I have no idea why I was inspired to rewatch In Love and War, the 1996 film starring Chris O’Donnell as Earnest Hemingway and Sandra Bullock as the real-life nurse who he fell in love with during World War I — but I did. According to my short review from back in the day, the movie is HIGHLY cheesy but I loved the late teens costumes. This time around, I only made it through half the movie before giving up because it was that cheesy!
While neither actor is terrible in their role, they’re both TOO suited to their roles — O’Donnell is all sparkly smiles as a young, brash Hemingway; Bullock is all practical and no-nonsense as Red Cross nurse Agnes von Kurowsky. It’s weird, because the movie was directed by the famed Richard Attenborough, but no dice. Every thing about this feels like a Hallmark Hall of Fame production!
The costumes WERE very well done, but I think I must have been new to or starved for this period when I first watched this, because while I still liked them and thought they were nearly spot on for 1918-19, the characters, the setting, etc., they didn’t blow me away — and no, I’m not looking to this movie for fancy over the top, but for practical, real-life clothing. Nonetheless, let’s give costume designer Penny Rose (Evita, Pirates of the Caribbean, King Arthur) a shout-out for really doing the research and making costumes that truly felt and looked like clothing.
According to the online newspaper of the Johns Hopkins University, Rose consulted heavily with Jean Waldman, a full-time volunteer historian with the Red Cross, who ended up being an on-set historical consultant. The filmmakers wanted to know,
“How were bandages rolled? What did the famous nursing cape look like? What was the design for the rolling canteen? ‘I found the original patterns for nursing uniforms. I found the pattern for the nurses’ capes. I even found specifications for ambulances and the rolling canteens’… It was Attenborough’s intention–and Waldman’s job–to make the movie as period-authentic as possible. On the set, Waldman was asked to answer questions, offer opinions and call attention to any facets of the filming that struck her as historically out of place” (On Nursing: Hopkins Nursing In “Love And War”).
Compare the uniforms worn by the real-life von Kurowsky:
With those shown on screen:
The rest of Bullock’s practical, everyday wardrobe looked straight out of period catalogs. Compare:
Probably the standout costume is this peach day dress:
That square collar and tunic overskirt are again straight out of the period:
This costume has been exhibited as part of the Cut! Costume and Cinema traveling exhibition featuring costumes made by Cosprop, one of the big costume houses in London. According to a review of the exhibit,
“The costume designer [Penny Rose] purposefully chose the color of the dress to stand out from the dull colors of war in the film” (Fashion history and Hollywood combine in new exhibit at The History Museum).
The hat worn with this ensemble is REALLY great:
Bullock’s character is also courted by a SUPER HOT Italian doctor who comes from money, so there are a few fancy costumes — none of which are on screen for more than a hot second. She wears a dinner dress that goes by super fast/is only shot from the shoulders up, and this ball gown:
So, probably spare yourself from watching this film unless these pictures REALLY inspire you, or you’re REALLY feeling the Hallmark vibe!