The Public Enemy: Cagney’s New Clothes and Car

James Cagney leans on the door of a LaSalle as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

James Cagney leans on the door of a LaSalle as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

Vitals

James Cagney as Tom Powers, dangerous gangster and bootlegger

Chicago, Spring 1920

Film: The Public Enemy
Release Date: April 23, 1931
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Wardrobe Credit: Earl Luick

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today is the 86th anniversary of the 21st Amendment that repealed Prohibition, the 13-year ban on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States. Even before Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933, the wave of organized crime it inspired across the country was a popular subject for movies of the era, with Warner Brothers taking the lead with hits like Little CaesarThe Public Enemy, and Scarface that made stars out of intense actors like Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney.

The latter was particularly renowned for his performance in The Public Enemy, a “ripped-from-the-headlines” tour de force of violence based on an unpublished novel written by two former newspapermen who had witnessed firsthand the impact of Al Capone’s brutal stronghold on Chicago during the beer wars of the roaring ’20s.

As #CarWeek continues, let’s flash back to the Prohibition era as Cagney’s Tom Powers hopes to make an impression with his new tailored suits and shiny new touring convertible. Continue reading

Downhill Racer: Redford’s Blue Skiwear and Yellow Porsche

Robert Redford and Camilla Sparv with her Porsche on the set of Downhill Racer (1969)

Robert Redford and Camilla Sparv with her Porsche on the set of Downhill Racer (1969)

Vitals

Robert Redford as Dave Chappellet, U.S. Olympic ski team star

Wengen, Switzerland, Winter 1967

Film: Downhill Racer
Release Date: November 6, 1969
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Designer: Edith Head (uncredited!)
Wardrobe Credit: Cynthia May

Background

Let’s kick off a winter #CarWeek with an Alpine vibe, specifically the yellow Porsche that Robert Redford motors through the Alps after a day on the slopes with Camilla Sparv in Michael Ritchie’s directorial debut, Downhill Racer.

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White Christmas: Bing’s Brown Striped Suit

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace in White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace in White Christmas (1954)

Vitals

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, Broadway crooner and World War II veteran

Pine Tree, Vermont, December 1954

Film: White Christmas
Release Date: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

Happy December! To some, the start of December after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas season, while others (like Mariah Carey) kick off their holiday season a month earlier as soon as Halloween is over. To compromise, today’s post for December 1 explores Bing Crosby’s style in White Christmas, arguably a holiday classic, though the outfit in question is his only on-screen ensemble (aside from his army uniforms) that doesn’t include a single piece of holiday red.

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Brad Pitt in Black as Benjamin Button

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Vitals

Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button, reverse-aging adventurer

Paris, Spring 1954

Film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Release Date: December 25, 2008
Director: David Fincher
Costume Designer: Jacqueline West

Background

As holiday shoppers are lining up (or logging in) on Black Friday this year, let’s take a look at a creative approach to wearing black as sported by Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Benjamin looks just a little too dashing as he arrives at a Parisian hospital to visit the childhood friend he has grown to love, Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett), who is convalescing from a car accident that crushed her leg and thus ruined her dancing career. Continue reading

Scent of a Woman: Al Pacino’s Glenurquhart Plaid Suit

Al Pacino tangos with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman (1992)

Al Pacino tangos with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman (1992)

Vitals

Al Pacino as Frank Slade, blind and bitter retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel “who likes to spit in everybody’s eye”

New York City, Thanksgiving 1992

Film: Scent of a Woman
Release Date: December 23, 1992
Director: Martin Brest
Costume Designer: Aude Bronson-Howard
Tailor: Martin Greenfield

Background

On the eve of Thanksgiving, today seemed like a fitting occasion to address one of the most requested suits I’ve heard from readers: Al Pacino’s freshly tailored Glenurquhart check three-piece suit as the cantankerous Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman. Pacino turned in a landmark performance in his prolific career, winning his sole Academy Award after six nominations (with one additional nod the same year for Glengarry Glen Ross), a result of the intense method actor’s painstaking research in meeting with clients of New York’s Associated Blind to understand life—from mood to mobility—as a person without sight.

After 26 years in the Army, a nearly blind Frank “Don’t Call Me ‘Sir'” Slade spends his days sitting in the darkened corner of his modest home, filling lowball glasses to the brim with Jack Daniel’s, berating his family, and spitting anger at anyone brave enough to visit him, including Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell), the mild-mannered prep school student hired by Frank’s niece Karen to take care of her uncle through Thanksgiving weekend. Continue reading

Sean Connery’s Tweed Coat and Cardigan in The Untouchables

Sean Connery as Jim Malone in The Untouchables (1987)

Sean Connery as Jim Malone in The Untouchables (1987)

Vitals

Sean Connery as Jim Malone, tough and honest Chicago beat cop

Canadian border, September 1930

Film: The Untouchables
Release Date: June 3, 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance

Background

Recently recruited off the streets of Chicago, aging beat cop Jim Malone is more than happy to bring his grizzled brand of tough justice to the Canadian border to assist federal agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and their small but effective band of “untouchable” lawmen in stopping an illegal shipment of liquor from making its way into the United States.

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The Sopranos: “Acting Boss” Silvio in Silver Flecked Silk

Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos (Episode 6.03: "Mayham")

Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos (Episode 6.03: “Mayham”)

Vitals

Steven Van Zandt as Silvio Dante, Jersey mob consigliere and “acting boss”

New Jersey, Spring 2006

Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Mayham” (Episode 6.03)
Air Date: March 26, 2006
Director: Jack Bender
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa

Background

Happy birthday, Steven Van Zandt!

While The Sopranos introduced him to new audiences after the show’s premiere in 1999, “Little Steven” had been a longtime guitarist with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Van Zandt first toured with the Boss in the 1970s before embarking on his own successful solo career and launching a series of ventures where he could share his encyclopedic knowledge of rock and pop music as a radio host, Sirius program director, label producer, and more! Miami Steve had never formally acted before taking the role of Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, and the cool-headed (but cold-hearted) consigliere quickly rose to become a fan favorite, known for his bouffant and his bold, idiosyncratic fashion sense that wasn’t unlike the man portraying him.

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The Long Goodbye: Elliott Gould as a 1970s Philip Marlowe

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye (1973)

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye (1973)

Vitals

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe, wisecracking private investigator and “born loser”

Los Angeles, Summer 1972

Film: The Long Goodbye
Release Date: March 7, 1973
Director: Robert Altman
Men’s Costume Designer: Kent James (uncredited)

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

I’m pleased to address a repeated request from BAMF Style leaders like Brandon and Craig to take a look at Elliott Gould’s scrappy attire as an equally scrappy Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye, maverick auteur Robert Altman’s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s 1953 pulp novel of the same name.

It’s okay with me…

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Desi’s Sky Blue Nylon Jacket and Jeans in The Long, Long Trailer

Desi Arnaz as Nicky Collini in The Long, Long Trailer (1954)

Desi Arnaz as Nicky Collini in The Long, Long Trailer (1954)

Vitals

Desi Arnaz as Nicky Collini, civil engineer

Northern California, Late Summer 1953

Film: The Long, Long Trailer
Release Date: February 18, 1954
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Costume Designer: Helen Rose

Background

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to write about many movies that carry meaningful or nostalgic significance for me, but one that has gone sadly under-discussed (until now) is The Long, Long Trailer, a movie that I would watch so frequently with my grandma—who was born 98 years ago today—that we wore the VHS tape nearly to shreds.

Watching this movie again after more than 20 years was a welcome blast from the past, a nostalgic sensation not only for the personal reasons cited above but also as a glimpse into the glory days of “the great American road trip” during the postwar boom when roadside Googie architecture sprang up to meet the increasing need for motels and diners offering respite and rest for weary motorists.

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In a Lonely Place: Bogie’s Dark Suit and Bow Tie

Humphrey Bogart as Dixon "Dix" Steele in In a Lonely Place (1950)

Humphrey Bogart as Dixon “Dix” Steele in In a Lonely Place (1950)

Vitals

Humphrey Bogart as Dixon “Dix” Steele, frustrated screenwriter who’s “been out of circulation too long”

Los Angeles, Summer 1949

Film: In a Lonely Place
Release Date: May 17, 1950
Director: Nicholas Ray

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

As #NoirVember continues, we shift our sartorial focus to a seminal figure in the development and enduring popularity of film noir: Humphrey Bogart. In movies like The Maltese Falcon (1941) and The Big Sleep (1946), Bogie cemented the wisecracking private eye persona often driving the heart of this subgenre, but he did not play a detective in the suspenseful thriller considered to be among his best, In a Lonely Place.

This 1950 noir co-starred Gloria Grahame and directed by Nicholas Ray, her husband at the time, though both Bogie and screenwriter Edmund North had envisioned the then-Mrs. Bogart, Lauren Bacall, to take the role of the “sultry and smooth… striking-looking girl with high cheek bones and tawny hair” as the character of Laurel Gray was described in the North’s screenplay. While Warner Brothers refused to lend Bacall to Bogart’s Santana Productions, Bogie was able to keep the leading role to deliver one of the most explosive and authentic performances of his prolific career.

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