Although I am a vintage costume jewelry retailer, researcher, writer and speaker, I am also a fan of beautiful precious jewelry created in the 1920s through the 1950s, the decades I specialize in. (Precious or fine jewelry is jewelry created with precious metals – such as gold or platinum – and precious gemstones – such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires.) With the upcoming showing of the 1938 movie Holiday, which is scheduled for Wednesday, December 25, 2013, at 3:15 am (ET) on TCM, I have been reminded about the jewelry created by Paul Flato for the film. So I decided to start a series on jewelry in movies set in the 1920s through the 1950s. This brief post is devoted to Flato and his films.
At the request of George Cukor, the film’s director, Flato designed Katharine Hepburn’s jewelry for Holiday. One of the pieces is one of the black enamel “initial clips in the sign language” shown in this ad from the December 15, 1937 issue of Vogue. Other Flato creations for Hepburn include a diamond gypsy ring, a spectacular diamond necklace and a jeweled brooch, all worn to the New Year’s Eve party in the film. If you watch it, you can see these pieces really clearly in the children’s playroom scene. If not, look at the stills here on my Pinterest board.
Other Film Credits
Holiday was Flato’s first film. The TCM website also credits him for jewels for the following films:
•Hired Wife (1940), starring Virginia Bruce;
•That Certain Feeling (1941), starring Merle Oberon;
•Blood and Sand (1941), starring Rita Hayworth;
•Two-faced Woman (1941), starring Greta Garbo; and
•The Lady is Willing (1942), starring Marlene Dietrich.
Flato’s Life & Work
Paul Flato was born in Texas in 1900. After attending university in New York City and completing a brief apprenticeship with a Swiss watchmaker, he launched his own jewelry boutique on East 57th Street in 1927. Creations for his wealthy clients caught the attention of fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and then Hollywood. By the time Flato opened a boutique on Sunset Boulevard, he was known as “the jeweler to the stars”. According to Penny Proddow, a jewelry historian and author who was quoted in Flato’s New York Times obituary (July 23, 1999, A25): “He was the first of the major American jewelers to do highly imaginative work on a par with European jewelers. … He would take his ideas to his four designers – they were his hands – and they would go on from there to his workshop”.
For More Information on Paul Flato
Read Elizabeth Irving Bray’s book Paul Flato: Jeweler to the Stars. You can also see some of Flato’s work in Hollywood Jewels: Movies, Jewelry, Stars by Penny Proddow, Debra Healy, Marion Fasel and David Behl. In addition, Christie’s catalog Important Jewels, New York, Tuesday, December 6, 1994, has an informative, illustrated essay by Penny Proddow and Marion Fasel. This auction included portfolios of drawings of Flato pieces.