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We know that costume designers aren’t always the ones calling the shots in terms of costume designs — directors, producers, and even actors may have input, and, of course, movies and TV shows are entertainment, not educational documentaries (although even when they are, the costumes can suck!). BUT THIS IS SNARK WEEK, FOLKS. Y’all should know that means we don’t give a shit about the reasons why, we’re here to poke fun at crap onscreen!
Jean-Pierre Dorléac isn’t a household name among fans of high-quality frock flicks and for good reason. He might be better known for the original Battlestar Galactica, The Greatest American Hero, Quantum Leap, and Manimal, if you’re into that sort of thing. He also created costumes for a bunch of costume dramas mostly on TV in the 1970s-80s — that’s where we’ve encountered his dubious work. And while he can make a decent stab at 20th-century clothing, when Dorléac strays from anything like “old Hollywood glam” the results are hilarious. Enjoy!
The Bastard aka The Kent Chronicles, Part I (1978)
The series is based on novels by John Jakes and set in the 18th century around the time of the American Revolution., To quote Kendra in her recap from a past Snark Week, it’s “a fiesta of polyester and scoffing.”
The Rebels aka The Kent Chronicles, Part 2 (1979)
But wait, there’s more! The series goes on, and the costumes continue to be deeply shitty!
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
Dorléac did historical costumes for a couple big-screen movies … with wildly varied results. First up, the flick most famous for showing a teenage Brooke Shields semi-naked. It’s set around 1900 and starts with two cousins shipwrecked, so there are some actual costumes. But then, well, not a lot of tailoring in evidence!
Somewhere in Time (1980)
Easily Dorléac’s most famous film effort, this schmaltzy time-travel romance starts out in the 1970s and then bounces back to the 1910s. The costumes are very pretty, but as I note in the Patreon post, the gowns on Jane Seymour don’t actually fit the supposed period. The movie plot and dialog go to pains to point out what year it is, yet her clothes refute this, and even the suit that Christopher Reeve wears isn’t right compared to the in-character conversations about it. Costume design is supposed to support the plot and character in a story, but this was just off.
Mae West (1982)
This TV biopic is a mixed bag of period costumes, highlighting what Dorléac can do right and why he should just stay in that lane. Flashy 1930s glamour gowns? You bet! Rock on with your sequined self, mister! Everything else? Ugh, no.
Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story (1982)
Another TV biopic, apparently about the singer’s life during the 1950s-60s. I can’t find much about it, so fine, I guess.
Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982-1983)
This was one of those cheezoid TV series inspired by Indiana Jones. Supposedly set in 1938. HAHAHAAH. No.
The Road Raiders (1989)
An action-adventure-comedy TV movie supposedly set in 1942, can’t find anything else about it, but really, do we want to know more?
A Burning Passion: The Margaret Mitchell Story (1994)
OK, back to the TV biopics. This is one I weirdly liked because of Shannen Doherty. Of course, the whole thing paints her life as a romance and downplays the racist Lost Cause BS in her novel. The costumes are generally OK, with some questionable styling.
Lily Dale (1996)
This TV movie is set in 1910 and earned Jean-Pierre Dorléac an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Costume Design for a Miniseries or a Special. Guess who won? Dinah Collin for Pride and Prejudice. BOO-YAH!
The Lot, “The Mob Scene” (2001)
This short-lived series wasn’t a popular or critical success, but Dorléac won an Emmy for Outstanding Costumes for a Series, shared with costume supervisor Gilberto Mello. Because he was doing the one thing he knows how to do — ’30s gowns! He hasn’t had a TV or film credit for 17 years now, so I guess he’s resting on his laurel.
What’s the worst fault of Jean-Pierre Dorléac’s supposedly historical costume designs?