The Last Tycoon: Monroe Stahr’s White Tie for Oscar Night
Matt Bomer as Monroe Stahr, charming studio wunderkind
Hollywood, fall 1936 and March 1937
Series: The Last Tycoon
– “Pilot” (Episode 1, dir. Billy Ray)
– “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” (Episode 9, dir. Billy Ray)
Streaming Date: July 28, 2017
Developed By: Billy Ray
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
It’s Oscars night!
The Last Tycoon, Amazon Video’s gone-too-soon stylish ode to Hollywood’s Golden Age, ended its singular season during the 1937 Academy Awards. Interestingly, the 9th Academy Award ceremony was held on March 4, 1937, exactly 81 years ago tonight!
In real life, MGM’s The Great Ziegfield took home the coveted Best Picture prize, but that film was neglected in The Last Tycoon‘s fictional timeline as Brady-American’s tearjerker Angels on the Avenue faces off against real-life nominees Anthony Adverse, Libeled Lady, San Francisco, and Three Smart Girls.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… the first episode of The Last Tycoon finds slick Hollywood producer Monroe Stahr at a jazzy reception. Monroe is considered the best in the biz, but he’s not above sitting among his writers and hearing their thoughts of him firsthand… and dishing it right back. The night is also ripe for romance as a recently widowed Monroe shares his first dance with Kathleen Moore (Dominique McElligott), an alluring waitress from a local diner. Of course, he must also field advances from his boss’ ambitious daughter Celia (Lily Collins), who finds the time to pitch him an intriguing anti-Nazi espionage film in between taking passes at him.
Of course, Monroe’s heart is fragile in more ways than one. Real-life ’30s studio wunderkind Irving Thalberg had provided F. Scott Fitzgerald with literary inspiration for the character of Monroe Stahr, including Thalberg’s reputation as “a boy wonder” and the congenital heart disease that eventually sealed his fate at the age of 37. Thalberg actually appears as a character in The Last Tycoon, meeting his demise shortly after his appearance and reminding Monroe of his own uncertain future.
Eight months later, it’s now Oscars night in Hollywood with George Jessel hosting at downtown L.A.’s Biltmore Hotel. Monroe and Kathleen’s romance blossomed into an engagement… and quickly fizzled as her dishonest nature was violently unmasked while relations between Monroe and his boss Pat Brady (Kelsey Grammer) have deteriorated beyond hope. It seems that Monroe’s only ally left in the world is Celia, who has honed her producing skills since the fateful party where she first pitched her espionage concept. The contemptuous gang beats out MGM for the coveted Best Picture award, but the stress is too much for Monroe to bear, and we are left hanging hours later as he clutches his heart, calling out for Celia as he collapses.
In many ways, it’s an appropriate “non-ending”, just enough to possibly conclude the show while also echoing the unfinished state of Fitzgerald’s source novel.
What’d He Wear?
The Last Tycoon‘s dapper protagonist dresses in elegant white tie to bookend the series, sporting full evening dress in both the first and final episodes. It’s a fitting choice, as he finds himself in white tie when first hearing the pitch for An Enemy Among Us and again wearing white tie when he himself is pitching the concept of the same film to Louis B. Mayer eight episodes later. White tie was designed to make a man look his most dashing, thus elevating a guy like Matt Bomer to nearly superhuman levels.
Speaking of superhumans, The Last Tycoon‘s master costume designer Janie Bryant explained the symbolic relationship between Monroe Stahr and his appearance in black-and-white full evening dress to Costume Designers Guild: “Monroe Stahr wears black and white a lot because it’s a reference to the era of black and white movies, but he also sees his world as very black and white. He is all about the integrity of the artistry and the craft of making the movies, so he wears beautifully tailored suits, but he’s not ostentatious.”
By the mid-1930s, black tie had surpassed white tie as the default evening dress code for gents, and Monroe Stahr certainly makes the most of his contemporary-styled double-breasted dinner jacket, saving his full evening dress for only the most formal occasions.
Monroe Stahr’s black wool dress coat has the traditional long tails and faux double-breasted front. The look is designed to be timeless, though Monroe’s particular kit nods to the fashions of the era with broader peak lapels (faced in black silk, of course) with long, slanted gorges. The only external pocket is the welted breast pocket, in which Monroe wears a white silk pocket square.
The front is styled like a double-breasted jacket, but meant to be worn open. The six front buttons, three buttons on the sleeve ends, and two vestigal buttons over the back tails are plain black plastic four-hole sew-through buttons with no black silk coverings.
For his evening at the screenwriters’ ball in the first episode, Monroe wears a white evening dress shirt with a plain white front bib that shows two mother-of-pearl studs. The shirt is worn with a detachable wing collar and has squared single cuffs fastened with round mother-of-pearl cuff links that match the front studs. Mother-of-pearl is considered one of the most traditional and tasteful options for appointments on a full dress evening shirt.
Esquire was reporting in its inaugural issue in autumn of 1933 that “the white waistcoat has at last been allowed to rejoin its lawful but long estranged mate, the tailcoat, and the new dinner jackets are matched with a waistcoat of the jacket material, with dull grosgrain lapel facing.” (Source: Black Tie Guide) In this episode, Monroe wears a butterfly/thistle-shaped self-tying bow tie in white pique to perfectly match his waistcoat.
The white pique waistcoat in the first episode is double-breasted with a closely spaced, tapered four-on-two button front beneath the low front opening. The waistcoat has welted hip pockets and a slim shawl collar with grosgrain edges. Unlike most modern dress waistcoats (or at least those popularly issued by rental houses), it has a full back like a waistcoat that would accompany a three-piece suit.
Though a fine traditional example of a gentleman’s full dress waistcoat, it is slightly too long and about an inch of white fabric peeks out under each side of the tailcoat’s cutaway front sections.
Monroe wears a different white shirt, tie, and waistcoat for the 1937 Academy Awards ceremony. His white marcella formal shirt appears to have an attached wing collar, a surprising deviation at a time when most formal shirts were worn with detachable collars. The shirt also has a wide front placket, worn with diamond studs, and rounded single cuffs fastened with a set of rectangular links.
Monroe wears a slightly slimmer self-tying bow tie, a light ivory diamond-shaped silk tie with a pointed end.
For the Oscars, Monroe again wears a double-breasted, four-on-two button full dress waistcoat with shawl collar, but the similarities end there. Monroe has severely overcompensated for the previous waistcoat’s excessive length, here wearing a straight-bottomed waistcoat in ivory twill that looks fine at the ceremony itself but rides up above his trouser line when in respite at his office.
This waistcoat also lacks the full back of his other, instead looping around his neck and fastening around the back of his waist, a style that was popularized at the time by the Prince of Wales, of course. The shawl collar is slim around the neck but swells out to a wide “drooping” squared bottom (similar to his black tie waistcoat), and there are no pockets.
Monroe’s waistcoat in “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” (Episode 1.09) also provides a better look at his white silk suspenders (braces) with their gold adjusters, seen just below the back loop of his waistcoat around his neck.
The only trousers one should really wear with a black full dress tailcoat are the black formal trousers with silk side striping, and Monroe follows that rule to a T with his double reverse-pleated trousers with their single silk side stripe, on-seam side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms.
Most men had accepted the more practical and timeless black leather oxford as the de facto dress shoe by the 1930s, but Monroe Stahr sticks with the über-formal black patent leather opera pump as his preferred footwear with both white tie and black tie dress, naturally worn with black dress socks.
Monroe’s choice of outerwear, seen only when outside before and after the Oscar ceremony, is the traditional black wool chesterfield coat with a white silk dress scarf with frayed edges. The double-breasted chesterfield has wide satin-faced peak lapels, welted breast pocket, a six-on-two button front in the “keystone” arrangement and covered in black satin, and straight flapped hip pockets.
“If a boutonnière is worn with full dress then it must be white,” declares the experts at Black Tie Guide when exploring full dress traditions. Our protagonist recognizes and adheres to this tradition, wearing two different white carnations on his left lapel that compete for attention with his rakishly worn white pocket squares.
Monroe’s first white tie ensemble, when attending the screenwriters’ ball in the pilot episode, features a white carnation worn with the stem pinned through the lapel. This more modern, less regarded style reminds me more of harried mothers trying to prep their sons for prom pictures than a gentleman dressing for the evening.
By the titular ceremonies of “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” (Episode 1.09), Monroe Stahr has graduated his boutonnière game to the more mature, less damaging, and ultimately correct style of wearing it with the stem inserted through the buttonhole of his left lapel, where it is likely secured by an under-lapel loop that keeps it in place without needing to damage the lapel with a pin.
On his right pinky, Monroe wears a gold signet ring with an etched “S.” that likely signifies his adopted professional surname of Stahr (though it could also be his birth surname of Sternberg.)
How to Get the Look
Unlike his more old fashioned boss Pat Brady (Kelsey Grammer), Matt Bomer’s Monroe Stahr reserves his full evening dress tailcoat and white tie for only the most formal occasions… instantly multiplying his elegance quotient.
- Black wool dress tailcoat with broad silk-faced peak lapels, 6-on-2 button double-breasted front, welted breast pocket, 3-button cuffs, and tails with two vestigal buttons
- White pique double-breasted waistcoat with shawl collar, 4-on-2 button front, and welted hip pockets
- Black wool formal pleated trousers with grosgrain side braid, “quarter top” on-seam side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White formal shirt with detachable wing collar, marcella front bib, and single cuffs
- Mother-of-pearl shirt studs
- Mother-of-pearl cuff links
- White pique bow tie
- White silk suspenders with gold adjusters
- Black patent leather opera pumps/court shoes with square black grosgrain bows
- Black dress socks
- White cotton short-sleeve undershirt
- Gold monogrammed signet ring, right pinky
- White carnation boutonnière
You can learn more about how to properly wear a boutonnière, using no less than 007 as an example, in a recent post featured on Matt Spaiser’s The Suits of James Bond.
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I like people and I like them to like me, but I keep my heart where God put it – on the inside.