LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- Lifetime has confirmed some of its fall plans, which include the original movie event "Coco Chanel" and the weekday, off-network premieres of "Wife Swap" and "Desperate Housewives." Shirley MacLaine, Malcolm McDowell and Barbara Bobulova star in "Chanel," a biopic of the influential and iconic French designer. The three-hour event premieres Saturday, September 13 at 8:00/7:00c with additional plays on Sunday, September 14 at 7:00/6:00c and Monday, September 15 at 8:00/7:00c.
Coco Chanel, controversial creator of the little black dress, was on the crest of a comeback when the Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland pinned her down. Mark Edmonds reports
These pictures show the most influential fashion designer of all time at work – with a fag in the mouth that makes her look more like Dot Cotton from EastEnders. Tyrannical businesswoman, gifted designer, insufferable companion, selfish loner, workaholic, grande dame de toutes grandes dames, Coco Chanel had an epic life – and she could never give up the Gauloises.
As the inventor of the little black dress, the creator of Chanel No 5 and the progenitor of the Chanel “look” – where luxury came from simplicity – she had few equals in terms of professional legacy. And her life continues to fascinate the public. At least three biographical films are in the pipeline: among those reportedly lined up to play Coco are Shirley MacLaine, Audrey Tautou and, most bizarrely of all,
Demi Moore. Chanel placed her glamorous imprimatur on almost every aspect of the 20th century, even unwittingly. When John F Kennedy met his death on that humid Dallas afternoon in 1963, his blood spilt onto the Chanel suit worn with aplomb by his first lady.
Coco Chanel, like the distinctive suits that bear her name, refuses to go away. She has herself become a timeless classic. This autumn the Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland will publish his account of the time he spent photographing Coco at her Paris atelier opposite the Ritz in 1962. It was only his second trip abroad. At their first meeting he was ignored, but eventually the carapace began to crack and Coco seemed to enjoy the company of the personable young American.
These pictures from his archives, some never seen before, document the extraordinarily fastidious working methods of the mother of haute couture. They show her cajoling, encouraging and nagging the models who came to the studio, working long into the night, always wanting to get it right. Long after she had made her money (millions, primarily from the success of Chanel No 5 before the war) and had no need to work, she continue to primp and preen, attending to the smallest detail.
Kirkland, perhaps best known for the charm and intimacy of his on-set portraits of film stars, photographed Coco in 1962, at an intriguing point in her life when she was still trying to live down her reputation as a Nazi collaborator.
In France and elsewhere her work was selling, and she remained the darling of the French fashion press, but she had long had an uneasy relationship with the public. (She herself came from a peasant family in the Auvergne, and only her involvement in racing gave her an entrée into high society.) Many of her potential clients could not forgive the brazen extent of her collaboration – she had spent much of the second world war locked away in her rooms at the Ritz with her German officer lover, Hans Günther von Dinklage.
At the end of the war, France had faced a painful future. Those who had collaborated lived in guilt or fear or both; those who had fought the Germans in the Resistance had a thirst for revenge. Yet somehow Coco slipped out by the back door, quietly moving to Switzerland. The ease with which she managed to spirit herself out of France suggests that she was assisted by British special services. Before the war she had had a relationship with the Duke of Westminster and socialised with Churchill, and was potentially privy to high-level secrets that Churchill preferred to keep to himself. Given her link with von Dinklage – ostensibly assigned by the Germans to supervise the textile industry – it was also speculated that she had been a double agent, working for both Churchill and the Nazis.
Her exile in Switzerland was a miserable, lonely period. By then she had tired of the German lover who had cast such a long shadow over her public reputation, and in 1953 she decided to return to Paris. (She had closed her shops at the outset of war, feeling that high fashion had no place in cities torn apart by conflict.) She reopened her studio opposite the Ritz, and again often worked alone long into the night.
She reinvented the classic Chanel suit dating back to the 1920s and enjoyed a huge resurgence, helped by Jackie Kennedy’s patronage. By the time she met Kirkland in 1962, the company she founded had regained much of the ground lost to the house of Dior, although commercial success was accompanied by the bitter and costly litigation that invariably marked Coco’s business life. For more than 40 years she waged a pointless and seemingly unwinnable war against the Wertheimer family, her longtime collaborators.She seemed reluctant to accept that anyone other than herself could derive benefit from her name, yet paradoxically was flattered by the legions of high-street designers who ripped off and marketed her look with such enthusiasm.
At the time of her death in 1971, she was officially “still working”, well into her eighties. With Karl Lagerfeld now at the helm, the company she founded continues to dominate haute couture. But it will always be remembered for those suits that Coco pinned together in that little room on the Rue Cambon.
Coco Chanel: Three Weeks/1962, by Douglas Kirkland (Glitterati, £25), is to be published on August 25.
A NEW made-for-television film, Coco Chanel - which claims to be "freely inspired by the truth" - has been savaged by critics for its lack of structure, factual inaccuracies and "wooden" acting.
The film - currently airing on the US network Lifetime - is set in two parts; Shirley McLaine plays the "older" Chanel to Barbara Bobulova's younger incarnation, with the two apparently bearing "no resemblance to one another other than they both like a well-cut suit".
"The first part quickly jumps to Chanel and her lovers (played by Oliver Sitruk and Sagamore Stevenin), who are all as wooden as a dressmaker's dummies," writes New York Times TV critic Linda Stasi. "The only thing that saves them are their thick accents, which makes you think maybe something got lost in translation. Clearly the filmmakers are striving for La Vie En Rose, but end up with La Vie En Dull."
Here's hoping the upcoming big screen biopic of Coco Chanel's early life, Coco Avent Chanel, starring Audrey Tatou and Alessandro Nivola, fares a little better. Leisa Barnett
^^ And, Linda Stasi has been the TV critic for years at the New York Post, not the Times, so maybe this is all rubbish anyway... One of the Vogue UK pieces talked about the guy playing Boy Chapel in the other movie playing the only American character in the film- Boy Chapel was very English, so I am beginning to wonder if they are following this very carefully... And we still have the Audrey and Anna movies to look forward to in any case...