Welp, I watched Little Gloria … Happy at Last (1982), so there was only one possible option to follow it up with: Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story! A TV movie! From 1987! Starring Farrah Fawcett! With costumes by Jane Robinson of Brideshead Revisited (1981) fame! Was it great? Nope! Was it terrible? Nope. Poor Little Rich Girl attempts to tell the life story of Barbara Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth drugstore fortune, who was filthy rich, many-times married, and mostly miserable. There’s a brief glimpse of Hutton as a young girl, but mostly it’s focused from her debut in 1930 through her marriages to seven different men, including Cary Grant.
The film is mostly carried by Farrah Fawcett, and I was surprised at how acceptable she was as an actress, and how normal-looking she was when she wasn’t in a bathing suit with feathered hair. She was actually nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance, and the film won for Best Miniseries or Television Film.
As I mentioned above, the costumes were designed by Jane Robinson (Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill, Brideshead Revisited, Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, and A Handful of Dust), and she was nominated for an Emmy for her work. There was, predictably, a TON of costumes and not much budget to make them with:
“Fawcett … wears 168 costumes, which require her to change almost every 10 minutes … Hutton’s lifestyle created problems for the producer. The jewels could be borrowed, but [producer] Persky and director Charles Jarrott had to find a cheap way to recreate the clothes, houses and decor of Hutton and her friends in the U.S., Venice, London and Tangier. ‘Oh, God, it has been torture, absolute torture,’ moaned costume designer Jane Robinson … ‘They want a mega, mega, megarich production, but only give you 50 cents to do it.’ She had Savile Row tailor Edward Sexton recreate many of the men’s costumes and some of Fawcett’s, finding the others wherever she could. ‘We couldn’t simply copy all the clothes Barbara Hutton wore because it would be boring,’ she adds. ‘This isn’t a documentary'” (Arts & People: Barbara Hutton Warts and All, WWD, Oct. 12, 1987).
As mentioned in that article, Edward Sexton, a Savile Row tailor, made the men’s clothes:
“‘My style just fitted in right bang into what they were doing,’ said Sexton, who was in the city last week. His ‘practical’ style includes double-breasted, ventless jackets worn with high-waisted, cuffed pants. His two-piece suits for men and women cost about $1,800. ‘The film will certainly have a bearing on fashion,’ Sexton said confidently of his first film experience. No doubt he’s right, because Jane Robinson, the British costume designer of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ fame, designed the clothes for Fawcett. And Cary Grant’s sartorial style, which Sexton tried to capture, is legendary. One detail on Sexton’s impeccable suits are ‘street-walker’ lapels. These look like notched lapels, except the angle of the peak ‘is parallel with the pavement'” (Deco Jewels and an Innocent in Hollywood, San Francisco Chronicle, May 18, 1987).
As is my wont, I took a bunch of screencaps, so let’s take a wander through Poor Little Rich Girl!
We start with toddler Barbara, whose mother committed suicide when Barbara was just four years old in 1917:
Barbara grows up in just a few scenes, moving to England at one point:
Where she meets her governess:
Pre-teen Barbara is played by Fairuza Balk (most famous for that mid-1990s cheese-fest The Craft):
Kevin McCarthy, who has been in a million things, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Love Boat, is the daddy who never loves her enough:
At her debut, Barbara wears a traditional white dress whose fabric just screams synthetic — or is it just the crappy YouTube version I’m watching?
Fawcett pulls off 1930s well:
Some costumes just didn’t read well on my screen:
Miriam Margolyes (The Age of Innocence, the 1998 Vanity Fair, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Call the Midwife) shows up briefly as an American living in the south of France:
Where Hutton meets her first husband, a sleazy Georgian (country, not state) count:
And makes friends with the consistently-fabulously-attired Pauline de la Rochelle (Stéphane Audran):
Anne Francis turns up as Barbara’s step-mother:
Babs marries the sleazy Georgian:
There’s lots of glammy satin:
And sporty daywear:
And shmucky soon-to-be ex-husbands:
Some great contrast buttons:
New soon-to-be shitty husbands:
More 1930s suits:
Minnie Mouse-y numbers:
JAMES READ (George Hazard from North and South) plays Cary Grant and is shockingly convincing:
Shit gets dowdy in the 1940s:
But hanger-on Pauline still dresses well!
Barbara moves to Morocco, which is an Orientalist escape fantasy for her:
Is endlessly disappointed in love:
Zoe Wanamaker gets some more cute outfits:
We go to Carnevale in Venice:
Bounce back to Morocco:
And die alone! What fun!
Are you a biopic fan? Got any recommendations for me?