The Extremes of Adrian: The Last of Mrs Cheyney (1929)

Posted by Christina Stewart April 9, 2014 0 Comment 6432 views

By 1929, MGM fashion designer Adrian was already credited with sixteen films to his name. Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, and Joan Crawford were the top stars that he created wonderful costumes for. Unfortunately, at this point he seems to have gone over the edge. As a lifelong fan of Adrian’s work, I find it painful to criticize, but one of the outfits he created at this point in his career is simply astounding. For the film The Last of Mrs Cheyney, starring Norma Shearer, he designed Shearer’s audacious robe de style gown. Fortunately for us all, he makes up for it with an amazing Deco geometrical silk pajama lounging suit towards the end of the picture. In this column, we’ll be taking a look at these two extreme costumes, that I’m convinced mark the start of Adrian’s bow obsession.

Still image from "The Last of Mrs Cheyney"

Poster Art for “The Last of Mrs Cheyney” 1929

In this film, Shearer plays Fay, the head of a jewel theft ring, who works the high society crowd in order to steal a valuable pearl necklace. She finds herself falling for her intended victim’s nephew, played by Basil Rathbone, and must decide which path to take. On the night that the theft is to take place, Shearer wears an outfit which was described by director Sidney Franklin: “We just had to add this stunning and unusual gown, which Norma will wear in her forthcoming picture, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. Adrian chose it for it a flesh-pink moire. Silver sequins outline the neck and elaborate the petal-like scallops on the bouffant skirt. The huge moire bow is besprinkled with sequins. A smaller bow finishes the neckline in back, the ends forming long streamers which hang to the floor. The fan is shell pink, and the slippers add the final fairy-like touch.”

Still image from "The Last of Mrs Cheyney"

Basil Rathbone tries to whipser sweet-nothings to Norma Shearer. The robe de style gown with the huge sequin bow and beaded tear petal hem is remarkable

Still image from "The Last of Mrs Cheyney"

The back of Norma Shearer’s gown features a shoulder to shoulder bow with floor length streamers

Still image from "The Last of Mrs Cheyney"

Another full image of Norma Shearer’s gown from “The Last of Mrs Cheyney” 1929

Still image from "The Last of Mrs Cheyney"

Basil Rathbone and Norma Shearer in “The Last of Mrs Cheyney” 1929

Recovering from this near fashion faux pas, in the last part of the film, Shearer wears silk lounging pajamas as she is caught in the act of stealing the pivotal necklace by Rathbone, and the two have a rather seductive bedroom tete-a-tete. Unlike the first piece, this outfit hits it out of the park, and stands in stark contrast to the robe de style bow dress that is so shocking in its audaciousness. Without a doubt this outfit is chic with up-to-the-moment fashion sense. So much so that it leaves the audience wondering what happened with the previous gown. Did bows, sequins, and petal scallops seem like a good idea at the time or was Adrian stretched for time and just throwing different styles together in a single gown? What are your thoughts?

Still image from "The Last of Mrs Cheyney"

The bedroom tete-a-tete between Norma and Basil has begun – after she’s been caught

Still image from "The Last of Mrs Cheyney"

The silk lounging pajama suit Norma Shearer wears in “The Last of Mrs Cheyney” is fantastic!


The Last of Mrs. Cheyney is available from Warner Archive. Click here to order.

About Christina Stewart

A film archivist by day and a film buff by night. What more needs to be said?

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