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Costume design - The Sun Never Sets
  • The Sun Never Sets
    Haffenden, Elizabeth, born 1906 - died 1976
  • Enlarge image

The Sun Never Sets

  • Object:

    Costume design

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1938 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Haffenden, Elizabeth, born 1906 - died 1976 (theatre designers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour and pencil on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by George Hoare, Archivist of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

  • Museum number:

    S.28-2019

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Costume design by Elizabeth Haffenden for a vestal virgin in the play, The Sun Never Sets, adapted from the West African stories of Edgar Wallace by Pat Wallace and Guy Bolton, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1938.

Elizabeth Haffenden (1906-1976) trained at Croydon School of Art and the Royal College of Art and worked as a commercial artist, before becoming a costume designer in the 1930s. She designed for theatre and films, a long association with historical drama beginning with her first film, Colonel Blood (1934). In the 1940s she was director of the costume department at Gainsborough Studios, famous for its period melodramas. Her films included The Wicked Lady (1945), the tale of a nobleman's wife who takes to highway robbery and whose low-cut dresses gave the censors cause for concern. Haffenden moved to MGM British Studios as resident costume designer in the 1950s, her designs for Ben-Hur (1959) winning her an Academy Award. She won a second Academy Award for A Man for All Seasons (1966).

The Sun Never Sets, described in the theatre programme as a melodrama, was a musical play based on the stories of popular novelist, Edgar Wallace. A film version of Wallace's 1911 novel Sanders of the River had been a commercial success in 1935, starring Leslie Banks as a British Commissioner in Colonial Nigeria. Banks repeated the role on stage at Drury Lane, with African-American actor and opera singer, Todd Duncan, as a local chieftain and a pre-film stardom Stewart Granger as a kidnapped army captain. Much of the drama was supplied by Edna Best as an aviatrix who has to be rescued from what Ivor Brown (Observer, 12 June 1938) summed up as 'all the various fates that are worse than death'. Reviewers enjoyed the scenery designed by Laurence Irving, which included a tropical swamp and the Temple of the Moon Goddess, and were amused by the melodramatic plot, the spectacular effects, and the heroism of the British contingent, who, as Brown noted, 'never fail to dress for dinner.'

Physical description

Costume design by Elizabeth Haffenden for a vestal virgin in the play, The Sun Never Sets. Full length female figure wearing a blue fabric band wrapped around the upper part of her breasts and trailing from her left shoulder. She has a split floor length white skirt with a belt of black beads and a second of larger beads in pale green. She has four bracelets on her left arm, a ring with a red stone on each hand and a headdress of pale green strips (?leaves) attached to a pale green headband. Annotated in pencil '3 Piestesses [sic]' and the title 'RIVER OF STARS / VESTAL VIRGIN', upper right. Signed and dated, in pencil, lower right hand corner.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)

Date

1938 (made)

Artist/maker

Haffenden, Elizabeth, born 1906 - died 1976 (theatre designers)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour and pencil on paper

Dimensions

Height: 57.4 cm, Width: 39.8 cm

Descriptive line

Costume design by Elizabeth Haffenden for a vestal virgin in the play, The Sun Never Sets, adapted from the West African stories of Edgar Wallace by Pat Wallace and Guy Bolton, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 1938

Materials

Watercolour; Pencil; Paper

Techniques

Drawing (image-making); Painting (image-making)

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Designs; Theatre

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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