Born in Oakland, California, Plunkett studied law at the University of California, where he was a member of the California-Alpha chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, but showed greater interest in the school's theatrical group. He moved to New York City in 1923 and began work as a stage actor as well as a costume and set designer. After some time in Greenwich Village, he moved back to California, this time to Hollywood, and found work as a movie extra. (He can be seen dancing with Irene, another future top designer, in Erich von Stroheim's 1925 film The Merry Widow.) He soon made a career change to costume and wardrobe.
Plunkett's first credited work as a costume designer was the 1927 film Hard-Boiled Haggerty. At RKO, he developed a huge costume and wardrobe department that became a major studio asset. Given free rein, he set about creating costumes that rivaled the work of his contemporaries, such as Travis Banton and Adrian.
Walter Plunkett was a prolific costume designer who worked on more than 150 projects throughout his career in the Hollywood film industry. He lived in West Los Angeles on Goshen Avenue with his devoted and much younger partner, Lee. Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy would visit them occasionally. "They were both into knitting." Bachardy remembered. "They knitted covers for their toilet seats. They knitted things all over the place." Walter formally adopted so that he could inherit his estate.
Walter Plunkett for Katharine Hepburn - 1949 - Adam's Rib - Photo by Joanne Arnett
Scarlett's red robe from 'Gone With The Wind' (1939). Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett
Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, 1939. Film designer Walter Plunkett spent months studying historical socites and private collections for costumes pieces from the civil war period. This is one of the most beloved from the movie
Gone With The Wind, Scarlett and Rhett. Costumer Designer: Walter Plunkett
'Gone With The Wind' - Scarlett's striped sleeves. Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett
Outfits from "Show Boat" (1951). Designed by Walter Plunkett. Red and ivory striped period dress with matching parasol. Black and white leather button-up period boots with black fringe. Dark red wool cutaway coat with grey satin lapel and coordinating vest. Worn by Marge Champion as “Ellie May Shipley” and Gower Champion as “Frank Schultz” in the “I Might Fall Back on You” number in Show Boat.
Debbie Reynolds' fabulous leaf print dress in Singin' in the Rain. Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett
Lupe Vélez wearing a Walter Plunkett
Mary of Scotland Costume for 'Mary' by Walter Plunkett 1936
Scarlet O'hara's dress to the barbecue
Cyd Charisse, Two Weeks in Another Town, 1962 Costume design by Walter Plunkett
Elizabeth Taylor's dress for the final scenes in Little Women, costume designer Walter Plunkett
A Beautiful Girl...Singin' in the Rain (1952) Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett
Lupe Velez in Strictly Dynamite (1934, RKO). Designer: Walter Plunkett.
1955 Walter Plunkette/Helen Rose for Esther Williams in "Jupiter's Darling". Woven wool and lame'.
Charcoal Grey dress. Worn by Ann Miller in "Kiss Me Kate." (1953) Designed by Walter Plunkett. Charcoal grey silk dress with ivory polka dots and collar. Worn by Ann Miller as “Lois Lane ‘Bianca’ in the “Why Can’t You Behave” number
Renaissance-style gown. Designed by Walter Plunkett for Lana Turner to wear in the 1956 historical movie "Diane." Green satin gown with bronze embroidered bodice & overskirt, wide bell sleeve with brown fur cuffs.
Costume designed by Walter Plunkett for Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County (1957)
Plunkett's best-known work is featured in two films, Gone with the Wind and Singin' in the Rain, in which he lampooned his initial style of the Roaring Twenties.
In 1951, Plunkett shared an Oscar with Orry-Kelly and Irene for An American in Paris.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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