On a recent long flight I had the pleasure of watching the new and very delightful movie Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, starring Lesley Manville. On getting home, I decided to read the book. It’s the story of a London char woman who falls in love with a Dior dress owned by one of her clients. After some luck (on the football pools) and lots of scrimping and saving, Mrs Harris finds herself on a plane bound for the House of Dior so that she can buy a dress.
The novel is by American author Paul Gallico (1897 – 1976), best known for his wartime tearjerker The Snow Goose and for five books about cats. He also wrote The Poseidon Adventure, turned into a movie that started a whole string of disaster films. The tale of Mrs Harris, published in 1958 was such a success that Gallico followed it up with three more novels about the cleaning lady – Mrs Harris Goes to New York (1960), Mrs Harris, MP (1965), and Mrs Harris Goes to Moscow (1974). The first of the books was turned into a TV movie starring Angela Lansbury (recently deceased). Gallico once confessed “I am a rotten novelist”, but his books won awards, were critically acclaimed, many were turned into films, and he was clearly a highly accomplished story-teller. He began his writing career as a sports journalist and was successful in that too.
The new film version does make several changes from the book, especially at the end, but the scenes in Paris are gorgeous, Lesley Manville does a wonderful job in the part, and it is well worth watching. I adored all the Dior gowns on display.
On that same topic I recently read and was fascinated by a book by Justine Picardie called Miss Dior: A Tale of Courage and Couture. Catherine Dior was sister of the great fashion designer. She worked for the French Resistance during WWII, but her group was betrayed and she was captured and tortured by the Nazis. She was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she endured horrific conditions. Those chapters of the book were traumatic to read, but the information about the world of fashion and Dior’s famous clientele, the trials of those involved in the Nazi terror and Catherine’s role in those trials, all made for most interesting reading. Justine Picardie has also written an excellent biography of Coco Chanel (if you want to know more about Chanel, you might like to watch my video talk.
So why not enter the glorious world of Dior by watching the new movie and also reading the very charming novel, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris.
Do you own a Dior dress? Have you seen the Mrs Harris movie and what did you think of it? I’d love to know in a comment.
I love the society’s logo, which depicts Johnson imitating a kangaroo. He heard about the creature from Joseph Banks (later Sir Joseph Banks) and Johnson astonished the group then present by rising from his seat and attempting to imitate this strange creature. The logo was drawn by cartoonist and print-maker John Spooner.