Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.
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Everyone Will Be Talking About the Cars and Clothes of Carol

There is already Oscar buzz for actresses Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, who star in Todd Haynes's sumptuous period film Carol. But the supporting roles played by the cars and costumes, straight out of 1950s New York City, are also likely to be recognized when awards season comes around. Here's why.

  1. 1949 Packard Super Deluxe 8
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    1949 Packard Super Deluxe 8

    "Where are you going?" Mara's character, a saleswoman named Therese Belivet, asks Blanchett's sophisticated divorcée Carol Aird. Carol has just announced her plan to escape the city (and the mounting tension over custody of her daughter) during Christmas. “Wherever my car will take me," Carol responds. "West." This pivotal moment establishes the car as a central symbol in the film. "The car represents freedom," production designer Judy Becker says. "On their road trip, they can escape from the society that they live in." Carol's car, an oyster-hued 1949 Packard Super Deluxe 8 featuring a rare "Egyptian" hood ornament, was nicknamed "Ethel" by its owner, IT support specialist Eric Hansford, who lent the car to the production after responding to an ad. 

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  2. Super 16 mm
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    Super 16 mm

    Director of photography Ed Lachman shot the feature on Super 16 millimeter (as he did with Haynes's 2011 HBO miniseries, Mildred Pierce) to mimic the look and feel of film from the period. The resulting grain, amplified by shooting through car windows and other reflective material, gives each frame an emotional grit. "It was definitely an intention to steer clear of the brighter, sunnier, clearer colors of the Eisenhower ’50s, the ones that people tend to think of," Becker says.

    Source: © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  3. The Blue Dress
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    The Blue Dress

    "Carol's silhouette is very, very typical of the fashionable woman of the period—that very lean look," costume designer (and triple Academy Award winner) Sandy Powell explains. "I could have done a [full-skirted] Dior New Look, which was also incredibly fashionable. But it just didn’t seem right for her character, because there’s a certain amount of restraint there—a little bit of repression." Powell (whose sketch for Carol's shawl-collar dress is at right) consulted vintage Vogue and Harpers Bazaar issues from the period to create Carol's wardrobe from scratch (only select pieces were vintage finds). 

    Photographer: (left) Wilson Webb; Illustrator: (right) Sandy Powell. Both: © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  4. Cincinnati
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    Cincinnati

    To properly depict New York and its environs before the building boom of the '60s (and receive a beneficial tax incentive for the low-budget production), Haynes and Becker shot the entire film in Cincinnati. "Cincinnati had that kind of old, brick, skyscraper-y feel to it that really felt right," Becker says. "It made me think of a lost New York, which is exciting. Where is that New York? I’m having trouble finding it these days." The location even provided a suitable double for Chicago's Drake Hotel, where Carol and Therese stop on their road trip. The production photo directly above shows Cincinnati's Hilton Netherland Plaza—with Carol's Packard parked behind a '49 Packard taxi—before its cinematic transformation into the Drake.

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved. (2)

  5. A Vintage Find
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    A Vintage Find

    By pitting Carol's lean, simple silhouette against Therese's full-skirted, layered, and boldly patterned ensembles, Powell aimed to enforce their character's intrinsic differences. "Therese doesn’t start becoming aware of her look until she starts becoming aware of herself and how she’s developing," Powell elaborates. The dark gray coat, a vintage fair find, telegraphs practicality, while the distinctive hat is a nod to the period's emerging genre of color street photography. "A lot of [that photography] was at night, and a lot of it was in the rain or darkened skies," Powell says of works by such artists as Saul Leiter, a cue that cinematographer Lachman certainly took. "And little bits of red or yellow popped, like traffic lights and taxi cabs."

    Photographer: (left) Wilson Webb; Illustrator: (right) Sandy Powell. Both: © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  6. "Frankenberg's"
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    "Frankenberg's"

    When the film opens, Therese works as a sales assistant at Frankenberg's (top), a fictional department store based on the Bloomingdale's Manhattan flagship on 59th street and Lexington Avenue (bottom)—where book author Patricia Highsmith herself worked. (Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt is the basis for Carol.) The exterior seen in the film was an abandoned department store in Cincinnati that Powell and her team transformed, while the expansive (yet claustrophobic and windowless) interior was created at multiple locations.

    Photographer: (from top) Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved; Amanda Hall/Bloomberg

  7. Taxis
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    Taxis

    On another Cincinnati street, a 1950 Chevrolet and a 1949 Dodge serve as period-appropriate taxi cabs. "The cars give a sense of the hustle and bustle, and being hemmed in by the city ... and by the people and by society," Powell explains.

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  8. Plaids
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    Plaids

    The character of Abby Gerhad, Carol's former lover and current confidante (played by Sarah Paulson) stands stylistically apart from the more monochrome Carol with her penchant for plaid. "Plaid was right for the period," Powell says, "But I like it because it breaks it up, and keeps everything from being plain." As Therese's character develops, she, too, begins to incorporate more of the rust-colored pattern into her own wardrobe—a testament to her increasingly sophisticated style.

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  9. Convertibles
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    Convertibles

    Abby's substantial forest-green 1950 Packard convertible with taupe-colored accents complements her wardrobe of robust earth tones. “I know you don’t like traveling alone," she confides to Carol, and she does indeed often serve as her friend's driving companion, shepherding her from city to the New Jersey countryside, where she lives.

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  10. Black Tie
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    Black Tie

    Blanchett's estranged husband Harge "is a very traditional man," Powell says. "He would have had his suits made. They’re conventional, but I think they’re great. There’s nothing more attractive than a beautifully fitted suit on a man, and I really enjoy doing tailoring for men."

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  11. Jersey Mansion
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    Jersey Mansion

    Like his wardrobe, Harge's 1952 Cadillac (seen at right) is staid, daunting, and formidable. So, too, is the New Jersey mansion where he and his estranged wife raised their young daughter, Rindy. "We looked at the house in New Jersey where the real Carol—whom Patricia Highsmith encountered—had lived," Becker discloses. Highsmith "did not have a relationship with her, but she met this woman and became a bit obsessed."

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  12. Claire McCardell Dress
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    Claire McCardell Dress

    Carol, seen here with Rindy (whose hairstyle and array of pinafore dresses is somewhat coincidentally akin to those worn by Therese), wears one of the only vintage designer pieces Powell sourced. The ensemble, by designer Claire McCardell, was a serendipitous discovery. "I was really thrilled to find it, and really thrilled that it fit Cate," Powell says, especially since Blanchett wasn't available for fittings prior to production. The two had worked together twice before, however, and their collaboration was seamless. "The more you work with somebody, the easier it gets," Powell affirms. "She contributes loads [to the costuming process] just by putting something on and making it come to life."

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  13. Roadside Motel
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    Roadside Motel

    Throughout the film, cars are used as a framing device to connote a sense of entrapment, limitations, or dread. Here, cars front a low-lying motel that serves as one of the stops on Carol and Therese's trip out West. The desaturated palette—especially the ruddy, gray-inflected interiors within—hint at underlying anxieties. "They're almost 1940s colors that you might see in an old bathroom in a motel," Powell expounds. "It always feels a little bit like, 'Is it clean? Is it dirty?'"

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  14. Store Wear
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    Store Wear

    In her research, Powell uncovered the fact that most department store employees at the time wouldn't wear a uniform (save for a festive Santa hat flourish, such as that shown on Therese here). Instead, they would sport dark colors to distinguish themselves from shoppers. The underpinnings, such as Therese's mock-turtleneck here, were therefore used to inject some individuality by way of color. "We were drawn to a lot of these kinds of yellowy greens because of how emotionally unsettling they are," Powell says of the production as a whole. "They’re not comforting colors."

    Photographer: (left) Wilson Webb; Illustrator: (right) Sandy Powell. Both: © 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  15. Pit Stop
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    Pit Stop

    "This was a harbinger of the '50s," Powell says of the melon-colored Kentucky diner that was the site for an off-road pit stop. The more uptempo color, emblematic of a late-50s color palette, signals a shift in Therese's sense of self. 

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.

  16. Action!
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    Action!

    Haynes (left) directs Blanchett on set. Early in the film, the miniature train set and cityscape seen here signal the importance of transportation as a metaphorical device in telling the story.

    Photographer: Wilson Webb/© 2015 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.