Adrian Adolph Greenburg is the only costume designer of historical movies that we have, as of yet, immortalized in poetry. Maybe it’s because Adrian was never nominated for an Oscar, despite having created fabulous frocks for over 250 Hollywood films (OK, the award was created in 1948, and he’d essentially retired by then). Maybe it’s really because I’m an English lit nerd and enjoy a random biography of Victorian poets like The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934), for which Adrian totally over-designed Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s gowns. No matter the inspiration, let me share this tribute once again:
Oh Adrian, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
I love thee to the width and length and height
Your giant hoopskirts and gowns can reach, never out of sight
For leading ladies like Norma Shearer, full of grace.
I love thee despite thy un-corseted bodices
Most darted and princess-seamed, by 1930s patterns right.
I love thee freely, as you add ruffles left and right.
I love thee purely, tho’ your work is in black and greys.
I love thee with all the glitter, glitz, and bows
Liberally applied, and with such precision placed.
I love thee in historical flicks on Turner Movie Classics
Like this one romanticizing Victorian poets, with
’30s makeup, puppeh, hints of incest, and, more hoopskirts than
Anything set in 1845 would be historically accurate.
Adrian spent most of his career at MGM, and he designed fabulous gowns for the likes of Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, and Jeanette MacDonald. Extravagance, fine details, and luxurious materials are the hallmarks of Adrian’s costume designs, and while his historical costumes aren’t the most accurate to their eras, they are always a delight to look at. Here are some highlights.
Mata Hari (1931)
Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
Storm at Daybreak (1933)
Queen Christina (1933)
The Merry Widow (1934)
Naughty Marietta (1935)
Anna Karenina (1935)
San Francisco (1936)
Romeo and Juliet (1936)
The Gorgeous Hussy (1936)
The Emperor’s Candlesticks (1937)
The Firefly (1937)
Marie Antoinette (1938)
The Great Waltz (1938)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
New Moon (1940)
Pride and Prejudice (1940)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
What’s your favorite of Adrian’s historical movie costumes?