René Hubert may not have the instant name recognition of Edith Head or Adrian or even Orry-Kelly among all the golden age of Hollywood costume designers. But when you start listing the historical movies he designed for, you realize, whoa, he did some amazing work spanning a variety of periods and for several decades! He only got a couple Oscar nominations, which seems criminal IMO. So now I’m giving him some frock flick recognition.
Madame Sans-Gêne (1925)
Quality Street (1927)
Fire Over England (1937)
The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1937)
The Four Feathers (1939)
That Hamilton Woman (1941)
The Flame of New Orleans (1941)
The Song of Bernadette (1943)
The Lodger (1944)
It Happened Tomorrow (1944)
Buffalo Bill (1944)
Head of the Wardrobe Department at 20th Century Fox, Charles Le Maire, knew Hubert wanted the Wilson assignment. Le Maire piled a stack of research books related to the Wilson period on Hubert’s desk and joked that Hubert “so loved period costume that he probably considered the Wilson era to be modern.” — Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers, by Jay Jorgensen, Donald L. Scoggins, 2015
A Royal Scandal (1945)
Centennial Summer (1946)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
Moss Rose (1947)
Forever Amber (1947)
Peggy Cummins was originally cast in Forever Amber, but the director had misgivings. Unfortunately, the shooting schedule required that five of the most important dresses would be filmed in the first two weeks of production. So Hubert added oversized seams into the bodices of these gowns, just in case they had to recast the lead character. Which they did. But Hubert’s efforts didn’t matter because the previous designs didn’t work on the new lead, Linda Darnell, and the old gowns were made over for other actresses in the film. — Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers, by Jay Jorgensen, Donald L. Scoggins, 2015
That Lady in Ermine (1948)
The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend (1949)
Hubert’s European sensibilities had to contend with Hollywood’s production code on Désirée when he designed low-cut Empire gowns. “In Europe, they’re much more free when it comes to décolleté. There, they are their own judges of what’s decent and what is not. We tried all sorts of things, but CinemaScope makes costuming more difficult than before since the actors’ attire constantly on view and close-ups are out. It’s odd but true, that were we to reproduce the actual costumes of the French post-revolutionary period on the screen, no censor in America would pass them.” — Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers, by Jay Jorgensen, Donald L. Scoggins, 2015
“That may be all right here, but let a European audience see a girl wearing an 1830 bonnet with an Empire dress and they’ll know something is amiss.” –René Hubert, “Pictures: Napoleonic Era Bosom Display Not Reproducible Under Yankee Code.” Variety (Archive: 1905-2000) 195, no. 4 (1954): 16.
What’s your favorite historical costume film designed by René Hubert?