“Ain’t We Got Style”: Vanity Fair’s Classic Movie Photo Shoot

I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fat sucker for Vanity Fair photo shoots.

And this one is right up my alley. Vanity Fair’s August issue features an “Ain’t We Got Style” portfolio of re-created scenes from Depression-Era films. Some of today’s freshest young talent slip into the shoes of classic film immortals Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Joan Crawford to name the few.  It Happened One Night, The Grapes of Wrath, 42nd Street, Letty Lynton and My Man Godfrey are recreated alongside 1970s period dramas They Shoot Horses Don’t They and Paper Moon.

Norman Jean Roy’s work is fabulously fun, not to mention wondrously detailed– right down to the tweed in Peter Warren’s jacket. I beg you all to indulge yourselves with a gander.

(and please forgive the quality of the images—my scanner is in the throes of a midlife crisis…)

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Kat Dennings, Anton Yelchin, Maya Rudolph, John Krasinski, Elizabeth Banks, and Hugh Dancy

As depressing Depression films go, Sydney Pollack’s 1969 opus takes the stale biscuit. Heart attacks, broken dreams, and breakdowns on the dance floor of a 30s dance marathon participants down on their luck compete for prize money. Rather like a reality show without the chance of “Page Six” celebrity. Here, our cast gives their thespian all, in everything from D&G to Brioni.

42nd Street
42nd Street

Krysten Ritter, Margarita Levieva, Willa Holland, Ari Graynor, Moon Bloodgood, Jon Engstrom, Nikki Reed, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Till, Jamie Chung, Emma Stone, Rashida Jones, and Chris Messina

The whole world’s going to the dogs, so what do we need? Battalions of tap-dancing girls in ankle socks and flimsy shorts! Then (1933), as now, the chorines pound the boards (in Emporio Armani). Hopefuls wait their turn in assorted prêt-a-porter while choreographer Engstrom and director Mesina emote. Will the show go on? When will it not?

It Happened One Night
It Happened One Night

James Marsden and Rose Byrne

Runaway heiress, love triangle, gruff but adorable journalist—Frank Capra’s 1934 classic has everything a screwball on-the-road comedy should have to take the mind off foreclosures and bank closures. The most ironic scene (apart from the one where Clark Gable removed his shirt, revealing no undershirt and wiped out an entire industry) is the hitchhiking sequence. Gable invokes the language of the thumb. Claudette Colbert trumps him with the power of her gams. Here Gable (Marsden, in Ralph Lauren) and Colbert (Byrne, in Sportmax) square off.

My Man Godfrey
My Man Godfrey

Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried

A scavenger hunt-cum-party game in this 1936 classic somehow involves Carlole Lombard’s madcap heiress wandering into the Depression-era streets, picking up hobo William Powell and turning him into an exquisitely dressed attired butler. Not, one feels, something to be attempted today. Here, as Powell, Tatum (in Armani) serves up serious tidbits as Seyfried’s Lombard (in Galliano) finds it all highly amusing.

The Grapes of Wrath
The Grapes of Wrath

Kelli Garner, Eugene Levy, Dan Fogler, Emile Hirsch, Demitri Martin and Mamie Gummer

A sacred piece of John Ford cinema. Poignant, powerful, troubling—with hats to die for. Or is that a tad inappropriate? Whatever, the Dust Bowl style of 1940 is freight-training back toward us, and some September fashionable dames will surely embrace Stella McCartney’s granny-ish knits, Bottega Veneta’s drapey dresses, and Burberry’s drapier separates while the guys adopt newsboy caps and suspenders to make it “Two for the Joad.” Our irreverent cast (from Ang Lee’s latest, Taking Woodstock) shows how it’s done.

Letty Lynton
Letty Lynton

Mila Kunis

Before gigantic eyebrows and shoulders engulfed her, Joan Crawford played numerous birdlike shopgirls, socialites and gold-digging secretaries filed under the category Clotheshorse. A well-dressed nowhere film, Letty Lynton (1932) contained gold dust in its heroine’s dreamy wardrobe (by Adrian) and the Letty Lynton dress, with billowing diaphanous sleeves, became an overnight sensation. More than 500,000 copies sold in the depths of the Depression. Our Crawford give Givenchy’s feathery autumn offering a similar come-and-get-me allure.

Paper Moon
Paper Moon

Josh Duhamel and Elle Fanning

Peter Bogdanovich’s breathtakingly black and white homage to 30s filmmaking introduced eight-year-old Tatum O’Neal in her first (and Oscar-winning) film performance as the illegitimate daughter of a small-time con man, played by daddy Ryan, with better looks and smaller ambitions than Bernie Madoff. Here, the road trip scene from the 1973 film is so masterfully re-interpreted by Duhamel (in Zegna) and Fanning (in Miu Miu and vintage Gap), you can still hear the little mite testily demanding, “I want my $200!”

Posted by

Film writer and social media marketing professional. 2019 Social Ambassador for the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival. Previously: social media associate at Warner Archive and script writer for Turner Classic Movies. Working on a Montgomery Clift biography due late 2020.

6 thoughts on ““Ain’t We Got Style”: Vanity Fair’s Classic Movie Photo Shoot

  1. This is really very wonderful, but I would like to note a simple mistake — nothing major, and not to be meticulous, but a significant error — “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” is a 1960’s period drama, not 1970’s. It was released in early December 1969 and was at the time Jane Fonda’s second feature film.
    Very nice collection, I am quite a fan of VF myself and enjoy their fashion spreads tremendously. I am also a big fan of most of the stars featured herein. Thanks for posting this 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s