SNARK WEEK: Bad Redheads in Historical Costume Movies


If you’re a regular listener to our podcasts or reader of our blog or you just know Kendra, you might have noticed that she has a strong bias in favor of characters with red hair. Duh, she has red hair herself, so seeing it on a movie character just reinforces the idea, even if the color wasn’t particularly popular in the historical era portrayed or even for the historical person. Whatevs, Kendra!

So for Snark Week, I’m rounding up the crappiest-looking redheads in historical costume movies and TV series I can find, just to prove to her that they’re not all awesome. I mean, just because a gal in a flick has red hair, she’s not automatically super-cool, sympathetic, looks great, and totally worth watching. I’ll show you shakes fist (of course, I jest, I love my crazy redhead pal; besides, she’s gonna pound me when she sees this!).


Let’s start with one of the classic redheads in historical costume movies, Maureen O’Hara, aka the Queen of Technicolor. Star of dozens upon dozens of movies from the 1930s to 1960s, but here are some historicals worth noting for their, uh, enthusiasm.

Sinbad the Sailor, 1947

Harem girl, gold lame, pompadour hair, totally makes sense, right?

Sinbad the Sailor, 1947, because nothing says cultural appropriation like a sword-and-sandals flick.

Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955)

So yeah, she’s a hottie, but I’m really not getting an 11th-century vibe here.

You want hair? She’s got yr hair right here, in Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955). Hair down past her ass, alrighty! All red, all the time. This is what we call committing to the scene.

Lady Godiva of Coventry (1955)

Dig those crazy princess seams, with bonus epaulets.

Then there’s McLintock from 1963. As you can tell from the screencap below, it’s probably a sensitive portrayal of women’s and men’s relationships eyeroll.

McLintock (1963)

Advertised as a comedy-western at the time, relegated to the bin of “Hello Patriarchy” today.


Next up, how about Jane Asher? Also known as Paul McCartney’s ex-girlfriend (they were engaged). She was in a ton of movies and TV shows, including a lot of BBC historical pieces, like the excellent Henry VIII & His Six Wives serial of 1972. She played Jane Seymour. But she was also in a number of big Hollywood flicks like The Masque of the Red Death (1964).

Is it medieval gothic horror or Vidal Sassoon? You be the judge.

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Was this what people in the SCA looked like back in 1964, when it started?


And we can’t forget one of the most famous redheads on screen, Lucille Ball. She took a semi-historical turn as Mame in 1974, trying to pull off a 1920s look. Or a drag-queen clown realness look.

Mame (1974)



Apparently there were no bad redheads in historical costume movies from the late 1970s through mid-1980s. While that seems hard to believe, it could just be that my memory is poor and the Internet isn’t jogging it. So sue me.

But we have a real gem with Princess Joanna (played by Diane Franklin) in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Surprisingly, the costumes aren’t that bad — kind of mid-16th-century gowns with appropriate trim ‘n stuff. What kills me is the hair. Holy renaissance faire, Batman! No, wait, holy 1989! Check out the crimping on the redhead, dude!

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)


Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

Totally awesome crimping, medieval babe!


Which leads me to the ’90s. Oh girl. You remember who ruled the movie theaters in the 1990s? Wait for it…

Julia Roberts. 1991. Hook. Tinkerbell. ‘Nuff said.

Julia Roberts in Hook (1991)

Making pixies everywhere start growing out their pixie cuts.

Julia Roberts in Hook (1991)

NOT a pretty pretty princes.

Oh wait, no, there’s more. Julia Roberts in 1996’s Mary Reilly as Dr. Jekyll’s maid. Bangs were allowable in the 1880s, but they still give her a very modern look. Not to mention, this movie really sucked.

Mary Reilly (1996)

Bad maid, no tip.

There was also 1996’s Michael Collins, set in the 1910s during Ireland’s Easter Rising, which I remember being a good, tragic movie, but I suspect it hasn’t held up well.

Michael Collins (1996)

Let’s pretend all this never happened.


Speaking of the ’90s and pirate movies, hello Geena Davis and Cutthroat Island (1995). Who thought that was a good idea? Did they not see Hook? Oh yeah, nobody saw Hook.

Cutthroat Island (1995)

Just another pirate movie cliche. Plus, boobs.

Cutthroat Island (1995)

Now we’re so original, we have a monkey on the shoulder instead of a parrot.


For better quality in the stories, but pretty meh costumes, the ’90s gave us sometime-redhead Jane Seymour as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, set in the 1860s-70s.

Jane Seymour as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-98)

Party clothes brought to you by Jo-Ann’s Casa Collection.

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-98)

All business. With a hell of a lot of bangs.


Anyone remember a little flick called Titanic in 1997? There was a woman in it, character’s name was, oh, what was it, Rose, yeah, that’s it. Had bright red hair (nice dye job for Kate Winslet). I seem to recall a direct comparison between Wings of the Dove and Titanic on our Dove podcast where Kendra said the Titanic costumes were ‘pedestrian’ and ‘conservative’ in comparison, even though the ship movie won Best Oscar for Costume Design. Yet this redhead can’t win over everyone.

Kate Winslet Titanic (1997)

You only get that red in a bottle.


Redhead Jessica Chastain may be coming to theaters near you in the classy, 1890s drama Miss Julie, but she got her start as the female lead in a 2006 Hallmark Channel miniseries called Blackbeard. You don’t need me to dig up the screenshots to know how bad this looked. But I did anyway.

Jessica Chastain Blackbeard (2006)

Sharing is caring.


For super-foof and silliness, check out Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted (2007). OMG this is such a Kendra movie. I can’t even. Look, that’s just a frickin’ quinceañera dress. They didn’t try, FFS. Sure, it’s a Disney princess thing blah blah blah.

Enchanted (2007).

This dress needs it’s own postcode.


Here’s something to think about: All the “naughty” housemaids on Downton Abbey have red hair. Coincidence? I think not.

Gwen Dawson (played by Rose Leslie) — Saves up to buy a forbidden typewriter, takes a correspondence course so she can GTFO of her crappy maid’s job, somehow cons Lady Sybil into giving her a ride to an interview, gets their car stuck in the mud on the way home, manages to get hired at a new job, ditches Downton, writes back to say “nyah nyah nyah,” but forgets to mention the part where she’s now living on the other side of The Wall and is shagging Jon Snow, is betrayed by him, tries to kill him, but is killed instead. Awww.

Downton Abbey

Ethel Parks (played by Amy Nuttall) — Has sex with a WWI soldier, gets knocked up, tries to keep the kid, fails, gives the boy up, becomes a hooker, tries being Mrs. Crawley’s cook, fails, finally gets a housekeeping job near her kid, and leaves the show. Ooops.

Downton Abbey


I’ll leave you with one from the clusterfrock of 2013’s The Great Gatsby — Myrtle Wilson (played by Isla Fisher), a redhead in red and green. That’s a whole lotta look for the 1920s. Baz Luhrmann, what are you smoking and why don’t you share?

2013 The Great Gatsby

For all that flamenco dancing.

2013 The Great Gatsby

Wut the wut?

2013 The Great Gatsby

Yeah, this makes us sad too.


What do you think of all these redheads in historical costume movies? Are they awful or awesome? Did I miss any worth dissing?

20 Responses

  1. Lindsay T

    Awww, but Giselle’s cupcake dress is so ridiculous it’s fun! But then I’m biased. :)

    • Arisa Ashes

      I like Giselle’s gowns. Amy Adams has a wonderful singing voice, anyway.

  2. Katy

    I love Giselle’s ginormous dress in Enchanted! It works so perfectly for her character and is hilariously awful in the best possible way.

    And I don’t know what Hook you were watching because the Hook I know is an AMAZING movie and a beloved childhood classic. I mean obviously you have to ignore Julia Roberts because she is awful in it, but can we discuss Dustin Hoffman and Bob Hoskins as Captain Hook and Smee? BRILLIANCE.

  3. Veronica

    But have you seen the 1944 technicolor “Frenchman’s Creek”, Joan Fontaine as a glorious redhead in Restoration clothes (also dressed as a cabin boy) Basil Rathbone at his sneering best. Petticoat breeches and giant shoe roses on the gents. But not on the sexy pirate. I love it.

  4. Anne

    One of the cosplayers I used to hang out with owns a coat made for Cutthroat Island, I got to see it very up close and personal (as in I inspected it very closely) amazingly well made garment…too bad the movie sucked so much.

    • Trystan

      I’m pretty sure I saw every single pirate movie made in the 1980s, in the theaters, during the 1980s. Some multiple times. Yes, including “The Pirate Movie.” They all sucked so very much. I knew it back then, but I kept doing it. Some kind of compulsion or disease. I can’t explain it.

  5. Kendra

    OKAY, now that I’m finally on a laptop and can really type, MY (partial) REBUTTAL:

    1) You can never pick on Maureen O’Hara as she is partially responsible for “The Parent Trap,” one of the best movies of all time (the original, anyway).

    2) I concede Jane Asher. That pic gives me the fear.

    3) I may be a committed redhead, but I’ve never really loved Lucille Ball. Point conceded.

    4) Princess Joanna — IT’S BILL & TED! Plus, that crimping ROCKS. Remind me to tell you about how I crimped my hair for my first ever real concert, Motley Crue, Poison, and Whitesnake.


    6) Daw, but, Geena Davis!!

    7) Dr. Quinn, Medicine Boring. I concede.


    9) Jessica Chastain — Sarah Plain & Tall?

    10) Amy Adams — as others have pointed out, a) it’s fantasy, and b) that dress rocks, and c) her hair rocks.

    11) Downton Abbey maids are a wash, because Gwen was great, but Ethel was annoying.

    12) Isla Fisher — she is hilarious and fabulous. Her clothes in The Great Gatsby, however, were tragic.

    • Trystan

      I was still using my crimper until my hair fell out but even I didn’t do it w/a historical costume! And I do a lot of weird gothy shit with costumes.

      You can’t deny your own diss of Titanic. It’s on the record.

      Enchanted is in there bec. it’s redonkulously YOU. And it’s not even good fantasy — totally prom/quincenara, they bought it in one of the LA Garment District side streets.

  6. Shawna

    If I didn’t love you already, Trystan (which I did, um, do. Grammar police are coming for me), the fact that you used the term “clown realness” makes me your willing slave FOREVER.
    Plus I agree about Amy Adams’ quinceanera gown: miles of shimmering, flammable poly organza look like they’re right off the rack. That’s a costumer designer doing no more than placing an order here: Oh the shame of it! Although there is one buttercup yellow number that would make an awesome Belle from Beauty & Beast costume…

    • Trystan

      Dawww, of course I had to point out the Bianca Del Rio vibe there, amirite???

      And I loves me some quinceanera gowns, but let’s just be honest about it. Thank you!

  7. Matt

    Not to be the skunk at the costume party, but it should be pointed out that ENCHANTED was meant as a deliberate sendup of Disney’s own back catalogue of “princess” movies. Therefore, Amy Adams’ gowns were meant to be an exaggerated version of the stuff Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel etc. wore in their films (which explains why the dress was so big and poufy it needed its own zip code). Parody is intentionally ridiculous, so it may not be fair to criticize it. (And don’t give me that “there is no fairness in Snark Week” business; life and the universe may not be capable of fairness, but human beings are, and have a moral obligation to be fair when they can.)

  8. Jenny Ketcham

    Well, I guess, in this film Amy Adams is technically a strawberry blonde, but, what about Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day? What a creation cast!

  9. Mark

    Re Mame.
    It begins just before the Crash of ’29, so by the time Mame appears in this Number it’s at least late ’30s.


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