Wallace 'Wally' Harton worked as a costumer in Twentieth Century-Fox's Men's Wardrobe Department, and served as chief costumer on three of the Planet of the Apes films - Planet of the Apes, the first sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes and the last film in the quintet Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Harton's professional career dates back to the early days of 'live' television, from which he graduated to feature film work - accumulating an impressive list of movie credits - and later into Fox's Wardrobe Department, where he supervised the costuming of many of the studio's television series and theatrical film productions.

Wally Harton's first contact with wardrobe and costuming was in a small theatre group in Los Angeles. He was hired in 1951 by NBC in Hollywood to work on the live TV productions of The Colgate Comedy Hour and Saturday Night Revue. After four years he moved over from these Kinescope productions to the live-to-air Pinky Lee Show, and stayed a year before he took over a series that was just starting at Hal Roach Studios called The Great Guildersleeve - his first time working with a filmed series. In 1955 he went on to The Gale Storm Show, and after Hal Roach Studios folded, he worked at Paramount Studios on Hell Is For Heroes with Steve McQueen. He costumed Facts Of Life and Critics Choice, starring Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, then did "The Adolph Eichmann Story" (Operation Eichmann?) and worked on Dr. Kildare for six months at MGM. After joining 20th Century Fox, Harton costumed The Time Tunnel, The Blue Light (with Robert Goulet), Land of the Giants (the first 17 segments), and most of Fox's TV series. He counted The Time Tunnel, with its different historical eras each week, as the weirdest and most difficult of the Irwin Allen sci-fi productions that he costumed: a lot of film clips from big productions were used, some of who's wardrobe was no longer in existence, and the wardrobe had to be improvised to match. Harton's feature films included Stagecoach (the 1966 remake), Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, The Seven Minutes, The Mephisto Waltz, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, The Man Who Could Talk To Kids and The Gravy Train, in addition to his three Apes pictures. His hardest picture to costume was Che! - mainly because of the time schedule in getting the actors to be fitted, while his favourite to costume was Anna And The King - because "it had simplicity and beauty". He also admired Star Trek and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea for the imagination and workable costumes, and his favorite features were Gone With The Wind and Dr. Zhivago.[1]

Wally Harton title

The costume designer for the original Planet of the Apes movie was Morton Haack (who was nominated for an Oscar for the picture), but Wally Harton stated that the costuming people were "always included in the budget meeting and the first director's meeting. The producer and the director gave us their ideas, then asked us for our suggestions. The combination of the three sometimes resulted in great ideas and great costumes." Harton further revealed that the costume revisions were "far too many to go into detail about. It was a real challenge to us, but after two months of experimenting, the costumes that are now being used began to evolve." "The theory behind the Apes costumes relates to the individual animals - in regard to size, colouring and mental capacities. The dark, menacing Gorillas were first considered to be in the dark brown shades, but we couldn't see him in the woods, so a dark, but more visible colour was used - maroon. Orange is derived from Orangutan, so nothing else would be right! A muted shade was used to create a full-figure that demanded respect for his brains. The Chimp was a real problem. After many tests of various colors, the only logical colour was green. Blue was too bold, red too bright, grey too drab, etc. Each colour went through many different dye jobs. The dyers would miss the right shade and the material had to be stripped out and re-dyed. It is all time consuming and expensive, not to mention nerve wracking. The leather insets had to be coloured to match the yardage, and that too proved to be time consuming and expensive. Then, there were numerous tests to be certain that they would photograph properly. The hardest costume in the first film was the 'human' costume. We tried many loosely-woven fabrics that had been dyed, aged, coloured, hammered and stomped. They all looked wrong. Then Morton Haack tried the palm bark from the palm tree, applied to some loosely-woven drapery fabric with latex glue. lt was a dusty and smelly job, but the effect was perfect. After each 'skirt' was finished, it was oversprayed with dark brown paint and rubbed with a rag to give it depth and character. That was the finished product." The biggest problem faced by the costumers on-set was that "the padding that gives the actors the ape-like 'humped' look is very thick and under the warm studio lights they all seem to sweat more - which in turn makes the appliances on their faces come loose. This creates a time problem in reapplying the sponge rubber back to their skin. All this was considered during the original film."[1]

Beneath set6

In Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Maurice Evans and James Gregory wore 'hair suits' for a scene. They initially didn't want to go through all the elaborate body make-up required and tried to have the scene eliminated, as Evans admitted: "In this sequel to 'Planet of the Apes', James Gregory, who plays the gorilla general, the Chief of the Army, and myself, the Minister of Science, dressed as an orangutan, were having a discussion in a steam bath. This required us to appear to be without any clothes on, but monkeys, if they're not clothed, obviously have hairy bodies. Well, neither of us were particularly keen on doing the scene. We didn't really believe that we could be made to look like monkeys without any clothes on. But the wardrobe master for 20th Century Fox, a genius of a fellow called Wally Horton, devised these two wonderful monkey suits so... we went ahead and did the scene and all was well."[2] Harton himself recalled "they mainly refused to have hair glued to their skin: that is, upper chest, back, and arms. We tried several approaches. One was to glue hair on to cotton, flesh-colored tights and shirts - that looked baggy. We attempted to make shirts and pants out of elastic fabric with hair applied - it constricted their movements. Then we found a white, shaggy material that had a stretch quality. We dyed and sprayed the color on it, and it worked!"[1]

On the set of Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Harton would shake out the costumes before handing them to the actors. “It‘s a habit I acquired after working on 'The Great White Hope' out in the desert. Each morning I had to shake out the costumes, as many times we’d find scorpions, lizards, and other desert life that would find its way into the clothing”, he explained.[3] In interview with Samuel James Maronie for Marvel Comics's Planet of the Apes Magazine, Wally Harton summed up the unheralded efforts of the costumer: "The average person who views a TV series or feature motion picture never realizes the hours of actual physical labour involved in the final project. They usually remark: "Oh, I'd love to work with him or her!" never thinking that they would have to be at work at 6 a.m. or get through at 11:30 p.m. on Friday and miss the ball game. We are scheduled for at least 54 hours during a five-day week, and that is only the beginning. How many people would be willing to carry a load of coats or boxes of shoes up a hill to dress a bunch of cowboys at six in the morning? How many would go into the star's dressing room and pick up a load of wet socks and shorts after a wet scene on the set? The little things are only part of our life. We dress the stars, the cast, the extras, and furnish the clothing for the set dressing. We determine the visual year of the production. Try leaving the sound off your TV set, then look at the clothing; it will tell you when. We are indirectly connected to the fashion world, because people are constantly trying to mimic our style or our fashions. If it weren't for our talents, all the productions on TV and the silver screen would be X-rated!"[1]

External LinksEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 An Interview With Wally Harton, by Samuel James Maronie - 'Planet of the Apes' UK #32 (31 May 1975)
  2. 'Cinefantastique Planet of the Apes Issue' (1972)
  3. Ape for a Day, by Samuel James Maronie - 'Planet of the Apes' UK #23 (29 March 1975)

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