey, she’s certainly not the only classic actress to wear one. Some of the dresses weren’t exactly little — styles change, after all — but the emphasis on elegant simplicity remained the same. Here are a few examples:
Grace Kelly (with James Stewart) in Rear Window:
Does anyone else have a favorite little black dress on a classic star?
“Is that Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” my friend asked as I pulled a few DVDs off of the shelf.
“I’ve never seen it. Is it good?”
“It’s one of my favorites. But…”
If you’re familiar with the movie, you can probably guess the subject of that “but…”: Mr. Yunioshi. If you haven’t seen it, Mr. Yunioshi can be summed up in four words: Mickey Rooney in yellowface. Actually, that description isn’t strong enough to convey the sheer awfulness of the character. Maybe this scene will do the trick:
Could this be any more offensive? It would be bad enough if a white actor were playing a respectable, fleshed-out Japanese character — surely there were numerous Japanese actors available to Hollywood in 1961, which might not have been the case twenty or thirty years earlier — but Mr. Yunioshi is a caricature who is supposed to be funny simply by virtue of being Japanese. Between his accent (including constant screams of “Miss Gorightry!”), his fake teeth, his pastimes (He drinks tea while wearing a robe and sitting on a mat! He wears a headband in the bathtub!), his hot temper, and his bumbling, he’s like a character out of a World War II-era cartoon. You half-expect Bugs Bunny to show up and start taunting him.
The thing is, despite the fact that Rooney receives special mention in the credits, Mr. Yunoishi only has about five minutes of total screen time, virtually none of which has any real bearing on the plot. He’s there as comic relief, pure and simple.
The fact that Mr. Yunioshi is so unnecessary makes him all the more frustrating. He’s not significant enough to ruin the movie — if you buzz through all of his appearances, you’ll only miss one important moment near the end — but he’s definitely a taint on an otherwise excellent film. As such, I can’t recommend Breakfast at Tiffany’s without adding a disclaimer, and that’s a shame.
Does anyone else have a favorite movie that falls short of perfection because of some blatant flaw? Maybe there’s a minor character like Mr. Yunioshi who makes you cringe. Maybe there’s a particular scene that you wish had been cut, or a miscast actor, or even a single line of dialogue that irks you for some reason. I’d love to hear about other people’s “disclaimer movies.”
Outside of royal weddings and certain horse races, there isn’t much call for over-the-top women’s hats these day. Personally, I’m glad. Apart from the inconvenience of actually wearing a hat, and of dealing with other people’s obtrusive headwear in theaters and whatnot, I’m quite thankful that I don’t have to allot a significant part of my clothing budget for millinery to match every outfit. Whenever I watch reruns of I Love Lucy, I marvel at how much money Lucy seems to spend on hats. In one episode, she and Ricky make a bet that he can go longer without losing his temper than she can go without buying a hat (guess who loses that one). Another time, he convinces her to wear a horse’s feedbag on her head:
Despite all this, I do enjoy seeing my favorite classic movie stars in hats — the crazier, the better.
Here’s Elizabeth Taylor working the Daisy-Head Mayzie look:
Ginger Rogers is wearing something that resembles transparent plaid:
Irene Dunne’s hat looks like an overturned bird’s nest (and, in that glove, her hand could pass for the bird):
Bette Davis (with bonus Brando!) at the Academy Awards in 1955. Her hat must be a leftover from some sci-fi B movie; there’s really no other explanation for it:
Audrey Hepburn’s hat looks potentially painful:
Joan Crawford appears to be wearing a hat made of scraps of yarn:
I see Olivia de Havilland’s got her brand new leopard-skin punchbowl hat:
And, last but not least, we have Katharine Hepburn in this monstrosity:
What do you think? Do you wish hats would make a comeback?