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Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood's Greatest Costume Designer Hardcover – October 5, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


The Independent (UK), 10/4/10
"There’s fierce, and there’s Edith Head. The name to drop in the golden age of Hollywood, Head was wardrobe consultant on Rear Window and All About Eve, to name a couple of classics.
This stunning new book chronicles her 50-year career with sketches and archive material."

Harper’s Bazaar, October 2010
"It’s a must-have book for connoisseurs of fashion and film alike.”

Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL- Library Journal’s Xpress Review 10/29/10
"The golden age of Hollywood sparkled with glamorous stars and extravagant cinematic productions. Costume designer Edith Head won five Oscars and epitomized—along with actors she clothed such as Barbara Stanwyck, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn—the star quality of these heady days. Jorgensen (editor, Peterson's Photographic magazine) captures a behind-the-scenes look at the world and work of this dedicated, prolific artist. He includes background information and gorgeous color photographs and illustrations of the costumes she meticulously designed. While incorporating biographical information about Head, Jorgensen focuses primarily on the clothes, which perfectly personified the characters in films like All About Eve, Roman Holiday, and Sunset Boulevard.

Verdict For fans of classic Hollywood movies and students of fashion, photography, and film. Those who want a more in-depth look at the personal life of this iconic Hollywood figure should read David Chierichetti's Edith Head: The Life and Times of Hollywood's Celebrated Costume Designer.

BookPage, December 2010
“…scrupulously researched and handsomely assembled work… Filled with pithy anecdotes and never-before-seen sketches, Edith Head is the book for the costume design enthusiast.

InStyle Australia December 2010
“This lust-have new tome reveals the story behind the costumes.”

Tucson Citizen’s Shelf Life, 12/8/10
"In this beautifully executed book filled with more than 350 images, Head’s work is documented and put into historical context providing readers with a rare behind-the-scenes look at how Hollywood design evolved. This is a fascinating book which is a virtual treasure chest of film stills, costume sketches, tests, and even fabric samples. The text by Jay Jorgensen, a longtime editor for Petersen’s Photographic magazine and photo editor of Palm Springs Life, adds just the right touch."

Antique Trader, 12/30/10
“The anecdotes were so intriguing, I found myself unable to stop turning the pages. … In addition to the fascinating stories, there are page after page of stunning photos and original Edith Head costume sketches; the book is illustrated with more than 300 large, clear photographs. The large format and heavy, quality paper are a pleasure to behold. It could be classified as a “coffee table” book, but that description seems to fall short, as it offers so much more. And the presentation is attractive right down to the end papers, which are a montage of Edith Head sketches. … The book has significant entertainment and informational value; anyone who is even remotely interested in Hollywood history, popular culture or fashion will find “Edith Head” worthwhile.”


Films in Review
“The book is a treat. A spectacular repository of on-set pictures of Ms. Head at work, plus her costume designs, and even a recipe for Chicken and Potatoes Casa Ladera (her home in the 50s), we get a full-bodied picture of her career . . . . fun . . . beautiful.”
Sight & Sound
“This spectacular one-of-a-kind book surveys Head’s work in words and pictures, bringing together rare, never-before-seen sketches, fabric samples, costume tests and behind-the-scenes photos from the Edith Head archives.”
“[Author Jay Jorgensen’s] pictures are a revelation. He has excellent images of Head's designs, at their best when based on character rather than dazzle.”
Rage Monthly
“Edith Head: The Fifty-Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer is a beautifully done book. The flow of the chapters, the extensive photos comprised of stars and the costumes alone are quite remarkable and create a fascinating read for Hollywood fashion aficionados.”
“Jorgensen moves through Head’s career almost on a film-by-film basis; the volume is sumptuous, but the text is also well-researched. Together with Chierichetti’s biography, the two books will stand as the definitive texts on one of the paradigmatic Hollywood careers.”



About the Author

Jay Jorgensen is an editor for Peterson’s Photographic magazine. He has written many celebrity profiles and his photography has been showcased in magazines such as People and TV Guide. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press; First Edition edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762438053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762438051
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 1.6 x 12.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I understand that this book's attraction for most people is the photos, but I'm frankly shocked by the number of obvious typos and grammatical errors in the text--at least one on every page! I also understand that not everyone will catch a dangling modifier or even subject-verb agreement in tricky sentences, but periods next to commas? Random question marks inside words? Periods in the middle of sentences? These errors are extremely distracting to the reader. I can't believe this book was allowed to go to press without at least one pass by an editor!

If you can manage to ignore the typos, you may find the placement of images occasionally mystifying, with photos not showing up until 6 or 8 pages after the costumes were described. And while I was hoping for insight into Edith Head's character and motivation, after a certain point most of the content is devoted to a litany of costume descriptions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This much-awaited volume on Miss Head is an absolutely beautiful volume. I waited years to have a colossal book on her costumes much more than more information on her life which is available in other volumes.

While the book itself is a magnificent production, including the graphics, layout, photography and cover fabric, there are a few aspects that go wanting, but do not detract from anything but the highest recommendation.

I find that the pictorial coverage is most stingy with her designs for The Ten Commandments, even though the picture of Anne Baxter's elegant and stylized portrayal of Nefretiri is captured by the one and only photograph devoted to this motion picture.

Of special note is that despite the computer and editorial staff, the text which is sufficient except again for The Ten Commandments, has numerous spelling, syntactical, and possibly typographical errors. While I think nobody can attest to any accuracy regarding her early years, nor certain facts regarding her most personal interior life, the text is informative, and not burdensome in presentation of her typical daily activities. It is to the point!

It is especially a noteworthy book because we are treated to photography that we have never seen in other books about this most highly-acclaimed and most sensitive artist. While one may find that she may have been highly protective of her billing and her Oscars, one understands that it was out of necessity, due both to her formulative years and instinct to guard and protect her artistry. Had she not guarded her designs, one can only imagine that the system in which she worked could have concealed her rightful acknowledgements.

I applaud both Edith Head for giving so many of us such magnificent pleasure over so many decades, and for the author and staff who made this book happen.

Ray W. Clarke
Cleveland & Palm Beach
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I suppose any book documenting Edith Head's 50 year career in Hollywood is better than nothing, but this one doesn't even try to be in depth. It is a disappointment on a number of levels.

This coffee table book is part biography of Edith, part fashion bio of the costumes she made for films, part gossip dropper of the lives on the people she worked with. Don't be fooled by the books height or size. You aren't getting your money's worth as most of the pages are "filler."

I purchased this book back in January, but held back posting a review until I finished reading it. I kept hoping, thinking, the book would improve. But the longer I examined it, the more faults I found with it.

Firstly, Edith's name is linked to over 1000+ films; of that 500 or so, she personally designed and costumed herself. From that, we get only a scant 100 or less films. Also, for reasons I can't fathom, we are shown pictures from films Edith had nothing to do with (where she received name credit, but didn't actually design the costumes for). While it's neccesary, of course, to address the Givenchy and "The Sting" controversies, among others, it's a waste of space to include pictures of costumes she didn't design.

Compounding this problem is the many, many, many of the costumes are described and not shown. With the exception of 3-6 films, most films are alloted only 1 or 2 pictures. In addition, most of the shots are publicity shots and don't always show the costumes at their best angle to be able to study and admire the craftmanship Edith put into making them.

Then, we come to pictures of Edith. There are 20+ (I counted) pictures of her sketching or looking at sketches.
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Format: Hardcover
One must look elsewhere for the definitive visual collection of the numerous costumes designed by Edith Head for the glamorous film stars of old Hollywood. This over-sized book instead reflects Miss Head's own desire to be viewed as a celebrity, and includes no less than 66 full page photos of Miss Head herself. Judging by the numerous professional photos she had kept of her younger self, the unsmiling, dark-eyeglassed, plain-looking Edith Head had tried unsuccessfully to emulate Hollywood star Louise Brooks . In her ambitious desire for fame, Miss Head also didn't think twice about "borrowing" designs from other designers while taking full credit. Unfortunately, like the expressionless photos of the somber Miss Head, the writing is devoid of any enthusiasm for the costumes discussed. The writing comes across as a series of catalogued index cards with too few complex sentences or points of insight to give the writing any variety and interest. And why would a book featuring costumes have so many photos out of focus? (Look especially at photos on p.294, p.367, p.371, p.374, p.385, among others.) Also, why on earth would the author select a black and white photo of the divine pink outfit worn by Grace Kelly in "To Catch a Thief"??(p.224). This book was a disappointment on many levels. A note to future writers on old Hollywood: kindly do your homework regarding identifying stars of yesteryear. (Actor Richard Haydn is on the far right, not left, of the photo on p.31). How this book got so many rave reviews is beyond comprehension.
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