Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Waner Brothers 1945 - Ann Sheridan Part 1

“I'd always admired her (Ann Sheridan), she has the kind of figure I draw when I sketch designs – tall, slim, broad-shoulders, tiny waist and slight hips.” Travilla 1946

"There's one young designer I consider tops. He's Billy Travilla of our Studios. After each picture, I can't resist buying the wardrobe he's designed for me." Ann Sheridan November 1946

By 1945, what had started off as a promising career was going nowhere and while unemployed as a designer, to bring funds into the marriage, Travilla  began painting semi-nude South Seas beauties on black velvet. "OK, so it sounds corny, but they were something new at the time."* He displayed his creations at a tropical-themed restaurant just off Hollywood Boulevard called Don The Beachcomber's, and it's here, that Travilla's luck changed.

Don the Beachcombers on McCadden Place in Hollywood California.
Don's (as the locals called it) was a favorite hang-out of Warner Brothers actress Ann Sheridan who purchased several of Travilla's paintings to hang in her boyfriend's apartment, which she was decorating. Asking to meet the artist, the pair hit it off immediately and became fast friends. Sheridan was a  tomboy from a large family in Texas, and though only five years older than Travilla, proclaimed herself his "Aunt Annie" and was going to help him further his career - she made the promise that if she was successful in her contract re-negotiations with Warner Brothers, that Travilla would come to work at the studio as her personal designer.

Sheridan in a gown worn today with ease.
Sheridan got her way and soon Travilla found himself employed at $400 a week. And thanks to stories in the press how Sheridan was "So enthusiastic about the 25 outfits designed by Bill Travilla for her next film (Nora Prentiss) - we have the best of everything in America. We don't have to fuss with phony foreign fashions," he found himself signed to a $10,000 ten-week guaranteed contract for Sheridan's next production. According to published reports, Ann ordered copies of twenty of the twenty-five costumes for her personal wardrobe.

Nora Prentiss

Sketches from "Nora Prentiss." Original lone gone, these scanned from vintage magazine.

(Left two photos) Lumber jacket of black and white matching wool checks, features worked out darts taken on the outside instead of inside and pressed flat at the shoulderline and waist, forming loops for a black belt. Strips of felt hold in the wrists of the balloon sleeves. The dart detail is repeated on the slim crepe skirt and black wool topper.

Gown from "Prentiss"

The Unfaithful

Travilla told the press in December 1946 press: “Nothing shall ever veil, conceal, or minimize in any way the gorgeous works nature has formed on Miss Sheridan. Her hip-line is an unparalleled work of art and I wouldn't commit the sin of hiding it.”

Drapery of the sheath-like gown ends in a cascade of over the hip-line and down the side back. The fabric is pink and gold metalic jersey.

Left: Beige hard-finished wool.  Open work fagotting trim neckline, emphasizes flared hip-line of jacket. Right: Soft draped suit of moss green wool with stand-up collar with hip-line drape forming the pockets. Rounded look at the hip-line of the suit jacket is achieved by pannier drapery around the hiplline. Skirt is tapered to the hemline and is wrapped to the side. 
Director Vincent Sherman, Travilla and Sheridan on the set of The Unfaithful.

Zachary Scott, Sheridan, Travilla with wife Dona Drake enjoy a night out,
Sheridan is wearing a gown from "Nora Prentiss."
Around this time, Travilla told the Chicago Sun the difficulties he faced when presented with a picture to design for.

“Two parts creative artist, one part story teller, one part prophet, a dash of insight into character – these are some of the qualities that goes into making a designer of clothes for motion pictures. The clothes designed to be worn in a motion picture fulfill many more functions than clothes worn in real life. They have a very important share in setting moods of scenes, showing the audience the character portrayed and in developing the story on the screen.

“A motion picture designer of course, keeps abreast of fashions being created in the style centers, New York, Paris, and Hollywood, but he cannot copy or adapt them to his use. He has to guess ahead into the future to know what will be high style for the type of person depicted in the film when that film is reaches the public. It takes a minimum of six months to prepare a picture for the screen and fashions can undergo revoluntionary changes in that length of time.

“And last, but not least, the designed needs to capture the character and personality of the person for whom he designs and keep in mind her special likes and dislikes. Then the clothes which he desgins will suit her so well she will be at ease and can give complete conentration to the portrayal of her part. Looking the part she is portraying helps her to act it.

“Only the finest materials and workmanship can pass muster on the screen because of closeups. The camera magnifies the costume to eight times its size. Obviously, the slightest flaw in material would be very noticeable. So we have to be doubly careful.

“A lot of work? Sure it is, but I love it. Every new picture, every player is a new challenge. And I get an immense source of satisfaction in meeting it.”

Several of Travilla's designs for Sheridan's co-star Eve Arden.


  1. Thanks for all of the great photos of Ann!

  2. Enjoyed this article about Mr. Travilla as a designer and his relationship with Ann Sheridan.