There are certain films that are a form of immediate visual transportation that envelop you in their era, their style, and their story. For me, the 1950’s has always been a time period of immediate allure and attraction and I am so incredibly drawn to everything about movies filmed during this time. My own personal fashion sense is heavily influenced by the fabrics, silhouettes, and accessories that characterized this era and I find that most people are familiar with some of the big titles like Breakfast At Tiffany’s, but not as familiar with other iconic numbers.
The list below includes three of my favorite films that highlight major Hollywood leading ladies Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe. These films are selected for their scintillating pictures, decadent fashion, captivating leads, and overall allure. Next time you’re torn on whether to rewatch your favorite show or try something new, take a chance on some of these featured favorites below.
High Society – 1956
With an absolute knock-out of a cast including Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong, it sweeps my favorites coming in at number one. If you’re looking for French interior design inspiration, witty banter, divine fashion, musical numbers, and a plot that keeps you invested, you should absolutely start with High Society. The film’s plot centers around Bing Crosby trying to win back the affection of his ex-wife Grace Kelly who is engaged to another man. Toss in Frank Sinatra as a sassy news reporter covering the wedding and you’ve got a whirlwind of a love triangle that leaves you rooting for everyone involved. The entire movie takes place at an enormous French inspired mansion and is infused with ornate decadence, lively jazz music, and over the top extravagant fashion. I’m particularly interested in Grace’s use of accessories and silhouettes that she plays with throughout the different scenes.
This was also Grace’s last film performance before she married into royalty and I’d say it was an excellent note to depart on. Lastly, there is also a ballad that Bing Crosby sings to Sam, Grace Kelly’s character, titled “I Love You, Samantha,” so I might be biased on that note because I adore the song. All in all, I loved it so much that I purchased the film on Amazon Prime and it’s one I always come back to.
- Grace Kelly, recently engaged to Prince Rainier of Monaco, wore her actual engagement ring for her character’s engagement ring. The engagement ring is a 10.5-carat, emerald-cut, diamond flanked by two baguettes.
- It is said that Frank Sinatra wanted to be in “High Society” because it allowed him to sing a duet with his childhood idol Bing Crosby.
- Helen Rose, who designed the costumes, also designed Grace Kelly’s wedding gown for her marriage to Prince Ranier.
- Features the song Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? which gave the successful TV quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (1999) its title.
Sabrina – 1954
Featuring the timeless Audrey Hepburn, I would say that Sabrina is my favorite of her films during this era. It centers around a young girl whose father works on a large estate for a wealthy family and Audrey has developed a teenage love interest in one of the sons. Her father sends her off to Paris for refinement, culture, and education and she returns as a glamorous, self-secure, icon that no one recognizes at first. There are competing love interests, iconic ballgowns, and again, a luxurious setting and lifestyle portrayed in New York. What I particularly love about this film is her personal growth depicted throughout the movie as she advances from a dramatic and love obsessed adolescent to a refined and fashionable woman who maintains her sense of charming youthful spirit and eagerness for love and life.
This classic black and white film feels traditional in production, but modern in dialogue and casting and I think it’s an excellent transition piece for those who find black and white films daunting. My absolute favorite piece she wears is this iconic black and white ballgown that she wears to the party as her first official appearance after Paris. Overall, I find Audrey to be the most captivating aspect of the film and you cannot take your eyes off of her. Usually known for Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, or Funny Face, Sabrina still stands as my favorite.
- The film began a lifelong association between costume designer Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn.
- This was the second film in a row where Audrey Hepburn gets her hair cut as a symbol of maturity. The first was in “Roman Holiday (1953).” It is also the first of four films in a row where she’d play a character romantically linked with a man old enough to be her father.
- Audrey Hepburn originally wanted famed couturier Cristbal Balenciaga to design her costumes, but he turned her down.
- The film snagged six Oscar nominations, including Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, winning for Edith Head’s dazzling costumes.
Gentleman Prefer Blondes – 1953
If you’ve ever heard the song “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” and wondered where it came from, this would be the original film. Gentleman Prefer Blondes is a saucy film from 1953 featuring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell as two beautiful showgirls seeking to marry rich. In the film, Marilyn is engaged to a wealthy man whose father disapproves of their union. The father then goes on to hire a private investigator to try and catch Marilyn in activity while on a cruise that would disqualify her from the marriage. The film is bursting with vibrant and upbeat musical numbers, jaw dropping costumes, the American Olympic team of chiseled men, and a hilarious dynamic between the two female stars. There is so much wit and sharp comments jam packed into the scenes and the movie itself is set as a comedy, so there’s always something to keep you entertained.
There is absolutely no denying the iconic nature of the costumes in this piece. These are fashion moments that have inspired numerous modern day artists and Marilyn’s depictions in these scenes are still recognizable today. But it’s the dynamic duo of matching costumes that compliment both actresses that I love. You usually get a solo leading lady in most of the films from this era, but the fact that both characters are always presented as a united front is my absolute favorite detail. Their banter with each other and distinct personalities is just a ball to watch and it’s reflective of their actual friendship in real life.
- Marilyn Monroe reportedly suggested the line “I can be smart when it’s important, but most men don’t like it.”
- When told she was not the star of the film, Marilyn was quoted as saying: “Well, whatever I am, I AM the blonde.”
- The ship model shown is the one used previously in Titanic (1953) and was refurbished to resemble the SS Ile de France, which is clearly named in the film.
- The film was a rarity: a Hollywood version of a hit Broadway show that bowdlerized the stage score yet ended up improving on the original. Indeed
- Gossip columnists tried to create a “feud” between Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, but the pair got along famously. In her autobiography, Russell credited their fast friendship to their shared zodiac sign (Gemini).
Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe are household names that depict the timeless glamour of a past age. However, most are unaware of the different roles they took on in Hollywood that created some of the most iconic fashion moments in all of history. While movies like Breakfast at Tiffany’s may take center stage, High Society, Sabrina, and Gentleman Prefer Blondes are all absolute stand-outs that provide a captivating plot, mesmerizing leads, and decadent fashion moments that stand on their own. I draw a lot of my own personal fashion inspiration from these types of films and find myself loving the connection to this time in Hollywood history.
Netflix and Amazon Prime are my go-to’s for viewing these older films and you can usually either rent it for a small price or purchase it for unlimited viewing for under $10.00. It’s absolutely worth the purchase to keep these classic films at your immediate access!
*Please note that all fun facts are derived from the film’s IMDB page and can be accessed via the links featured in the post. The Bolet Collective also has no ownership over the images used in this post and credits the original articles from which they were derived from in the caption.