A Conversation With Edith Head – An Intimate Story of Hollywood

Conversations With Edith Head

Hollywood buffs will well remember the costume designer Edith Head, nominated for 33 Academy Awards and winner of eight.  Her 1978 star on the Hollywood walk of fame is a legend.  

Conversations with Edith Head: Susan Classen, star

Star Susan Classen, a Tucson native, first got the idea for a project on Edith Head nine years ago after watching a televised biography of the great lady.  She realized that her physical resemblance to the designer was almost that of a twin and when Susan put on the large dark glasses, it was almost impossible to tell them apart.  Not only was Susan a look a like, but she shared Edith’s passion for fashion.  

Conversations with Edith Head

The only source material she could find about Edith was Paddy Calistro’s book, Edith Head’s Hollywood.  Connecting with fashion journalist Paddy was “kismet” as the author possessed thirteen hours of taped interviews with Edith.  The pair collaborated on the play using material from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills and discussions with people like Bob Mackie, who had once been a sketch artist for Edith.  

Conversations With Edith Head: some of Edith's designs

A Conversation With Edith Head is truly based on Edith’s own words and thoughts.  It gives the scoop on the Golden Age of Hollywood – whose hips needed clever disguising and who was difficult to work with. Edith had stitched Dorothy Lamour into her sarong; put Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in kilts for “ The Road to Bali”, created Bette Davis’ glamorous Margo Channing and made teenage girls swoon over Elizabeth Taylor’s white ball gown in  “ A Place In the Sun.”   Such costumes were reconstructed with the help of Chris Brewer and Maryann Trombino.  

According to Edith’s notes, one of her favorite Oscars was for the 1973 production of The Sting staring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  In that, she had only men to dress and found it stimulating.  She speaks of Barbara Stanwyck, Marlene Dietrich, Mary Martin, Sophia Loren,  and her very first actress Clara Bow. (She started in 1923, going from being a teacher to a sketch designer for Cecile B. DeMille.)  In all, she produced costumes for over 1,000 films.  

Walking around the theatre, Edith interacts with her audience, allowing them to ask questions and even bringing one or two into the production with an improvisation that only an accomplished actress like Susan Classen can do. She imparted many “Edith-isms” to us. Some of my favorite were – “Early on, I learned the most important person to please is the Hollywood director.” Or “The director I’m currently working with is always my favorite.” And “When you find a magic, stick with it and never change it.” 

Conversations With Edith Head: Stuard Moulton, host

Along with Stuart Moulton, who plays her host, the play was improved on by James Blair’s technical expertise.  Her voice and crafted movements were assisted by Dianne J Winslow and her wig by Renate E Leuschner.  Off the Aisle Productions, LLC is the executive producer along with the Invisible Theatre.  

Conversations with Edith Head: Susan and Stuart

It was a great evening of old school glamour and wonderful recollections.  Edith Head truly comes to life here. 

Running in Los Angeles only until Oct 24, 2010, you need to call the El Portal Theatre immediately if you want tickets as they have played to sold out houses since its inception.  For tickets call 818 508 4200. The theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim.  Prices for tickets are $20.  www.elportaltheatre.com

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