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A fascinating look at one of the most experimental, volatile, and influential decades, Film, Fashion, and the 1960s, examines the numerous ways in which film and fashion intersected and affected identity expression during the era. From A Hard Day’s Night to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, from the works of Ingmar Bergman to Blake Edwards, the groundbreaking cinema of the 1960s often used fashion as the ultimate expression for urbanity, youth, and political (un)awareness. Crumbling hierarchies brought together previously separate cultural domains, and these blurred boundaries could be seen in unisex fashions and roles played out on the silver screen. As this volume amply demonstrates, fashion in films from Italy, France, England, Sweden, India, and the United States helped portray the rapidly changing faces of this cultural avant-gardism. This blending of fashion and film ultimately created a new aesthetic that continues to influence the fashion and media of today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253026101
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 09/11/2017
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Eugenia Paulicelli is Professor of Italian, Comparative Literature, and Women’s Studies at Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is author of Writing Fashion in Early Modern Italy: From Sprezzatura to Satire; Fashion is a Serious Business: Rosa Genoni, Milan Expo 1906 and The Great War, and Italian Style: Fashion & Film from Early Cinema to the Digital Age.

Louise Wallenberg is Associate Professor in Film and Fashion Studies and former director of The Centre for Fashion Studies at Stockholm University. She is co-editor of Nordic Fashion Studies and has published extensively on film and fashion.

Drake Stutesman teaches theoretical approaches to film costume design at New York University, where she co-organizes an annual conference on film costume. She is editor of the cinema and media journal Framework.

Read an Excerpt


Sanitizing the Beatles for Revolution: Music, Film, and Fashion in the 1960s and A Hard Day's Night

Ronald Gregg

The Beatles' highly acclaimed and financially successful first feature film A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester, 1964) went into production following the group's emergence as rock stars not only in their home country of Great Britain but in the United States as well. Beatlemania arrived in the United States in February 1964 with tremendously successful live performances on television's The Ed Sullivan Show and sold-out concerts at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, DC, and New York City's Carnegie Hall. The production company United Artists had been primarily interested in using the film to sell the soundtrack, but with the Beatles incredible success in the United States, all parties involved realized that the film would receive more attention than initially envisioned. As film scholar Stephen Glynn recounts, "While the film was still in its frantic postproduction phase, United Artists informed the media that, during August and September of 1964, A Hard Day's Night would be shown on a saturation basis in every available market around the world, with 'more prints in circulation than for any other pic in history.'" The Beatles had become mega rock stars almost overnight and were poised to be film superstars as well.

In the making of the film, the Beatles were surrounded by a creative team, including their manager Brian Epstein, music producer George Martin, the film's producer Walter Shenson, director Richard Lester, screenwriter Alun Owen, and clothing designer Dougie Millings. The film turned out to be more than the conventional "pop" commodity, and the artful, amusing results pleasantly surprised critics. For instance, Arthur Knight, film critic for the Saturday Review, expressed his unexpected pleasure at the time:

The Beatles are, of course, England's most controversial export since tea, and in the normal course of events such phenomena are generally "packaged" in a sleazy, indifferently made exploitation picture that goes into hundreds of theaters simultaneously, on what is known as a saturation booking, so that the producers can get their money out of it before the public learns that it is being robbed. Since everything about A Hard Day's Night — posters, advertising, mass bookings — suggested just such a picture, I skipped the press screening. I was wrong. On the advice of friends and breaking the critics' protocol, I went to a local theater, bought a ticket, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my first exposure to John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Most critics agreed with Knight in commending the film and likewise found the Beatles to be witty, playful, and talented lads.

Beatles scholars applaud the abundance of original, innovative songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney for the soundtrack, which captured a new direction for both the group and pop music. Film scholars have praised the film equally for its documentary-like structure, active camerawork and editing, slapstick elements, "music video" interludes, and for capturing the band's youthful energy and polite rebellion against their elders that signaled the rise of a 1960s youth-based counterculture. In his detailed, thorough study of the production and reception of the film, Glynn exemplifies this admiration, writing, "The enduring appeal of A Hard Day's Night lies predominantly in the ageless charm of its protagonists, four lads from Liverpool who changed forever the style, the content, and the significance of popular music around the world." Neil Sinyard agrees, boldly claiming, "Rather than the Citizen Kane of the juke-box musical, I would call Hard Day's Night its Battleship Potemkin. The message is in the montage and the music, and the message is one of social revolution."

On the other hand, with a hindsight that Knight did not possess, many Beatles experts disparage the group's polished image at this time, which was used to sell not only record albums, but also schlocky merchandise. While the film's form and style and the Beatles' music encapsulate their transition to a more creative future, such critiques view the fashion and performance style as devices that papered over the quartet's more rebellious rock 'n' roll past. The standardized performance and chic dress of the film present the Beatles as a safe brand to merchandize soap, charm bracelets, dolls, wigs, and other products.

Glynn attributes the repackaging from rough to nice to the band's manager Brian Epstein, pointing out that fashion was a significant part of this shift. Glynn writes, "Before signing with Epstein the group wore rock'n'roll leather jackets and blue jeans. ... Conscious of the associations of such dress with juvenile delinquency — with sexual and violent excess — Epstein had persuaded the boys to wear the newly designed Beatle suit, the epitome of 'smart casual.'" Ian Inglis points out that Epstein also cleaned up the boys' behavior: "[He] prohibited certain forms of behavior, including smoking, drinking, eating, and swearing on stage." Media scholar Michael R. Frontani sees Epstein as the major force behind "sanitizing" their image:

He exerted great control over the image of the band throughout the touring years, particularly during the years of the band's rise first to national prominence in England and then to international stardom. He "cleaned them up, sanitizing the rougher, more rebellious image that had been developed in Liverpool's Cavern Club and on Hamburg's Reeperbahn. ... Rather, Epstein marketed the Beatles as clean, wholesome entertainment. Well-coifed and donning suits and ties, the new Beatles were cheeky and at time irreverent, but never vulgar.

These accounts suggest a dominant narrative in Beatles scholarship that blames Epstein for taming and cleaning up the more unruly and authentic group through acceptable, tailored fashion and a good-mannered, robotic performance style for the entertainment and commercial industries. Since Epstein had a taste in smart menswear, fashion became a weapon for criticizing how he suppressed the Beatles' individuality and taste. Clearly, Epstein fostered a new dressed up look and professional performance style for the band, but they were also ready to expand their audience and, so, actively participated in developing the new image. Labeling this simply as a "sanitizing" process erases the possibilities of creative transition offered by this new image. "Cleaned up" implicitly marks the new image as conventional, conformist, and commercial. In The Conquest of Cool, a study of how the cultural revolution in the 1960s impacted American business, Thomas Frank challenges this facile dismissal of fashion and commercial culture:

Advertising and men's wear ... were deeply caught up in both the corporate and cultural change that defined the sixties. ... Both industries underwent "revolutions" in their own right during the 1960s, with vast changes in corporate practice, in productive flexibility, and especially in that intangible phenomenon known as "creativity" — and in both cases well before the counterculture appeared on the mass-media scene. ... Seeking a single metaphor by which to characterize the accelerated obsolescence and enhanced consumer friendliness to change which were their goals, leaders in both fields had already settled on "youth" and "youthfulness" several years before saturation TV and print coverage of the "Summer of Love" introduced middle America to the fabulous new lifestyles of the young generation.

Could it be that, along with A Hard Day's Night's loose narrative structure, film style, and musical track, the Beatles' haircuts and stylish suits influenced a broader cultural revolution — that this new look was actually a modern turn through which not only the Beatles but also corporate culture, and individuals could embody and announce change?

A few possible reasons stand out for this critical dismissal and implicit demonization of Epstein's taste and impact on the Beatles. One is that fashion is implicitly understood as a frivolous, less creative space. As fashion theorist Gilles Lipovetsky notes: "The question of fashion is not a fashionable one among intellectuals. ... Seen as an ontologically and socially inferior domain, it is unproblematic and underserving of investigation; seen as a superficial issue, it discourages conceptual approaches. The topic of fashion arouses critical reflexes even before it is examined objectively: critics invoke it chiefly in order to castigate it, to set it apart, to deplore human stupidity and the corrupt nature of business." Beatles scholars seem to venerate the rebellious and self-fashioned pre-Epstein Beatles, asserting connections with the iconoclastic images of Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953) and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), as well as with the self-made fashions of the "teddy boys." Thus, they implicitly dismiss the shift into sleeker, suited attire and the more androgynous "moptop" haircut.

Many ignore this "cleaned up" look and make little or no attempt to historicize the new styles in men's fashion that mark the Beatles' look at the time of A Hard Day's Night. To critics unversed in fashion, jeans and leather jackets emblematize the rebellious, independent aspects of rock 'n' roll music, while the casual, tailored suits suggests a clone-like pop style, selling out to commercial music, and the marketing of junk. But as Glynn notes, the rebel look was also associated with troubled, often dangerous, juvenile delinquents as seen in the 1950s films The Wild One and The Blackboard Jungle (Richard Brooks, 1955). The new styles embraced by the Beatles, under the tutelage of Epstein, moved them away from the cultural references of youthful volatility suggested by "delinquent" fashion and toward the evolving, innovative space of coolness and cutting-edge taste associated with the new men's fashions. These new fashions were not the conformist suits worn in The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. They suggested, rather, rebellion against conformity and an embrace of youth, as suggested by Frank.

Moreover, Epstein's refashioning of the Beatles is implicitly read as a queer action, moving them out of their rebellious, masculine image in Liverpool and Hamburg and into dressier, effeminate couture as they broke into the mainstream. As Paolo Hewitt notes, "many American males sneered at The Beatles. The band wore long hair and pretty suits. American fashion was much more masculine, based on jeans, Chino trousers, Bass Weejun shoes, button-down shirts and Harrington-style jackets. This was the all-American preppy look, and no way was a bunch of prissy Brits going to change that which was sacred in the US." Many scholars seem to sympathize with this contemporary young male response, regretting the loss of the more rebellious roots, and are implicitly troubled by this effeminization. Drawing attention to and confronting this implicit dismissal of Epstein and his makeover of the Beatles, Steven D. Stark, in his revisionist history Meet the Beatles, argues, "The Beatles also challenged the definition that existed during their time of what it meant to be a man. This ultimately allowed them to help change the way men feel, the way men look, and the way men think about the way they look. Brian Epstein, their gay manager, influenced the group in many ways, but his most lasting contribution was to help design an image for the group that explored the fluidity of gender." As Frank and Stark suggest, Epstein's remaking may have begun (and certainly at least abetted), a revolutionary transition for both the Beatles and the large culture to the later more outrageous, colorful, androgynous men's styles associated with the release of the band's 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and to the youth-based countercultural phenomenon known as the "summer of love." Both the album and the phenomenon made a total break from rock 'n' roll's tougher, juvenile delinquent image.

The Beatles in Transition: Original Compositions, Studio Recording, and the New Sound in A Hard Day's Night

Elvis Presley is credited with unleashing repressed desires and physical energy through his style of singing and performing, but he did not write his own songs, and by the beginning of the 1960s, he was less of a spokesperson for the youth-driven market. The original music composed and arranged for A Hard Day's Night signals a new direction for rock 'n' roll performers, which is immediately announced by the film's opening theme song. As the Beatles flee a group of hysterical fans in the opening montage, the soundtrack begins with a single guitar strum, followed by a beat of silence, and then Lennon's voice exuberantly exclaiming the opening lyrics, "it's been a hard day's night," accompanied by high-spirited music. The innovative song's musical construction and lyrics, written by Lennon and McCartney, move from the exhaustion of work to the promise of sexual pleasure. According to Sinyard, Lennon and McCartney's song "had a gritty down-to-earth quality ... and was hailed by the poet Thom Gunn as a major breakthrough in pop realism: 'Where, by comparison, in a Frank Sinatra ballad is there any suggestion that he works for a living?'"

A few years before the film's inception, Epstein had looked for a record deal with a number of companies, including Decca and Columbia, all of which declined to sign the young unpolished rock group. He finally approached Martin at EMI's label Parlophone who gave the Beatles a chance in 1962. While suspicious of their ability to appeal to a larger public, Martin heard something in the harmonies, later claiming, "And it suddenly hit me, right between the eyes. This was a group I was listening to. ... That distinctive harmony, that unique blend of sound — that was the selling point." In their first sessions, the Beatles convinced Martin to feature Lennon and McCartney's original compositions instead of following the usual practice of recording the work of other established composers. Martin helped arrange their compositions with creative suggestions, along with smoothing out and creatively mixing their sound with the help of multitrack recording. According to Martin, his "job was to make sure recordings were artistically exceptional and commercially appealing, maximizing the qualities of artists and songs." Music journalist Marc Myers explains, "Martin's early magic can be heard in the 'hooks' that kick off many of the Beatles' hit singles. These hooks include the opening drum roll on 'She Loves You,' the initial ringing guitar chord on 'A Hard Day's Night' and the first yelp on 'Help!'" Martin's assistance shifted the group's recordings into a technologically flawless sound and experimental approach to rock 'n' roll, influencing their future interest and creative use of multitrack, studio-based music over live performance, as epitomized by the later Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. As music critic Tim Riley points out, the soundtrack for A Hard Day's Night "begins to show how the Beatles' music and the recording medium were meant for each other. George's double-tracked guitar solo on 'Can't Buy Me Love' talks to itself across the left and right channels; he answers his own melodic question with an echoing response, countering Paul's rampant affability with stereo dialogue." While originally schooled in the rock 'n' roll music of the 1950s that inspired their Liverpool and Hamburg performance and earliest compositions, the Beatles continued their schooling through Martin's knowledge of recording technology and ingenious suggestions on how to develop their sound.

The song "A Hard Day's Night" and other recordings for the film signal a turn for the Beatles towards innovation, as they made the shift from doing knockoffs of earlier rock 'n' roll standards to composing, performing, and recording their own material. And in their future music, they began to synthesize the energy from a variety of musical styles, including rock 'n 'roll, British music hall, classical music, and psychedelia. The film thus captures this transitional moment for particularly Lennon and McCartney, who continued to develop their songwriting craft and take the standard pop song into a more creative and musically layered direction.


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Table of Contents

Introduction / Eugenia Paulicelli and Louise Wallenberg

Part 1: 1960s: Youth Culture and Sexual Liberation
1. Sanitizing the Beatles for Revolution: Music, Film, and Fashion in 1960s A Hard Day’s Night / Ronald Gregg
2. The Art of Undressing: Automation and Exposure at the Margins of Cinema / Amy Herzog
3. Pasolini’s Teorema: the Eroticism of the Visitor’s Discarded Clothes / Stella Bruzzi
4. Rite of Passage: the Hat that Wouldn’t Disappear in the 1960s / Drake Stutesman

Part 2: Cities, Nations and Fashion
5. Fashion Apart: Godard and Fageol in the 1960s Paris / Astrid Söderbergh Widding
6. Fashion, Film, Rome / Eugenia Paulicelli
7. Contexts, Contradictions, Couture, and Clothing: Fashion in An American in Paris, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and A Touch of Mink / Pat Kirkham and Marilyn Cohen

Part 3: Gender: Modernity/Tradition
8. The Fashioning of Julie Christie and the Mythologizing of "Swinging London": Changing Images in Sixties Britain / Pamela Church Gibson
9. Women in White: Femininity and Female Desire in 1960s Bombay Cinema / Anupama Kapse
10. Mago’s Magic: Fashioning Sexual Indifference in Ingmar Bergman’s 1960s Cinema / Louise Wallenberg
11. Single Men: Sixties Aesthetics and Vintage Style in Contemporary Cinema / Nick Rees-Roberts

Part 4: Epilogue
12. Adriana Berselli: Costume for Cinema and Theater / Eugenia Paulicelli
13. Souvenir of a Costume Designer / Adriana Berselli

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