‘Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon: Marriage Misfires and Midnight Lace(1960)

“This is a refreshing change of pace. A totally new kind of topic for a Blogathon.  Theresa Brown from Cine Maven’s Essays From The Couch invited Bloggers to write a post on a movie with a planned “Murder” as its plot. However, there is a twist: The victim must be a Spouse of the murderer. In reality, this type of murder happens more often than one would think. If you consider the three e three main motives for murder: Greed, lust, or revenge, and compare them to what most couples fight about: Money, sex, and past hurts, it should not be surprising that spousal murder is as old as time itself. As a result, it has been the theme for many stories.  These timeless tales come from around the world:  India’s Schehezade, Germany’s Grimm’s fairy tales, Shakespeare’s Othello, and shown in hundreds of movies.  Uxorcide (technical word for murder of one’s wife) or mariticide (technical word for killing one’s husband), are hideous tales that we have all heard, at some time or other.  As a result, they can be seen in a fictitious work or in a newspaper headline.

When I first received this invite, I thought of all kinds of different movies.  Strangely, I realized some of these were also personal favorites of mine. The best movies of this murder theme is either a thriller or a comedy. So, here are five of my personal favorites.  From the favorites, I chose Midnight Lace (1960) to explain more in detail.  All of them are deserving of a blog post; and, if you followed the link below,  you may find a blogger who chose one or more of your personal favorites to write about too.


1) I love the movie classic Gaslight (1944). This is the American version of a British movie with the same title from 1940.  In Britain, it is also know as A Strange Case of Murder.  Both British and American versions are based on a 1939 play by Patrick Hamilton. Usually, remakes are horrible.  But this film is anything but horrible. It is directed by George Cukor with an amazing cast. They include: Ingrid Berman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotton and eighteen year old, Angela Lansbury.

This movie is made with the perfect mood of mystery and fear (Film Noir).  The Husband, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer),  tries to convince his wife, Paula (Ingrid Berman) she is going slowly going mad. With mental illness in her family, it is suggested that a number of tragic actions may eventually happen to her such as a suicide, or a deadly accident or possibly, she needs to be locked away in a mental hospital.

Paula’s aunt Alice, a famous Opera singer, was murdered years ago in the same house that she and Anton reside.  In this spooky house, Paula hears strange sounds, she images she see things, and personal items of Gregory’s turns up missing; but, are later found in Paula’s possession.

A young inspector from Scotland Yard, Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotton) notices Paula’s striking resemblance to her famous murdered aunt. As a boy, he had a huge crush on the Opera singer. Being a sharp detective, he senses something isn’t quite right between Paula and her husband. He begins to watch them both. This isn’t a good movie, this is a great movie.  If you claim to be a movie lover, this movie cannot be missed.  I must have watched it a dozen times; and, each time, I liked it more than the last time.

2) Then there is the French film, Les Diabolique (1955) with Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse.  This is another psychological thriller; and, this is also another great movie Classic, that must be seen.  Yes, it has English subtitles for those of us who do not speak French. A fragile wife, Christina DeLassalle (Vera Clougzot), with a serious heart condition, is married to a sadistic, greedy man, Michel DeLasseelle (Paul Meurisse), who has a mistress, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret).  Michel is bitterly cruel  to Christina and deliberately humiliated her in everyway that he can think of.  He even forces his wife to accept the fact he is in love with Nicole. Michel and Nicole plots to murder Christina. The plan is especially horrid…to scare her death. With her weak heart, this should not be too difficult to accomplish.  However, trying to figure out what actually happens has delightful surprises throughout the movie.

This film is as artistic film that takes terror to a whole other level at that time. Many considerate this film a cinema masterpiece.  There is a tamer, American version of this movie with nearly the same title, missing the article, Les.  This movie remake stars Sharon Stone, Isabelle IsjaniChazz Palminteri, and Kathy Bates.  When most critics compared the 1995 version to the 1955 classic, most felt the remake was a travesty.  It is rare to find a remake better than a near perfect Classic.

3)  My next choice is not a film Classic like Gaslight or Les Diabolique; but, Midnight Lace (1960) is an extremely enjoyable movie to watch nonetheless. This Hollywood movie unbelievably places wholesome Doris Day in harm’s way. Her real husband, Marty Melcher, co- produced this movie. Nothing like adding a bit more pressure to making a movie a success than a spouse who invested the family money into the deal.  Poor Doris, she had to “act” stressed outfor the movie and lived it at home. I will write more about this movie in more detail shortly.

4) Faithful (1996) This is my first comedy-drama favorite starting Cher, Ryan O’Neal, and Chazz Palminteri. Yes, Palminteri also played the husband in the remake of Diabolique (1995). He also wrote the movie screenplay that is based on his play.  In this film, he plays the hitman, Tony, hired to kill the Margaret (Cher) by her husband, Jack Connor (Ryan O’Neal) on there twentieth wedding anniversary. There is more comedy than drama.  Tony holds Margaret hostage as he waits for a call from Jack to signal the “go ahead” to kill her.  That is the drama.   Listening to Margaret outsmart her assailant while she bargains for her life is the comedy. In their discourse, we learn Tony is in therapy to help him to stop being a hitman.  He even becomes so frustrated, he calls his threapist, Dr. Susskind (Paul Marzursky) while he wrestled with his budding conscious. Marzursky is also the director of this movie.  This movie is fun regardless of its dark subject matter.

5) I Married An Axe Murder (1993) The is pure comedy about murdering your spouse with Mike Myers, Nancy Travis, Anthony LaPaglia, Amanda Plummer, Brenda Fricker, Alan Arkin, Steven Wright, Phil Hartman, … It has great mix of background music, some Scottish culture, and it is Funny.  Mike Myers plays Charlie Mackenzie and Charlie’s father, Stuart Mackenzie.  Charlie’s Mum, Kay,  is played by Irish actress Brenda Fricker.  The times when Charlie visits his family’s Scottish/Canadian home is priceless. His best friend is police detective Tony Giardino (Anthony LaPagelia).

Charlie is a performing artist/ poet in a coffeehouse. He meets a lot of women; but, he hasn’t met the “woman.”  We learn about Charlie’s life through his conversations with his cop friend, Tony and his visits home to his Scottish parents.  On his way to a visit them, he stops by the butcher to buy some haggis for dinner.  The butcher is the lovely, mysterious Harriet (Nancy Travis).

There is instant chemistry.  Harriet might be “the woman.”  They start dating.  There is only a few problems: Harriet’s sister, Rose Michaels (Amanda Plummer) is oddly intense, Harriet’s dead husbands, and a “rag” magazine keeps running a story about a “Honeymood Killer.”

This is my favorite Mike Myers movie.  It has an all star cast that only helps to prolong the fun and the many surprises in this charming film.

My list of movies for spousal murders could go on.  These are just the top few that come to my mind, now. There is one of the four, I would like to go into with a bit more detail.

The Murder Blog….Midnight Lace with Doris Day

Doris Day was one of the highest paid Hollywood actresses during the 1960s and 1970s.  In all of the her forty plus movie roles, her screen presence was phenomenon and her audience was totally mesmerize by her.  She is best known for her light comedies and lovely singing voice. There is something so wholesome about her that made you feel good as you watched her on film. In dramas or comedies, when she smiled or laughed, we felt it. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t like and admire her.

Doris Day usually portrayed a strong, determined contemporary woman who had obstacles to overcome. She usually accomplished this with a smile on her face.  In many roles, she played a working woman, single or married, who was placed in unusual circumstances. She tried to lived an ordinary life surrounded by extraordinary circumstances.

One of the joys in watching Midnight Lace is to see Day in some of the most beautiful dresses, gowns, and coats made by designer, Irene  Lentz. They are so gorgeous she received a Oscar nomination for costume design for this film. Irene was one of Hollywood’s premier designers (Gaslight, Shall We Dance, Easter Parade….).  I can only guess how Day feels as she sees herself wearing fur lined and trimmed garments in this movie. She has been a staunch animal activist for many years now, which I greatly admire.

Midnight Lace 1960 5

Besides seeing Day in these stunning outfits, I am intrigued by Day’s performance. You can actually witness Kit Preston’s nervous breakdown spiralling out of control.  In Day’s autobiography, she confesses that in scenes where she displayed hysteria, she was not acting. She was hysterical because she relived events in her life where she feared for her own safety.  Unfortunately, she feared death from the hands of her ex-husband. After one such scene, she passed out.  They shut down production for a few days while Day recovered. This is one of five movies Day made that was not a comedy. Not surprisingly, Midnight Lace would be her last drama.

In Midnight Lace, Doris Day portrays an American heiress, Kit Preston, who recently marries wealthy, British Anthony Preston (Rex Harrison). In addition to Harrison, the rest of the cast is also very impressive: John Gavin, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowell,

After moving to London, Kit finds herself stalked and threaten over the phone, in the thick London fog, on a lift (elevator), and just about everywhere she goes. She hears a mechanical, high pitched voice address her by name and tell her he cannot wait to squeeze the life out of her body. There are also attempts on her life.  As Kit fanatically tells Tony of these events, there is no actual witnesses. Tony tries to help and even calls Scotland Yard. Yet, no one can collaborate her stories. Overworked, Tony, is constantly being called back to work to deal with a corporate disaster. So, Kit reaches out to her Aunt Bea (Myrna Loy) and  her neighbor Peggy.

There are a list of suspects.  The construction site manager, John Gavin, who just happens to push her out of the way before a rail would have fallen on her head and killed her.  The construction is at a building adjacent to Kit’s building. Later, he saves her from a broken lift (elevator) in her building. He claims knows her name because he looked at her name on her post.  Why? When he invites her to  have a drink with him, she learns he is a WWII veteran who suffers from severe blackouts (PTSD: Past Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Which is kind of ironic since Day suffered from it also in her own life without the blackouts.

Another suspect is the son of Kit’s housekeeper, Nora. She is a sweetheart but her son is a narcissistic, deranged adult (Roddy McDowell) who keeps her poor.  Because Kit has a soft spot for maid,   she readily gives her money, if she foresees a need, like a new coat. Whatever money Nora receives, she gives it to her worthless son who has been passively and aggressively threatening Kit and his Mum for more money.

Aunt Bea’s boyfriend has some financial woes; and, he wants Tony to bail him out.  Then, there is Peggy, the neighbor.  She is the only witness who sees Kit pushed in front of a moving bus. Yet, she does not see who pushed her. Plus, Peggy claims she has a husband; but, he works away. We never see him.; but, we do see strange looking men who stalk Kit.

All of these people who surround Kit come under suspicion. While Kit suffers, Scotland Yard believes she is kind of lonely; and, she is unconsciously trying to get attention from Tony. Therefore, she is imagining these events and phone calls. “Gaslighting” at its best. This is a worthwhile movie to watch as it is a beautiful Hollywood film that will keep you guessing to the end.

So, if you have a free afternoon, you might like to watch any of these murder mysteries. Two are wonderfully perfect Classics;  two are endearing comedies; or, one is a fascinating Hollywood rarity with Doris Day. Any of these are worth your time, as a movie lover.

To read more posts written for this Death Do Us Part Blogathon, please use the following link:




Norman Jewison: Canada’s Beloved Director

O Canada! A vast country that shares its southern border with the United States. A country that has such unusual weather that some describe it as 9 months of Winter and 3 months of Fall. A country that tries to explain to the rest of the world why the sport of curling is fascinating.  While at the same time, their National sport, hockey, symbolizes their struggles in the below zero freeze.  A country with a strong world leader that is sexy too, Justin Trudeau.  A country so far off the controversial radar that William Shatner has to remind people that he is a Canadian.  A country that is so laid back that even peace loving U2 front man, Bono claims: The world needs more Canada!  So, here it is!  A blogathon that celebrates many Canadian artists who have contributed enormous amounts of work to the Arts and entertainment industries and ultimately and happily, to us.

O Canada Banner

Thank you Kristina of  Speakeasy (https://hqofk.wordpress.com) and Ruth of Sliver Screenings (https://silverscreenings.org/tag/ocanada-blogathon/ ) for hosting this #OCanadaBlogathon. This truly is a celebration of those Canadians who helped shaped cinema and television.  The main focus of my blog, Life Daily Lessons, is to examine the arts in its various forms in order to learn more about our human journey and connectedness. With this in mind, I chose director, Norman Jewison from a long list of Canadians.  I recognized his name because I have collected many of his movies. Even though I know very little about him personally, a great deal of his work has touched my life and made that cosmic connection to me as an individual.

Jewison’s Early Work

Jewison was born in Toronto, Ontario on July 21, 1926. After earning his B.A. from Victoria College at the University of Toronto, his first job in show business started in 1952 working with various television projects for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). That eventually led to a job in New York City working on a television show, Hit Parade, at the old Ed Sullivan Theater. His first movie as a director was in 1962, 40 pounds of Trouble with Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette.  The following year, he directed Doris Day, James Garner and Arlene Francis in The Thrill of It All (1963).  The following year he again directed Doris Day  in Send Me No Flowers (1964) with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall (The last film for all three together). In 1965, he directed yet another romantic comedy, The Art of Love, starring Dick Van Dike, James Garner, Elke Sommer and Angie Dickinson.


Jewison’s life as a director was about to drastically change in 1965 with the released another movie that same year. Only, this was very different movie than his romantic comedies.  Jewison was asked to replace director Sam Peckinpah on a project called The Cincinnati Kid.  The story line involves a poker player, Steve McQueen, who wants to prove he is the best by challenging the reputable best, Edward  G. Robinson.  Although Jewison referred to this film as his “Ugly Duckling” this drama was his golden opportunity to begin working on films with much more serious themes.

But, before he started to work on one the best dramatic movies ever made in the 60s, he directed one of my all-time favorite comedies.  It was based on a true story that ended up in Nathaniel Benchley’s book, The Off-Islanders.  The movie The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1965) is based on his book.  It stars a wonderful character actor, Alan Arkin as the Russian Submarine Officer, Lt. Yuri Rozanov. Oh yes, I confess.  I am still crushing on Adam Arkin today.  This was his debut appearance on film. He was so good in this comedy that he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. It also stars comic legend Carl Reiner along with a long list of accomplished and gifted performers such as Eva Marie Saint, Brian Keith, Jonathan Winters, Paul Ford and many others.


Three Movies that are close to his heart and his humanity

There are few movies that made an impact on movie goers concerning racial tensions of the 60s,70s, and 90s like Jewison movies.  For me, the question is how did a Canadian acutely depict the disturbing prejudices and Jim Crow laws of the Old South, USA (In The Heat of The Night and A Soldier’s Story).  Jewison tells his story of a hitchhiking trip to New Orleans while going through other Southern states.   While on his trek through the state of Missouri, near the end of WWII (1945), an impressionable, 18 year old Jewison got a ride from a man in a red pick up truck. What he discovered on this ride would leave its mark on his psyche forever.

In case you didn’t know, Jewison is not Jewish.  His mother is a British immigrant to Canada and his Canadian father is of the Scotch-Irish heritage.  The “kind” driver of the red truck bragged that his truck was used in a recent lynching earlier that day. It was used to dragged the victim through the streets.  Jewison was shocked and sicken not only for the atrocity of the acts but also by the man’s obvious pride in participating in such brutality. I would love to hear Jewison’s response to the following question: What if the truck driver discovered his name and did not believe that he was not Jewish? I wonder how this story would have changed? I am  sure Jewison may have thought of that too.

This tragic injustice haunted his later work, if it did not actually inspired it.  He made three movies that addressed racial injustice in the United States. The first movie he made based on this theme was, In The Heat of The Night (1967). It is a murder mystery that stars Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, and Warren Oats. Not surprisingly, Jewison is not the only person on this film that had a harrowing experience in the South.  Poitier agreed to do this film if it was not filmed in the South.  In 1964 on a visit to Greenville Mississippi, he and Harry Belafonte delivered $70,000 in donations to Civil Rights workers.  At one point, the KKK followed them and nearly ran them off the road. Poitier also demanded that in the scene where the haughty Philadelphian police detective Virgil Tibbs (Poitier) is slapped by a bigoted cotton plantation owner, Tibbs slaps back, hard.  It is a another memorable scene in movie history. In The Heat of The Night won an Oscar for Best Movie and Rod Steiger won an Oscar for Best Actor.


The second movie, A Soldier’s Story (1984), stars Howard E. Rollins, Jr.  and  Adolph Caesar. Near the end of WWII, a black officer is sent to Louisiana to investigate the murder of a black sergeant. A black officer is “unheard of” in the Jim Crow South. Prejudices and racism are explored through the bitter and hostile white reaction to the investigating officer.  It was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Adolph Caesar), and Best Screenplay Adaptation.


The third movie, The Hurricane (1999), stars Denzel Washinton, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Deborah Kara Unger and Liev Schreiber.  This movie depicts the true story of middleweight boxer, Rubin Carter, who is falsely accused and sent to prison for 3 life sentences for 3 murders committed in a New Jersey bar.  Unlike the first two movies this one is not set in the South.  It is based on Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender to 45472 and a book by authors Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton: Lazarus and the Hurricane.  This movie touches on the politics of racism in America too. Although Denzel Washington was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor, he did not win; but, he did win the Golden Globe for Best Actor.  Jewison and the movie was also nominated for Golden Globe awards.


Jewison’s own words best sums up these three movies.  Jewison: So, I make a lot of movies.  I love them all; but, the ones dearest to me are the ones that address Civil Rights and social injustice.  Since Director Jewison’s movie list contains 44 movies,  I obviously cannot post about each one of them in this blog.  But, I have posted a link in the References if you choose to look them over and possibly watch some you might have missed.

Five More Personal Favorites of Mine:


1) Moonstruck (1987) A romantic comedy that stars Cher, Nicholas Cage, Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Durkakis, and Danny Aiello. Jewison said Cher had infallible comic timing. She believes all Directors are mad and crazy; and, Jewison agrees with her. Three Oscars were won for this movie: Cher (Best Actress in Leading Role), Olympia Dukakis (Best Actress in Supporting Role) and John Patrick Stanley (Best Writing). It is rare to see a comedy receive a Best Picture award from the Oscars. This was the first year that all nomintees for Best Director did not come from the United States. Jewison lost to Director, Bernardo Bertolucci, for The Last Emperor.

2) Fiddler On The Roof (1971) A musical drama based on a Russian Jewish family during the time of the Pogroms (offical persecutions). It stars Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Molly Picon, and Paul Mann. Tevye (Topol) has five daughters that he must find husbands.  The three eldest daughters wish to pick their own husbands for love.  Tevyve  must face the challenging changes happening to his family while trying to hold to his valued traditions and customs. I know everyone is buzzing about a recent musical, La La Land; so, maybe more neo-musicals are coming back to big screen. If they are even half as good as Fiddler on The Roof, they should be very successful.  There is another musical Jewison directed, Jesus Christ Superstar.  This not one of my personal favorites although the music is awesome.  For Fiddler on the Roof,  John Williams won an Oscar for the Best Music. It also won Oscars for Best Sound and Best Cinematography. It was nominated for 5 more Oscar categories  including Best Picture, Best actor, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Director, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

3) The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) A romantic heist thriller that stars Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway.  If it wasn’t for the superbly charged chemistry between the two lead actors this may have not have made my Jewison favorite list.  Let’s just say, I have never looked at a game of chess the same way again. Jewison said Steve McQueen was the most difficult actor he had ever worked with.  McQueen is suppose to have told a writer on another film, Cincinnati Kid, that he is better at walking than he is at talking. That could be interpreted with a double meaning.

4) And Justice For All (1979) Courtroom drama staring Al Pacino, Jack Warden, Lee Strasberg, John Forsythe, Jeffery Tambor, and Christine Lahti.  This film has one of Pacino’s most memorable performances. It is nearly the last scene in the movie.  Oddly enough, it is also was the first scene to be filmed.  He is a lawyer who defends innocent clients and not so innocent clients, even guilty ones too.  This is an intense and smartly written movie about the justice system itself.. Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson were nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay and Pacino for Best Actor in a Leading role. If you are a Pacino fan or wanted to know why he has so many critics loving his performances, you have to see this movie.

5) Agnes Of God (1985)  It stars Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, and Meg Tilly. This is a murder mystery that pits Faith against Facts.  A young, other worldly nun (Meg Tilly) is found in her room with a dead baby. She has no memory of how the baby died. However, she will later claim an angel impregnated her; so, a psychiatrist (Jane Fonda) is called in to investigate. The young nun is protected by the Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft) who wants her left alone. Is Mother Superior trying to cover up something? The movie did not win any Oscars; but, it was nominated in 3 categories:  Meg Tilly for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Anne Bancroft for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Music.  The whole time I watched this movie I was constantly wondering if it miraculously happened as the young nun had believed it or would an alternative  truth finally be discovered.

Indirect Life Lesson From Norman Jewison

Jewison gave excellent advice about being a good Director.  That same advice could easily be applied to a person’s life.  So,  in the following comments or paraphrasing of them, if you  switch out the words Director or Directing with the word life,  you will discover wisdom that could be applied to an individual’s life.

Directing movies (living life) is like being at war. Everybody is telling you something different.  There are always obstacles in the way.  You have to fight for what you believe in.  You have to defend yourself constantly. It is a matter of confidence.  With a lack of confidence and indecisiveness, everybody will take over…

Most important for a Director (life) is to keep working…

How else can you learn new things?  Which is the point. .

Thank you Norman Jewison for making all those movies.  Thank you for establishing The Canadian Centre for The Advanced Film Studies in Toronto in 1986. Thank you for The Norman and Margaret Jewison Charitable Foundation that continues to give millions to other charities.  Thank you Canada for honoring Jewison with two distinguished awards:  The O.C. (Officer of The Order of Canada) on December 14, 1998 and the C.C. (Companion of The Order of Canada) on November 1, 1991.  Finally, thank you Norman Jewison for making the world a better place through your artistic works and love.  Basically, thank you for being Canadian.  What would the world be without Canada and Canadians like you?  As Bono claimed: The world needs more Canada!


A list of Jewison’s movies, Biography and Images




From Fiction to Flim: Outlander’s Costume Designer Terri Dresbach


How could anyone forget the scene in  Gone With The Wind when Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Leigh) creates a beautiful emerald-green dress made from hanging drapes? Despite the war, Scarlett frantically searched and found fabric to sew herself a fashionable dress. This inspiration was the by-product of “Necessity.” According to awards winning costume designer, Terry Dresbach, while working within the time constraints of a weekly TV show and building a workshop from scratch, she claims this is why people lost their heads in 18th century France… people were sick to death of doing all this stuff and not getting paid for it.  She understands the pressure of her work and for those of her teams. From designing her own fabrics to embroidery machines, there is a lot of work to making thousands of costumes. Yet, all of this time consuming work is not the exciting part or even the heart of what she does.  Her costume designs are not just a piece of clothing but “the embodiment of a character.” Dresbach defines the difference between a fashion designer and a costume designer as this: costume designers are storytellers.  They create people from the ground up.  So, where does that leave the author’s book?  Dresbach says the book is the blueprint but not the bible.

As a fan of Outlander, I have seen her  beautiful creations for two wonderful seasons; however, I would not have been motivated enough to learn about Dresbach and her team’s painstaking work if it had not been for Christina Wehner and Andrea Lindgren’s invitation to contribute in their sponsored Blogfest: Characters in Costume: Fiction and Film.  I would like to thank her for this invitation and for the opportunity to contribute to this intriguing and enjoyable topic. I encourage everyone to read an array of blogs written for and contributed to this blogfest. This is the link ….


Outlander is a television series that can be described as a romantic adventure, sometimes fantasy, that spans over two centuries.  It is also produced with historical accuracy. It is based on a series of  bestselling novels written by author Diana Gabaldon. Although Gabaldon is a brilliant storyteller, she also has the mind of a scientist. When is comes to anything that surrounds her story, like any great novelist, she does her research.

Many of Gabaldon’s characters and events are taken from historical record. By implementing history in the story, readers wholeheartedly absorb the elements of time travel, magic, and even at times, the supernatural.

Dresbach has an intimidating challenge before her.  The show begins with a British Army Nurse, Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) in a British hospital, during combat, in war-torn France (1945). Then, a year later in the Scottish Highlands, we find Claire and her husband Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) on a second honeymoon before he starts his new job as a history professor at Oxford.  Next, we find Claire traveling back in time in 1743, three years before the second Jacobite Rising (1746).  It is here she meets and falls  in love with  outlaw and tragic hero, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).  Finally, the season  ends with the couple sailing for Paris France to start a new life.  All of this in just the first season.

To design and make thousands of costumes that are historically accurate and covers several eras of time in different locations like England, Scotland, France, and Boston within a relatively short amount of time can make Santa’s workshop look easy in comparison.  There are books and a numerous magazine articles (onlinks that I used as a source) on Dresbach’s workshop and the making of Outlander.

When comparing a fictional character’s dress to their film counterpart, Dresbach’s interpretation is very close but definitely different. To better understand the connection between history and fiction and her artistic work and interpretation, it is necessary to look at a few examples of her designs.  Dresbach uses subtle visual cues in her storytelling. For instance, the everyday task of getting dressed, or in the symbolism and functionally of a uniform  and even knowing the mindset of a character by their choice of garment.

To give you an example of how historically accurate Dresbach’s costumes are, here is a “deleted” scene, really an edited scene, from the Season I.  Here you find newlyweds waking up in their first home.  Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) is dressing himself in his Highlander kilt as Claire(Caitriona Balfe) tries to encourage him back to bed. The Kilt is the national symbol of Scotland.  When a man wears a kilt, he is referred to as a “Man and a Half.” A full kilt is two yards wide and six to eight yards long. This garment isn’t just considered functional and life saving, it also represents a man’s sense of honor.  This is one of the reasons the British outlawed the wearing of kilts or tartans from 1746 to 1782. Seriously, when have you seen a man put on such a cherished garment? In the movies or on television? None? So, Sam Heughan dresses himself in this very complex garment. Watch as Heughan carefully and with pride fold each pleat (sett: one inch exposed pleat) in this  very  complicated process of putting on a belted full kilt.

Another example of Dresbach clear attention to historical  and character costume design can be seen in the first morning dressing of the beloved, time traveller from the 20th century, Claire in 18th century noble women’s dress. Gabaldon describes this in Book I, Outlander, chapter 5, page 65:

Mistress FitzGibbons …laid out a pile of garments on the bed.  There was a  long yellowish linen chemise, with a thin edging of lace, a petticoat of fine cotton, two overshirts in shades of brown, and a pale lemon-yellow bodice.  Brown-striped stockings of wool and a pair of yellow slippers completed the ensemble. … Turning out the pocket like a gunnysack, she produced a handful of ribbons and bits of jewelry.

In this description from the book, Gabaldon does not mention the bum roll or the putting on of layers.  Not to worry Dresbach doesn’t miss a tick. You can witness for yourself how Dresbach dresses Claire in the the Leoch castle.  Here is the scene from the Season I.  Claire is being dressed for the first time in 18th century clothing.  This is how the writers and directors decided to interpret that section of the book; and how Dresbach dressed her. In the book, Claire is given yellow slippers. That is not a color you would want to wear in a drafty, dirty castle.  I like how the writers added Mrs FitzGibbons’s interpretation of Claire’s scanty discarded modern undergarments:  If this scene doesn’t convince anyone of how a costume designer is every bit as important to a character and story, nothing ever will.  Again, this scene was edited and not completely deleted in the show.

To further explain the historical  detail that Dresbach uses in her work, here are two photos of baddie Captain Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies beautifully played dual roles, 20th century husband, Frank Randall and 18th century, evil Black Jack Randall). The first photo is as a Captain Jack Randall in Season I and the other is of him later in Season II, as a demoted officer. Look carefully at the two uniforms.  They are different…brass buttons and all.  Without being told, we know that he has been demoted.  Would most fans of the show notice?  Probably not, but again Desbach is creating character and storytelling through her designs.

Such attention to detail, helps builds suspense. A perfect example of this can be seen on the Jamie and Claire’s wedding night.  Poor virgin Jamie, has to untie some 60 loops on Claire’s bodice/corset before he can even see what is in store for him, for  that night and for life.  While Jamie painstakingly unties, you have time to see and understand the desire and clumsiness of a first timer.  It is the most honest and sexiest honeymoon scene, I have ever seen on film.  I cannot imagine such a scene being possible without Dresbach’s costume designs.  How long does it take Jamie to untie each of those loops? A while, which to him  probably felt like forever. Costume design is as important to the story and character as are the actors, writers, director, and crew.

I would like to add one more personal opinion about the concept that Outlander as a “bodice ripping” Fembolt fest.  First of all, most men could not rip open a bodice with their bare hands; unless, it was untied first or cut. I mean a historical bodice not a Fredericks of Hollywood or Victoria Secret bustier.  If a man even tried to rip the bodice, it would take a very long time.  There is whale bone or animal bone sewed along the sides to keep you in and for it not to lose its shape. Plus, it is an expensive piece of clothing to replace.  Now, a person could cut it away the bodice like Black Jack did to Claire before he attempted to rape her; but,  violently forcing a person to have sex  is not sexy. It is criminal.  Romance writers need to double-check their book covers to make sure they are not sending the wrong message out there about the difference between rape and romance. In  Gabaldon’s books there is rape and one spanking.  Also in the books, there is nothing sexy about it just like in reality. This is a societal problem; and, I repeat a criminal act.   I felt I needed to add this.

Here are some visual aids about real corset or bodices:

The last example of Dresbach’s design I would like to point out is the Claire’s clothes in Versailles France during the reign of Louis XIV.  As Dresbach explained this is a directive of executive producer, husband Ron D. Moore,  18th century should be as foreign to 20th century Claire as if she landed on another planet.  In the first season, Claire’s clothes were borrowed.  In the second season, she had them designed.  When I first saw the designs, I did not understand why her dresses were so historically skewed.  I wondered why Claire’s clothes were decidedly different than that of the fashion of the day.  I wish they would have wrote in a scene at the dressmaker’s salon where you see and hear Claire’s input on how to design her clothes.  Now, it makes perfect sense why there is a 20th century in her flaire in her 18th century dress.

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When Dresbach refers to herself and other costume designers as storytellers, I understand her completely now.  I see how she works with actors to give birth their characters.  From dressing in the morning, to wearing kilts to uniforms of honor, and to designing their clothes in another century, it makes perfect sense.

Before learning about Terry Dresbach, the only costume designer that I could name was the late, great Edith Head.  Now, I am in awe of Dresbach.  To me she is the ultimate costumer designer. Even her name is the perfect name for a dress designer. Terry can “tear” into that cloth or that project. Dres? Really? That is too obvious.  Bach? The German passion to create art or visual music for the eyes, the “dress.” Personally, I think Terry Dresbach is as close to a superhero you can get. Sorry, Ron Moore (producer, writer) but I could easily see Deadpool in Terry’s future. Terry Dresbach brings a character to life from the pages of fiction. Without her, their story cannot be fully told because the actors wear the skin of their garments within their soul.

Dresbach’s Web site address:


OnLine Sources:





‘Outlander’ Costume Designer Terry Dresbach Talks Bringing History to Life

Terry Dresbach in her own words: