TBT: Forever Amber (1947)

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While the movie of Forever Amber (1947) doesn’t have the reported 70 references to sexual intercourse, 39 illegitimate pregnancies, 7 abortions, and 10 descriptions of women undressing in front of men that got the 1944 novel of the same name banned as pornography in 14 American states, the film was racy for its time. The main character, Amber St. Claire, has only five lovers in the movie instead of 30 in the book and bears only one child. But she’s still scheming and social climbing and gets a tragic ending she so deserves.

This flick is a classic bodice-ripping romance in many ways, with lots of implied sex and plenty of tits-out bodices. Amber bounces from one man to another in search of riches and social status, even though she’s supposedly in love with an absent nobleman-privateer Bruce Carlton. She’s no starry-eyed romantic — from the start, Amber is ambitious as hell and selfish too. Life turns her cynical about everything but her supposed true love. Apparently, the 1940s film censors required the movie to end on a more moralistic tone than the novel. That’s show biz, folks!

Forever Amber (1947)

There are big hats!

Forever Amber (1947)

Like this black & white number.

Forever Amber (1947)

That went on sale.

Forever Amber (1947)

And was worn when Amber & Bruce got cuddly in a carriage.

Forever Amber (1947)

Better view of the dress that hat goes with.

Forever Amber (1947)

How about some cherries on top of a big hat? Sounds more Victorian than Cavalier to me, but you do you, Amber.

Forever Amber (1947)

After all, this hair is kinda sorta Victorian. By way of the 1940s.

Forever Amber (1947)

I don’t even know what to say about that bodice. Sure, it goes with the peasant blouse. But the skirt fabric? Newp.

Forever Amber (1947)

She’s got a few of these wenchy looks.

Forever Amber (1947)

Fancy wench though, with a sequined blouse & velvet gown. I feel like Stevie Nicks would wear this with a black shawl.

Forever Amber (1947)

This one is more reminiscent of the 1660s.

Forever Amber (1947)

The same gown in the Debbie Reynold’s catalog.

Forever Amber (1947)

What this movie does well is glam! Gold lame with a fully gem-encrusted bertha? I’m in!

Forever Amber (1947)

FULLY COMMITTED TO SPARKLE MOTION.

Forever Amber (1947)

Ostrich feathers! Sequined gloves! Yes please!

Forever Amber (1947)

Taking up all the space!

Forever Amber (1947)

Marring an earl for his money, as you do.

Forever Amber (1947)

Wearing a super-glam wedding gown, as you do.

Forever Amber (1947)

Fabulous bling supplied by Joseff of Hollywood.

Finishing up the film in a subtle satin gown.

Forever Amber (1947)

That bears very little resemblance to a period other than the 1940s.

 

Have you seen Forever Amber or read the book?

21 Responses

  1. Saraquill

    Those big brimmed hats would look right at home in a Black church. <3

  2. picasso Manu

    I’ve seen that one, oh, soo many moons ago (gah, I’m getting old!). If I remember right, the double standarts between the “dashing Bruce” and “Immoral Amber” while they’re BOTH trying to ascend the social ladder by dubious means are heavy enough to bludgeon an elephant in full flight. But very shiny exemple of great studios work (Plague looks so clean!)

  3. Elizabeth K. Mahon

    I read the book in high school and I remember that Amber was even more of a bitch than Scarlett O’Hara in the book version of Gone with the Wind, and that her true love wasn’t worth it, like Ashley in GWTW.

  4. Kathleen Julie Norvell

    I read the book which made me gag (it was SO BAD). A friend, who’s on this board, referred to it as “Forever Under.” The costumes are dreadful!

  5. Richard Harper

    I have never sought out this movie as I mistakenly believed there wouldn’t be much to see. Now imma have to watch it.

  6. thedementedfairy

    I used to love that book when I first read it in the 60s, and when I re-read it through the early 70s. By the time I was a teenager it started to look a bit lame lol
    I remember spending too much time working out just how that dress was supposed to have been made of pearls and to disintegrate so spectacularly…[that is the right book yeah?] I got very geeky trying to work out the mechanics of it, deciding it was nonsense even then.
    I mean, compared with my grandad’s Victorian/Edwardian porn, 40s porn was LIMP lol

    • Kathryn Willsey

      No, this is the one where she wears the risque black dress to a party and realizes when she gets there that she’s all but naked. And then everyone gushes over her beautiful, refined, tastefully dressed rival.

  7. M.E. Lawrence

    My mother, who was 30-something at the time, confessed that she didn’t find the book all that shocking. My teenage self thought the research seemed pretty good, and the casual talk of abortion, etc., interesting. As I recall, there is little or no mention of religion/piety; perhaps that had something to do with Winsor’s matter-of-factness.

  8. Janet Nickerson

    What would make an interesting film is the book that the author, Kathleen Winsor, wrote after ‘Amber’ – ‘Star Money’. Somewhat autobiographical as it’s about a woman who writes a runaway best-seller during WWII and how it changes her.

  9. Sonick

    This looks amazing! Hats! And big hair! I need to see this on rainy day when i stay in bed with PMS. It reminds me of Angelique movies.

  10. Cheryl from Maryland

    My mother had the book, which I found as a pre-teen and read. She found me reading it, pretended to be shocked, and then let me finish it. Between this book, Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, Tom Jones and Aubrey Beardsley drawings, I aced sex ed.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Thanks! Btw, your original comment had a search link that was broken, but it had enough clues that I found what you were talking about. Shame that FIT’s own website didn’t show up in any of my googling on Forever Amber or I’d have included it in my post — someone there needs to work on SEO ;)

  11. Damnitz

    The movie now is boring and the sexist moral (Carlton is an asshole who can have as many Mistresses as he wish (B. Palmer included) but could not only blame Amber but take away her son without any problems or feeling his unjustice… The whole story of the movie is a boring version of “Roxana” by Defoe. I hated all these grey rooms and these shoulder pads on all men were slaying. The only good aspect was Linda Darnell in the leading role, showing emotions, while most of the other actors just had to speak their text.

  12. Constance

    Have this on now via YouTube…saw it long ago, now using it as background noise mostly. Was reading on IMDB all the changes they were forced to make to satisfy the production code lol…

  13. Marc Leslie Kagan

    One of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood in the 1940s was Linda Darnell. Darnell was under contract at 20th Century-Fox from 1939 to 1952. She starred in a great number of costume and adventure dramas that would have been all right without her but gained enormously from her participation. Linda Darnell was touted by Hollywood wags as “the girl with the perfect face,” and for once the description fit. Her cameo-cut china doll face was enough to ensure stardom in glamor-obsessed 1940s Hollywood; surely Darnell could easily fit into the top ten most beautiful women the screen has ever known. And as she matured, her voice deepened into a torchy throb that added intensely to her eventual siren image. Linda’s screen image was that of a sultry, dark-eyed beauty who possesses a sort of gleaming sincerity. Darnell had the perfect complexion and was always an asset as she made the transition from virginal heroines in mantillas and lace to women not adverse to revealing a tough streak beneath the deceptive sweep of their wardrobe. Like many of the popular stars during the contract system, her career tailed off as soon as she left her studio’s fold, but her popularity in her day had been real enough and would have been the same if she had worked for any other studio. United Artists cast Darnell on loan-out for a Chekhov adaptation, “Summer Storm” in 1944. She wasn’t ready, but the publicity–with Darnell lolling some straw a la Jane Russell in The Outlaw (1943) combined with that face–launched a transformation beyond pin-up to apprentice love goddess. The rest of the decade found her often in interesting roles that displayed her as willful, sometimes venal, smouldering trouble. Memorable portraits in the Darnell’s career include the strangled (and left to burn) music – hall trollop in “Hangover Square” (1945), the floozy waitress of “Fallen Angel” (also 1945, in which she acted circles around reigning studio queen Alice Faye.) Linda said of Otto Preminger, that she found him “terrifying.” But her fabulous reviews in the noir classic must have soothed her nerves, and she seemed to have found her stride again, the ill-fated concubine in “Anna and the King of Siam” (1946, in which Darnell dies prophetically by fire.) Her most famous role was as the sultry celluloid vixen in Forever Amber 1947. On Forever Amber, Darnell was again paired with the tyrannical Preminger. She had dieted strenuously for the corset-heavy costume drama, and twice collapsed on the set from hunger as well as nervous exhaustion. And for all the misery she endured, the film fell short of its massive hype: while audiences cheered, the critics mostly yawned, and the film didn’t give Darnell the boost, either in confidence or in clout, that she’d hoped for. In Unfaithfully Yours, produced, written and directed by Preston Sturges, she’s the wife of an egocentric orchestra conductor (Rex Harrison) who concocts an elaborate revenge fantasy when he suspects she’s cheating on him. She’s so utterly gorgeous, you’re almost distracted from how fabulously funny she is — a Sturges heroine who throws away her lines with the ease of a Colbert or a Stanwyck. In 1949’s A Letter to Three Wives, written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, Darnell earned the best reviews of her career. As Lora Mae Finney, a social-climbing beauty who’s literally from the wrong side of the tracks—the whole house shakes whenever a train roars by — she’s hard-edged, touching and hilarious. She gets some of the best lines in a flawless script, and casually belts every one of them into the stands.
    Determined to marry Porter Hollingsway (Paul Douglas), who owns the department store where she and half the town work, Lora Mae wangles a late-night meeting to discuss a promotion, though both she and Porter know it’s a prelude to something more. As she sweeps into the kitchen before her date, sits Sadie (Thelma Ritter), who deems her dress much too simple, asks, “Doncha think you should wear something with beads?” And Lora Mae replies matter-of-factly, “Ma, what I got don’t need beads.” She’s not vain, just realistic—but she thinks she’s savvier than she is. She plans to snag Porter by playing the naif, but soon discovers just how out far of her depth, and genuinely innocent, she really is. Given
    that Darnell wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award for her performance was criminal; they should have just dispensed with the ceremony and mailed the thing to her house. As the studio system began to collapse, so did Darnell’s film career; Fox dropped her contract in 1952. She freelanced for a while, with little success. “I thought in a little while I’d get offers from other studios, but not many came along,” she said, more out of confusion than bitterness. “The only thing I knew how to do was be a movie star. No one expects to last forever in this business. You know that sooner or later the studio’s going to let you go. But who wants to be retired at twenty-nine?” She did received good notices for “No Way Out” (1950), a race relations drama ahead of its time, but as happened with Rita Hayworth, Hollywood tended to treat mature beauties in non-glamorous roles as if they were finished commercially in the business. So she turned to television and then the stage, where, to the surprise of skeptics, she thrived in plays as far-flung as The Children’s Hour, Critic’s Choice and A Roomful of Roses. In 1956, she took on the daunting role of the compassionate teacher in a Miami production of Robert Anderson’s controversial Tea and Sympathy, opposite a 20-year-old Burt Reynolds. “I’m scared stiff [about the play],” she confided to local reporters. “But this marvelous, magic world of live theater is one of the high spots of my life.” The Miami Herald called it a “sensitive, absorbing presentation” in which “Miss Darnell gives the role a new dimension.” Throughout her last years, Darnell continued to work sporadically. In the spring of 1965, while preparing for a play near Chicago, she stayed at the home of her friend and former secretary, Jeanne Curtis, one of many former Fox staffers who still adored her. Late one night, she turned on the television only to find her 17-year-old self staring back at her in Star Dust, her second big film.
    Not long after drifting off to sleep, she was jolted awake by the smell of smoke and the sounds of panic: the house was on fire. While Curtis, her husband and her daughter leapt to safety from a second-floor window, Darnell, too terrified to jump, tried to escape through a downstairs door. But a neighbor had run over and smashed a back window with a shovel, and the in-rushing air fed the fire and spread the flames throughout the first floor. Darnell, who had a lifelong fear of fire, was found crouched behind the sofa, burned over almost 90 percent of her body. She died at the hospital two days later, regaining consciousness only once, briefly, when her daughter Lola arrived at her bedside. She was 41 years old.