Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020). Photo by David Lee/Netflix.

Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020). Photo by David Lee/Netflix.

Vitals

Chadwick Boseman as Levee Green, ambitious blues cornetist

Chicago, Summer 1927

Film: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Release Date: November 25, 2020
Director: George C. Wolfe
Costume Designer: Ann Roth

Background

The late Chadwick Boseman was being named as an Oscar contender for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, based on the August Wilson play of the same name, even before it came out. We’re still two months away from the Academy Award nominations being announced, but Boseman has already received posthumous Best Actor wins from the Chicago Film Critics Association, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and Music City Film Critics’ Association for what turned out to be his final screen role.

The praise is well-deserved as the actor delivered a powerhouse performance as the hotheaded horn-blower Levee Green, an ambitious (and fictional) member of a four-piece band backing Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), the Mother of the Blues herself. The North Side neighborhood in my hometown of Pittsburgh was transformed to resemble roaring ’20s Chicago when production came to the Steel City two summers ago; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the only one of the ten plays in the Hill District-born Wilson’s “Century Cycle” not actually set in Pittsburgh.

Chadwick Boseman had been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, never speaking publicly about his illness all the while delivering some of his most iconic performances in MarshallBlack Panther, and the two Avengers films to follow. Indeed, Boseman’s vigorous performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom belies his health at the time, and his fellow cast members remained unaware of his ongoing treatment for the cancer that would progress to stage IV before it ended his life at the age of 42 on August 28, 2020. Continue reading

Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock

Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Vitals

Spencer Tracy as John J. Macreedy, one-armed war veteran

Black Rock, California, Fall 1945

Film: Bad Day at Black Rock
Release Date: January 7, 1955
Director: John Sturges

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Bad Day at Black Rock may have been one of the most requested movies I’ve been asked to write about, so when I saw that the Criterion Channel had added it to their streaming collection in December, I wasted no time in finally watching this swift and spectacular thriller that had been recommended by so many of you.

Based on Howard Breslin’s short story “Bad Time at Honda”, the account begins in the sprawling desert of eastern California, specifically the isolated berg of Black Rock, where no train has stopped in four years—the duration of American participation in World War II—until this particular day in late 1945, when the one-armed John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) requests a stop.

Conductor: Man, they look woebegone and far away.
Macreedy: Oh, I’ll only be here 24 hours.
Conductor: In a place like this, it could be a lifetime.

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Rod Taylor’s Velvet-Trimmed Dinner Jacket in The Glass Bottom Boat

Rod Taylor as Bruce Templeton in The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Rod Taylor as Bruce Templeton in The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Vitals

Rod Taylor as Bruce Templeton, charismatic aerospace lab chief

Long Beach, California, Spring 1966

Film: The Glass Bottom Boat
Release Date: June 9, 1966
Director: Frank Tashlin
Costume Designer: Ray Aghayan (credited with Doris Day’s costumes only)

Background

In honor of Aussie actor Rod Taylor’s birthday on January 11, 1930, today’s post explores the first movie of his that I’d seen. The Glass Bottom Boat reteamed Taylor with Doris Day after their collaboration the previous year in Do Not Disturb, this time in a Cold War-era romantic comedy where Doris’ PR flack is suspected of being a spy sent by Mother Russia to seduce scientific secrets out of Bruce Templeton, the debonair head of a NASA research facility.

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Marriage on the Rocks: Sinatra’s Double-Breasted Olive Cardigan

Frank Sinatra in Marriage on the Rocks (1965)

Frank Sinatra in Marriage on the Rocks (1965)

Vitals

Frank Sinatra as Dan Edwards, workaholic advertising executive

Los Angeles, Fall 1965

Film: Marriage on the Rocks
Release Date: September 24, 1965
Director: Jack Donohue
Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett

Background

Kick back on this chilly #SinatraSaturday with the mid-century comedy that reunited Rat Pack pallies Frank and Dean, the duo’s final on-screen collaboration until Cannonball Run II, twenty years later.

Marriage on the Rocks stars FS as Dan Edwards, a buttoned-up businessman who—thanks to madcap circumstances—ends up swapping lifestyles with his swingin’ pal Ernie… played by who else but Dean Martin? Continue reading

Nicolas Cage in Snake Eyes

Nicolas Cage as Rick Santoro in Snake Eyes (1998)

Nicolas Cage as Rick Santoro in Snake Eyes (1998)

Vitals

Nicolas Cage as Rick Santoro, flashy homicide detective and compulsive gambler

Atlantic City, September 1998

Film: Snake Eyes
Release Date: August 7, 1998
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Odette Gadoury

Background

Folks, today is Nicolas Cage’s birthday so we’re going to celebrate in style by taking a look at the film that won Cage the esteemed Blockbuster Entertainment Award in the category of Favorite Actor (Suspense).

Has anyone been asking to read about the threads Nic Cage wore in the 1998 box office bomb Snake Eyes? No. Is that going to stop me after the absolutely insane year that we’ve just had? Also no.

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Apocalypse Now: Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore

Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now (1979)

Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now (1979)

Vitals

Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, U.S. Army Air Cavalry commander and surf fanatic

Vietnam, Summer 1969

Film: Apocalypse Now
Release Date: August 15, 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Supervisor: Charles E. James
Costumers: Luster Bayless, Norman A. Burza, Dennis Fill, and George L. Little

Background

Happy 90th birthday, Robert Duvall! Today’s post looks at one of the most recognizable roles from the actor’s prolific career, his Academy Award-nominated performance as the gung-ho surf enthusiast Colonel Kilgore in Coppola’s war epic Apocalypse Now.

Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s you-probably-had-to-read-it-in-high-school novella Heart of DarknessApocalypse Now needs little introduction, nor does Kilgore’s famous monologue celebrating the aromas of incendiary devices after commanding his 9th Cavalry squadron to attack a VC-held village to the tune of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”.

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After the Thin Man: Nick Charles’ Light Double-Breasted Suit for the New Year

William Powell and Myrna Loy in After the Thin Man (1936)... with Skippy as Asta

William Powell and Myrna Loy in After the Thin Man (1936)… with Skippy as Asta

Vitals

William Powell as Nick Charles, retired private detective

San Francisco, New Year’s Eve 1936

Film: After the Thin Man
Release Date: December 25, 1936
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Wardrobe Credit: Dolly Tree

Background

Happy New Year! Dashiell Hammett and “One-Take Woody” Van Dyke continued the runaway success of The Thin Man by reuniting William Powell and Myrna Loy as crime-solving power couple Nick and Nora Charles, coming home to San Francisco after solving the famous “Thin Man” case during their holiday in New York. The three-day train ride returns Nick and Nora to the City by the Bay just in time for New Year’s Eve, where they find their home commandeered by revelers that have already kicked off their celebrations.

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The Poseidon Adventure: Gene Hackman’s New Year’s Eve Turtleneck

Gene Hackman as Reverend Frank Scott in The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Gene Hackman as Reverend Frank Scott in The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Vitals

Gene Hackman as Reverend Frank Scott, fiery, independent-minded minister

aboard the S.S. Poseidon en route Athens, New Year’s Eve 1972

Film: The Poseidon Adventure
Release Date: December 12, 1972
Director: Ronald Neame
Costume Designer: Paul Zastupnevich

Background

Happy New Year’s Eve… and #TurtleneckThursday? After this disaster of a year, I can’t think of a better movie to bid good riddance to 2020 than one of the most famous disaster movies of the ’70s.

Produced by “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen, The Poseidon Adventure followed the Airport template of a star-studded cast fighting to survive a perilous disaster while tackling their own personal issues. While Airport had originated the disaster film boom of the ’70s, The Poseidon Adventure proved its enduring box office power, recouping more than 25 times its initial budget and paving the way for a decade’s worth of similar stories set amidst tropical storms, within fire-prone skyscrapers, and even aboard a famous airship.

Unlike the ill-fated Titanic which sank during its maiden voyage in 1912, the fictional S.S. Poseidon—partially filmed aboard the decommissioned Cunard liner RMS Queen Mary—is making one last run before it will be scrapped in Athens. The cautious Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen) finds his authority challenged by the ship’s aggressive owner Linarcos (Fred Sadoff), establishing the dangers of hubris that would remain a consistent theme throughout the disaster sub-genre.

Down in the ship’s elegant dining room, the Poseidon‘s glamorous passengers are celebrating New Year’s Eve amidst their own personal dramas or crises of faith. Seated at the captain’s table are New York detective Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine), his ex-prostitute wife Linda (Stella Stevens), and Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), a controversial cleric yet popular passenger who had captivated a congregation earlier that day with his religious philosophy said to be based on director Ronald Neame’s own hybrid of Christian, Buddhist, and New Age spiritualist beliefs.

While the champagne pops and auld acquaintances be forgot, the crew learns of a massive undersea earthquake that results in a rare wave that strikes the ship broadside, capsizing the S.S. Poseidon and quite literally turning the lives of its passengers upside down.

Gene Hackman in The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

2020, as summed up by The Poseidon Adventure.

We’re floating upside-down… we’ve gotta climb up.

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Mad Men: Don Draper’s Decade of Black Tie

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 1.05: "5G").

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 1.05: “5G”).

Vitals

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious and award-winning Madison Avenue ad man

Series: Mad Men
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

Background

Only three days left in 2020! The tradition of gents wearing black tie on New Year’s Eve, popularized in movies like the 1960 Rat Pack classic Ocean’s Eleven, seems to have fallen out of favor among the general population as standards of formality have decreased. However, given how excited many will be to see 2020 come to an end may herald a resurgence in dinner jackets and tuxedoes as many celebrate the new year in private.

On #MadMenMonday, we can take a few style tips from the enigmatic Don Draper on assembling a classic black tie ensemble from his half-dozen screen-worn dinner jackets. Continue reading

White Christmas: Bing’s Gray Flannel Blazer

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

Merry Christmas to all BAMF Style readers who celebrate! After a turbulent year, I know I’ve found comfort in the warm familiarity of the 1954 holiday classic White Christmas starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a pair of war buddies-turned-producers who stage yet another “yuletide clambake” to support their popular general (Dean Jagger)… as if you hadn’t already seen it!

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