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Chierichetti, David

Chierichetti, David

PERSONAL:

Male. Education: University of California, Los Angeles, B.A., M.F.A.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Los Angeles, CA. Office—Otis College of Art and Design, 9045 Lincoln Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Harper-Collins, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.

CAREER:

Teacher of design at Otis College of Art and Design, and at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles, CA. Costume designer for films Kiss Daddy Goodbye, 1981, and Beat, 2000.

WRITINGS:


NONFICTION

Hollywood Director: The Career of Mitchell Leisen, Curtis Books (New York, NY), 1973, reprinted as Mitchell Leisen: Hollywood Director, Photoventure Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1995.

Hollywood Costume Design, Harmony Books (New York, NY), 1976.

(With Steve Shapiro) The Movie Poster Book, Dutton (New York, NY), 1979.

Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

Costume designer and instructor David Chierichetti's first book is Hollywood Director: The Career of Mitchell Leisen (reprinted as Mitchell Leisen: Hollywood Director). Leisen, originally a costume designer for Cecil B. DeMille, rose to become director of a number of classic comedies such as The Mating Season, melodramas, the antiwar Eagle and the Hawk, and other films, including Lady in the Dark and Death Takes a Holiday. Chierichetti draws on interviews with Leisen prior to his death in 1972, and on input provided by Leisen's friends and colleagues. A reviewer noted in the Washington Post Book World that although the newer edition of the book has been updated with more personal information about Leisen's bisexual private life, it "works best as a handbook" on how limited budgets can be stretched to produce magnificent films, as Leisen did.

Hollywood Costume Design studies stars, films, and the attendant rewards and disasters experienced by the designers who served them. In his history, Chierichetti notes that in the early days of film, actors supplied their own clothes, and often the jobs went to the extras with the nicest wardrobes. He also writes how technical developments affected wardrobe planning. Orthochromatic film turned scarlet into black and blue into white, and early two-strip Technicolor allowed only the colors of green and salmon. Costumes were resewn by hand for Cinemascope, which magnified machine stitching.

Chierichetti interviewed the designers to the stars for this volume, who describe the actual physical attributes and drawbacks of various actresses. Chierichetti notes the thinness of Greta Garbo, the plumpness of Constance Bennett, and Bette Davis's heavy bosom and square shoulders. He writes of ways in which designers had to accommodate the habits of the stars, such as Clara Bow's wearing of socks with high heels and Ginger Rogers's pinning flowers in her hair. Some stars would tear up costumes they didn't like, while others, like Mae West, were happiest when bedecked in diamonds. The whims of the stars proved trying to the designers, but ultimately, the designers bowed to their clients. Georgina Howell wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that this volume "is an enjoyable guide to a world where lace is horsehair and pearls, and all that glitters is custard paint."

"Chierichetti gives ample credit to those excellent designers who created the whole ensemble for the great costume-movies of the past," wrote Anne Hollander in the Georgia Review. "One may yet learn to speak of Adrian's Camille, Plunkett's Gone with the Wind, Orry-Kelly's The Little Foxes. Not only were those designers largely responsible for the enduring images of Garbo, Vivien Leigh, and Betty Davis in those films; they also created the whole milieu in which those stars might most naturally shine in such clothes."

Chierichetti and photographer Steve Shapiro collaborated for The Movie Poster Book, a collection 119 posters dating from 1896 to 1955, most of which came from Shapiro's private collection. The earliest is for the first fiction film, the French L'Arroseur arrosé, while the last is Hollywood's Seven Year Itch, starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. Other notable films represented include The Maltese Falcon, Citizen Kane, Perils of Pauline, and Dracula. The authors provide commentary on various posters and a history of poster making. A contributor to the New York Times Book Review noted that "the posters of French design are most notable as examples of poster art."

Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer illuminates the life of Hollywood's most famous designer. Head worked for Paramount Studios for forty-four years, then moved to Universal in 1967, where she remained until her death. Chierichetti worked with her, and the two became friends. His interviews with Head, conducted during the designer's later years, provide considerable insight into a life that was carefully protected from public view. Head, who had few friends and was fiercely competitive, rose to the top in her field in the late 1940s. Many of Hollywood's greatest stars, including Grace Kelly, Bette Davis, and Audrey Hepburn, depended on her to hide their flaws and emphasize their finer points. Head's choices influenced popular styles as well; when she designed the strapless, full-skirted dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun, she instantly created the newest look in prom dresses.

Chierichetti lists the thirty-two films for which Head received Academy Award nominations, including the eight she won, and the more than 500 films she costumed. Head was as famous as the stars who wore her designs, but she also took credit when she did not deserve it. She accepted an Oscar for Sabrina, although the gowns in the film had really been designed by the then-unknown French designer Givenchy. Head herself always appeared in tailored suits and dark glasses. She was married twice, had two facelifts, and not only survived, but excelled in an industry noted for its fickleness. Reviewing Edith Head in the Hollywood Reporter, Michael R. Farkash wrote that "industry people are going to find this [biography] an admirable example of using strength, strategy, and diplomacy to keep one's position in the volatile world of film." Library Journal reviewer Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker predicted that not only industry insiders but any fans of vintage film would find this book "informative and amusing." A Publishers Weekly contributor credited Chierichetti with giving readers "an absorbing sketch of an ambitious woman" who was a major influence on the Golden Age of Hollywood. The reviewer concluded: "Fashion lovers will enjoy his homage, and his devotion to movie magic."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


PERIODICALS


Booklist, January 1, 2003, Barbara Jacobs, review of Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer, p. 826.

Georgia Review, fall, 1977, Anne Hollander, review of Hollywood Costume Design, pp. 712-717.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), March 22, 2003, review of Edith Head.

Hollywood Reporter, February 26, 2003, Michael R. Farkash, review of Edith Head, p. 36.

Kirkus Reviews, review of Edith Head, p. 1815.

Library Journal, March 15, 2003, Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker, review of Edith Head, p. 79.

New York Times Book Review, January 20, 1980, review of The Movie Poster Book, p. 37; March 30, 2003, David Kaufman, review of Edith Head, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, January 20, 2003, review of Edith Head, p. 66.

School Library Journal, Jamie Watson, review of Edith Head, p. 208.

Times Literary Supplement, November 12, 1976, Georgina Howell, review of Hollywood Costume Design, p. 1422.

Washington Post Book World, November 19, 1995, review of Mitchell Leisen: Hollywood Director, p. 12.

ONLINE


Otis College of Art and Design Web site,http://www.otis.edu/ (June 14, 2006), biographical information on David Chierichetti.

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