Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer

Overview

Edith Head is widely considered the most important figure in the history of Hollywood costume design. The glamour and style of her creations continue to inspire generations of designers. Her career spanned nearly half a century and included such classic films as Rear Window and Sunset Boulevard. Her private life and professional achievements, however, have been the subject of speculation since she rose to the top of her field in the late 1940s. Ruthlessly competitive and intensely secretive, Head had few close ...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (10) from $1.99   
  • New (3) from $69.99   
  • Used (7) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$69.99
Seller since 2006

Feedback rating:

(1804)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
PAPERBACK New 0060567406 New, Perfect Condition. Ships within 24 hours and all purchases are guaranteed or your money back.

Ships from: West Palm Beach, FL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$78.30
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(227)

Condition: New
Brand New Item.

Ships from: Chatham, NJ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$80.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(113)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
Sending request ...

Overview

Edith Head is widely considered the most important figure in the history of Hollywood costume design. The glamour and style of her creations continue to inspire generations of designers. Her career spanned nearly half a century and included such classic films as Rear Window and Sunset Boulevard. Her private life and professional achievements, however, have been the subject of speculation since she rose to the top of her field in the late 1940s. Ruthlessly competitive and intensely secretive, Head had few close friends and many detractors. In his unprecedented biography, David Chierichetti offers a privileged glimpse into the personality and emotions behind the famously impenetrable "schoolmarm" facade, as well as a comprehensive account of her creative process.

Edith Head is richly illustrated with more than 150 images, including family snapshots, sketches, and studio portraits of the stars and roles she helped to create. With a full-color photo insert, this informative, thorough, and important biography is also engaging and entertaining, and will appeal to designers, scholars, and film buffs alike.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Film historian Chierichetti pays tribute to the grit behind one woman's glamorous career. Head spent more than 40 years at Paramount, won eight Oscars and became as famous as the stars she dressed. Her longevity came thanks to diplomacy and manipulation, and Chierichetti meticulously details her love affairs, touted designs and public appeal. From 1925 until her death in 1981, Head was a byword in Hollywood and an American fashion icon. She endured long hours, modest pay and studio machinations, yet never lost her cool. And she dressed everyone, from Barbara Stanwyck and Grace Kelly to Paul Newman. Draped in dark glasses and severe suits, Head was a master at playing politics and keeping competitors at bay. She was also an accomplished liar, which haunted her throughout her life. Head accepted the Oscar for Sabrina, though the gowns were designed by Givenchy. She gambled that the unknown Frenchman would remain silent-and he did. Not that the impenetrable Head wasn't a talent in her own right. Her ability to stay within budget and placate divas-"I might have to dress her again"-was as legendary as her fashion virtuosity. Olivia de Havilland dubbed her "a marvel." Yet the twice-married designer was also insecure and aloof; keeping secrets kept her in the game. Few, save Chierichetti, ever penetrated her inner core. He paints an absorbing sketch of an ambitious woman whose career defined Hollywood's golden years. Fashion lovers will enjoy his homage, and his devotion to movie magic. Photos. Agent, Victoria Wilson. (Mar. 7) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Perhaps the best-known designer of costumes for Hollywood films, Edith Head (1897-1981) lasted 44 years with Paramount Studios before moving to Universal in 1967, where she worked until her death. Film historian Chierichetti (Hollywood Costume Design) worked as a costumer with Head and, as her friend, interviewed her in her later years. Here he confirms and dispels rumors about her real age, her sexuality, the originality of some of her costume designs and sketches, and the secrets of her longevity in a cutthroat business. He also provides insights drawn from interviews with Head's co-workers and colleagues. Head quietly and competently gained the confidence of some of Hollywood's greatest stars-Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Gloria Swanson, and Grace Kelly, to name a few-and included are some of her amusing observations about their physical flaws, which it was her job to camouflage. The book includes lists of the more than 500 films she costumed and the 32 for which she was nominated for Academy Awards (she won eight). More in-depth than Head's posthumously published autobiography (Edith Head's Hollywood. o.p.), this informative and amusing book will please readers who love old movies. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-When Hollywood was young, a teacher named Edith Head passed off her students' sketches as her own to get a job at Paramount Pictures as a costume designer's assistant. This ruse was the beginning of the career of one of the most talented and honored individuals in the history of motion pictures. She continued to pass off the work of others as her own, was frighteningly insecure, and played politics to the hilt to get ahead. By the end of her career, however, these qualities detracted only slightly from her natural talent and creativity. In interviews with the author, Head dished dirt on the figure flaws of such leading ladies as Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck. While these are not household names to today's teens, Hollywood glamour has changed little over time. The loyalty Head received from these stars for making them look so flawless contributed much to her success. Photographs show how well her designs worked. The list of film credits spans more than 50 years and hundreds of movies. Teens with an interest in fashion and film will find this biography fascinating.-Jamie Watson, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A former costumer who knew the doyenne designer late in her career pens an "official" bio that corrects some of her autobiographical fancies. Born in 1897 (she said 1907), Edith Head was a slightly cross-eyed, noticeably strong-willed little lady given to occasional prevarication and, at odd times, pinching undeserved acclaim. With her trademark horn-rimmed shades and false bangs, she was the best-known Hollywood costume designer from the days when Clara Bow wore ankle socks with high heels through the zenith of the studio system until her last assignments designing for Miss Piggy and dressing Steve Martin in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Through the years, she had only two facelifts and only two husbands (self-indulgent Mr. Head and devoted art director Bill Ihnen). As drawn by Chierichetti, her life seems a bit dreary, especially considering the divas and directors with whom she worked. The author describes costumes and explains how fabric, color, and line were marshaled to camouflage the physical flaws of screen goddesses. Dorothy Lamour "had round shoulders and massive buttocks and thighs"; Barbara Stanwyck's "waist was long and her buttocks flat until they jutted out like a shelf"; and Bette Davis "had several serious problems: bowed legs, very round shoulders, and a long and broad neck. Worst of all were her breasts, which hung almost to her waist." Also featured: Mae West, Claudette Colbert, Veronica Lake, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, and a large supporting cast. The journeyman text, basted together with movie titles and appliquéd with bust pads, decks out the life of a woman, skilled at studio politics, who craved credits. Head won eight Academy Awards, and her respectful biographerinsists that she really could design and draw well. Nevertheless, he depicts a bleak life. Appealing mostly to film buffs-but certainly useful for drag queens. (8 pp. color illustrations, not seen, b&w illustrations throughout)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060567408
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/23/2003
  • Series: Harper Perennial Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 7.37 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

David Chierichetti, a film historian and costumer, is the author of several books on Hollywood and costume design, including Mitchell Leisen and Hollywood Costume Design. He teaches at Otis College of Art and Design and at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Edith Head
The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer

Chapter One

"I didn't have what you would call an artistic or cultural background. We lived in the desert and we had burros and jackrabbits and things like that."

With those two sentences, Head dismissed her whole childhood the first time I interviewed her. Throughout her life, Head rarely revealed any details of her birth or childhood, though on a small table in her dressing room she kept studio portraits of both her parents. Jane Kesner Ardmore, who cowrote Head's autobiography The Dress Doctor, recalled, "Edith was strictly today and tomorrow. She didn't like thinking about yesterday. At first I insisted that she tell me something about her childhood, and she insisted she couldn't remember anything. So I said, 'At our next meeting, I want you to bring along all of your childhood photos.' Edith said she grew up in Mexico and they never took any. I said, 'I've lived in Mexico too, and I've seen peasants carry their children for miles to have them photographed.' So at the next meeting she came with a whole suitcase full of photos. She showed me a picture of one man and said, 'That was my father.' Then she showed me a picture of another man and said that one was her father. I told her they were obviously two different men. She finally admitted that the second man was her stepfather. She found it painful to admit that her mother remarried."

Edith Head was born Edith Claire Posener on October 28, 1897, in San Bernardino, California. Her biological father, Max Posener, was a naturalized American citizen who had come to the United States from Prussia in 1876, at the age of eighteen. Her mother was Anna E. Levy, born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1874, to an Austrian father and a Bavarian mother. There is nothing to document how Max and Anna met, or if they moved to California together, or met after arriving there. Together they traveled around Southern California and lived in various cities. Shortly before Edith's birth, Max took out a $1,500 promissory note from the San Bernardino National Bank to set up a haberdashery on Third Street. It failed within a year, and the bank sued. Max's stock and fixtures were sold for a fraction of their worth, and he left town. The 1900 census found Max living in an El Paso boardinghouse and working as a merchant of millinery goods. He said he had been married for five years and listed "Annie" and Edith as fellow boarders. It is the last record of the three living together.

In The Dress Doctor, Edith makes only one mention of Max Posener, referring to a visit she paid him in El Paso after her mother had remarried, and describing him as a "slender man, with brown hair, thinking eyes and a moustache. He was a fine Latin scholar, my father, a man who read a great deal." Posener stayed in her life, however, as people at Paramount remembered him visiting her there when he was elderly. Edith's maid Myrtle City later described him as looking like "a little Jewish peddler man."

Was Anna Levy ever married to Max Posener? There is no record of a marriage or a subsequent divorce. In 1901, in San Bernardino, Levy married Frank Spare, a mining engineer born in Pennsylvania in 1856. At the time of their marriage, Levy said she had not been married before and had no children, though her daughter, Edith, was three years old at the time. The family moved around often as Spare's mining jobs changed locations. The only town Head remembered well enough to name was Searchlight, Nevada. Jane Ardmore remembered seeing a photo of Edith, perhaps five or six years old, sitting alone on the porch of Spare's cottage in Searchlight, without another person or even any vegetation to be seen for miles around.

Frank and Anna Spare passed Edith off as their mutual child, and since Spare was a Catholic, Edith became one too, or at least she pretended she was. I wondered later if she ever officially converted herself to Catholicism after an exchange one night when she was joking about the fact that she and her second husband, Bill Ihnen, were "living in sin," since they had had a civil wedding and were never remarried in any church. It was the only time I ever saw Bill come close to losing his temper with Edith. He said, "I've told you before, Edith. Let's go see the priest and find out what I have to do and we'll get married again." She nervously jested, "Oh, I think it's much more fun to live in sin," and quickly changed the subject.

Maybe having to hide the fact that Spare was not her real father and that she was Jewish started Edith on a lifelong pattern of lying. Of course, dissembling would often be necessary at the studio, to be diplomatic; there were times when telling somebody they would look great in a costume (when obviously they wouldn't) was unavoidable. However, Edith's designing colleague Natalie Visart commented, "Edith lied when the truth would have served her better." These lies gave her the confidence that she was in control of the situation. This would become the aspect of her personality, even more than her blazing ambition, which turned people against her.

Frank Spare's mining activities seemed to bring him a measure of affluence, for he took his wife and daughter to Chicago when Edith was about five and to New York when Edith was eight. In New York she was fitted with glasses for the first time. Gradually his assignments were more and more often south of the border (something she could not bring herself to admit in The Dress Doctor, though she talked of visiting Juarez as a tourist). Shortly before her death, she asked me to be her biographer, and I gently reminded Edith that I would have to know more about her childhood ...

Edith Head
The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer
. Copyright © by David Chierichetti. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2006

    Gossip garbage

    This book was one the worst written pieces of non fiction I've ever read. The author know nothing about form or style. It was disjointed, rambling and very disorganized. He would put parts of sentences in parentheses instead of using a semicolon, he would add stupid comments instead of sticking to the story and didn't seem to understand the one thought per paragraph idea. Halfway through the book, I was so disgusted, I only skimmed the book and looked at the pictures. I stopped counting after 12 the references to the 'Dress Doctor' , which was another book written about Ms. Head. The more I read of this drivel, I wished I had purchased the 'Dress Doctor' instead.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2000

    Edith Head is the best costume designer there ever was

    Edith Head created so many beautiful wardrobes for earlier movies and I'm glad that that there's finally a book to chronicle some of the best.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)