The Duchess of Windsor’s Jewels

The-Duchess-of-Windsor

In honor of Wallis Simpson’s birthday (born: June 19, 1896 died: April 24, 1986) this post will be about some of the items in her magnificent jewelry collection.  The story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor has been written about extensively in the history books.  Wallis met Prince Edward the Prince of Wales in 1931 when he was the heir to the throne of England.  Though married to Ernest Simpson, the Prince and Wallis began a scandalous affair (the Prince was known to have an eye for married women).

The affair continued for several years and then in January 1936 King George V died and the Prince became King Edward VIII.  Wallis soon divorced Simpson and the new King’s intention was to marry her but there was strong opposition from the British government on a twice divorced women (she had almost been previously married to Earl Spencer) becoming Queen of England.  After reigning for only for 11 months, the King abdicated the throne on December 10, 1936.  

The new Duke and Duchess of Windsor were married on June 3, 1937 at the Chateau de Cande in France.  During their 35 years together the Duke gave Wallis many necklaces, bracelets, brooches and earrings which he often purchased from Van Cleef & Arpels or Cartier.  Many of the items were custom designed and given as gifts to commemorate special occasions often inscribed with personal messages from the Duke. 

The-Duke-and-Duchess-of-Windsor-June-3-1937

After the death of the Duchess, her jewels were sold at auction by Sotheby’s.  The sale took place in April 1987 in Geneva, Switzerland bringing in $50.3 million dollars for the Pasteur Institute which is a hospital and research center located in Paris, France. This was a personal request of the Duchess prior to her death because she and the Duke felt the need to show their appreciation to the people of France where they had lived after being banished from England.

Sotherby's Duchess of Windsor Auction catulog

A few of the most important items from the Duchess of Windsor jewelry collection are listed below:

1. The Prince of Wales Brooch

Prince Edward gave Wallis the Prince of Wales brooch in 1935 and it is an important piece of jewelry which bears special meaning since is the symbol of his royal status as the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne of England, and demonstrates his commitment to her and his intention to make Wallis his future Queen.  The brooch was specially commissioned by Prince Edward and features three pave-set diamond feathers accented with baguette-cut diamonds which are gathered together by a crown, the piece is set in platinum and 18k gold.

Prince of Wales Brooch  Prince of Wales Broch - Wallis

After the death of the Duchess, the Prince of Wales brooch was purchased by Elizabeth Taylor at the Sotheby’s auction for a price over $623,000.  Elizabeth and Richard Burton had been friends with the Duke and Duchess and she often admired the brooch during her visits.  When the brooch went on the auction block, Elizabeth intended to bid on the item for sentimental reasons since Richard Burton was born in Wales.  It is said that the brooch is the first piece of significant jewelry that she had ever bought for herself. Ultimately, upon the death of Elizabeth in 2011 the Prince of Wales brooch was once again sold at the Christie’s auction of Taylor’s jewelry collection for $1,314,500.          

2.  Cartier Cross Charm Bracelet

The Cartier cross charm bracelet was a gift from Prince Edward to Wallis in 1934.  The bracelet features a diamond bracelet with nine jeweled crosses engraved with various messages “handwritten” by the Prince.  The bracelet was one of Wallis’ favorite pieces of jewelry from the Prince and she wore it often, most notably she was photographed wearing it on the infamous and highly scandalous Nahlin cruise in the summer of 1936 which publicly exposed the relationship of Wallis and the Prince to the world for the first time.

Cartier cross charm bracelet

3.  Duchess of Windsor Engagement Ring

The engagement ring given by Prince Edward, known to his family and friends as David, to Wallis is a stunning 19.77 carat emerald ring by Cartier.  It is engraved with a personal message “We are ours now 27 X 36”.  This means that he proposed on October 27, 1936 which according to the date was prior to his abdication.  In 1958, the Duchess went back to Cartier to have the ring redesigned in a more modern style of yellow gold set with several diamonds.

Duchess of Windsor engagement ring - sketch

  Duchess of Windsor engagement ring  Duchess of Windsor engagement ring - Wallis Simpson

4.  Van Cleef & Arpels Ruby and Diamond Brooch

The Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond brooch was given to Wallis from David for Christmas 1936, although they spent the holiday separately.  With his recent abdication on December 10, 1936 renouncing the throne of England as King Edward VIII, David went into exile in Austria and while Wallis was living in Cannes, France waiting until her divorce from Simpson was absolute.

Because of these complications, David wanted to send Wallis a special Christmas gift which two holly leaves, the flower of the holiday season.  The double feathered brooch was one of the first jewelry pieces from Van Cleef & Arpels to use an “invisible” setting for the rubies and baguette diamonds.  At the 1987 Duchess of Windsor auction, held after her death, the Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond brooch sold for an amazing price of $806,000.   

Van Cleef Arpels ruby and diamond feather brooch  Van Cleef Arpels ruby and diamond feather brooch - Wallis

5.  Van Cleef & Arpels Ruby and Diamond Necklace

The Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond necklace was originally commissioned by the Duke of Windsor for the Duchess and intended as a gift for her 40th birthday which would take place days after their wedding.  The clasp of the necklace is bears the inscription, “My Wallis from her David” and dated June 19, 1936.

Later, Wallis had the necklace redesigned by Rene-Sim Lacaze of Van Cleef & Arpels to incorporate the original rubies and diamonds plus the addition of a few more stones!  The new platinum setting featured rows of rubies and diamonds intertwined and ending in a spectacular cascade of rubies.  The Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond Necklace sold for an astounding $2,603,308 at the 1987 Duchess of Windsor auction. 

Van Cleef Arpels Ruby Necklace sketches

Van Cleef Arpels Ruby Necklace  Van Cleef Arpels Ruby Necklace - Wallis and David

6.  Cartier Flamingo Brooch

The Cartier flamingo brooch was commissioned by the Duke of Windsor for the Duchess in 1940 as a birthday gift; he had collaborated with Cartier jewelry designer Jeanne Toussaint.  It was completed shortly before the couple had to flee the country during World War II as the Nazis invaded France.  The brooch was set in platinum and featured a whimsical flamingo perched on one leg, the flamingo’s body, head, neck and legs are pave-set with diamonds.  The flamingo has one sapphire eye and a yellow citrine cabochon and blue sapphire form its beak.  The tail feathers of the flamingo were a colorful array of emeralds, rubies and sapphires.  Wallis wore the brooch for the first time on a trip to Madrid in 1940 and it became one of her favorite pieces of jewelry and she wore it frequently.    

Van Cleef Arpels Flamingo Brooch sketch

Van Cleef Arpels Flamingo brooch  Van Cleef Arpels Flamingo brooch - Wallis

  

7.  Cartier Diamond and Onyx Panther Bracelet

The iconic Cartier diamond and onyx panther bracelet was custom-made for the Duchess of Windsor.  In 1952 the Duchess collaborated with the Cartier jeweler Jeanne Toussaint to create the unique design that allows the bracelet to gently wrap around the wrist instead of being rigid.  The beautiful and fully articulated body of the panther is set in platinum with diamonds and black onyx; the eyes of the panther are set with marquise-shaped emeralds.  At the 1987 Duchess of Windsor auction, held after her death, the Cartier diamond and onyx panther bracelet sold for $1.27 million.  Twenty-three years later, the bracelet again went on the Sotheby’s auction block in 2010 and was sold again for £4.5m.  

Cartier onyx and diamond panther bracelet Cartier onyx and diamond panther bracelet - Wallis

8.  Cartier Windsor 20th Wedding Anniversary Brooch

The Cartier brooch was made to commemorate the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s twentieth wedding anniversary in 1957 and was a gift to Wallis.  The brooch was designed to incorporate several meaningful symbols that were important to the couple.  The heart-shaped brooch is pave-set with numerous diamonds and measures approximately 34mm x 38mm x 10mm.  In the center are the intertwined initials W and E (Wallis and Edward) set with calibré-cut emeralds, beneath that are the Roman Numeral XX (20) set with calibré-cut rubies and at the top of the heart brooch is a coronet set with more calibré-cut rubies.

Cartier Windsor 20th anniversary brooch

Professor Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr.

Indiana Jones

On this date “Indiana Jones – The Raiders of the Lost Ark” premiered on June 1, 1981.  So, in this post I will discuss Indiana Jones and the inspiration behind the iconic movie character.  Then, I will discuss the various elements of the Indiana Jones story and important pieces of his costume; such as his leather jacket, fedora and the whip.  Finally, I will end with a brief synopsis of the each of the four Indiana Jones movies.

George Lucas, the American film director, producer and screenwriter of the successful “Star Wars” movie franchise is also responsible for creating the character of Indian Jones.  It was while vacationing in Hawaii with his friend and fellow filmmaker Steven Spielberg at the time of the release of the first Star Wars movie that they discussed possible ideas for their next film.  They both fondly remembered from their childhood the old short-film serials and popular book about action/adventure heroes … and the character of Indiana Jones was created!   

According to the fictional backstory, the character of Henry Jones, Jr. (also known as Indiana Jones or “Indy”) was born in 1899 to Anna and Henry Jones, Sr.  His mother came from a wealthy family in Virginia and his father originally came from Scotland and went to Oxford University in England.  After his parent’s marriage in 1898 the family eventually moved to New Jersey where his father was a professor of Medieval Studies at Princeton University, he has an interest, his wife would say an obsession, with the Holy Grail.  Professor Jones, Sr. took his family with him on a lecture tour through various parts of the United States and Europe.  Along the way Henry Jr. had many adventures in which he met several famous people and numerous witnessed historical events.  These stories are told in the television series, “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”, which I would highly recommend seeing if you can find a copy of the DVD.  (Trivia: The origin of Henry Jr’s nickname came from the family dog that was named Indiana, and eventually Junior took the name for himself much to the annoyance of Henry, Sr.  The ultimate fate of the dog is unknown!)

Adventures of Young Indiana Jones

Sadly, Indy’s mother died of scarlet fever in 1912 when Indy was only 13 years old.  Afterwards, his distraught father spent most of his time working or indulging in his quest for the Holy Grail.  Meanwhile, Indy was finding interests of his own and when he came across the Cross of Coronado during a Boy Scout expedition in Utah he became fascinated with archaeology.  Later, Indy would go to the University of Chicago and then would spend his summers with his former teacher and mentor, Abner Ravenwood, overseas working at numerous archaeology digs.  Indy was now a professor at Marshall College (a fictional place somewhere in Connecticut) teaching archaeology and would occasionally consult with Marcus Brody and frequently donated his “found” treasures to Brody’s museum.  It is at this time in his life that we meet Indy in the first movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.  (Later in the post there will be a brief synopsis of each of the movies)

It seems that the character of Indiana Jones lives in two very different worlds.  The first was centered on a campus where he wears the conservative tweed suit of a college professor, even wearing a pair of glasses to add to his scholarly look.  Indy would teach classes filled with adoring female students and giving lectures on ancient civilizations as part of his archaeology courses.

Professor Henry Jones Jr  Indiana Jones 1a

The second was the distant places in South America, the Middle East or Europe where Indy goes in search of various treasures.  At these times Indy would dress in an entirely different way more suitable to the site of archaeology digs.  He wore a khaki shirt with two large pockets on the front and brown wool and twill pants (made by the film costume department inspired by a pair of World War II Army officer trousers known as “Pinks”)   Indy wore sturdy Alden boots (a personal preference of Harrison Ford) and he also carried a satchel similar to a Mark VII gas mask bag used by the British during World War II.

Indiana Jones costume

Indy’s weapons of choice were a pistol (the type of pistol varied for each film) which he would secure at his side in a military-style leather flap holster and a bullwhip which Indy always had attached to his belt and that he could expertly use. (Trivia: In the famous marketplace scene in “Raider of the Lost Ark” when Indy shoots the swordsman during a confrontation was completely improvised by Ford.  The storyline originally had Indy disarming the swordsman with his whip)

The bullwhip used in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was actually owned by the film’s stunt coordinator, Glenn Randall.  For the other three films the bullwhips were made by David Morgan.  Morgan was known as the best whip maker in the United States and the ones he made for the Indiana Jones movies were made from kangaroo hide and ranged in length from 8 to 10 feet depending on the scenes stunts. (Trivia: Cleverly Harrison Ford’s real life scar chin was incorporated into the story of Indiana Jones.  During the opening scenes of the “Last Crusade” a young Indy misuses a whip to protect himself from a lion while being chased through a circus train)

Perhaps the most iconic items of Indy’s clothing were the leather jacket and his fedora.  The first item was a leather jacket which was inspired by the American fighter pilots of the 1930s.  The Wested Leather Co. of London made the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark” lambskin jacket; later the movie costume department “distressed” the jacket to give it an aged appearance.  Several additional jackets used for the three other Indian Jones films and they were made of more durable cowskin.

The second iconic item was Indiana Jones’ fedora, for the first three films the hats were made by Herbert Johnson Hatters of England and for the fourth film the hat was made by the Adventurbilt Hat Company of Columbus, Mississippi.  The Indiana Jones fedora features a board brimmed brown hat of the 1930s which I would say it was better suited to be worn in an urban setting rather than the site of an archaeological dig.    The original hat featured a pinched front and a tall crown, for the other three films the hat became more tapered and had a shorter crown.  Somehow, through all of Indy’s adventures in the movies whenever his hat is knocked off he always seems to recover it maybe a little battered or rumbled! 

Smithsonian Indiana Jones display

(Trivia: The fedora and leather jacket from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” are on display at the Smithsonian Institution‘s American History Museum in Washington, D.C.)

Harrison Ford has portrayed Indiana Jones in all four of the movies; the 1981 “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, the 1984 “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, the 1989 “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and after an almost twenty year time lapse in the 2008 “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”.  (Trivia: Ford was not George Lucas’ first choice to play Indy, he had already cast him as Han Solo in Star Wars and felt he was too strongly identified with that role.  Tom Selleck, better known at the time for his television role as “Magnum P.I.”, was considered for the part but because of scheduling conflicts he was unable to do the movie.)

A brief synopsis of the Indiana Jones films

Raiders of the Lost Ark poster 1

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark –

Raiders of the Lost Ark was released in 1981, it was directed by Steven Spielberg with a story by George Lucas. The cast included Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, John Rhys-Davies as Salljah, Denholm Elliott as Dr. Marcus Brody and Paul Reeman as Dr. Rene Belloq. 

The story takes place in 1936 and begins in the jungle of Peru where Indiana Jones is in the search of archaeological treasures and encounters his rival named Rene Belloq.  Later, Indy returns to his job as professor at Marshall College which is located near the museum of his friend, Dr. Marcus Brody.  Shortly after arriving back in the United States Indy is visited by Army intelligence agents who request his help against the German Nazis who are searching for an item owned by Abner Ravenwood, Indy’s former mentor, which would help them in recovering the mysterious Ark of the Covenant.  His friend, Dr. Marcus Brody, who is the curator the local museum, encourages Indy to take up the challenge.  With the aid of Marion Ravenwood and Salljah they follow the clues and eventually find the Ark only to lose it to the Nazis who are led by Belloq.  The Ark is finally recovered and at the end of the movie we see it being moved into a large warehouse to be stored indefinitely by the U.S. government.

Temple of Doom poster

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom –

The Temple of Doom was released in 1984, it was directed by Steven Spielberg with a story by George Lucas. The cast included Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Kate Capshaw as “Willie” Scott, Jonathan Ke Quan as “Short Round” and Amrish Puri as Mola Ram.

The story takes place in 1935 and begins with Indiana Jones narrowly escaping from a Shanghai nightclub with a young Chinese boy named “Short Round” and the club feisty singer named “Willie” Scott.  Through several mishaps they land in a remote part of India near a village where the children have mysteriously gone missing.  Eventually this leads the trio to a hidden temple where they find that the children have been stolen by the evil Mola Ram to work in the mine.  Indy becomes involved in trying to recover the sacred Sankara Stones and, in the end, he finds them and also sets the children free to return to their village. (Trivia:  It has been said that the reason for the dark and sinister plotline of “Temple of Doom” was prompted by the fact that George Lucas was in the process of getting divorced)   

Last Crusade poster

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade –

The Last Crusade was released in 1989, it was directed by Steven Spielberg with a story by George Lucas. The cast included Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr, Alison Doody as Elsa Schneider, a brief appearance by River Phoenix as the young Indiana and two returning characters with Denholm Elliott as Maracus Brody and John Rhys-Davies as Sallah

The movie begins in 1912 with a young Indian Jones who is on a Boy Scout expedition in Utah and literally stumbles onto a group attempting to steal some ancient treasures.  Indy thinking that the Cross of Coronado belongs in a museum steals the treasure and as a result is chased by the men.  It is this part of the story that explains many of the elements of Indy’s character because as he is being chased he tries to escape on a passing circus train where he lands in a crate of snakes (prompting his fear of snakes), then in the car holding the lions Indy uses a bullwhip to protect himself (by incorrectly using the whip, it causes a cut on his chin which explains his scar) and finally as the men catch up to him and recover the ancient relic, the leader of the group rewards Indy’s bravery by giving him his hat (which becomes the iconic Indiana Jones fedora).  We also learn to offer things about Indy, first that his malamute dog is named Indiana (the real origin of his nickname) and secondly the Cross of Coronado sparks his interest in finding other lost treasures and an eventually career in archaeology.

Then, the movie moves forward in time to 1938 as an adult Indy finally recovers the Cross of Coronado in his quest to have the ancient relic put into a museum.  As Indy returns home, the Coronado’s Cross in given to the museum where his friend Marcus Brody is a curator.  Later, Indy finds out that his long estranged father, Henry Jones Sr., has vanished during his search for the Holy Grail.  Strangely, a package from Indy’s father arrives in the mail, it is Henry the notebook which contains the glue he has gathered in his search for the Grail.  Indy and Brody leave for Venice to search for Indy’s father and to meet Elsa Schneider who was assisting him at the time of his disappearance.  Ultimately, Indy finds his father who is being held by the Nazis in a castle on the border of Austria and Germany.  As, it turns out Elsa was working with the Nazis and steals the Grail notebook that Indy’s father had sent to him for safe keeping.  With a brief detour to Berlin and a face to face meeting with Adolf Hitler, Indy recovers the notebook.  After gaining additional clues with the aid of his old friend, Sallah, it leads them to the hidden temple where the Nazis catch up to them.  In the end, the Holy Grail is found, the Nazis are killed as the temple collapses, Indy, his father and friends barely escape and the movie ends with them riding off into the sunset!    

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull poster

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull –

The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released in 2008, it was directed by Steven Spielberg with a story by George Lucas. The cast included Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Karen Allen returns in her role as Marion Ravenwood, Kate Blanchett plays a Soviet agent named Irina Spalko, John Hurt as Harold “Ox” Oxley and Shia LeBeouf plays Mutt Williams who is revealed during the movie to be the son of Indy and Marion, also known as Henry Jones III.  

The movie is set in 1957 and begins in a secret location in the Nevada dessert.  Soviet agents led by Irina Spalko are accompanied by Indiana Jones as they break into a U.S. Government warehouse (could it possibly be the same facility where they stored the Ark of the Covenant over 20 years earlier?) to find an alien corpse with a mysterious crystal skull.  The Soviets are unsuccessful and Indy escapes only to get caught in the middle of an atomic bomb test, he survives the nuclear blast by climbing into a lead-lined refrigerator and is rescued by the FBI who suspect that he is working with the Soviets.

Indy returns to Marshall College but is forced to take a leave of absence until he can be cleared of any involvement with the Soviets.  At this time, it is revealed that both Indy’s father, Henry Jones Sr., and also Indy’s friend, Marcus Brody, have died.  Then, a young man named Mutt Williams finds Indy and tells him that he knows a man, Harold Oxley, that has found another crystal skull in the jungles of Peru but he has recently suffered a mental breakdown and disappeared so he is asking Indy’s help in finding him.  When Indy and Mutt arrive in South America it was Marion Ravenwood, Indy’s former love, that has sent for him but that the only surprising thing.  In a unexpected twist of the story we learn that Mutt is actually the son of both Marion and Indy!  As the story progresses, they eventually find “Ox” who is being held by Irina and the Soviets that are still searching for the crystal skull.  As the story comes to a dramatic conclusion the legend of the crystal skull and the connections to aliens is finally revealed.  The movie comes to a happy end when Indy and Marion are married … and they live happily ever after!!

But wait, the story of Indiana Jones is not over!  Throughout the years, rumors of another Indiana Jones movie have been speculated and in March 2016 it was officially announced that there will be a fifth Indiana Jones movie which is currently in development with a possible release date of July 2019.

Queen Mary’s Jewelry Box

Queen Mary - Duchess of Teck Diamond Collet Choker

In honor of Queen Mary’s birthday (born: May 26,1867 died: March 24,1953), in this post I will discuss her personal and extensive jewelry collection.  Queen Mary was the consort of King George V and she was known for wearing several of these dazzling pieces of jewelry all at one time.  She would wear several necklaces, brooche, stomachers, bracelets, rings and of course a crown, she often mixing diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and rubies.  Perhaps this fashion style was excessive and it is possible that she had “inherited” it from her mother-in-law, Queen Alexandra, who was always lavishly jeweled and dressed at the expense of King Edward VII.  (Queen Alexandra was a royal trendsetter influencing fashion and for more information on her, please click on the link to Queen Alexandra – A Fashion Icon)

Queen Mary wore items in her jewelry collection for special occasions such as her wedding, coronation and the Delhi Durbar.  I will also single out a few of these noteworthy items such as the Love Trophy Collar, the Duchess of Teck Diamond Collet Necklace, the Karputhala Stomacher and finally the Fringe Tiara owned by Queen Mary.

So, let’s open up Queen Mary’s jewelry box …       

Princess May of Teck (later to become Queen Mary) married Prince George (later to become King George V) on July 6, 1893 at the Chapel Royal in St. James Palace in London.  In the photo below she is shown wearing a diamond tiara from Queen Victoria, a diamond rivière necklace which was a gift from her in-laws, Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra.  She also wears diamond earrings and an anchor brooch (which can be seen in the photo of the right) that were both wedding gifts from Prince George.  Her elaborate bridal dress is heavily decorated with garlands of orange blossoms and Prince George wore the full dress naval uniform of a Fleet Captain which seems to be overloaded with medals and special honors.  (For more information about the wedding of Prince George and Princess Mary, click on the click to British Royal Weddings – Part Two.  Also for detailed information about Princess Mary’s bridal dress, please click on the link to British Royal Wedding Dresses – Part One)

 Bride And Groom  Princess Mary - anchor brooch wedding present from Prince George

Upon the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 her son, Prince Edward, ascended to the British throne and his coronation took place on August 9, 1902 at Westminster Abbey in London.  In the photo below Princess Mary is shown dressed for the coronation of her father-in-law, now known as King Edward II.  She is wearing the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara, the Ladies of England tiara (converted into a necklace), a pearl and diamond choker, pearl and diamond earrings, a long sautoir and a few bracelets while on the gown’s bodice she wore a pearl and diamond stomacher, the Kensington bow brooch and the Women of Hampshire brooch.  (For more detailed information on the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland tiara and the Kensington bow brooch, please click on the link to the Queen’s Jewelry collection – Part One)

Princess Mary - coronation of King Edward II

After the death of his father, King Edward II, in May 1910 Prince George ascended to the throne and his coronation took place on June 22, 1911 at Westminster Abbey in London.  As his wife and consort, Princess Mary was also crowned in the solemn ceremony.  Shown below in the photo on the left are King George and Queen Mary dressed in their coronation robes and crowns (King George was the first British monarch to be crowned with the St. Edward’s Crown, for more information click on the link to the Crown Jewels of England – Part One).  Queen Mary’s Crown was specially made for the coronation by Garrard & Co. and featured 2,200 diamonds including the Cullinan III and Cullinan IV.  The crown was constructed so that the eight arches and velvet lining could be removed to be worn as a circlet, as shown in the photo on the right which shows Queen Mary many years later in 1937 at the coronation of her son, King George VI. 

King George and Queen Mary - coronation  Queen Mary - coronation crown worn as circlet

Upon King George V accession to the British throne, preparations were immediately begun for his coronation at Westminster Abbey in London and because he was also the Emperor of India a special celebration known as the Delhi Durbar was planned for December 1911.  Historical Note: Previous Imperial Durbar had taken place in 1877 and 1903 but Queen Victoria and King Edward did not attend those celebrations and sent a royal representative instead.  King George V was the only British sovereign to be present at the Imperial Durbar that crowned him as Emperor of India. 

Delhi Durbar 1

The Delhi Durbar was held from December 12, 1911 at the Coronation Park.  Indian princes and other nobleman and other landed gentry from India attended the celebration.  King George V and Queen Mary wearing their Coronation robes were crowned Emperor and Empress of India in an elaborate ceremony.  Historical Note: The British government had determined that the valuable coronation regalia, including the St. Edward Crown which was part of the Crown Jewels, were not allowed to leave England.  A new Imperial Crown of India was specially made for King-Emperor George to wear to the Delhi Durbar. (For more information about the Imperial Crown of India, please click on the link to the Crown Jewels of England – Part Two)

King George V and Queen Mary - Delhi Dubar portrait

As she always did, Queen Mary was known to wear numerous pieces of jewelry at one time and the Delhi Durbar was no exception.  She wore several necklaces, a set of earrings, stomachers, brooches and bracelets.  Listed below are some of these items:

Delhi Durbar Tiara

Since the crown worn by Queen Mary at the 1911 Coronation was now considered part of the Crown Jewels it was not allowed to leave England.  So, a new tiara was specially made by Garrard & Co. for her to wear at the Delhi Durbar and the tall circlet of platinum and gold featured diamond scrolls topped by ten cabochon Cambridge emeralds.  Queen Mary in shown in the photo below wearing the Delhi Durbar Tiara. 

Queen Mary - Delhi Durbar

In keeping with the royal custom of re-styling and re-purposing jewelry, in 1922 the Cambridge emeralds were permanently removed from the Delhi Durbar Tiara to be used in the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara.  Then in 1923, the Delhi Durbar tiara was further altered so that two additional stones could be temporarily added to the Delhi Durbar Tiara, the stones were cut from the famous Cullinan diamond acquired by England in 1905.  The Cullinan III, a 94.4 carat pear-shaped diamond, and the Cullinan IV, a square-cut 63.6 carat diamond, could be both placed into settings in the center front of the Delhi Durbar Tiara.  Historical Note: The Delhi Durbar Tiara set with the Cullinan diamonds, as shown in the photo below on the left, was only worn by Queen Mary.  Later the Cullinan III and IV diamonds were removed from the tiara permanently and reset to be worn together as brooch.  In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II inherited them and the stones became known together as “Granny’s Chips”.  Most recently Queen Elizabeth II wore the massive brooch for the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, as shown in the photo on the right.

Delhi Durbar Tiara with Cullinans III and IV  Queen Elizabeth wearing the Granny Chips

Over forty years later, Queen Mary lent the Delhi Durbar Tiara to her daughter-in-law (now known as Queen Elizabeth since the death of King George V in January 1936 and the ascension of her husband as King George VI), which she first wore on the 1947 South African Royal Tour.  The Delhi Durbar Tiara remained in the possession of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother until her death in 2002 when it was returned to the private collection of Queen Elizabeth II.

Delhi Durbar Tiara

Delhi Durbar Necklace

The Delhi Durbar Necklace worn by Queen Mary in 1911 was made by Garrard & Co. at the request of King George V and presented to Queen Mary on the occasion of her 44th birthday, it was intended for her to wear the necklace at the Delhi Durbar.  The necklace is set in platinum and gold with nine cabochon Cambridge emeralds, six large diamonds, 94 smaller diamonds and the Cullinan VII diamond which is an 8.8 carat marquise-shaped diamond.  The Cullinan VII is suspended from a detachable platinum chain decorated with ten graduated sized diamonds.  A second detachable platinum chain is also attached to the necklace to counterbalance the first chain and features 12 pavé-set diamonds.  Queen Mary is shown in the photo below wearing the Delhi Durbar Necklace.  

Delhi Durbar Tiara with emeralds

In keeping with Queen Mary’s custom of re-styling her jewelry, she would sometimes wear the Delhi Durbar Necklace without the asymmetrical pendant chains and on at least one occasion she replaced the Cullinan VII with a lesser stone.  After Queen Mary’s death in 1953, Queen Elizabeth II inherited the necklace and she usually wears it for evening events paired with the Vladimir Tiara.

Delhi Durbar Necklace

Delhi Durbar Earrings

The Delhi Durbar Earrings are part of the Delhi Durbar Parure created by Garrard & Co. and worn by Queen Mary in 1911.  The earrings feature oval-shaped cabochon emeralds each surrounded by 11 diamonds which are set in platinum and gold.  One emerald is from the famous Cambridge collection and the other was acquired by Garrard to match. In 1953, the Delhi Durbar Earrings were inherited by Queen Elizabeth II after the death of Queen Mary. 

Delhi Durbar Necklace - blue background

Typical of Queen Mary fashion style, she wore several pieces of jewelry at one time and shown in the photo below is the Delhi Durbar Stomacher with several additional brooches and pendants attached to create one massive piece of jewelry that Queen Mary wore on the bodice of her dress for the Delhi Durbar in 1911.

Delhi Durbar Stomacher wore with several brooches

Arranged from the top to the bottom are:

Delhi Carved Emerald Brooch – given to Queen Mary by the ladies of India to wear at the Delhi Durbar.  This brooch is set in platinum and gold and features a large hexagon shaped emerald is intricately carved with the images a rose on the front and an unidentified plant on the back and it is surrounded by several diamonds.  In 1953, the Delhi Carved Emerald Brooch was passed to Queen Elizabeth and she only wears in occasionally due to its heavy weight.

Delhi Carved Emerald BroochDelhi Durbar Stomacher – made by Garrard & Co. especially for Queen Mary for the Delhi Durbar.  It is set in gold featuring several Cambridge emeralds and smaller diamonds, including some cut from the original massive Cullinan diamond originally acquired by England in 1905.

Cullinan V Heart Brooch – features the 18.8 carat heart-shaped Cullinan V diamond in a beautiful platinum setting with a pave border of smaller diamonds.

Cullinan V Heart Brooch - blue backgroundScroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch – features a square-shaped emerald set in a scrolled diamond setting and a removable emerald pendant.  Special Note:  The removable emerald pendant was worn separately at the Delhi Durbar and can be seen in the first photo as the final piece.
Scroll Cambridge Emerald Brooch - blue background

The next piece of jewelry associated with Queen Mary is the …

Duchess of Teck Diamond Collet Necklace

The Duchess of Teck Diamond Collet Necklace was inherited by Queen Mary from her mother, Princess Mary Adelaide.  (She was the Duchess of Teck, hence the name of the necklace!)  Queen Mary wore a longer version which had 46 large diamonds and it became one of her most frequently worn necklaces.   Upon the death of Queen Mary, the Duchess of Teck Diamond Collet Necklace went to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother who wore the necklace at the 1953 coronation of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.  Upon the death of the Queen Mother in 2002, Queen Elizabeth II inherited the necklace and is today part of her personal jewelry collection.  

In the photo on the left, Queen Mary is shown wearing the longer version of the Duchess of Teck Collet Necklace and in the photo on the right Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother is shown wearing the shorter version. 

Duchess of Teck diamond collet - Queen Mary and the Queen Mother

Love Trophy Collar Necklace

Before discussing the Love Trophy Collar Necklace worn by Queen Mary, let’s take a look back and see how this trend of collar necklaces started.  Back in the Victorian era, Princess Alexandra (the future Queen Alexandra and mother-in-law of Princess Mary, the future Queen Mary) was also very creative in adapting her style of clothing to mask several physical impediments.  She had a scar on her neck and she took to wearing day dresses with high collars and in the evening she wore multiple layers of pearls or diamond necklaces that would cover her neck, these were known as collier de chein meaning collar necklace.  This style of jewelry became very popular with society ladies and a fashion trend was soon started.

So, as a young woman of the Victorian era and later the Edwardian era, Princess Mary followed the fashion trend and often wore collar necklaces.  The Love Trophy Collar Necklace was made by Garrard & Co. in 1901 from diamonds of previous pieces of jewelry owned by Princess Mary’s grandmother and aunt.  The diamonds are arranged vertically with panels linking them together, the center panel features a “love trophy” symbol (hence the name of the necklace) which has a design of a Cupid’s bow with a quiver of arrows surrounded by a laurel wreath.  Queen Mary is shown in the photo the left wearing the Love Trophy Collar Necklace and the photo on the right shows the details of the necklace.  

Queen Mary - Love Trohpy Chocker 1  Queen Mary - Love Trohpy Chocker 2

Soon after the Love Trophy Collar Necklace was made, the fashion of wearing collar necklaces soon fell out of fashion and Queen Mary passed the necklace to her daughter-in-law, Princess Elizabeth (the Duchess of York and later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother) who rarely wore the necklace.  Upon her death in 2002, Queen Elizabeth II inherited the necklace and she has never worn it in public.  

Karputhala Stomacher

The Karputhala Stomacher was given to Princess Mary by the Maharajah of Karputhala as a wedding present in 1893.  As previously mentioned, jewelry was often re-designed to extended the use of a piece.  Shown in the photo below on the left is Queen Mary wearing the Karputhala Stomacher and the photo on the right shows the details of the three sections (which could be detached and worn as separate brooches) made of diamonds set in gold and white gold.  Eventually the redesigned Karputhala stomacher was given by Queen Mary to her granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) as a wedding present in 1947.

Karputhala Stomacher

Queen Mary Fringe Tiara

The Queen Mary Fringe Tiara was made by Garrard & Co. in 1919 from the diamonds of a necklace previously given to her as a wedding present from Queen Victoria.  The tiara had 47 bars of diamonds with smaller diamond spikes.  In 1936, Queen Mary gave the tiara to her daughter-in-law Princess Elizabeth the Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother). 

Queen Mary - Fringe Tiara

Then, in 1947 the Fringe Tiara was loaned to her daughter Princess Elizabeth for her wedding to Prince Phillip.  On the wedding day the tiara broke but was quickly repaired by the court jeweler.   In the photo below of Princess Elizabeth, the tiara can be seen looking a little off-center.

Queen Mary Fringe Tiara 2

The Queen Mother also lent the tiara to her granddaughter, Princess Anne, to wear on her wedding day in 1973.  The Queen Mother wore the tiara frequently over the years and when she died in 2002 the tiara was inherited by Queen Elizabeth II who also wears it often.

Queen Mary Fringe Tiara

In past posts, I’ve discussed in detail the Crown Jewels of England, the Personal Jewelry Collection of Queen Elizabeth II and the Cambridge Emeralds.  Other posts regarding famous pieces of jewelry included the Russian Imperial Jewels and the Jewelry Collection of Elizabeth Taylor. (For more information on any of these posts just click on the links)  

   

 

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Adventures of Robin Hood DVD coverI remember as a young girl watching “The Adventures of Robin Hood” on television, the 1938 version with Errol Flynn.  At the time, it was maybe 25 years since the film had originally been shown in theaters.  The movie had everything – a swashbuckling hero, a beautiful heroine and a sinister villain.  It was a drama, it had action and adventure, moments of light-hearted comedy, and it was a love story all set in merry old England (supposedly back in the year 1191).  In this post I will begin by discussing the film and the actors involved in this classic movie and I will end with a brief history of the legend of Robin Hood and some of the historic places that still exist in England.

“The Adventures of Robin Hood”

 “The Adventures of Robin Hood” premiered on May 14, 1938. The movie directed by Michael Curtiz was filmed between September 1937 and January 1938 with the interior scenes shot on several different Warner Bros. Studio soundstages in Burbank, CA.  The exterior scenes shot were filmed at the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, the archery tournament was filmed at Arroyo Park in Pasadena, Bidwell Park in Chico was used for many of the Sherwood Forest scenes with additional scenes shot at Lake Sherwood.  (Interesting Note:  Lake Sherwood, now an upscale community located in Ventura County, was named for its association with two Robin Hood films.  The first movie was the 1922 silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks which used the location for the Sherwood Forest scenes.  Sixteen years later, the 1938 “Adventures of Robin Hood” also filmed there)

It was the first Warner Bros. Studio movie to be filmed in Technicolor, the estimated cost of the production was $2 million.  The Technicolor film process was a relatively new production technique for the movie industry and it could be rather costly because it used special slow speed cameras which required the soundstage to be set with bright lighting for filming.  Whether the scenes involve Robin Hood scaling the castle walls or riding on horseback through Sherwood Forest, the Technicolor color saturation adds an intense sense of reality that probably could not have been achieved if the movie had been filmed in black and white.

Adventures of Robin Hood filming 1

Adventures of Robin Hood filming 2  MBDADOF EC080

Adventures of Robin Hood movie scenes 1

The cast of the movie was absolute perfection with Errol Flynn playing the dashing hero of Sir Robin of Locksley, also known as Robin Hood.  Flynn had previously made his first film, the 1935 “Captain Blood”, for Warner Bros. and it had turned out to be a very profitable movie for the studio so they were willing to commit to the expensive Technicolor production of the “Adventures of Robin Hood” with Flynn as the lead character because they knew it would be a successful film.  (Interesting Note: The role of Robin Hood had originally been intended for James Cagney but he had left Warner Bros. over a contract dispute and the film was postponed for three years at which time Flynn took over the role)

Errol Flynn as Robin Hood

The elegant Olivia de Havilland played Lady Marian Fitzwalter, known as Maid Marian in the movie.  This was just a year before she played perhaps her most famous film role as Melanie in “Gone with the Wind”.  Flynn and de Havilland had co-starred in two other films; they would eventually make eight films together.  It has been speculated that they were romantically involved but years later de Havilland denied the allegations.

Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian

Basil Rathbone played the sinister Sir Guy of Gisborne and Claude Rains played the villainous Prince John, the brother of Richard the Lionheart.  Alan Hale, Sr. played “Little John”; he had previously played the same role in the 1922 silent film version of “Robin Hood” co-starring with Douglas Fairbanks.  (Interesting Note: Hale, Sr. is probably best known to my generation as the father of Alan Hale, Jr. who played the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island)

Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy  Alan Hale, Sr. as Little John

After casting the actors in the major roles, the next step in the film production was designing and creating the elaborate medieval period costumes.  Special attention was paid to the selection of color for the fabrics since this was a Technicolor film.  The contrast of Robin Hood’s earthy green costume with Sir Grisbourne and the other noblemen’s rich colored costumes served to visually illustrate the difference between the rich and the poor.  In one key scene, Robin is giving a speech to his Merry Men and as he moves slightly the deep red lining of his cape is revealed adding a sense of drama that he is really Sir Locksley of noble birth.  For the majority of the film we see Robin in the same costume while Olivia De Havilland, as Maid Marian, had nine costumes and Basil Rathbone, as Sir Grisbourne, had seven.

Errol Flynn as Robin Hood 1

The Archery Tournament scenes were filmed at Arroyo Park in Pasadena and the action was coordinated by Howard Hill, a professional archer.  The stuntman that would be receiving a direct hit from an arrow during the scene wore a metal chest plate covered with a piece of balsa wood.  Hill also worked with the sound department to create the distinctive arrow sound using a specially made bow and a thicker arrow.  In perhaps one of the most famous scenes in the movie, when Robin Hood splits the arrow of an opponent to win the tournament, it has been speculated that a pre-cut arrow was fired from the bow then traveled the distance along a wire to accurately hit the target.  (Interesting Note:  At the time it was filmed back in the late 1930s, the movie had employed for the archery tournament scenes the largest number of stuntman used in a single production)

The intricate sword fight scenes were extensively choreographed with exaggerated movements to increase the dramatic effect.  Flynn and Rathbone had previously co-starred in “Captain Blood” and were familiar with the sword techniques used for filming; Rathbone was actually better skilled with the sword while Flynn disliked practicing.  The type of swordplay in the movie was actually used modified fencing techniques with stylized lunges and parries (fencing bladework maneuvers intended to deflect or block an opponent’s attack) while in real life medieval swordplay had used boarder swords and more “hacking” motions.  The final duel of the movie between Robin and Grisbourne is considered by many film historians to be the one of the most exciting swordfights ever filmed. 

Adventures of Robin Hood movie scenes 3

The Legend of Robin Hood

Robin Hood is a character in a popular English folk legend.  The earliest known reference to him was in a 15th century ballad, “Robin Hood and the Monk” which has now been written down and preserved at the Cambridge University.  A collection of stories about the famous outlaw, “A Gest of Robyn Hode”, was written circa 1500 followed by “Robin Hood and the Potter” written in 1503.

Historians say that Robin Hood was possibly an alias for a nobleman by the name of Sir Robert Fitzooth, later becoming the Earl of Huntingdon, who was born around 1160 in the Nottinghamshire village of Locksley; he died in 1247 at the approximate age of 87 years old.  Sir Robert was an ardent supporter of King Richard the Lionheart.  While the King was away at the Third Crusade, the Sheriff of Nottingham and his henchman Sir Guy Grisbourne took advantage of the situation by enforcing the collection of exorbitant taxes.  Seeing these increasingly unfair conditions brought onto the lower class, Robin was determined to help by stealing the money back from the Sheriff and returning it to the poor.  Originally acting alone Robin used his skills as an excellent archer and swordsman.  Eventually he gained the support of a group of men, which included Little John, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck.  Subsequent stories romantically linked Robin Hood to Lady Marian Fitzwalter, possibly the daughter of an English nobleman.    The earliest reference to Maid Marian was in a story first printed in 1490, “A Lytell Geste of Robin Hood”.

In 1883 “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire”, written and illustrated by Howard Pyle, adapted the stories of the legend into a collection of children stories.  In this popular book, each chapter tells a different story about the famous legend, such as when Robin Hood first meets Little John in Sherwood Forest and they battle with staffs.  In another story, Robin meets the pious but inebriated Friar Tuck who ends up carrying Robin on his back while crossing a river.  The book ends when King Richard returns to England, frees the imprisoned Robin and his men and officially pardons them.

Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle  Merry Adventures of Robin Hood - Little John  Merry Adventures of Robin Hood - Friar Tuck

The stories of Robin Hood proved to remain popular with the public and eventually they were made into movies.  Some of these films include the 1922 silent movie, “Robin Hood” starring the dashing Douglas Fairbanks, followed by the 1938 “The Adventures of Robin Hood” movie starring Errol Flynn in the title role, then the 1976 “Robin and Marian” film starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn which is based on a French version of the legend depicting the couple in their later years, another film was the 1973 Disney animated film “Robin Hood”, then the 1991 “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” starring Kevin Costner which starts the story while Robin is overseas fighting in the Crusades and the 1993 comedy spoof “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” starring Cary Elwes and directed by Mel Brooks.

Robin Hood Douglas Fairbanks  Adventures of Robin Hood movie poster
 

Robin and Marian  Robin Hood Prince of Thieives  Robin Hood Men In TIghts

Listed below are some of the real life locations in England that have been mentioned in the stories about the legend of Robin Hood:

    • Nottinghamshire – This area of England, located138 miles north of London, is a major British tourist destination probably due to its historical link with the legend of Robin Hood.  Places to visit are the City of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest.  Nottingham is a charming city and tourists can explore the remains of Nottingham Castle and also visit several abbeys and churches located nearby as well as the Village of Edwinstowe which is the site of Thoresby Hall.  Once part of the Kingdom of Mercia in Anglo-Saxon times, the region was once known in the ancient British Celtic language as “Tigguo Cobauc” or the Place of Caves.  (Interesting Note: In 2010, the University of Nottingham began an extensive project to map out the 450 sandstone caves in the area.  Were these caves possibly used by Robin Hood and his band of outlaws to hide from the Sheriff of Nottingham?)
    • Nottingham Castle – Nottingham Castle was built in the Middle Ages on a natural promontory, known as “Castle Rock”, with 130 feet high cliffs.  The royal fortress was possibly used as a royal residence by King Richard the Lionheart; in 1649 the massive structure was partially demolished.  Today, tourist can visit Nottingham Castle which has a small museum and also tour the surrounding grounds.

Nottingham Castle etching Nottingham Castle Cave

  • Sherwood Forest – Perhaps one of the most iconic locations associated with the legend of Robin Hood is Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, England.  This famous royal hunting woodland forest of ancient oaks and birch trees covering 1,045 acres is where the outlaw Robin Hood and his group of “merry men” possibly lived. Today, the Sherwood Forest Visitor Center is a great place to start a tour and other points of interest in Sherwood Forest include the famous Major Oak.
  • The Major Oak – The Major Oak is located in Sherwood Forest and according to the local folklore was Robin Hood’s hideout.  (This theory is not substantiated since the tree dates between 800 and 1,000 years old and the idea is possibly connected with the Victorian era when legend and stories were changed to create a more romanticized version)  Regardless, the Major Oak is still noteworthy due to its massive size and it is circumference is approximately 33 feet and weighs an estimated 23 tons.

Sherwood Forest

  • Loxley – Loxley is a small village located 3 miles northwest of Sheffield in Yorkshire.  According to the legend, Loxley is the birthplace of Robert Locksley, who would later become the outlaw Robin Hood.  Yorkshire also had a very large forest, Loxley Chase, which in the 12th century extended so far as to border Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.  This geographic location makes it highly probable that Robin Hood and his “merry men” roamed the area when “stealing from the rich to give to the poor”!

The Original Star Wars Trilogy

May the Fourth be with You

“May The Fourth Be With You” is considered by fans to be the unofficial Star Wars Day.  The date was chosen because off the word play on the famous phrase from the Star Wars series … “may the Force be with you”.  The Force is an energy field that connects all living things and can be used to bring change to the spirit of the Galaxy.  The phrase was used in the context of the films to wish people goodwill in parting or before going into battle.

The Star Wars movie series was created by George Lucas and the first film, “Star Wars” was released on May 25, 1977.  It was followed “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and then “Return of the Jedi” in 1983.  These three highly successful films are considered the original Star Wars trilogy which when combined earned over $4 billion.  Then, after a span of 16 years, “Phantom Menace” was released in 1999, followed by “Attack of the Clones” in 2002 and “Revenge of the Sith” in 2005.  These three films in the franchise are considered the prequel trilogy which never seemed to reach the same commercial success as the original films.  Last year the highly anticipated “The Force Awakens” was released and it continues the Star Wars story, is the first of three movies that will follow the characters into the years after “Return of the Jedi” (I guess you could say it is the “post” trilogy!)

In this post I will mainly discuss the original trilogy of the epic Star Wars series.  So let’s get started … “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”.

The History of the Star Wars Movie Series

After George Lucas mild success with the 1973 film “American Graffiti” he decided that Lucasfilm’s next film would be a science fiction adventure story.  He began writing a rough draft inspired by a relatively obscure 1958 film called “The Hidden Fortress” by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (Lucas had recently graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in 1967 and possibly saw the film as part of his Fine Arts courses).  Between 1973 and 1976, several versions of the proposed science fiction film were written and various elements of the original story were changed, added or deleted.  The name of the main character’s changed from Annikin Starkiller to Luke Starkiller to finally Luke Skywalker.  As a result of the name change, the working title of the film also changed from the “Adventures of Luke Skykiller” to “The Star Wars” and then shortened to simply “Star Wars”.  (Interesting Note: After the financial success of the first film, Lucas was able to create an independent film production company which would be separate from the typical Hollywood studio system.  This would allow him complete control over his future films and he would eventually build a large complex for Lucasfilm in Marin County which he named Skywalker Ranch)

By 1976, Lucas had a final draft for the movie completed involving not only Luke but a an entire cast of characters including Princess Leia as a member of the Rebel Alliance, two robotic droids named C3PO and R2D2, Obi-Wan Kenobi a former Jedi Knight, Han Solo and Chewbacca as the renegade crew of the Millennium Falcon and the mysterious and sinister character of Darth Vader who is a member of the opposing Galactic Empire.  (Interesting Note:  Many months prior to the release of the original Star Wars movie, a book titled “Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” was published in November 1976 by Ballantine Books.  Alan Dean Foster was hired to write the book based on Lucas’ screenplay, although Lucas is credited as the author.  It is unclear as to whether the book was part of Lucas’ plan for marketing his upcoming movie but the initial print run sold 125,000 copies.  The photo shown below is my personal copy of the book that I happened to have stumbled upon a few years ago in an antique store, needless to say, I quickly purchased the book for under $10)

Star Wars book

The first Star Wars movie (later re-titled “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”) cast consisted of relatively unknown actors in the three principal parts.  Mark Hamill played Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia and Harrison Ford was Han Solo.  Ford had previously played a minor role in Lucas’ other film, American Graffiti.  Alec Guinness played ObiWan, Guinness was an established British stage and film actor who was hired to please the studio because they were concerned about the cast of unknown actors.  David Prowse played the role of Darth Vader but James Earl Jones gave the character its voice.  Peter Mayhew played the 200 year old Wookie named Chewbacca, Han Solo’s first mate on the Millennium Falcon.  Anthony Daniels played C3PO the protocol droid that is programmed to speak over six million languages.  Kenny Baker played R2D2 the droid that Princess Leia entrusts with the Death Star plans and also a special message for Obi-Wan.

Luke, Leia and Hans Solo  Darth Vader

C3PO and R2D2

The next phase of pre-production was scouting the locations for filming, creating the sets, models and background paintings as well as deciding on the final costumes for the various characters.  Lucas had a very distinct vision for the film and he worked closely with the designers at Elstree Studios in England styling the 30 different sets required for the film and selecting the props using a very small budget.  For the complicated visual effects, Lucas formed Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) which worked in a large warehouse in Van Nuys, CA.  The effects needed to give the illusion of spaceships traveling through the galaxy that were developed using digital motion control photography created by John Dykstra and his team.  (Interesting Note:  Despite the fact that Dykstra won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his work on the first Star Wars film, Lucas had fired him from ILM over creative differences)

The filming schedule was set to have three separate units filming simultaneously at various locations.  Principal photography began in March 1976 in the Tunisian desert in North Africa was used for the scenes of Tatooine, Death Valley National Park was also used for some Tatooine scenes.  Tikal National Park in Guatemala was used for the scenes of the Fourth Moon of Yavin Rebel base.  Elstree Studios is where the Millennium Falcon, Death Star and several other interior scenes were filmed while at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England the final awards ceremony scene in the film was shot on the large Stage H.

A New Hope - original cast

The final phase was post-production in which the visual effects involving the space sequences were being completed by ILM and sound effects were added by Ben Burtt, who won an Oscar for Special Achievement for Sound Effects Editing.  The famous lightsaber battle scenes were choreographed by Bob Anderson and the lightsaber effects as well as R2D2 were created by John Stears, who won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects.  (Interesting Note: The lightsaber was the sword-like weapon used by the Jedi Knights and the Sith.  The lightsabers had specific colors, such as the green lightsaber was used by Luke Skywalker and other Jedi Knights.  The red lightsaber was used by Darth Vader and other members of the Sith.  The blue lightsaber was used by Obi-Wan and the other Jedi Guardians or by Jedi Knights with higher powers)

When Lucas was in need of a composer for the first Star Wars film, Stephen Spielberg recommended John Williams who he had previously worked with him on his 1975 movie “Jaws”.  The Star Wars soundtrack was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, with Williams conducting, at the Anvil Studios in Denham England recorded in March 1977. The memorable Star Wars film score known as “Luke’s Theme” won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and the soundtrack album won the Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.  (John Williams would eventually compose all the music for the Star Wars movie series)

Finally, Star Wars written and directed by George Lucas was released on May 25, 1977 into fewer than 40 theaters nationwide and Lucas was so convinced that the movie would fail that he planned a trip to Hawaii to distract him on opening weekend.  While in Hawaii, Lucas watched the evening news reporting on the large crowds queuing up at the movie theaters to see the movie but it wasn’t until it was finally confirmed that Star Wars had overwhelming broke box office records that Lucas realized his “little science fiction film” was not only a huge hit but it had just made him a very wealthy man!  (Interesting Fact: After visiting the set of his friend and fellow director Spielberg’s “Close Encounter of the Third Kind”, Lucas had serious doubts about the success of his own film and felt that Close Encounters would be more successful than Star Wars.  Spielberg disagreed and he felt Star Wars would be the bigger hit.  To settle the disagreement, Lucas proposed that each would trade 2.5% of the profit of each other films.  Well, the bet turned out to be very profitable for Spielberg who still receives his share of the profits from Star Wars)

Star Wars poster of original film

To celebrate the enormous success of Star Wars, the film had an unprecedented second opening at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on August 3, 1977 in Los Angeles, CA.  During the festivities attended by thousands of people there was a special ceremony in which C3PO, R2D2 and Darth Vader placed their “footprints” in front of the theater, an honor usually received for established Hollywood movie actors.

Star Wars premiere 1977

The second film of the original trilogy was “The Empire Strikes Back” which was released on May 21, 1980.  The film was directed by Irvin Kershner, screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan from a story by George Lucas.  Lucas was the executive producer, overseeing all aspects of the production.  The film continues the story of Star Wars as the Rebel Alliance has relocated to the ice planet of Hoth to escape the Galactic Empire.  Luke soon leaves to train with the Jedi Master named Yoda (Frank Oz was the puppeteer and voice of Yoda, the puppet was created by Stuart Freeborn while Warwick Davis appeared in costume for the walking scene) Meanwhile, an old friend of Han’s named Lando Calrissian (played by Bill Dee William) unfortunately turns Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C3PO over to Darth Vader and Han is frozen in a block of carbonite.  Before this happens, Leia confesses her love for Han and he famously responds, “I know”.  Back on Dagobah, sensing that his friends are in serious danger Luke is faced with the decision to complete his training to become a full Jedi Knight or to save his friends.  Luke leaves Yoda to confront Vader who tries to persuade him to join the Empire and the dark side.  During their lightsaber battle Vader severs Luke’s right hand and in the end Vader confesses that he is Luke’s father.  (Interesting Note: This major plot twist’s backstory was that Vader, previously known as Anakin Skywalker, was a former Jedi student of Obi-Wan Kenobi that been turned to the dark side.  In an attempt to protect Luke, Obi-Wan had sent him to Tatooine and that is where we find him at the beginning of Star Wars living with Aunt and Uncle)

Empire Strikes Back poster

The third film of the original trilogy was “Return of the Jedi” which was released on May 25, 1983.  The film was directed by Richard Marquand, screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas.  The film opens with the Galactic Empire constructing a second Death Star in the orbit above the planet of Endor; the first Death Star was destroyed in the Battle of Yavin by Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film.  Seeing an opportunity, the Rebel Alliance plans an attack on the incomplete space station and to also eleminate Emperor Palpatine (played by Ian McDiarmid) who is onboard overseeing the final stages of the Death Star II construction.  On Endor the Rebels are hoping to deactivate the protective shield of the Death Star as part of their attack plan.  Meanwhile, Luke is coming to grips with the fact that Darth Vader (a former Jedi Knight named Anakin Skywalker) is his father and he struggles with this knowledge that Anakin had turned to the dark side.  In the Battle of Endor, the Rebels are victorious in destroying the Death Star and killing the Emperor.  Darth Vader also dies but before he does he tells Luke that Leia is his daughter.  Saddened by the death of Vader, Luke returns to Endor to tell Leia that she is his sister.  In the end, Leia tells Han that she loves Luke because he is her brother, this news shocks him but it also makes him very happy because has come to the realization that he has fallen in love with Leia.  (Interesting Note: After “Empire Strikes Back” completed filming in 1980, it was uncertain as to whether Harrison Ford would return in his role as Han Solo since he had only signed a contract for the first two Star Wars films.  To add to the situation, Ford had become a huge star as “Indiana Jones”.  This was the reason that Han was enclosed in the block of carbonite because the character could potentially be killed off to explain Ford’s absence.  Lucas was against this idea and Ford renegotiated his contract for the last movie in the original trilogy)

Return of the Jedi poster

As the “Return of the Jedi” moved toward completion, Lucasfilm had developed the THX sound system.  Lucas had been unhappy with the sound quality of the movie theaters that showed his films and felt that a better sound system was needed.  THX is a high-fidelity audio/visual sound system that would be compatible with any sound recording format whether digital or analog.  Movie theaters needed to undergo a certification process requiring specific acoustic, technical and architectural standards to be able to use THX.  When “Return of the Jedi” was in May 1983 it was the first film to use the THX sound system.  (Interesting Note:  The first theater install the THX system was the Norris Cinema Theatre located on the campus of the University of Southern California which was where Lucas graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 1967)

On a personal level, the making the original Star Wars trilogy effected not only Lucas health but also the state of his marriage.  Lucas had worked through an extensive and exhausting schedule making of the three films which lead him to be diagnosed with hypertension and he was warned to reduce his stress levels.  His demanding schedule also affected his marriage and by 1983 his wife had filed for a divorce.  The final divorce settlement also affected his financial situation and he lost a large portion of the fortune he had earned.  The ideas he had for the prequel trilogy were put on hold and he took a break from Star Wars, instead he worked with Spielberg as executive producer and story writer for the Indiana Jones film series.

In preparations for the 20th anniversary of the original Star Wars film in 1997 Lucas decided to re-release the trilogy into theaters.  With the new special effects technologies in filmmaking, in particular computer generated imagery (CGI), Lucas felt he was now able to incorporate the visual effects and additional scenes that he was not able to achieve before in the original trilogy.  With the renewed interest in the Star Wars franchise, Lucas decided to move forward with the prequel trilogy which elaborated on the backstory of Annakin SkyWalker and how he turned to the dark side.  “Phantom Menace” was released on May 19, 1999, “Attack of the Clones” on May 16, 2002 and “Revenge of the Sith” was released on May 19, 2005.

Phantom Menace poster  Attack of the Clones poster  Revenge of the Sith poster

In January 2012, Lucas announced his retirement from producing major motion pictures.  By June 2012, Kathleen Kennedy, was named co-chair of Lucasfilm.  Kennedy had co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall; she had previously worked with Lucas on the Indiana Jones series.  Then when Lucas sold his company to the Walt Disney Company a few months later Kennedy became the president of Lucasfilm.  At time it was also announced that there would three new Star Wars films.  The sequel trilogy would continue the story of Luke, Leia and Han Solo.  The first film in that trilogy, “The Force Awakens”, was released on December 18, 2015.  (Interesting Note: 20th Century Fox retained the physical distribution rights to the first two Star Wars trilogies, owning permanent rights for the original 1977 film and holding the rights to the other five films until May 2020.  The Walt Disney Studios owns the digital distribution to all of the Star Wars films with the exception of the first original film.

The Force Awakens logo