Marshall — the 2017 biopic about a pivotal case tried by later Supreme Court justice (and first African-American to be appointed as such) Thurgood Marshall — isn’t one that would obviously appeal to me. Sure, I’m always interested in history, and shamefully, I didn’t know a lot about the man. But my first thought was “conventional biopic.” Well, I had an 11-hour flight to pass and a dearth of interesting movies on in-flight entertainment, so I fired it up. And I was so glad I did! The movie is compelling — well acted, written, and directed — and the costumes were on point to character and — special bonus — GORGEOUS.
The movie focuses on the case of Joseph Spell, accused of raping and attempting to murder his employer, Eleanor Strubing, in 1940. It’s shown in light of NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall’s work to combat anti-black discrimination by the legal system. The story is a bit fictionalized for dramatic effect — you can read about what was real and what wasn’t in articles like these at History vs. Hollywood, Time, Smithsonian Magazine, and The Hollywood Reporter.
The costumes were designed by Ruth E. Carter, who has done a number of period films with an African-American focus, including Roots, Selma, Amistad, and Malcolm X (and, yes, she’s the designer behind the recent Black Panther). She’s done a lot of press about Marshall, but the most interesting to me is The Woman Behind Chadwick Boseman’s Impeccable ‘Marshall’ Attire, in which she talks a lot about the specifics of her costume designs.
Chadwick Boseman (hooooot!!) plays Thurgood Marshall, and he is dressed impeccably in fashionable (but not overly so) suits. Carter mentions that Boseman doesn’t much resemble the real Marshall, so she used his costumes in order to help channel the character:
“I felt like it was many black men that we have had in our lives and our history that go to work, that put the uniform on and that perform a service to the highest level … When you look at the 1940s pictures of Thurgood Marshall, he’s wearing all of the accoutrements that we put on Chadwick. In many ways it gave him a little bit more of a forward presence during that time. People could look up to him. He was a representative of the NAACP and so he was a national leader in that way. He put them on the map.”
She also mentions that Boseman’s suits are vintage, but fellow lawyer Sam Friedman’s suits were custom-made using patterns and materials from the era.
Here’s the real Marshall:
The main female character is the accuser, Eleanor Strubing, a wealthy Connecticut wife. Instead of looking at the real Strubing, Carter says she was inspired by period advertisements from upscale department stores like Bullock’s and I. Magnin. According to The Observer article, “Carter found original suits made by costume designer Adrian and outfits from the now-defunct brand Lilli Ann for Kate Hudson in her role as Connecticut socialite Eleanor Strubing” (The Woman Behind Chadwick Boseman’s Impeccable ‘Marshall’ Attire).
Hudson wasn’t the only well-dressed woman in the film. Feast your eyes on:
Have you seen Marshall?
I was originally tempted to ignore this movie when it first came out, because I thought it would be a conventional biopic. Thankfully, my curiosity got the best of me and I saw the movie. Not only did I enjoy the plot, I also enjoyed the costumes. And the ironic thing is I had worn out my interest in 1940s fashion a long time ago.
Looks VERY watchable
Yes, I saw the movie. I enjoyed it immensely for its acting and the Ruth E. Carter 1940s costumes and hair. Kate Hudson’s Eleanor Strubing’s waves and the upper crust juror’s hair and costumes were among my favourites. But my favourite costumes were the men. Chadwick Boseman’s suits were stylish, sexy and in character. Josh Gad’s Friedman’s were nerdy, shy (if a suit can be considered shy) or unassuming and un-WASP-ish.
Now that Lena Horne has a stamp, maybe well see a biopic on her.
God, I hope so! A Lena Horne biopic is well overdue. Pivotal question is: Who would play her?
I would love to see a GWTW ‘Scarlet OHara’ search for the actress.
Do you have a suggestion?
That type of search would be EVERYTHING! Apparently, others have been pondering this question, and here is a link to a list:
Out of all the ones on the list, I could see Thandi Newton. She’s got some serious acting chops, and, actually favors Lena. With the right make up, the resemblance could be remarkable.
My first thought was Halle Berry, cuz I think she favors Lena, but I don’t know if she has the acting chops. Salli Richardson-Whitfield could be a contender. She even has (had?) a Kickstarter to finance bioplay:
Who could you see playing her?
My first thought was Halle Berry who does have an Oscar but then I thought Gugu Mbatha Rau from Belle and Julee Smolett and Tony winner Patina Miller.
Gugu Mbatha Raw would be good. I loved her in Belle.
I wish we could make this happen!
Can’t go wrong with I. Magnin and Lilli Ann, San Francisco originals both.
Ooh! I heard about this one but then never really saw anything about it again. Will have to look out for it as it looks good—glad to see the good review here. loving that 40s look, too.
I’m generally not a fan of courtroom dramas or biopics, but for Chadwick Boseman in vintage suits, I’m going to have to check this out.
Damn, I just watched it and was so excited about the story and the costumes but I came in 3/4 of the way in and apparently missed several outstanding ensembles. Guess a rewatch is in order!!