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Hollywood Fashion Party

The editors of MODERN SCREEN looked into their wives’ wardrobes and had a thought. It was, “Who can afford Paris creations?” Their answer almost choked them. It was, “No one.” Meditating along this vein, they got very excited and still another thought crossed their minds. It was, “Why should Paris be the fashion center of the world when Hollywood is just around the Rockies and loaded with style experts and best-dressed women?” And finally, they asked themselves, “Why not bring the stars’ knowledge of fashion and their valuable advice directly to our readers?”

Right away they contacted Loretta Young, who’s received innumerable awards for being Hollywood’s best-dressed actress. “What do you think of the idea?” they asked Loretta.

“It’s wonderful!” she said. “What could be better than having the stars, who’ve learned about fashions from the finest designers, share their knowledge with your readers?”

The editors beamed. “You’ll share?” they asked.

“I’d be delighted,” she said.

Now Loretta is a lady who has a way of doubling a person’s enthusiasm for any worthy project. That’s what she did to ours, and before long we’d planned a fashion show—and a luncheon to go with it. Then we got down to the business of setting up an Advisory Board of Experts comprised of representative stars. As the fall fashions paraded past these members of the board, they would select and recommend the clothes which they considered the best buys for MODERN SCREEN readers.

The time and place for these events to occur were rapidly chosen. The time: noon. The place: the spacious lawn beside Edgar Bergen’s pool. Frances Bergen is a former model and one of the most fashion conscious young matrons in our town. Mr. Bergen, as you may know, is employed as straight man for Charles McCarthy, who provides the laughs on the Coca-Cola radio show. Edgar also approves of Mrs. B.’s gowns and writes the checks for them and is quite aware of what goes on in the style world. Charlie, of course, will tell you that McCarthy’s an expert on everything.

The remaining members of the board were selected. Ricardo Montalban accepted the invitation with pleasure. Ricardo’s married to Loretta’s sister, who’s a fashion plate in her own right. And as a young husband, he’s an authority on what young wives should wear.

Every girl is interested in a beau’s opinion of her clothes. Consequently, we called on Peter Lawford and Howard Duff, two of Hollywood’s most eligible bachelors—both noted for taste in clothes and ladies.

Elizabeth Taylor, who has shopped in stores all over the world, seemed like an ideal choice for the board. Also perfect were Diana Lynn and Mona Freeman of Hollywood’s young married crowd. They’ve had considerable experience in balancing wardrobe budgets and always manage to look as though they just stepped out of bandboxes.

Last, and far from least, there was Walter Pidgeon, well-traveled, noted for his charm and sophistication.

The day of the show began as a cloudy one. However, around noon, the sun came out to see what was going on. The Brown Derby had taken over luncheon arrangements and the lawn was a beehive of preparations. Dainty finger sandwiches and a variety of salads were on the table, and everything, done with great flourish.

Howard Duff was the earliest arrival. “It’s my first fashion show,” he said, happily looking around at the lovely models. “And it won’t be my last.”

About that time Mona Freeman walked up. “Aren’t you slightly out of character?” she wanted to know. The last time she’d seen him he was a cowpoke on a Western set. The two co-starred in The Lady From Texas.

Others soon followed. And this was quite a feat. Edgar and Frances live on a Hollywood hilltop. It may not be the highest, but it’s the most difficult to get to. Edgar usually sends out small maps when folks are coming to call. In case this only proves confusing, there are signs along the way. But you still need the intuition of a mountain goat. For instance, Walter Pidgeon was driving up the road and took a sharp left turn. Seemed logical enough because a sharp right turn would have sent him hurtling down a mountainside. He reached a house and saw that Nancy Davis and Phyllis Kirk (she’s in Three Guys Named Mike) had arrived. They were going to model winning clothes. “This is Bergen’s?” Walter asked, surveying the sight. There was a patio all right, but it was filled with boards—as the house was in the process of being built.

“This must be where Charlie keeps his relatives,” grinned Nancy, glancing at the lumber.

Phyllis was nose deep in a map, trying to figure just where they’d gone wrong.

“Follow me,” said Walter as he backed down the steep incline.

He almost backed into Ricardo Montalban. “Follow me,” Ricardo suggested.

Several hilltops and one phone call later, they reached the Bergens’.

The event was taking on a festive air. Beside the pool, Peter Lawford conferred with Jeanne MacDonald, who’d dropped by for a few minutes. And Liz Taylor was absent-mindedly swinging her foot in the direction of the water. Suddenly her shoe came off and there was a small splash. But fortunately she was sitting near the shallow end where the shoe could be retrieved. “Guess I should have worn a bathing suit,” she laughed, as Frances fetched her a pair of slippers.

Several of the men nearby were heard to sigh.

Time came for the judges to adjourn to their tables, upon which there were favors for the ladies and for the men, too (or their ladies)—boxes of Willys of Hollywood hosiery; Cutex nail polish and matching Fire Engine Red lipstick; the new Duolin Enzyme all-purpose face cream; Playtex girdles; Lentheric Red Lilac cologne, and Luciene of Beverly Hills cosmetic preparations and lipsticks. All of these gifts were wrapped up in May Company hat-boxes.

On the sidelines were some of Hollywood’s most noted columnists and stars who came to see the show and model the winning selections. Leslie Caron, MGM’s n French star, was excitedly telling Greer of her interest in American fashions. And Nancy Davis, Phyllis Kirk and Monica Lewis were in a conference, wondering which dresses they would be wearing.

The show was put on the road—rather around the pool. And as the models appeared, the male members of the board looked somewhat perplexed. “It’s hard to decide which to choose,” Peter smiled. “The beautiful girls or the beautiful clothes.”

“The girls, you fool,” McCarthy piped up.

Charlie wasn’t much help. A model strolled by wearing a blue and white plaid skirt, white sweater and plaid stole “Ahhhh . . .” murmured Howard Duff in obvious appreciation.

“Huh . . .” replied Charlie. “Take a look at the blonde that’s coming our way.”

As a matter of fact, Charlie was no help at all. Luncheon was continuous and served between sets by the Brown Derby waitresses in their stiffly starched dresses. “Who can concentrate on food?” Mr. McCarthy remarked. But I will have another slug of coke, if you please, Bergen.”

“Aren’t these dresses just a little expensive?” Peter Lawford asked a MODERN SCREEN editor.

Said editor gave him a proud smile. “Frankly, they cost very little. The price range is in a low bracket that all young girls can afford.”

“Amazing,” said Pete. Then he nodded toward a black net evening gown. “That dress looks like a million dollars.”

“So do the rest,” added Howard. “And Peter, my boy, if and when I marry, I shall suggest that my wife take a look at the pages of M.S.”

The members of the board stayed deep in thought and their page-size ballots during the show. No one told anyone else which dress he or she was voting a favorite. However, occasionally an unguarded comment such as, “That’s lovely,” would involuntarily escape Loretta Young’s lips.

The ballots were tabulated at the conclusion of the show and everyone anxiously waited to hear the results, and to see the winners modeled by the stars. As it turned out, after the winners were announced, some of the judges wanted to model. Early in the show, Ricardo Montalban had studied one of the outfits and turned to Liz Taylor to tell her how wonderful she’d looked in it. When it was declared a winner, Liz promptly asked if she might try it on.

“May I model the black taffeta?” asked Diana.

“I liked the other black dress,” Mona said.

“Poof,” said Charlie. “You haven’t lived till you’ve seen-my new outfit.”

“Just a minute, Charlie,” Bergen told him. “We’ll model later. Right now I’ve duties to perform as landlord and host.”

Charlie and Edgar had identical dress suits, but no one noticed that until Edgar toured the lawn to make sure the guests were having a fine time.

“Some view you have here,” said a columnist.

Bergen smiled, and pointed out into space, where you could glimpse John Barrymore’s former estate, “Chinatown Settlement.” “See that tree?” he asked. There was a tree all right, but it had only a few branches.

“John was a great hunter,” replied Bergen, “and he shot off the branches with his deer rifle.”

All talk of far-away scenery was forgotten when the girls came out in the winning dresses. Nancy Davis wore the black net formal. Diana Lynn was in the black taffeta. Liz Taylor looked like at least a hundred thousand in the outfit she’d chosen. Jane Greer wore a red corduroy dress with matching accessories. Peter Lawford was admiring Phyllis Kirk in a smart grey suit. And on into the afternoon . . . Dresses weren’t the only winners, though. The MODERN SCREEN Hollywood Fashion Board gave special awards to Cutex: “For fashion in color, excellence in quality and popular price;” Playtex: “For the most revolutionary girdles in a decade—power control with action freedom;” Willys of Hollywood: “For excellence in the design of hosiery. First—Stockings for the Stars—and now for the women of America.”

The women of America don’t have to go to Paris any more.


(Ricardo Montalban can be seen in Across The Wide Missouri, Walter Pidgeon in Thin Knife, and Peter Lawford in Just This Once.—Ed.)