Susan Granger’s review of “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” (eOne Films)
Inspired by the caption on a 1990 Victoria Roberts’ “New Yorker” cartoon, this is a predictably reverential yet amusing and informative documentary about Bergdorf Goodman, the mythic Fifth Avenue department store, located between 57th and 58th Streets.
Produced by Andrew Malloy, a Denver-based grandson of the original founder, Edwin Goodman, it chronicles the transformation of a modest, turn-of-the-century tailor shop to a revered Manhattan emporium, erected in 1928 on the site of what was once the Vanderbilt mansion. Circumventing the building code by listing themselves as janitors, Edwin Goodman and his wife, Belle, lived in the opulent, 16-room penthouse for many years. Eventually, the Goodman family sold the store to the Neiman Marcus Group, although they retained ownership of the physical premises.
As part of Bergdorf’s 111th anniversary celebration, literary agent-turned-director Mathew Miele was granted access to the premises, interviewing employees, including fashion director Linda Fargo, vetting the work of young designers like Ally Hilfiger; window-dresser/decorator David Hoey, creating a Christmas fantasy; and candid personal shopper Betty Halbreich.
Let’s not forget the celebrities: Giorgio Armani, Candice Bergen, Manolo Blahnik, Dolce & Gabanna, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Karl Lagerfeld, Lauren Bush Lauren, Susan Lucci, Christian Louboutin, Isaac Mizrahi, the Olsen twins, Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang, Jason Wu and others. There are anecdotes about the extravagance of Elizabeth Taylor, sending mink earmuffs to all her friends, and John Lennon, who bought 70 fur coats to give as gifts – and clips from a 1965 Barbra Streisand special.
Plus Joan Rivers, who declares, “People who take fashion seriously are idiots!”
This is just the latest fashion documentary, following “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” “The Tents,” “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” “The September Issue,” “Ultrasuede: The Search for Halston,” and “Unzipped.” Andrew Malloy and Matthew Miele’s next venture is a behind-the-scenes look at Tiffany & Company, which last year celebrated its 175th anniversary.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s” is a stunning 7, even if the obvious indulgence crosses the ‘informercial’ line.