Costume designer Bob Mackie talks GWTW
Film lovers across the United States are gearing up to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the premiere of David O. Selznick’s technicolor epic Gone With the Wind, and celebrities are getting in on the action. In anticipation of the nationwide cinematic re-release of the film and their new special collector’s edition Blu-Ray set, Warner Bros. has conducted a series of interviews with fashion designers to find out how Gone With the Wind influenced their respective careers. My favorite of these is the interview with Bob Mackie, who – among many, many other things – designed the famous “curtain rod dress” for Carol Burnett to wear on her show. This parody costume has become almost as famous as the curtain dress worn by Vivien Leigh in the original film!
You designed the famous curtain dress for Carol Burnett Show for the infamous parody segment back in 1976. This year, Gone With The Wind celebrates its 75th year. How did the parody come to be? Where did your inspiration come from?
On the Carol Burnett Show we often did parodies of classic old movies. It was inevitable that we would eventually take on Gone with the Wind, probably the most iconic and most seen film of the time. Everyone in the TV audience knew the moment “Starlett” (Carol) took the drapes down from the window and dragged them up the stairs that she would soon reappear wearing a dress made from the drapes. For me, in the real film when Scarlett appeared in her curtain dress, it was already hilarious. So for several days I agonized over what to do with the drapes. When an audience expects one thing and you surprise them with something else, usually you get a reaction. Well, when Carol proudly came down the stairs wearing the drapes – with the curtain rod included – the audience went ballistic. They say it was the loudest and longest laugh ever recorded on television. As a costume designer I was relieved; I got my laugh.
What elements of the famous dress worn by Scarlett O’Hara did you incorporate into the parody dress worn by Carol Burnett?
In the film, Scarlett was often quite ridiculous (thank God for Vivien Leigh). For Carol to parody her was not a real stretch, and what juicy material to satirize.
What do you most love about Gone With The Wind?
Gone with the Wind is one of those films I can never turn off. If I come upon it while channel surfing, I will stay up all night ’til it finishes.
How did the movie inspire you as a Fashion Designer? Does it continue to resonate with you today?
The film’s costume designer Walter Plunkett called me after seeing our show and asked me if he could have my sketch of the television version of the curtain dress. I was honored and thrilled! Mr. Plunkett was one of the most esteemed period costume designers of the Golden Age of film. He also designed my favorite musical film Singing in the Rain.
What fashion secrets can real women borrow from Scarlett O’Hara and Gone With The Wind? Should women give a damn about what others think?
The film Scarlett was ruthless in her fashion choices. She knew what she wanted and was never afraid to push the boundaries of what the proper lady of the 1860s would or should not wear. She certainly didn’t care what other people thought. Today fashion is a little too free, easy and sloppy. Oh, well. Time marches on.
- Gone With the Wind will be released in select theaters nation-wide on September 28
- The Gone With the Wind 75th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray boxed set hits stores on September 30.
Interview text in this post is ©2014 Turner Entertainment Co. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
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