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, because nothing says cultural appropriation like a sword-and-sandals flick.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
What do you think of all these redheads in historical costume movies? Are they awful or awesome? Did I miss any worth dissing?