It’s not a mull-over type movie. Not the serious sort. Not the tear-jerker sort either. But Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day somehow successfully manages to charm with its light silky flowing peignoirs and costumes, fantabulous interiors and late 1930s pre-World War II glamour lifestyles. It manages to seduce us into the world of oysters at 8 am, the silky soft lingerie, “caress of fur against skin” and ever revolving door for gentleman callers.
Even the very few scenes of the less fortunate are romanticised. (Which starving soul walks ever so slowly towards an half-eaten apple lying on the dirty floor of a train station, only to reach it and see it being swept away by a cleaner? And then doesn’t fight for the apple. Especially one who’s only had 2 slices of cucumber for the day! I’d imagine a mad dash coupled with some fierce expletives towards the discarded fruit!)
But oh how I enjoyed watching it 2 nights ago after my family retired for the night (everyone else is asleep by 10.30pm!)! (Yes I only really get to watch movies months after they’re shown here because we rarely get the chance.) I was dying for some light romantic comedy with fantastic interiors and I was not let down.
Her lithe figure allows for the most feminine of clothes. At uni we studied colour interpretations in movies, books and poetry. In Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, muted colours for Amy’s penthouse boudoir, along with her makeup and clothes adds to the persona of Delysia LaFosse… the real vibrant Sarah Grubb is muted, by necessity [remember the line, “But I must!”?]so she can become her dream, a real actress, away from her Pittsburgh Grubb-y roots.
It is only at the end, that we see Delysia a.k.a. Sarah Grubb stand up to the men in her life and go for the man in her heart. Then she dons on a gown with a strong colour, a lovely gold.
In the last scene we see Amy Adams in this movie, Delysia appears in very strong colours, ruby red lips (as opposed to the pale rose throughout) and camel traveling suit with black stripes.
Whereas Guinevere Pettigrew, played by a first-class actress Frances McDormand, wears not only dark, but severely cut clothes – as a governess-turned-street-bummer as well as an elegant lady. Remember her drab brown mackintosh coat and the drabber governess dress?
This is in stark contrast to Delysia… and her moral sense is as starkly in contrast. Guinevere is severe, rigid and vicar-daughter-ish. Michael O’Connor, the costume designer mentions that Pettigrew’s governess dress was deliberately the styles of governesses a decade before. No doubt to keep the idea of the strict matronly governess look about phenomenal actress Frances McDormand.
Even after the makeover, Pettigrew is still in strong, solid colours with small touches of femininity, beauty and softness. I loved the back of the dark blue velvet gown, did you catch it? Low low slit down the back in high contrast to the decent white frilled vee collar!
I even enjoyed the absolutely cultured, high society wannabe, kittish tone of the upmarket womenswear salon maven, Edythe Dubarry (Shirley Henderson).
But let’s talk interiors!
Art deco is typified by symmetry and boy… does this movie deliver!
Setting, London, 1939. Some of the scenes included Ealing Studios, London… the oldest film studio site. Kudos of the highest to Sarah Greenwood, set designer.
We start of course, at the sumptious, starkly quiet lobby of the building we find LaFosse’s penthouse in.
The honey tones contrasted with the black marble.. and the signature art deco colours and style. I love the art deco archetype sunburst motif. Very reminiscence of the lobby of the famed art deco historic GE Building at 570 Lexington Avenue, NYC. Complete with lacquer and inlaid wood, polished marble walls and ornate nickel silver sconces.
I love the darkly masculine foyer of the penthouse the owner of the salon Nick stashes his precious Ms Lafosse. It’s like the “dark den of iniquity” [words of Miss Pettigrew] where all these gentlemen callers enter. The walls are dark marble paneled contrasted and highlight richly ornate art nouveau gilt mirrors and scones.
I also love the round ebonized table right in front of the foyer with its very unique legs. Not too keen on the typical art deco gilt statue of angels. Then what about the marble staircase with its fine wrought iron banister?
The lounge area is still clearly masculine with dark black accents here and there. I love the strong Art Deco Grecian key motif on the black marble fireplace. Sets a real formal tone in the area which is softened by the French-inspired gold fabric settee and slipper chair and white shaggy rug.
Crystal wall scones that litter the place in almost every position! Like in the dressing table area:
For me, what luxurious penthouse is not complete without a black grand piano? The black makes the gold metallic wallpaper stand out and the wallpaper even more luxurious, even more select.
It’s only when we trot upstairs do we see a clearly feminine room that is clearly the entertainment boudoir of Delysia. de Gournay‘s hand painted Chinoserie on silver metallic lovingly covers the boudoir. (And more wall scones.)
I love the quiet intimate white marble fireplace with mirrored surrounds (we never see it lit) and the small art deco clock on its mantlepiece with three silver panthers. I love the floor to ceiling divider between the bathroom and bedroom with its satin silver blue padded and diamond buttons. The bedhead is done in the same fabric… so that divider looks like one enormous bedhead.
And of course, pairs of crystal wall sconces on EVERY wall. I love the mirrored bedside tables and the dressing table mirrors in the dressing area flanked by two mirrored panels in the wall. I think the idea of large mirrors on the wall leaving the bedroom was/is a great idea to do a last minute check before leaving all dolled up for a glitzy night out. Loads of boudoir bling!
Also let’s not forget the oh-so-enchanting bathroom scene! Amy Adam looks positively captivating in this scene with her hair up in that pink ribbon.
I love the simple white marble bathtub and tiling with the delicate pressed/depression glass bottles. How dreamy! And check out the koi bathtub hardware so typical of art deco gloriousness! With the open shell motif of the wall, Delysia LaFosse appears like a mermaid from a sea of froth.
There is another mirrored side table identical to the bedside tables in the bathroom holding a compote of pink powder puffs and some perfume/beauty creams. The bathroom was white white… but I love the punctuation of colour in the two red Victorian lampshades flanking the sink.
Speaking of lamps… have you been seeing those lamps in the pictures above? So rich, so mood-casting, so alluring… (not my style, but totally adds to the authenticity of the scenes. I love the ones in the pale bathroom!
I love the expensive ooh-la-la Swarovski Glitterbox Lantern that lights up the space underneath the grand piano in Nick’s salon between the two main characters-understated luxury, typical of the 1930s!
All in all, a well done period movie, in one of my favourite eras. Love love love Amy Adams and Frances McDormand in it. Love love love the opulent set design.
Other blog articles on Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Some stills taken while I watched the movie, some stills taken from All Movie Photo.