Monday, October 9, 2017

The Golden Age

Fun in the sun. 3:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, Columbus Day October 9, 2017. A national holiday, and weekend, sunny and warm until early Sunday morning when some light rain passed through, leading the way to more.

I went down to the river to catch Mother Nature’s drama expressed in the skies. Looking south to the 59th Street/Ed Koch Bridge, and north to the RFK/Triboro Bridge. That piece of land, extending on the riverside in front of the RFK Bridge, is part of Queens.
Looking north on the East River at 83rd Street toward the RFK Bridge and Queens.
And south along Roosevelt Island, toward the Ed Koch 59th Street Bridge. 2:30 pm, Sunday
The construction you see, no doubt a “luxury” condo will certainly have spectacular views of the city, including Manhattan and Queens and for all I know, maybe  across to New Jersey and north to Connecticut. The area on which it’s being built has always been low-lying with two, three and four story apartment houses as well as warehouses and businesses. This new construction is going to change all that, over time, in the way “progress” transforms areas architecturally, socially, commercially and culturally. Especially in New York where the changes are constant and the past is often erased as it is in the minds and memories of many of us. Mother Nature again.
This structure has risen quickly, two weeks max right next to the bridge and the railroad tracks. You can see on the left, in the distance, an airliner arriving at La Guardia.
On my way back to my apartment, I noticed the terrace of my neighbors and friends, Charlie Scheips and Tom Graf. Those rambling green leaves are the potato plant. I have one in my “garden” always. You see them all over town because they flourish throughout the warmer months, and ramble, enlivening the view wherever they appear. And at the end of the season when you pulled their roots out of the dirty, you get a potato! I don’t know about eating them because I haven’t.

And just beyond, on the next block of 83rd, the construction crane which we showed you last week on the NYSD, has been lowered with its top now at street level when not in service. This happened Friday afternoon when the fire department showed up and saw to it.
Charlie and Tom's terrace.
The great towering crane is no longer towering when not in use. The Fire Dept took care of that last Friday afternoon.
Yesterday’s New York Post had another article on 10 Gracie Square, the East River co-op that has been reported as a “consideration” the Obamas might be having about purchasing a New York residence. Michael Kaplan, the reporter for the Post  suggested in the headline that the building might be “cursed” because of the two suicides – from the same apartment, as well as a domestic murder crime that was committed by one of the building’s residents (at another location).

It’s a good way to put some juice in the story, although the notion of such tragedies having something to do with a building’s vibe is ridiculous. There are several buildings in this Upper East Side area between the River and Fifth Avenue that have experienced all kinds of horrendous tragedies such as these. There have been three others taking their own lives by jumping in my neighborhood in the past three years. In each case it was an alternative to unbearable suffering of the individual.

10 Gracie Square. Water tower, 1931. Samuel H. Gottscho. Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York.
10 Gracie is one of those residential buildings in New York that has always been a bastion of Society as well as Financial and Political power in the world. And therefore a literary, literal goldmine of abundant good and bad fortune in individual lives. Its main feature, aside from the beautiful, beautifully maintained building, and ultra private qualities, is that it has very quick access to highways and airports. The building’s 86 year history is a plethora of Who’s Who in New York and the world; Mellons, Hitchcocks, Vanderbilts, Whitneys, Astors, all with magnificent views of the worlds beyond the rivers and complete quiet and privacy in their own, comfortable, elegant residences, have lived there for generations.

Adrian coming. In the Golden Age of the movie studios, especially beginning in the 1930s with the oncoming development of “taking pictures” (the “Talkies”), and Technicolor films, the creative departments of the studios were as important as the stars themselves.  America was getting out and seeing the world for the first time in history.  So was the rest of the world.

The “creators” in Hollywood were in charge of what the world saw. They changed fashion dramatically; it got the word out on a mass scale with each film. These men and women held sway with the moguls because they were ultimately responsible what the audience saw up on the big screen. Their styles and elegance appealed widely to both men and women. Women’s mainstream fashion was dictated by them. Costume designers, hair-stylists, jewelry designers, set designers lavished their visions on their “clients” and American women went home from the movies and talked about it. And did something about it.
Gilbert Adrian costume for The Great Ziegfeld directed by Robert Z Leonard,1936.
By the mid-1940s, 44,000,000 Americans were going to the movies every week. The “outfit” – maybe a suit or a jacket, a skirt, or a dress – seen that week in the local movie house on Joan Crawford or Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck or Lauren Bacall or Betty Grable – was always noticed. The result for women would be to buy it, or something like it, in the department store, or very likely make it themselves on their Singer Sewing Machines. Millions of American women made many of their owns clothes as well as their childrens’ clothes with patterns bought through the mail or in sewing shops. Every town had one.
Gilbert Adrian costume for Jean Harlow in Dinner at eight directed by Ben Lewis, 1933.
Gilbert Adrian costume for The Women directed by George Cukor, 1939.
One the most influential of these designers was Adrian. Married to a star – Janet Gaynor, the first woman to win the first Oscar for Best Actress (the film was Wings).  Born Adrian Adolph Greenberg (on March 3, 1903) in Naugatuck, Connecticut, when he was 17 he entered the New York School for Fine and Applied Arts (now Parsons School of Design). Two years later he moved to their Paris campus and while there, at age 19, Irving Berlin hired him to design the costumes for his show “The Music Box Revue.” For that first show he changed his name to Gilbert Adrian (Gilbert being his father’s first name).

In those early days of the motion picture industry, much of their talent, creative and theatrical, came from the Broadway shows.  Adrian first worked for Cecil B. DeMille at Paramount Studios. When he was 25, he moved with DeMille to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (More stars than there are in heaven was its motto), where he was hired as chief costume designer.
Gilbert Adrian costume for Greta Garbo in Mata Hari directed by George Fitzmaurice, 1931. Photo by Clarence Sinclair Bull.
Gilbert Adrian costume for Joan Crawford in Letty Lynton directed by Clarence Brown, 1932.
In his years at the studio he designed costumes for more than 200 films and worked with some of the biggest stars of the time such as Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Jeanette MacDonald, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland (including the costumes for The Wizard of Oz as well as the “ruby slippers.” He worked with Crawford 28 times, Shearer, 18, and Jean Harlow, 9 times. He worked with Garbo over most of her career. He was most famous for his gowns. In 1939, for The Women, they even staged a fashion parade in the film. "Gowns by Adrian" on the film credits epitomized glamour.

In 1941, age 38, Adrian resigned from the studio and opened his own fashion house – while still working closely with Hollywood. Adrian died in 1959 at age 56, from a heart attack.
Gilbert Adrian costume for The Wizard of Oz directed by Victor Fleming, 1939.
Tomorrow, the Adrian name is being re-launched with its debut Spring Collection. The collection will be 30 pieces, including evening gowns, cocktail dresses and day-to-evening suits (from $1900).

"It's rare in the U.S. to have a brand with this much legacy, says designer/founder Kate Silverman, whose family, with the blessing of the designer's son Robin Adrian, is backing the line.
Looks from the upcoming Adrian Originals collection.
"His approach to geometry, the way he manipulated stripes and used lines derivative of military costumes ... all of it still resonates," says creative director Gregory Lagola, who has experience in both costume and fashion design.

The forthcoming Spring 2018 collection titled "Papillon" was inspired by Adrian's love of nature and his use of the butterfly form, which translates into a sequin gown in a pixilated butterfly pattern, and into the butterfly-shaped closures on jackets.

Contact DPC here.