Costume Designer René Hubert: The Frock Flicks Guide

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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)

René Hubert, Madame Sans-Gêne (1925)

Hubert got his start in film costume when Gloria Swanson requested he make her costumes for this film.

René Hubert, Madame Sans-Gêne (1925)

The look was iconic & used for the film’s promotional materials.

René Hubert, Madame Sans-Gêne (1925)

1920s does Napoleonic era!

 

Quality Street (1927)

René Hubert, Quality Street (1927)

Another 1810s drama, here starring Marion Davies.

 

Fire Over England (1937)

Fire Over England (1937) - Flora Robson - black gown

Flora Robson is magnificently gowned as QEI.

Fire Over England (1937) - Vivien Leigh - rose gown

And Vivien Leigh wears spectacular Elizabethan-ish costumes.

One of my very favorite crazy historical-ish costumes!

 

The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1937)

René Hubert, The Return of the Scarlet Pimpernel (1937)

That’s a pretty posh suit on the Pimpernel.

 

The Four Feathers (1939)

René Hubert, The Four Feathers (1939)

The first version of this story on film.

 

That Hamilton Woman (1941)

Vivien Leigh in "That Hamilton Woman" (1941)

Nope, not historically accurate.

Vivien Leigh's gown from "That Hamilton Woman" (1941)

But SOOOOOOOO pretty!

Vivien Leigh in "That Hamilton Woman" (1941)

This is more appropriate to the period.

Vivien Leigh's costume from "That Hamilton Woman" (1941)

The actual costume on display.

 

The Flame of New Orleans (1941)

Marlene Dietrich in The Flame of New Orleans (1941)

Marlene Dietrich, supposedly in the 1840s. Goddamn, it’s a pretty dress tho!

 

The Song of Bernadette (1943)

René Hubert, The Song of Bernadette (1943)

This movie is about the peasant girl who saw visions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, so most of the costuming is plain & simple.

René Hubert, The Song of Bernadette (1943)

But the Empress Eugenie makes an appearance.

 

The Lodger (1944)

Merle Oberon, supposedly Victorian, totally glam.

 

It Happened Tomorrow (1944)

René Hubert, It Happened Tomorrow (1944)

Stripey 1900s-ish.

 

Buffalo Bill (1944)

René Hubert, Buffalo Bill (1944)

Hubert costumed quite a few Westerns.

 

Wilson (1944)

René Hubert, Wilson (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)

René Hubert, A Royal Scandal (1945)

Catherine the Great — +1 for the costumes, -1 for the hair.

 

Dragonwyck (1946)

René Hubert, Dragonwyck (1946)

So much floof!

René Hubert, Dragonwyck (1946)

“I woke up like this.’

 

Centennial Summer (1946)

René Hubert, Centennial Summer (1946)

The movie sounds terrible, but I adore these attempts at 1876 gowns.

René Hubert, Centennial Summer (1946)

This is just fantastically OTT.

René Hubert, Centennial Summer (1946)

Look at the little button details! Tho’ I woner what happened to the rest of the soutache trim?

 

My Darling Clementine (1946)

René Hubert, My Darling Clementine (1946)

So many westerns.

 

Moss Rose (1947)

René Hubert, Moss Rose (1947)

Victorian-esque.

 

Forever Amber (1947)

Forever Amber (1947)

Glam peasant!

Forever Amber (1947)

The costume on display.

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

Forever Amber (1947)

Super fancy wedding gown.

Forever Amber (1947)

Alllllll the sparkle!

 

That Lady in Ermine (1948)

René Hubert, That Lady in Ermine (1948)

Who’s a pretty pretty princess?

René Hubert, That Lady in Ermine (1948)

The costume sketch looks more Victorian than the execution, IMO.

 

The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend (1949)

René Hubert, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949)

Hollywood, amirite?

 

Désirée (1954)

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

Hubert was nominated for a Best Costume Oscar for this film.

Merle Oberon “Empress Josephine” Coronation gown with velvet and ermine robe from Desirée

Josephine’s coronation gown on display.

“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.

 

Anastasia (1956)

René Hubert, Anastasia (1956)

Ingrid Bergman plays Anna, pretending to be Grand Duchess Anastasia.

 

 

What’s your favorite historical costume film designed by René Hubert?

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

8 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Favourites are Anastasia for the interpretation of the Russian Court Dress and Desiree for Josephine’s wardrobe.

    Reply
  2. MrsC (Maryanne)

    The yellowy dress from Centennial summer without accessories looks very much like the suit Wallis Simpson the Duchess of Windsor wore to marry Edward. Amazingly different from the presentation in the film itself!

    Reply
  3. Alys Mackyntoich

    Wow. How did I not know this guy’s name? He worked on so many films that I love. Thank you, Frock Flicks!

    Reply
  4. Colleen

    I love Dragonwyck. There is a severe lack of underpinnings with Gene Tierney’s dresses (but maybe that’s okay because she was poor) when she first met Vincent Price’s character, but I felt they were very close to being right for the time period. I also loved Vincent’s dressing gown.

    Reply
  5. Josef

    I see you really loved Desirée it’s the fourth good post you do after it and it’s lovely a good picture indeed
    Wish you made a Marion Davies WCW she had plenty of costume dramas for it

    Reply
  6. Katie

    I feel like a thousand adolescent girls saw Forever Amber and grew up and made clothes for RenFaires and SCA.

    Reply
  7. darlenemarshall

    OMG, I remember so many of these fabulous costumes but ANASTASIA really resonated. Ingrid Bergman’s pink gown, the jewelry, Yul Brynner looking way too hot, so much good stuff. Thanks for reviving memories of some Hollywood classics. Much as I love history, I kind of miss these over-the-top, not historically accurate costumes.

    Reply

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