Saturday, June 05, 2010

Mae West: Walter's Heat

Walter Plunkett designed costumes for MAE WEST that were elegant, eye-catching, and occasionally surreal.
• • Born during the month of June — — on 5 June 1902 — — in Oakland, California, Walter Plunkett studied law at the University of California, but showed greater interest in the campus theatrical group. In 1923, Plunkett moved to New York and launched himself as a stage actor, as well as a costume and set designer. After an interval in Greenwich Village, he moved back to the West Coast — — this time to Hollywood — — and found work as a movie extra. His thespian flame sputtered though, and was resurrected, phoenix-like, as a burning passion for wardrobe design.
• • In 1927, Walter Plunkett's first screen credit as a costume designer appeared. Though his work was uncredited for "Night After Night" [1932], he gave Mae West a most memorable elegance as Maudie Triplett.
• • During the late 1920s and early 1930s, while working at RKO, the five-foot-nine dynamo transformed a huge costume and wardrobe department into an efficient, creative studio asset. Enjoying free reign at RKO, Walter Plunkett spun creations that rivaled the work of his contemporaries (Travis Banton and Adrian).
• • By 1936 Walter Plunkett was known as the foremost authority on period costumes. His best-known work was seen in "Gone with the Wind" and "Singin' in the Rain," in which he lampooned his initial style of the Roaring 20s. Unfortunately, the Academy had not yet devised a category for "Best Costumes" — — or Plunkett surely would have won.
• • "The Heat's On" • •
• • Mae was 50 years old when she got involved with "The Heat's On."
• • Here is Walter Plunkett's costume sketch for Mae West from "The Heat's On" [Columbia, 1943]. When it was sold at auction, his illustration was advertised like this: Original Walter Plunkett costume design sketch accomplished in gouache on a 15 in. x 20 in. leaf of sturdy artist illustration board. Featuring Mae West as "Fay Lawrence" wearing a revealing serpent themed sequined gown and plumed headdress. Signed Plunkett at the lower right.
• • On 8 March 1982, Walter Plunkett died in Santa Monica, California at the age of 79 and left his estate to his longtime male partner.

• • Come up and see Mae every day online:
Add to Google
• • Photo: • • Mae West • • 1943 design for "Fay Lawrence" • •
• • Feed — —
Mae West.

1 comment:

  1. R. MarkDesjardins9:15 AM

    Walter Plunkett's costume for Mae West from "The Heat's On"
    continues to be one the most elusive, unseen censor cuts of her film career. The scene that features this delightful creation was filmed and lots of stills attest to this. Censors felt the musical number was too provocative and was cut. Subsequent VHS and DVD reissues of "The Heat's On" have yet to reinstate this missing scene. Hopefully a copy exixts somewhere.