28 July 2012

The Great Recasting: The Devil Wears Dior

Count on Dietrich to out-Miranda Priestly Streep herself!
Whenever I watch Stage Fright and The Devil Wears Prada, I revel in the insults that grand dames Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich) and Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) hurl at Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) and Andrea "Andy" Sachs (Anne Hathaway), two plain Janes who--like quinoa--are so bland that no one can get their names right. Listening to Erika von Schlütow's (again, Dietrich) clawed comments about and toward Senator Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) in A Foreign Affair also elicits the same delight.

At times, I envision these three movies as a cinematic collage of hilarious derision, and when I learned about "The Great Recasting" blogathon hosted by Frankly, My Dear and In The Mood, I spied an opportunity to mingle a few of my favorite icy characters.

Following the rules of "The Great Recasting," I'm appropriating the 2006 flick, The Devil Wears Prada, by imagining it as a 1951 movie called The Devil Wears Dior (the fashion house that dressed Dietrich for Stage Fright, a movie heavily screen-capped in this entry), recasting Dietrich and Wyman (who must have been a masochist in my alternate universe) as Miranda and Andy's characters respectively due to their antagonistic onscreen chemistry, with A Foreign Affair's director--the comedic genius, Billy Wilder--at the helm. Those of you familiar with The Devil Wears Prada, Stage Fright, and A Foreign Affair will recognize the pastiche of dialogue from all three of these flicks, but in a distilled bitchy brew--without the added ingredients of murder, post-war occupation, and romance. Consider it a sort of Socratic dialogue gone camp that probably would have flopped and become a cult classic. Rather than explain why I made all these choices for my "The Great Recasting" entry, I'll show you by biting the style of a blog that entertains me--I'm Not Patty. Let's get on with it!

The Devil Wears Dior


directed by Billy Wilder

STARRING Marlene Dietrich as Anaïs Silkman Bloom, editor-in-chief of the trans-Atlantic women's fashion magazine, Nouvelle Vue. Anaïs has a penchant for Dior and may be a jab at a few fashion arbiters of the '50s publishing world, e.g., Harper's Bazaar's Carmel Snow, American Vogue's Edna Woolman Chase, and British Vogue's Audrey Withers.

WITH Jane Wyman as Annabel "Billy" Fox, a fresh-faced Vassar graduate who thought she'd be writing on postwar politics in The New Republic--not schlepping stockings at Nouvelle Vue.

PLUS, a supporting cast meant solely for added comic relief.

Annabel "Billy" Fox has a big day ahead of her! She's got an interview with some magazine called Nouvelle Vue, which may not be her cup of tea, but at least it will give her an entrée into publishing.
Here she is dolling herself up for the prospective job.

Fortunately, Billy has toned down her look a bit after realizing that she isn't going to become the next
Ida M. Tarbell at a fashion rag. As she enters the Nouvelle Vue office, her nerves start to overwhelm her.

Rightfully so! Billy's come in for an interview right when editor-in-chief Anaïs Silkman Bloom is busily "auditioning" veils for an upcoming article about the most glamorous widows on Park Ave.

Without even glancing at the schoolmarm in Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail order togs, Anaïs asks, "Who are you?" Billy answers, "I'm Annabel Fox, a recent Vassar graduate--"

Before Billy can brag about her achievements,
Anaïs turns toward her and interrupts, "Why are you here?"

Taken aback, Billy blurts, "Well, Miss Bloom, it was either this or Hot Rod magazine."

"You don't read Nouvelle Vue, do you?"


"And before today, you'd never heard of me."


"And I see you do not believe in lipstick. And what a curious way to do your hair--or rather not to do it."

"Well, I think that's a matter of perso--"

"No, that wasn't a question! Read your resume to me, dear. Not so loud, though."

"I was editor-in-chief of The Miscellany News, where I wrote an award-winning exposé
on secret Socialist societies at women's colleges--"

Anaïs, however, resumes her fitting and announces, "That's all."

Taking the hint, Billy sees her way out. . . .

but her bruised ego compels her to step back and declare, "Madame, I may not be a fashion plate,
but I've got brains, and I'm willing to work fingers to the bone." Anaïs merely repeats, "That's all."

Before Billy exits the building, one of Anaïs's lackeys gives her the good yet perplexing news, "You got the job!"

Attending to Anaïs's every need, Billy can barely keep up
with the unfamiliar names and terms thrown her way.
"Mavis, I need 27 fuschia coats from Bonnie Cashin!"

"Phyllis, get me a Balmain stole!"

"Emily, book Dovima for the next cover shoot!"

Although Billy usually listens obediently to Anaïs, she eventually slips and smirks,
which provokes Anaïs to verbally eviscerate her. "You see that smock you're wearing?" Anaïs inquires.

Dumbfounded, Billy nods her head.

"Well," Anaïs continues, "while you may believe that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back, what you don't realize is that in 1942, the editors of Nouvelle Vue decided to print some Rosie the Riveter cartoons that featured the smock. By 1945, Marilyn Monroe wore a smock that skyrocketed her to stardom in photos published by Nouvelle Vue. From there, the smock trickled down to the tragic Bon Marché bargain bin where you grabbed it. So, your smock was chosen for you by the people in this room."

After that brutal chastisement, Billy was sure she had enough. Then, Anaïs's right-hand man [I couldn't help but recast Hector MacGregor as Stanley Tucci's unforgetable Nigel!] told her, "You know, Billy, you’re not bad-looking. You don’t treat your face properly. That’s all. If you fixed your hair up and used some makeup, you’d be quite attractive."

Following this advice and perhaps with a bit of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's magic, Billy transforms into the glamorous assistant she was meant to be.

The transformation even shocks jaded Anaïs, who exclaims, "Darling! What ever happened to that peculiar figure of yours?" And this is where I ought to end my recasting because I lost interest in The Devil Wears Prada after everyone stopped mocking my pet hate, Anne Hathaway. Also, Wyman reverts to wearing that boxy blazer for the rest of Stage Fright, which ruins the impact of screen-caps.


  1. Thanks so much for joining this blogathon! Your post was great! :D

    Natalie @ In the Mood

    1. Thank you for hosting! It was a fun idea!

  2. Very amusing,always loved Stage Fright,what with all the Nellie,Doris talk.Besides Marlene looks glorious in it apart from the OTT "La vie en Rose" dress.Poor Jane Wyman didn't stand a chance,she really was criminally plain,Anne Hathaway as well,can't believe her career has lasted this long,no personality,no nothin.
    I have just dug out a photocopy of an article July 14,1998,from Globe,a twashy supermarket mag."Marlene Dietrich made me gay!"It's about her grandson J David Riva,and I can't quite tell if it is all a bit of a send up.Quote:Even though she was out of the closet,her grandson was shocked at her reaction in 1983 when he announced that he is gay."She said,'I think it's marvelous darling-it's the most creative thing anyone in your family has ever done!"

    He talks about dressing her up as a peasant to take her to Notre Dame cathedral via the back fire escape."He saw his 87-pound grandmother just three months before her death in 1992 at age 90."
    "She hadn't left her bed in two years"says David"Then one day she tried to use the phone.But when she tried to walk,she fell,passed out face down on a pillow and suffocated"
    I really don't know what to think about this,probably all rubbish of course.Couldn't get to the Globe website from the UK,to see if there were any other references to this or apologies.Paul

    1. Almost none of today's actresses in their 20s or younger appeal to me, although I have a soft spot for Mila Kunis. I even watched some movie that should have gone straight to a 4 a.m. Comedy Central time slot (if fact, that's probably how I watched it!) just for Mila--Extract. I hope she does a movie with one of my current favorites, Charlize Theron.

      That quote attributed to Marlene about David's coming-out sounds like something I could imagine coming from her mouth. I'll have to find this article myself because it's quite colorful! Every time I see references to peasants in relation to Dietrich, I think to myself, "Am I in a pre-WWI time warp, where the world's made of kaisers, tsars, and serfs?" Someone who claimed to be a Riva (perhaps Peter because the IP address is for Gila, New Mexico, where he resides) made this delightfully snobby, queeny remark on Wikipedia years back, "God, we, the family, love it when people made this nonsense up [Joseph's note: regarding Dietrich going on a date with Hitler]. Total rubbish, of course, but sounds good. She was WAY too high class to ever think of meeting that peasant turned butcher."

  3. Wonderful recasting...perhaps this movie actually happened without us knowing it, then disappeared a la the notorious pre-Code "Convention City," and Marlene's character influenced Kay Thompson's acerbic fashion editor in "Funny Face" some six years later (think pink!).

    1. Oh, The Devil Wears Prada owes its soul to Funny Face! Thankfully, it wasn't made into a musical because I wouldn't have been able to put up with Anne acting oh-so-Broadway. In fact, I intend to snicker and sneer at her when Les Miserables hits theaters. I had a lot of fun with this recasting blogathon because I did a bit of research on the early '50s (apologies for any inaccuracies!), and Kay played the spitting image of Harper's Bazaar head honcho, Carmel Snow.

    2. And yet again I forgot to discuss another topic you raised--the Production Code! Some of the lines in Stage Fright, aside from being amusingly off-kilter (e.g., Charlotte Inwood's final anecdote about her dog), are quite naughty. My favorite conversation is between Detective Wilfred "Ordinary" Smith (Michael Wilding) and Eve Gill (Wyman).

      SMITH: Perhaps you’re allergic to bars. Look, would you feel less uneasy if I sat with you, or more uneasy? Perhaps you’re allergic to strange men, too.
      EVE: No, I love strange men! I mean—I’m very fond of them.

  4. This whole post is flawless, really. I love every bit of it. When you said you were going to recast Marlene Dietrich in the Meryl Streep role, I knew this recasting was going to great from then on. I can really see her in the role; better fit than any other classic actress, I think. This is a new movie I loveee, so I'm glad you chose to recast it. Brilliant! Thanks for joining.

    1. You're too kind! There are moments when I watch a movie that has nothing to do with another, yet I superimpose the two in my head, which was the case here. Another pair of movies that get me thinking this way are Marlene's Manpower and Madonna's Who's That Girl, but I'm not cruel enough to subject blogathon readers to a blended reading of those turkeys!

  5. Hysterical, I was chatting with a client and said if we had a time machine MD would have been the perfect Miranda.

    Sidenote Joseph- Who's that Girl? Ugh. Talk about a walking contraption.

    1. If Judy Holliday had a Thalidomide baby, it would be Madonna in Who's That Girl! Someone like Jennifer Tilly would have done a better job at playing the part, but I have a secret--I still enjoy the movie.

  6. Great recasting, Joseph! Marlene in a Meryl role would be superb to watch. And poor Jane Wyman! Only in he captions here she suffered enough!
    I'm also in the blogathon recasting The English Patient (but no Marlene, sorry).

    1. Ha! My Marlene myopia does tend to blind me to other topics. I certainly could have seen Joan Crawford or Bette Davis verbally abusing plain Jane Wyman, but they wouldn't have done it as coolly. In fact, Joan would have probably lost her cool and slapped Jane.

  7. Love this so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also, I would pay good money to see this movie or the one where Joan Crawford plays Meryl's part and slaps Jane Wyman.

    1. I'd pay to watch that, too, and--if we could transcend time--I'd even pay to watch Naomi Campbell hurl a cellphone at Wyman's head.

  8. This is the most brilliant post ever. I can't believe I missed this. You are genius.

    1. Thanks, Cara! This concept was fun, and I'd like to try it again if I can think of a Dietrich film and another film that share such strong parallels as these two movies.