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The Private Life of Don Juan

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (designed and made)

  • Date:

    1934 (designed and made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Messel, Oliver Hilary Sambourne, born 1904 - died 1978 (designers)

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the British Film Institute

  • Museum number:

    S.1649:1 to 2-2015

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Don Juan (1934), which starred Douglas Fairbanks senior as the legendary lover, provided Messel with his first opportunity to design costumes for a film production. 'Sennwald', writing for the New York Times, gave the film a lukewarm review but praised the designs: ‘Chiefly it is interesting for its visual distinction and for its gallery of ravishing ladies' (New York Times, 10 December 1934).
Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) played Don Juan. Sennwald was unmercifully critical 'The bounding one’s current return to the screen has about it a lamentable air of anachronism … the microphone is ruthlessly unkind to him. Neither in voice nor theatrical skill is he gifted to read lines.' (New York Times, 10 December 1934).

The British Film Institute (BFI) acquired its costume collection for display at the Museum of the Moving Image, which existed on the South Bank in London between 1988 and 1999. The collection is made up of British, European, American and Chinese films and covers the period from the silent film era to the mid-1990s. It contains a wealth of historic and significant film costumes worn by major performers and designed by some of the 20th century’s most important film costume designers. The collection was transferred to the V&A in 2015.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (designed and made)


1934 (designed and made)


Messel, Oliver Hilary Sambourne, born 1904 - died 1978 (designers)


Length: 69 cm Doublet, Width: 56 cm Doublet, Length: 85.7 cm Trousers, Width: 63.5 cm Trousers

Descriptive line

Film costume worn by Douglas Fairbanks as Don Juan in The Private Life of Don Juan, designed by Oliver Messel, 1934


Entertainment & Leisure; Film and Cinema; Costumes


Theatre and Performance Collection

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