Costume Designer Trish Summerville on Diving Into Hollywood’s Past in “Mank”

Susannah Edelbaum
January 25, 2021
The Credits (MPA)

David Fincher’s black and white epic, Mank, revisits the storied Hollywood era of the late 1930s when Orson Welles was writing what would go down in history as one of the best films of all time, Citizen Kane. But did he write it alone or with the help of Herman Mankiewicz, a once sought after screenwriter fallen prey to twin drinking and gambling problems? In Fincher’s version of events, based on a screenplay by his father, Jack Fincher, Mank the man (Gary Oldman) may have burned through the industry’s goodwill, but he was indubitably a co-writer on the film. However, the question isn’t central to Mank the movie.

Instead, the film’s focus is a gloves-off look at the gilded lives of Depression-era honchos Louis B. Mayer (Arliss Howard), William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance), and Irving Thalberg (Ferdinand Kingsley), and the effect their political meddling and pay machinations have on the vast army of writers, grips, costume designers, and makeup artists who work beneath them. For Mank costume designer Trish Summerville (Red SparrowThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), “one of the things I really enjoyed about the film was that we got to dress every walk of life of the 30s and 40s.” Though much of the film is set in an out-of-the-way house where Mank has been set up to heal from an injury and dry out, and spends most of his time in bed in a robe, Summerville’s work spans ample plebeian daywear to Marion Davies’s (Amanda Seyfried) furs (a high-end faux fur hand-painted to mimic silver mink) and gowns and the sharply tailored suits favored by Los Angeles power brokers of the day.

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