Charles LeMAIRE - Writer

Costume Designer. Nationality: American. Born: Chicago, Illinois c . 1897. Family: Married. Career: Vaudeville actor; designer for Andre-Sherri, New York; then designed for many Broadway shows in the 1920s; 1943–49—designer, 20th Century-Fox; then opened his own salon; 1962—retired to paint: several shows of paintings. Awards: Academy Award for All about Eve , 1950; The Robe , 1953; Love Is a Many Splendored Thing , 1955. Died: In Palm Springs, California, 8 June 1985.

Films as Costume Designer:


Heart of a Siren (Rosen)


The Cocoanuts (Santley and Florey)


Take a Chance (Schwab, Brice, and De Sylva)


George White's Scandals (Freeland)


Scandals (White)


The Men in Her Life (Ratoff) (co)


Strange Triangle (McCarey); The Razor's Edge (Goulding) (co); Boomerang (Kazan) (co)


Captain from Castile (H. King); Kiss of Death (Hathaway); The Home Stretch (Humberstone) (co); Moss Rose (Ratoff) (co); Miracle on 34th Street ( The Big Heart ) (Seaton) (co); The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Mankiewicz) (co); I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now (Bacon) (co); Thunder in the Valley ( Bob, Son of Battle ) (L. King) (co); Mother Wore Tights (W. Lang) (co); Nightmare Alley (Goulding) (co); The Foxes of Harrow (Stahl) (co); Forever Amber (Preminger) (co); Daisy Kenyon (Preminger); Gentleman's Agreement (Kazan) (co); Call Northside 777 (Hathaway) (co); Sitting Pretty (W. Lang) (co)


Escape (Mankiewicz); Deep Waters (H. King); Yellow Sky (Wellman); Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! ( Summer Lightning ) (Herbert) (co); Green Grass of Wyoming (L. King) (co); Deep Waters (H. King); Give My Regards (Bacon) (co); The Iron Curtain (Wellman) (co); Unfaithfully Yours (P. Sturges) (co); The Street with No Name (Keighley) (co); The Walls of Jericho (Stahl) (co); Cry of the City (Siodmak) (co); Apartment for Peggy (Seaton) (co); Road House (Negulesco) (co); The Luck of the Irish (Koster) (co); The Snake Pit (Litvak) (co); That Lady in Ermine (Lubitsch) (co); That Wonderful Urge (Sinclair) (co); Chicken Every Sunday (Seaton); When My Baby Smiles at Me (W. Lang) (co); You Were Meant for Me (Bacon) (co)


Down to the Sea in Ships (Hathaway); House of Strangers (Mankiewicz); Pinky (Kazan); Come to the Stable (Koster); A Letter to Three Wives (Mankiewicz); The Fan ( Lady Windermere's Fan ) (Preminger) (co); Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (Nugent) (co); It Happens Every Spring (Bacon) (co); You're My Everything (W. Lang); Everybody Does It (Goulding) (co); Thieves' Highway (Dassin); Oh, You Beautiful Doll (Stahl); Dancing in the Dark (Reis) (co); Whirlpool (Preminger) (co)


All about Eve (Mankiewicz) (co); For Heaven's Sake (Seaton); My Blue Heaven (Koster); Three Came Home (Negulesco); Under My Skin (Negulesco); Wabash Avenue (Koster); Halls of Montezuma (Milestone); Mother Didn't Tell Me (Binyon) (co); When Willie Comes Marching Home (Ford) (co); Cheaper By the Dozen (W. Lang) (co); The Gunfighter (H. King) (co); Ticket to Tomahawk (Sale) (co); Panic in the Streets (Kazan) (co); Stella (Binyon) (co); Where the Sidewalk Ends (Preminger) (co); Mr. 880 (Goulding) (co); No Way Out (Mankiewicz) (co); I'll Get By (Sale) (co); Two Flags West (Wise) (co); The Jackpot (W. Lang) (co); Rawhide (Hathaway) (co); American Guerilla in the Philippines ( I Shall Return ) (F. Lang) (co); The Thirteenth Letter (Preminger) (co); I Can Get It for You Wholesale ( This Is My Affair ) (Gordon)


Call Me Mister (Bacon); Elopement (Koster); The Frogmen (Bacon); Golden Girl (Bacon); People Will Talk (Mankiewicz); You're in the Navy Now (Hathaway); Bird of Paradise (Daves) (co); I'd Climb the Highest Mountain (H. King) (co); Follow the Sun (Lanfield) (co); Fourteen Hours (Hathaway) (co); The House on Telegraph Hill (Wise) (co); On the Riviera (W. Lang) (co); The Guy Who Came Back (Newman) (co); Secret of Convict Lake (Gordon) (co); Take Care of My Little Girl (Negulesco) (co); Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (Koster) (co); Meet Me after the Show (Sale) (co); David and Bathsheba (H. King) (co); The Day the Earth Stood Still (Wise) (co); Love Nest (Newman) (co); Let's Make It Legal (Sale) (co); Anne of the Indies (Tourneur) (co); Fixed Bayonet (Fuller); The Model and the Marriage Broker (Cukor) (co)


The Bloodhounds of Broadway (Jones); Five Fingers (Mankiewicz); My Pal Gus (Parrish); My Wife's Best Friend (Sale); The Snows of Kilimanjaro (H. King); With a Song in My Heart (W. Lang); As Young as You Feel (Jones) (co); Viva Zapata! (Kazan) (co); Red Skies of Montana (Newman) (co); Return of the Texan (Daves) (co); The Pride of St. Louis (Jones) (co); Deadline, U.S.A. ( Deadline ) (Brooks) (co); Belles on Their Toes (Levin) (co); Les Miserables (Milestone) (co); Outcasts of Poker Flat (Newman); Lydia Bailey (Negulesco) (co); Wait 'til the Sun Shines, Nellie (H. King) (co); The Girl Next Door (Sale) (co); We're Not Married (Goulding) (co); Dream-boat (Binyon) (co); Don't Bother to Knock (Baker) (co); What Price Glory (Ford) (co); Lure of the Wilderness (Negulesco) (co); O. Henry's Full House ( Full House ) (Koster and others) (co); Monkey Business (Hawks) (co); Night without Sleep (Baker) (co); Something or the Birds (Wise) (co); Destination Gobi (Wise); Way of a Gaucho (Tourneur) (co); Stars and Stripes Forever ( Marching Along ) (Koster) (co); My Cousin Rachel (Koster) (co); The President's Lady (Levin) (co); Down among the Sheltering Palms (Goulding) (co)


A Blueprint for Murder (Stone); The Desert Rats (Wise); The Robe (Koster) (co); Taxi (Ratoff) (co); Niagara (Hathaway) (co); Treasure of the Golden Condor (Daves) (co); The Silver Whip (Jones) (co); Tonight We Sing (Leisen) (co); The Farmer Takes a Wife (Levin) (co); The Siege at Red River (Maté) (co); Titanic (Negulesco) (co); Man on a Tightrope (Kazan) (co); Powder River (L. King) (co); Pickup on South Street (Fuller) (co); City of Bad Men (Jones) (co); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks) (co); White Witch Doctor (Hathaway) (co); Dangerous Crossing (Newman) (co); Inferno (Baker) (co); Mr. Scoutmaster (Levin) (co); The Kid from Left Field (Jones) (co); How to Marry a Millionaire (Negulesco); King of the Kyber Rifles (H. King) (co); Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef (Webb) (co); Three Young Texans (Levin) (co); Man in the Attic (Fregonese) (co)


Demetrius and the Gladiators (Daves); The Egyptian (Curtiz); Prince Valiant (Hathaway); Woman's World (Negulesco); Night People (Johnson) (co); Hell and High Water (Fuller) (co); River of No Return (Preminger) (co); Three Coins in the Fountain (Negulesco) (co); Broken Lance (Dmytryk) (co); Garden of Evil (Negulesco) (co); The Black Widow (Johnson) (co); Desiree (Koster) (co); Prince of Players (Dunne) (co); There's No Business Like Show Business (W. Lang) (co)


The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (Fleischer); Yacht on the High Seas (Post); Love Is a Many Splendored Thing (H. King) (co); Soldier of Fortune (Dmytryk); The View from Pompey's Head (Dunne); Violent Saturday (Fleischer) (co); Daddy Long Legs (Negulesco) (co); The Seven Year Itch (Wilder) (co); The Virgin Queen (Koster) (co); House of Bamboo (Fuller); How to Be Very, Very Popular (Johnson) (co); The Left Hand of God (Dmytryk) (co); The Tall Men (Walsh) (co); Seven Cities of Gold (Webb) (co); The Rains of Ranchipur (Negulesco) (co); The Lieutenant Wore Skirts (Tashlin) (co)


The Bottom of the Bottle ( Beyond the River ) (Hathaway) (co); On the Threshold of Space (Webb); The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Walsh) (co); The Best Things in Life Are Free (Curtiz); D-Day, the Sixth of June (Koster); The Girl Can't Help It (Tashlin); Hilda Crane (Dunne); The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (Johnson); Twenty Three Paces to Baker Street (Hathaway) (co); The Proud Ones (Webb) (co); Bus Stop (Logan) (co); Bigger Than Life (Ray) (co); The Last Wagon (Daves) (co); Between Heaven and Hell (Fleischer) (co); Teenage Rebel (Goulding) (co)


An Affair to Remember (McCarey); Kiss Them for Me (Donen); Oh Men! Oh Women! (Johnson); Stopover Tokyo (Breen); The Sun Also Rises (H. King) (co); Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Tashlin); Top Secret Affair ( Their Secret Affair ) (Tashlin); Three Brave Men (Dunne) (co); The Way to the Gold (Webb) (co); The Wayward Bus (Vicas) (co); The Desk Set ( His Other Woman ) (W. Lang); A Hatful of Rain (Zinnemann) (co); Bernardine (Levin) (co); Three Faces of Eve (Johnson) (co); No Down Payment (Ritt) (co); Forty Guns (Fuller) (co); April Love (Levin) (co); The Enemy Below (Powell)


The Barbarian and the Geisha (Huston); The Bravados (H. King); The Gift of Love (Negulesco); The Hunters (D. Powell); Mardi Gras (Goulding); A Nice Little Bank That Should Be Robbed (Levin); Ten North Frederick (Dunne); The Young Lions (Dmytryk) (co); The Long Hot Summer (Ritt) (co); The Fly (Neumann) (co); From Hell to Texas ( Manhunt ) (Hathaway) (co); In Love and War (Dunne) (co); These Thousand Hills (Fleischer); The Fiend Who Walked the West (Douglas) (co)


Compulsion (Fleischer) (co); Thunder in the Sun (Rouse); Rally 'round the Flag, Boys (McCarey); The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker (Levin) (co); Warlock (Dmytryk); A Woman Obsessed (Hathaway); The Diary of Anne Frank (Stevens) (co); Say One for Me (Tashlin) (co)


The Marriage-Go-Round (W. Lang)


Walk on the Wild Side (Dmytryk)


On LeMAIRE: articles—

Chierchetti, David, in Hollywood Costume Design , New York, 1976.

Leese, Elizabeth, in Costume Design in the Movies , New York, 1976.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 12 June 1985.

Obituary in Time , 24 June 1985.

* * *

It is no surprise that Charles LeMaire was wardrobe director at 20th Century-Fox from 1943 to 1959, during the flamboyant years of the Technicolor musical. The studio, once referred to as "more hysterical than historical," used an approach in their costuming which dealt more in stereotypes than research, a virtual burlesque of genuine styles. LeMaire's background of showy theatrical flash suited the studio far better than a Chanel would.

LeMaire was born in Chicago, and started out as vaudeville actor and song plugger. In New York, after a year on the circuit, he became a shopper for the couture house of Antoinette Sherri. This sparked a new career direction for LeMaire. He began designing on- and offstage costumes for many Broadway stars and in 1919 received his first major commission: to design for the Ziegfeld Follies. From 1919 to 1926, he designed for a string of Hammerstein operettas. He also worked for George White's Scandals , Earl Carroll's Vanities , and Irving Berlin's Music Box Revue . He became head designer at Brooks Costume firm from 1924 to 1929. LeMaire continued to work freelance and in 1931 opened his own firm: LeMaire Studio Design. His many projects included a spectacular for John Ringling North's circus.

After leaving the Army in 1943, LeMaire began at 20th Century-Fox, as executive designer and director of wardrobe, where he specialized in Betty Grable movies. His concepts for the star are mindlessly glamorous and visually stunning: Grable was decorated as baroque cheesecake, iced with sequins, and quivering with feathers. Designs for Grable were neither history nor fashion. They were basically showgirl costumes, created to emphasize Grable's sexy legs. Her historical movies were nothing to assign to a social studies class (except, perhaps, one studying postwar Americana). They were mostly nightclub images of the past, and her costumes could serve as precursors to the "Vegas" look.

It must be emphasized, however, that as crass as these costumes seem they were appropriate to the image of the actress they featured. Grable was not a Joan Crawford, with Crawford's innate sense of style, crawling her way to the top. When Adrian dressed Crawford as economically disadvantaged in Dancing Lady and The Women , she still had more class than anyone in the audience. Nor had Grable the continental class and mystery of a Dietrich. Travis Banton's interpretation of rags in Dietrich's Blonde Venus was more aesthetic than a Clifford Still painting.

LeMaire teaming up with Grable was cinematically correct. Grable played the spunky, sexy, American-girl-next-door fantasy. Like a lot of her audience, she was probably from a lower-class immigrant-parent background with a fashion code which ruled that more was better. No doubt she had a multitude of fans who agreed.

LeMaire is credited with an enormous filmography. Dealing with his works is as difficult as trying to pin down the credits of MGM's head art director Cedric Gibbons. Did LeMaire actually contribute to any of these projects? Did he merely approve them? In any case, because of his status at Fox, his credits are linked with such other artists as Rene Hubert, Kay Nelson, Bonnie Cashin, Travilla, Edith Head, Renie, Edward Stevenson, Orry-Kelly, Oleg Cassini, Dorothy Jeakins, Eleanor Behm, Perkins Bailey, Mario Vanarelli, Ursula Maes, Miles White, Mary Wills, Yvonne Wood, Helen Rose, Adele Palmer, Leah Rohes, and Adele Balkan.

Perhaps LeMaire's greatest contribution to the history of American film (aside from his assistance in creating Grable as an ultimate American legend) was his help in establishing a category for the costumer among the many Academy Awards. It is hard to believe that before this time no such recognition was given. The Academy, in turn, was good to LeMaire, though there is some controversy amid his honors. He shared his Oscar for All about Eve with his good friend Edith Head. Head explained that because she really wanted to do Davis's costumes for All about Eve and LeMaire was very busy with other projects, he agreed to this arrangement. Head stated that LeMaire had already done the other costumes for Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter, Barbara Bates, and Marilyn Monroe. However, the only costumes one remembers are Head's and some sources on the picture seem to question LeMaire's authorship on the others. As for LeMaire's award for Love Is a Many Splendored Thing , Head claimed that he really didn't deserve his Oscar, that the costumes were "blah," and could have been bought off the rack in Hong Kong. In addition to these dubious distinctions, LeMaire won an Academy Award jointly with Emile Santiago for the biblical extravaganza The Robe .

LeMaire left the studio in 1959 and worked freelance and in the wholesale dress business. He was among the many major designers leaving the industry as the age of the hollywood costume designer rapidly faded to memory.

—Edith C. Lee

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