June 17, 2016

First, some fun pieces of business. Interviews!

If you haven’t read Adam Christopher’s Made To Kill, why not? It’s the science fiction novel Raymond Chandler might have written, if only Chandler didn’t hate science fiction. It’s about the world’s last robot – who, naturally, works as a private eye, except when he moonlights as a paid assassin – solving a case in 1960s Los Angeles. It’s a wild, imaginative, hugely entertaining book. At Criminal Element, we have a two-part conversation with Mr. Christopher about all the things that matter: Hollywood, wardrobe and the proper preparation of a gimlet. Check it out – and enter for a chance to win both Made to Kill and Design for Dying!

We were well taken care of at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena by the fabulous Chantall Teufenkjian. She has her own website,, and we had a blast doing a Q&A with her.

And now, movies!

The Seattle International Film Festival wrapped up last week, and we had the opportunity to see two movies in the final days with a lot in common. Both were directed by Australian women, and both have a lot to say about clothes.

Women He’s Undressed is a documentary about the costume designer Orry-Kelly, so of course we were in its corner. It spans his impressive career from his work on Busby Berkeley’s musicals to his richly-deserved final Academy Award for Some Like It Hot. (When Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis saw what he was doing for Marilyn Monroe, they insisted he create their wardrobes, too.) It was a treat to see so many people we’ve had the pleasure of talking to as part of our research for the Lillian and Edith books onscreen: David Chierichetti, Deborah Landis, Leonard Maltin. For the record, Edith is mentioned in the film; Orry-Kelly described her as “pushy,” which she’d no doubt accept as a compliment. Director Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Little Women) takes a playful approach to the showbiz biopic form, as well as a good measure of pride in the accomplishments of her fellow Aussie.

FYI, that’s Orry-Kelly on the left in the photo up top. No, not the model. Next to her. The full roster, if you’re scoring along at home: Orry-Kelly, Bernard Newman, Travis Banton (who’s in Design), Edith, Adrian, and Irene.

Jocelyn Moorhouse tackles a favorite Australian novel for her first film in eighteen years. In The Dressmaker, from Rosalie Ham’s book, Kate Winslet returns to her backwater hometown after twenty-five years abroad, armed only with a needle and thread. She’s determined to get to the bottom of the childhood mystery that led to her exile, one so murky even she doesn’t remember it, and bring haute couture to the Outback while she’s at it. A lighthearted film with some surprisingly dark notes, The Dressmaker has a few tonal shifts that don’t quite work, and several casting choices are confusing given the decades-long timespan. But Hugo Weaving and Judy Davis are wonderful, the story is chockablock with twists and revelations, and it makes potent observations about the transformative power of wardrobe – as well as the flaws no amount of skilled tailoring can hide.

Both movies will be out later this year, and are well worth seeing.


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