Celebrating Big Hair in The Movies

To mark the release of Dolly Parton’s latest cinematic role, we see which movie hairdos measure up to her glorious bouffant…
There are a couple of things you can count on when Dolly Parton appears in a movie: Southern sass, folksy idioms, and big hair. From the brassy blonde bubble-headed perm she sported whilst revolutionising the workplace in Nine to Five, to the teased roller-set golden halo she wore to bury poor Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias, Parton is the undisputed back-combed queen of the movie do. This gaggle of voluminously haired movie types do come pretty close though…

Joan Cusack in Working Girl

Melanie Griffith may have had a mind for business and a body for sin in 1988 rom-com Working Girl, but Joan Cusack had the hair of Lion-O from Thundercats with the body of a small planet.

Joan Cusack’s scalp was forced to endure the weight of so much hairspray in Working Girl that a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination was awarded to her as compensation. She didn’t win of course, but to this day, Cusack still hasn’t broken the habit of walking sideways through doors. True story.

Parton-o-meter: 8 out of 10 easy, the volume, the girth, the feathering, Cusack’s no amateur.

David Bowie in Labyrinth

Bowie’s hair as the Goblin King in 1986’s Labyrinth is so voluminous we couldn’t even fit all of it in this picture. This variation on the Tina Turner mullet comes with handy add-in purple streaks for that special occasion (a wedding perhaps, or a creepy costume ball where you’re hoping to seduce a 14-year-old girl you’ve drugged, you know, anytime you want to look fancy).

Jareth here may look as if he’s lost a fight with the Suck Kut from Wayne’s World, but don’t laugh, he has the power of the voodoo, which means he can come in your French windows wearing Lily Savage make-up and perform close-up magic whenever he likes.

Parton-o-meter: It’s a 7. He’s achieved the necessary height, but where’s the girth Bowie? Where is the girth?

Ricki Lake in Hairspray

John Waters’ sixties-set 1988 comedy features – as you’d predict from its title – some gravity-defying coiffures (including one do that comes with its own concealed explosives), but it’s Ricki Lake’s repertoire of beehives as Tracy Turnblad that wins the day. Granted, Amber and Velma Von Tussle’s styles are more Dolly-esque for being blonde, but Tracy’s achieved so much mass with her hairstyle it practically has its own gravitational pull.

Parton-o-meter: 9. Hairstyles like these are probably the reason TV reception was so bad in the sixties.

Olivia Newton-John in Grease

Travolta’s hair height is none too shabby in this pic of love’s young dream (well, if love’s young dream is one in which high school girls to take up smoking, fry their roots, and start dressing like slutty superheroes to impress boys…), but Newton-John’s bouncy pillow of curls are in a category of their own.

If big hair truly is happy hair, then lycra-clad Sandy’s bonce must be orgasmic. Sandra Dee sports an audacious curly globe that extends up and out, reaching up to the skies like man’s hubristic thirst to know God’s power. It’s the tower of babel in barnet-form, and it’s magnificent.

Parton-o-meter:An easy 9. Dolly would approve.

Princess Merida in Brave

So large and unwieldy is Princess Merida’s animated bonce in upcoming Pixar film Brave that the technical folk had to develop a whole new thingamywotsit to translate it onto screen. They’ve essentially had to reinvent animated hair just to make that ginger thatch bounce in the right way, which sends Merida zooming to the top of the Diva list (even Cher’s never required an entirely new rendering platform). Several families of chaffinch could be housed in that medieval thicket, making it a highly impressive entry.

Parton-o-meter: Sadly, just a 3. Though the volume’s admirable, Dolly would never leave her do that untended.

Elizabeth Banks in The Hunger Games

Wig-wearing escort to the moribund tributes of Panem’s District 12, The Hunger Games’ Effie Trinket’s look is less well-maintained Southern belle, more eighteenth-century aristocrat channelling Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. Her outlandish do is more political than most of the looks modelled on this list, representing as it does the excess and extravagance of the tyrannical Capitol class, whose lifestyle is only sustained (unbeknownst to most of them) via systematic oppression of their fellow Panemians.

Parton-o-meter: It’s not a bad effort, and bonus points for the ‘having to duck going through doors’ side of things, so overall, a 6.

Natalie Portman in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Queen Amidala’s ceremonial locks were said to be inspired by Mongolian royalty, and this particular get-up has the canny added bonus of making her head appear to be three times its actual size, useful for intimidating opponents during space taxation debates.

We have to remember cultural norms when it comes to beauty here. To us, Amidala may look like a glum cuckoo who’s just emerged to sound the hour from Liberace’s cuckoo clock, but on Naboo, she’s considered a right sort.

Parton-o-meter: Parton would hold no truck with this white chocolate-in-a-gaudy-advent-calendar look, so a 3. It just ain’t country.

Forest Whitaker in Battlefield Earth

Of all the reasons Pulp Fiction actor Forest Whitaker has to regret L. Ron Hubbard adaptation Battlefield Earth, his hairstyle has to be in the top three. Similar to that sported by Psychlo pal John Travolta in the film, Whitaker’s locks came off more Cowardly Lion than alien suppressor.

Parton-o-meter:A 4 for height and length, but minus 3 for the lack of grooming, leaving poor Ker with just a 1.

Lisa Marie in Mars Attacks

The pneumatic assassin from Tim Burton’s 1996 B-movie homage, Mars Attacks, uses her extravagant do as a cunning method of disguising her true Martian head-shape. It’s a clever use of volume and gloss to misdirect that would almost be imperceptible to the human eye if humans didn’t actually have, you know, eyes.

Maximum marks for height, girth, and gloss go to Lisa Marie’s Martian for this aspirational and glamorous look.

Parton-o-meter:Oh, high. Very high. Possibly a ten.

Jack Nance in Eraserhead

Long-time David Lynch collaborator Jack Nance had hair so celebrated that it spawned its own indie rock song. The vertical style he rocked in Eraserhead is now considered a male hair classic, a look sported by many, from Lynch himself, to John Turturro in Barton Fink, to Brad Pitt’s Pompadour in Johnny Suede,and *keeps a straight face* seminal rap artist Vanilla Ice.

Nance’s finger-in-the-socket cut is iconic in movie history, and certainly merits the dubious honour of a place on this list.

Parton-o-meter: We all know Dolly likes her men ponytailed and wearing tight jeans. Nance’s isn’t a look she’s likely to get on board with so it’s a 2.

Pam Grier in Foxy Brown

Sleazy, pulpy, blaxploitation flick Foxy Brown and others like it made an cinematic icon of Pam Grier, inspiring Quentin Tarantino’s homage Jackie Brown and Jay Roach’s parody of Grier and Tamara Dobson’s characters in Austin Powers: Goldmember’s Foxxy Cleopatra.

Grier’s hair comes in many forms over the course of the movies, but most recognisable is this glorious natural Afro, which inspired a generation to tease and primp to achieve her badass style.

Parton-o-meter: It has height, it has width, and more importantly, it looks damn cool. 7 out of 10.

Helena Bonham-Carter, Robbie Coltrane and Emma Watson in Harry Potter

Bonham-Carter could appear on this list for the majority of her film roles, but it’s her unruly corkscrews in the Harry Potter franchise, made all the more unmanageable by the Azkaban sea-winds and her extreme evil, that made the cut. The problem is, are Bellatrix’s curls more voluminous than the untamed tresses of the young Hermione Granger, or indeed, of hapless groundskeeper, Rubeus Hagrid? We can’t choose between them, so they all get a mention.

Parton-o-meter: With a little hair lacquer and a bow or two, Bellatrix could work her style into something Dolly wouldn’t turn her nose up at. The young Hermione just needs a hot-oil treatment, but as for Hagrid… let’s call it an even 5.

Elsa Lanchester in The Bride of Frankenstein and Marge Simpson in The Simpsons Movie

Grouped together for essentially being the same the same haircut, give or take the addition of a go-faster stripe and some blue hair dye, both the Bride of Frankenstein and Marge are bedecked in a bold vertical number that provides height (useful for getting cobwebs out of corners?), but not width.

Every so often Marge will appear with a more flaccid hairstyle in The Simpsons, usually when wet. It’s a look my husband calls “Marge’s sexy hair”. I choose not to question this.

Parton-o-meter: You have to respect the extra height these ladies have given themselves, and Lanchester’s B&W thing has style up the wazoo. A respectable 7 out of a possible 10.

Patricia Quinn in The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Patricia Quinn, when she’s not balancing a bouffant homage to Elsa Lanchester on her nut in Rocky Horror, opts for a teased look that’s full of body. Being an alien from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy Transylvania, she didn’t get the memo about doing either big eyes or big lips, and has gone for both, which works if you’re aiming to look like Bette Davis and Kat Slater’s Valium-riddled cousin.

Parton-o-meter:This chestnut mass of curls achieves impressive width. 6 out of 10.

Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands (and most of his Burton collaborations)

What this style lacks in grooming, it makes up for in adorable Goth vulnerability. For a master hairdresser, it’s a pas soigné look, part-Wurzel Gummidge, part-Robert Smith.

The first of many such pancake-faced bird’s nest hairdos Depp was to model for long-time collaborator Tim Burton, not least of which is the frizzy ginger style he adopted for Disney’s limp Alice in Wonderland adaptation, or the Cruella De Vil/Caitlin Moran number he worked for Sweeney Todd.

Parton-o-meter: It might be big, but it’s not beautiful, so a 4 for Depp.

Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

It’s a classic look, this one. Marilyn-blonde, with just enough height and width for a body to look respectable in the South. A soft blonde cloud that forms an illuminating halo around Parton’s dainty features, this do handily doubles up as a travel pillow that’s mighty useful should you ever have to skip town in a hurry.

Parton-o-meter: She blazed the trail, practically making oomphy hair a clause in her movie contracts, so it’s an impossible 11 out of 10 for Dolly.

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