Bang Envy - Britt Ekland

My, it's been a while since we had a good Bang Envy post around here! I'm not sure when Britt Ekland occured to me - I've been collecting her images here and there for some time and filing them away (as I do for all of my BE posts) and then coming back to them again & again to try to edit down to the best ones. While the Bang Envy category is full of French & Italian ladies of note, this may be our very first Swede...and the Swedes know a thing or two about allure - things we should all learn!

Although she was a model throughout the 1960s, it was her 1964 marriage to Peter Sellers that really brought  Britt Ekland into the public eye. Although the marriage was short-lived, Ekland went on to be one of the original "IT" girls of the 1960s-1970s, dating rock stars and even doing her time as a a Bond Girl opposite Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974.

From the movies to the romances to the rock & roll, Ekland's life is a lovely mix of glamour, humor, style, and playfulness.

Classic Swedish glamour... modeling shots from the 1960s.

In one of the greater urban myths of 1960s Hollywood, Peter Sellers fell for Britt Ekland after just seeing her photograph. He then proposed to her after just one face-to-face meeting. After having daughter Victoria, the pair split in 1968. In 1973, Ekland had her second child, Nic Adler, with producer Lou Adler.

With Peter Sellers, circa 1964.

 I LOVE LOVE LOVE this look - the beret, the tunic with the pockets, and most of all the tassel necklaces. It's very Bonnie Parker meets Patty Hearst, with a little bit of Emma Peel mixed in. The perfect cocktail of so many different icons of the era, but reduxed and toned down for real life.

Ekland in a leopard cat suit, Vogue 1965 by David Bailey.

After a while (especially as the 1970s dawned), Ekland moved away from her classic "Swedish straight" hairstyles and signature bangs to a more natural, honey-blonde color & free-flowing style that was totally in tune with the new decade. In 1973, Ekland sealed her cult-goddess status in the folk horror film, The Wicker Man. Ekland's singing & slapping the wall while naked scene from the movie was considered so risqué that even now it's hard to find an original print in the United States.

Ekland on the cover of Esquire - a classic George Lois era - from 1969.

Ekland as one of the more provocatively-named Bond Girls, Mary Goodnight, from 1974's The Man with the Golden Gun.

Ekland met Rod Stewart in 1975 via mutual friend Joan Collins, and the pair lived together for nearly two years. After this, she went on to relationships with Phil Lewis from Girl & L.A. Guns, as well as Slim Jim Phantom, with whom she had her third child, T.J., in 1988.

Rod Stewart and Britt Ekland from Life.

Ekland still remains close friends with Sharon & Ozzy Osbourne, and remains a figure in the rock & roll scene. In the 2005 HBO biopic The Life & Death of Peter Sellers, Ekland was portrayed by Charlize Theron who invited her to attend the film's premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Today, Ekland raises funds for Osteoporosis and Alzheimer's charities, and makes an occasional appearance on television. What a life, eh? So many things I'd love to ask her.....

Film: Après-Ski Chic from The Pink Panther

Fran Jeffries (left) sings "Meglio Stasera" in The Pink Panther from 1964.

To honor the recent passing of Blake Edwards, TCM played a number of his most famous films earlier this week. Among them was The Pink Panther from 1964. Although this is always an entertaining film (the exploding bottle of champagne still makes me crack up!), I had never really noticed how chic it is in all of its mid-1960s glamour. Sure, the two female leads are played by Capucine and Claudia Cardinale, but did you also know that those two were dressed exclusively by Yves Saint Laurent for the film? No, I didn't either.

But there's one utterly fabulous and diverting scene that doesn't present YSL's looks front and center. Instead, it offers one Fran Jeffries singing Henry Mancini's lesser-known standard "Meglio Stasera", or "It Had Better Be Tonight" as it's known in English. While sporting a fine vocal ability, Jeffries was primarily a nightclub singer who later made a splash doing not one but two different Playboy features; one at age 35 in 1971 entitled "Frantastic!" and one at age 45 in 1981 entitled "Still Frantastic!" Watching this clip you'll understand why...

Fran Jeffries swings this song right out of the chalet. It's an amazing three minutes that captures the essences of the sexy and stylish sixties. It's a cold night in Cortina d'Ampezzo with all of the well-heeled elite having parked their sleds (and Rolls Royces) outside in order to gather around the fondue pot. Jeffries, playing the character of the "Greek Cousin" gets up to entertain. Lucky for her, a cute group of jazzy Italians in fuzzy sweaters also plays percussion (and accordeon) and they're happy to keep the beat while she does her thing around the fire.

The first minute of the song is actually a great bit of directing. The singer dominates the foreground at left, while she serves to frame the main characters (David Niven, Robert Wagner, Capucine, & Claudia Cardinale) who are all seated at a lounge table at right. While she dances around, she interacts with the more "important" members of the cast, while they're all enraptured by her fabulous performance. Indeed, I think this was done in one take so the whole sequence is pretty amazing. She's energetic, hits her marks, and spurs the comedy ever so slightly.

Then of course, there's also the clothes. Fran Jeffries' main asset, her shapely figure, is shown to perfection in a skin-tight but mostly modest set of black pants with a beaded turtleneck sweater. To be fair, the beading on this sweater is something fantastic: black and red beads form stripes from shoulder to shoulder creating an eye-catching breastplate effect. Today I'd say it was something from Prada, but back then who knows? The rest of the scene is equally well-attired. Lots of cozy-looking stretch ensembles with big sweaters - à la vintage Bogner or Moncler - but the truly chic of the group are given pops of color and the right touches of metallics and baubles. The character called "Brenda de Branzie" is given a fabulous pant ensemble in cobalt blue accented chunky jade jewelry - a very fun and sophisticated color combination if I do say so! Cardinale's character, Princess Dahla, looks appropriately regal in a purple silk pantsuit with a jeweled neckline. There's also a lady in a great taupe and gold jumpsuit that wouldn't normally attact my attention, but at the end when she gets up to dance I spotted her gold boots which absolutely won me over.

This was still the early 1960s when it was still considered a bit risqué for women to be out in the evening wearing pants of any sort. I think that the costuming in this scene shows the perfect bit of European sophistication of casual elegance. It also makes the moment authentic and fun, like the audience is invited to the party, and that's how it still feels over forty years later.

Mancini's song "Meglio Stasera" is supremely catchy and comes up over and over throughout the score of the film, but this is the only time it's actually sung in full and in Italian. However, I'm sad to say that Jeffries' interpretation is not included on the original score. Over the years it's been recorded by vocalists such as Sarah Vaughan and Michael Bublé, but I love the version recorded by London's Blue Harlem group. It's fabulous! Either way, one cannot argue that Fran Jeffries' version from The Pink Panther is one of the very best out there: an impeccably chic bit of film with style, rhythm, and fun all in one!