Blow: Johnny Depp’s Layered Denim on the Run

Johnny Depp in Blow

Johnny Depp as George Jung in Blow (2001)

Vitals

Johnny Depp as George Jung, fugitive pot dealer

Weymouth, Massachusetts, Fall 1973

Film: Blow
Release Date: April 6, 2001
Director: Ted Demme
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges

Background

Blow chronicles the chaotic career of real-life drug dealer George Jung, who evolved his marijuana-dealing enterprise into a dangerously successful cocaine-smuggling operation with the Medellín cartel until it all came crashing down around him. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Al Capone’s 1920s Leather Car Coat

Stephen Graham as Al Capone on Boardwalk Empire

Stephen Graham as Al Capone on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 1.01: “Boardwalk Empire”)

Vitals

Stephen Graham as Al Capone, ambitious but volatile mob enforcer

Chicago, Winter 1920

Series: Boardwalk Empire
Episodes:
– “Boardwalk Empire” (Episode 1.01, dir. Martin Scorsese, aired 9/19/2010)
– “Anastasia” (Episode 1.04, dir. Jeremy Podeswa, aired 10/10/2010)
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

On the 75th anniversary of Al Capone’s death, I wanted to take this blog’s first overdue look at Stephen Graham’s explosive performance as the infamous gangster on Boardwalk Empire. Capone features as an influential if tertiary character to the main drama in Atlantic City, introduced as a smart-talking enforcer to the old-fashioned—and ill-fated—”Big Jim” Colosimo during the series premiere, set in January 1920 when Prohibition became the unpopular law of the land.

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The Gambler: James Caan’s Houndstooth Cardigan

James Caan as Axel Freed in The Gambler (1974)

James Caan as Axel Freed in The Gambler (1974)

Vitals

James Caan as Axel Freed, gambling-addicted English professor

New York City, Fall 1973

Film: The Gambler
Release Date: October 2, 1974
Director: Karel Reisz
Costume Designer: Albert Wolsky

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

A meditation on self-destruction, The Gambler was based on James Toback’s semi-autobiographical script that was the first to be produced from the soon-to-be-prolific screenwriter. Toback had incorporated his own gambling addiction that plagued him while he lectured at City College of New York. Robert De Niro was an early contender for the leading role of Axel Freed, but director Karel Reisz opted to cast another Corleone: James Caan, who explained the challenge of the role that would reportedly be one of his favorites from own his filmography: “It’s not easy to make people care about a guy who steals from his mother to pay gambling debts.” Continue reading

Telly Savalas as Kojak: A Gray Suit for the First Lollipop

Telly Savalas as Kojak

Telly Savalas as Lt. Theo Kojak on Kojak (Episode 1.08: “Dark Sunday”)

Vitals

Telly Savalas as Theo Kojak, NYPD lieutenant

New York City, Fall 1973

Series: Kojak
Episode: “Dark Sunday” (Episode 1.08)
Air Date: December 12, 1973
Director:
Charles R. Rondeau
Creator: Abby Mann

Background

Who loves ya, baby?

As today would have been the 100th birthday of Telly Savalas—born January 21, 1922—it felt like the time to take a long-overdue look at the Greek-American actor’s signature role as the tough and tenacious Theo Kojak.

Kojak’s famous lollipops were introduced in the eighth episode, “Dark Sunday”, which begins with the murder of a small-time criminal named Artie Fowler (Marc Alaimo). “He used to love to play with cars, you know,” recalls Kojak. “Strip ’em, drive ’em, steal ’em… oh well, what else?” Through his investigations of the murder, Kojak welcomes Artie’s girlfriend Maria Cranston (Lara Parker) to his office. He has a lit cigarillo in his mouth when she enters, but he swiftly tosses it away in favor of a Tootsie Pop pulled from his desk… the first of what would become one of the character’s trademarks. Continue reading

Marnie: Sean Connery’s Beige Herringbone Tweed Suit

Sean Connery as Mark Rutland in Marnie (1964)

Sean Connery as Mark Rutland in Marnie (1964)

Vitals

Sean Connery as Mark Rutland, publisher

Philadelphia to Baltimore, Spring 1964

Film: Marnie
Release Date: July 22, 1964
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Men’s Costumes: James Linn

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Months before Goldfinger was released and cemented Bond-mania among the cinematic zeitgeist of the 1960s, Sean Connery got the opportunity to show audiences that he was capable of more than just suave secret-agenting with the back-to-back releases of thrillers Woman of Straw and Marnie. The latter has been celebrated as the better-regarded of the two, with some even calling it Alfred Hitchcock’s underappreciated masterpiece, though Hitch himself was more dismissive when discussing the work with François Truffaut:

I wasn’t convinced that Sean Connery was a Philadelphia gentleman. You know, if you want to reduce Marnie to its lowest common denominator, it is the story of the prince and the beggar girl. In a story of this kind you need a real gentleman, a more elegant man than what we had.

Say what you will about Connery’s performance, but I’ve considered Hitchcock’s criticism to be somewhat undeserved, particularly considering that the adaptation of Winston Graham’s 1961 novel of the same name condensed the characters of Marnie’s husband, Mark Rutland, and the psychoanalyst that Mark forces Marnie to see. Thus, Connery’s characterization requires him to convincingly depict Mark as first a charismatic cad, then a manipulative rapist, and—ultimately—a quasi-therapist whose motives are depicted more through the lens of spousal support than domination. Given the challenge of the role, I believe Connery ably rose to the occasion, bringing out more savage sides of the character than we may have believed in the hands of Hitch’s erstwhile stalwarts like Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart.

Continue reading

One Night in Miami: Cassius Clay’s Light Brown Windowpane Suit

Eli Goree as Cassius Clay in One Night in Miami (2020)

Eli Goree as Cassius Clay in One Night in Miami (2020)

Vitals

Eli Goree as Cassius Clay, heavyweight boxing champion soon to be renamed Muhammad Ali

Miami, February 25, 1964

Film: One Night in Miami
Release Date: December 25, 2020
Director: Regina King
Costume Designer: Francine Jamison-Tanchuck

Background

Today would have been the 80th birthday of Muhammad Ali, the champion boxer born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. and nicknamed “The Greatest”. As we’re reentering movie award season, let’s revisit One Night in Miami,  the stylish drama that generated plenty of buzz last year and remains the most recent major screen portrayal of Ali.

The eponymous evening is February 25, 1964, when Clay’s surprise victory over Sonny Liston cemented him as the world heavyweight champion. Clay joins his fellow high-profile friends Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) in Malcolm’s hotel room, presumably for a celebration before it’s revealed that Malcolm had intended it to be a night of reflection and revelation, specifically of Clay’s intended conversion to the Nation of Islam. Continue reading

Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Vitals

Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs, desperate drifter-turned-treasure hunter

Mexico, Spring to Summer 1925

Film: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Release Date: January 6, 1948
Director: John Huston
Wardrobe: Robert O’Dell & Ted Schultz (uncredited)

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

On the 65th anniversary of when Humphrey Bogart died on January 14, 1957, I wanted to visit one of his most lasting—if not exactly best-dressed—roles.

“Wait until you see me in my next picture,” Bogie had proclaimed to a New York Post critic outside 21 one night. “I play the worst shit you ever saw!” Indeed, unlike his previous protagonists like Sam Spade, Rick Blaine, and Philip Marlowe, who were primarily heroes marred by a cynical streak, there are few redeeming factors to Fred C. Dobbs, the panhandling prospector whose treacherous greed leads him well past the point of no return. Continue reading

Sidney Poitier’s Gray Suit in To Sir, with Love

Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray in To Sir, with Love (1967)

Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray in To Sir, with Love (1967)

Vitals

Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray, novice high school teacher

London, June 1966

Film: To Sir, with Love
Release Date: June 14, 1967
Director: James Clavell
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson

Background

The death of Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE, was announced last Friday, prompting countless fans to recall memories of the great actor’s lasting legacy. Born February 20, 1927 in Miami to a Bahamian family, Poitier’s screen acting career took off during the 1950s, following his breakthrough performance in Blackboard Jungle (1955) with a charismatic turn in Edge of the City (1957). His Academy Award nomination for The Defiant Ones (1958) marked the first time a Black actor was nominated for Best Actor, and his ultimate win for Lillies of the Field (1963) established Poitier as the first Black recipient of the Best Actor Oscar.

Poitier’s career continued through the decade, with 1967 a particular banner year as he delivered three of his most iconic performances in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?In the Heat of the Night, and To Sir, with Love. Continue reading

The Godfather: Fredo’s Yellow Blazer in Las Vegas

John Cazale as Fredo Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

John Cazale as Fredo Corleone in The Godfather (1972)

Vitals

John Cazale as Fredo Corleone, insecure Mafia casino manager

Las Vegas, Summer 1954

Film: The Godfather
Release Date: March 14, 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone

Background

“New year, new you” is a theme constantly touted by clickbait articles and lifestyle magazines through early January so, in the spirit of #MafiaMonday and the start of the 50th anniversary year of The Godfather, let’s take a look at one of the more startling reinventions in the world of mob movies: Fredo Corleone’s attempted transformation from forgotten brother to flamboyant swinger.

Sure, Fredo may still need the occasional “straightening out”—after all, banging cocktail waitresses two at a time is hardly good for business—but Las Vegas presents him with the opportunity to shed his middle child syndrome and explore a more independent side of himself… for better or worse. Continue reading

The Man Who Fell to Earth: David Bowie’s Black Suit

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie, on location in New Mexico during production of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Vitals

David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, ambitious humanoid alien

From New York City to Artesia, New Mexico, 1970s

Film: The Man Who Fell to Earth
Release Date: March 18, 1976
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Costume Designer: May Routh
Suits by: Ola Hudson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today would have been the 75th birthday of David Bowie, born in London on January 8, 1947.

Though he’d made a few screen appearances earlier in his career, The Man Who Fell to Earth was Bowie’s first prominent leading role. Adapted by Paul Mayersberg from Walter Tevis’ novel of the same name, Nicolas Roeg’s avant-garde cult classic transcends the trappings of traditional science fiction to spin the yarn of Thomas Jerome Newton, an ambitious if naïve starman who “fell to Earth” on a mission to bring water back to his home planet… only to fall even farther, seduced by the materialistic capitalism of 1970s America and all of its celebrated hedonistic indulgences of sex, television, drugs, and booze. Continue reading