There have been newer interpretations of the revolutionary Russian classic Dr Zhivago – and ones probably more faithful to the original novel – but none has surpassed the visual, sweeping, epic appeal of David Lean’s 1965 masterpiece.
Matching the impossible beauty of Julie Christie and Omar Sharif, the film is based on Boris Pasternak’s 1957 classic work of the same name, set in Russia during the First World War. The Russian Revolution forms the backdrop to the story of married Yuri Zhivago – a doctor, but a poet at heart – and Lara, the woman he cannot forget.
The film won five Oscars, including best adapted screenplay by Robert Bolt, best original score by Maurice Jarre, best art direction, and best costume design for Phyllis Dalton, who created more than 3,000 costumes for the cast. Christie was said to have had more than 90 costume combinations. One of the most memorable outfits is worn by Geraldine Chaplin, as Yuri’s understanding wife, Tonya, who arrives at Moscow train station in a fitted pink overcoat with matching fur hat and grey muff.
A favourite for winter fashion lovers simply has to be the lavish fur coat, boots and cossack hats worn by Christie and Sharif when Lara and Yuri retreat to the isolated Varykino estate (actually filmed in central Spain, although some landscape shots were filmed in Finland), where Yuri begins writing the Lara poems that will make him famous. (An honourable mention must also go to Sharif’s cream chunky jumper, worn as he writes.)
Thanks to Christie’s luminous beauty and the design genius of Phyllis Dalton, the film has been inspiring winter fashion for five decades, with its stunning (and remarkably large and varied) wardrobe of fur coats and hats, ball gowns, knitwear, white shirts and heavy woollen tailoring.
The Zhivago look inspired the leading designers of the time and the 1966 collections for Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent reflected the film’s style.
In 2015, modern winter fashion lovers prefer faux fur, which is now so cleverly created that it matches the lavish luxuriousness of the real thing, while woollen tailoring in the form of utility great coats and jackets has never been so accessible, both on the High Street and from independent manufacturers and retailers.
On the catwalks for this winter, Badgley Mischka showed very Zhivago-esque cossack hats and collars, and the Russian theme continues into this spring, with braided and double-breasted capes and tailoring from Tommy Hilfiger, among others.
Fifty years on, the film has lost none of its passion or its beauty, with Sharif and Christie immortalised as Yuri Zhivago and his Lara. Unforgettable. “Ah … then it’s a gift.”