by Boots Hart, CAP

Monday, October 28, 2013

Scrawls From Detox II: The Recapping Again

  Edith Head as photographed by the Los Angeles Times at the opening
of LA's Museum of Science and Industry's retrospective of her work
(pub 02241976) courtesy unit

Edith Head was many things, to be sure, but the quality her presence lastingly imparted to me was the stiffened resolve of someone who not only knew her mind, but who was also determined to know her mind.

It was an extraordinary moment, that meeting of a moment with her. Studio brass (part one) was trying to woo my father (the producer) into a contract to work for Universal Studios, that megalithic grey celluloid factory known lastingly in my house as ‘the Un-Studio.’

In committing said woo, the studio was showing my father around the lot. And for some reason unbeknownst to me (at the time or at any time since), my father had decided to tote me along.
Call it fortune.

In those days, Universal Studios was a lot of open parking lots, a few big (steel and glass office) buildings and a whole spaghetti bowl worth of bungalows which, like so many sauce-draped, tree shaded meatballs, littered the lot.

 Ingrid Bergman (dressed by Edith Head) and Cary Grant in
the Horseracing track scene from the "Notorious" Trailer
It was into one of these bungalows I had innocently and dutifully followed. With a cluster of boring studio people making nice on my father (which always struck me as a game of Russian Roulette for those trying to get anything from him) a far more interesting happening seemed to be occurring as a door to the left of me opened, and out strode Edith Head barely ahead of a second flock of studio suits (brass part two).

Stridently headed across the rotunda at the bungalow’s center, headed from its eastern to western wing, the famous head swiveled and the eyes fixed on me…small and observing me as I stood by my father’s right hand, being invisible as possible.

But no…here came Edith Head.

As bright eyes and clarifying eyeglasses came close, a well-dressed fingernail rose into pointer position, indicating undying emphasis. ‘It doesn’t matter how popular it is, if it doesn’t look good on you, don’t wear it.’

I’ve followed that advice. After all, it came from Edith Head.

Edith Head was born October 28, 1897 and she died on October 24, 1981. Her birthday would have been today.

 Bette Davis (dressed by Edith Head) in All About Eve
Edith Head proved that it didn’t matter where you came from or what your life circumstances were, you could have a sense of existing in this world. Her striking determination is a gift to us all…and personally, something I find myself admiring very much.

It doesn’t really matter what our difficulties are. They all hurt. Would that we were kinder to one another about it. Would that we had the courage to feel and see each other for who we each are…so that we could dress each other with the fabric of our  communications and the strength of our willingness to be who we are, each and every one of us.

The degree 5 Scorpio – the degree of Edith Head’s Sun – is a degree which says that you’ll try and yes, maybe you’ll accomplish a lot. But there will always be more. The job is never going to be done.

So…are we willing to do our part when that moment comes?

Of course like anyone, Edith Head had personal problems. She’s one of those really famous people who proves that sometimes there’s an all-too mortal tale to go with the brilliance of the talent.

But boy…was she talented!

Did you happen to see “The Incredibles”?



  1. When I watched movies in the early days of color tv, I always looked at the credits hoping to see the name Edith Head. I identified with her. I somehow learned what she looked like. She became my heroine representing someone who could elegantly and seamlessly put together what was needed to make the moment not only credible, but beautiful. She was at once strongly defined and effortlessly timeless, having culled the ability to delete the non-essential. Thank you for sharing her story and your encounter. Lucky you!

    1. Thank you so much! Your words gather in more of what I felt about Edith Head at the time - and ever since. Because of my father's work (first in publishing, then in motion pictures) I had a lot of chance encounters with a lot of high powered people. I'll try to remember to share a few more here at the blog as they become apropos.

      As for Edith, a force of nature is how I remember her. That moment - a minute in the middle of a hot Los Angeles summer day with window air conditioners (the best they had in those days) cranking away and what must have been over a dozen grown people either witnessing or awefully yammering after this woman - remains an experience of golden wonder from my youth.

      Thanks to Edith, I also never wear listen to anyone but myself about fashion. The spectating of the industry is fabulous, but when it comes to who I am, as Edith Head plainly told me - it's about who I am. I'm dressing the person I think I am. Maybe this means more to me in the wake of what I've been through of late, but I think I understand Edith's position better than ever now. In everything she did, in every costume I've ever seen attributed to her she not only created the character - as you say - but she also did so in a manner which gave the actor sufficient cues and latitude to practice their craft and be seen practicing it.

      Life is art. How we dress ourselves is part of our performance on that work of art, be it a Shakespearean stage or otherwise.

      - Boots