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Film costume designer Edith Head is credited for Ginger Rogers' modern day dress in the Paramount Pictures feature film-musical "Lady in the Dark." Broadway-film couturier/set designer Raoul Pene du Bois is credited in the feature film as the costume/set designer in the circus dream-musical dance sequences. Paramount film studio art department supervisor Hans Drier was the Paramount feature film's Production Designer. The film's director Mitchell Leisen, (formerly a set and costume designer), supervised and contributed his creative imaginative set and costume ideas, suggestions, in the creation of the film's scenery and costume applications. Leisen was instrumental in creating the mink-fur skirted gown lined in jewels for Ginger Rogers' musical circus sequence. Raoul Pene du Bois designed this costume which has usually been attributed to the films lead costumer Edith Head. The first mink gown was created, and during fittings and rehearsals, the costume's fur lined jeweled weight was just too heavy for Ginger Rogers to walk, nor to stand (up) during long filming sequences, nor to dance or perform in a choreographed production number. The first original gown, lined with matched paste-glass rubies and emeralds, cost $35,000 (in 1944 dollars) to manufacture. Brief shots of Rogers in the fur skirted paste-jeweled gown were photographed. The New York costume wizard Barbara Karinska was at the cross town - Culver City MGM studio collaborating with the costume designer Irene on the Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich filming of "Kismet." Raoul Pene du Bois, who had collaborated with Barbara Karinska in New York City's Broadway theatricals, begged, imploring Madam Karinska to remake the fur skirt to enable Ginger Rogers to perform and dance in the musical production number. Karinska made a second version of the mink dress, lined with sequins, which, less bulky - weighed less, was lighter for Ginger Rogers's choreographed dream-circus-dance production number. Studio costume departments maintained a fur vault providing fur pelts for coats and costume trimming. The floor length mink skirt for Ginger Rogers used mink pelts from this vault. The original show-piece mink skirt, too heavy to wear, was rebuilt as a new costume. Karinska built a wire hoop covered with a fine netting, hanging and spacing the mink pelts apart from each other; supported by net, reducing the number of mink pelts on the skirt's total weight, allowing the skirt's flexibility on the actress' body during the dance sequence. Both gowns are shown in the movie. The original fur-skirted gown with the paste-glass jewels was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. The second fur skirted gown was DE-constructed, with the fur pelts returned to the studio's fur vault. Karinska was never credited for building this particular Ginger Rogers - dance-costume. See more »
"Lady in the Dark" is a curiosity. The circus sequence with "The Saga of Jenny" gives a taste of what the movie version of the Broadway show might have been like (as other commentators have noted, the song is the sole survivor of the Broadway score by Weill and Gershwin, aside from snatches of "My Ship" and "Suddenly it's Spring", and a verse from "Once Life to Life" which Ginger Rogers recites). Ginger is a knockout, even in her "plain" business suits. The visual design is so rich you could swim in it- it was lovely to see the 40s magazine design as well as the sets. And the costumes! The sequin lined mink skirt is stunning, and so is the gown in the wedding sequence. The psychoanalysis storyline is well handled for a movie made in this period when analysis was strange and frightening to the audience. However, what could have been an exquisite soufflé is let down by the bizarre decision to cut all but one of the numbers and the development of the plot. It suggests that women are miserable in business suits and are far happier wearing frou frou gowns and being "dominated" by men (its terminology, not mine). I will say in the plot's defense (if I may take Ray Milland's part in the circus sequence for a moment) that it doesn't have Ginger pairing off with irresistible but insecure movie star Randy Curtis. When she announced that she was going to marry him and give up her job I yelled out, "You'll be sorry!" The writers recognize that Randy and staying home to be a housewife (even a Hollywood one) would bore Ginger's character out of her tree. Her sparring colleague is a far better choice, and there's a hint in the final that perhaps neither Ray or Ginger will dominate the other, but be partners in running the magazine (they're both overwhelmed with enthusiasm for it). But this hint of equality isn't enough to redeem Ray's earlier nastiness to Ginger, or the tone of misogyny. The movie still comes down with a thud, like Ginger at the end when Ray takes her chair.
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