Gene Barry’s Fawn Suit as Dr. Ray Flemming in Prescription: Murder

Gene Barry as Dr. Ray Flemming on Prescription: Murder, the TV pilot movie that led to Columbo

Gene Barry as Dr. Ray Flemming on Prescription: Murder, the TV pilot movie that led to Columbo

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Gene Barry as Dr. Ray Flemming, smarmy psychiatrist

Los Angeles, Spring 1967

Film: Prescription: Murder
Original Air Date: February 20, 1968
Director: Richard Irving
Costume Designer: Burton Miller

Background

This week in 1968, TV audiences were introduced to an unassuming yet indefatigable homicide detective in a wrinkled raincoat whose humble mannerisms and appearance belied an uncanny ability to bring murderers to justice. Oh, and just one more thing… that detective was named Columbo.

Peter Falk wasn’t the first to play the detective, nor was he even the first choice when Richard Levinson and William Link’s stage play was adapted for TV as Prescription: Murder, the first episode of what would become the long-running series Columbo. Bert Freed had originated the role in a 1960 episode of The Chevy Mystery Show, to be followed by Thomas Mitchell when Levinson and Link debuted the play Prescription: Murder two years later in San Francisco.

Prescription: Murder establishes many trademark elements of Columbo, including the delayed introduction of the shrewd but shabbily dressed lieutenant himself until after we watch the murderer of the week commit his—or her—crime.

Gene Barry set a standard in Prescription: Murder that the killers foiled by Columbo would follow for decades to come: arrogant, well-dressed, and clever enough to pull together a murder scheme that keeps them above suspicion… from all but Lieutenant Columbo, of course. Continue reading

A Warm December: Sidney Poitier’s Navy Double-Breasted Blazer

Sidney Poitier as Dr. Matt Younger in A Warm December (1973)

Sidney Poitier as Dr. Matt Younger in A Warm December (1973)

Vitals

Sidney Poitier as Matt Younger, widowed father and clinic physician

London, Summer 1972

Film: A Warm December
Release Date: May 23, 1973
Director: Sidney Poitier
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson

Background

Happy birthday to screen legend Sidney Poitier, born 94 years ago today on February 20, 1927 in Miami. After two decades of screen success that landed him the Academy Award for Best Actor (and he remains both the oldest living and longest surviving recipient), Poitier began directing his own movies in the early 1970s, beginning with the groundbreaking 1972 Western Buck and the Preacher.

Poitier proved the diversity of his directorial talent by sliding to the other end of the genre spectrum the following year when he released the romantic drama A Warm December, in which he also starred as a recently widowed doctor who finds love across the Atlantic when he meets the magnetic Catherine (Esther Anderson) during an extended trip to London with his daughter.

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Gorky Park: Lee Marvin’s Sheepskin Flight Jacket

Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne in Gorky Park (1983)

Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne in Gorky Park (1983)

Vitals

Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne, American fur importer

Stockholm, April 1983

Film: Gorky Park
Release Date: December 15, 1983
Director: Michael Apted
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

As winter rages on, you’d think I would be looking for escape via light movies set in tropical locations… but instead, I recently rewatched Gorky Park, adapted from Martin Cruz Smith’s 1981 novel that begins with three disfigured corpses found in the snow outside a Moscow ice rink. (And I wonder why I get depressed!)

Our ostensible hero is Militsiya officer Arkady Renko (William Hurt), whose investigation of the grisly murders leads him to the sophisticated yet sinister sable importer Jack Osborne (Lee Marvin). Continue reading

The Yakuza: Ken Takakura in Blue Denim

Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka in The Yakuza (1974)

Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka in The Yakuza (1974)

Vitals

Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka, disciplined ex-Yakuza

Kyoto, Japan, Spring 1974

Film: The Yakuza
Release Date: December 28, 1974
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins

Background

Today would have been the 90th birthday of Ken Takakura, the Nakama-born actor with a record four Japan Academy Prizes for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. His presence in yakuza films through the 1960s brought him to the attention of screenwriting brothers Leonard and Paul Schrader, who wrote their action drama The Yakuza with Takakura in mind. Continue reading

Love Story: Ryan O’Neal’s Sheepskin Shearling Coat

Ryan O'Neal as Oliver Barrett IV in Love Story (1970)

Ryan O’Neal as Oliver Barrett IV in Love Story (1970)

Vitals

Ryan O’Neal as Oliver Barrett IV, preppy Harvard student

New England, Winter 1966, and New York City, Winter 1970

Film: Love Story
Release Date: December 16, 1970
Director: Arthur Hiller
Costume Design: Alice Manougian Martin & Pearl Somner

Background

Happy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of the season of romance, it felt appropriate to explore the preppy style in one of the most famous cinematic love stories of all time… the perhaps uncleverly titled Love Story.

I went into my inaugural Love Story viewing this year familiar only with Larry Siegel and Mort Drucker’s Mad magazine parody and the movie’s reviled thesis that “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” so I was a little surprised to find myself non-ironically enjoying it more than I expected. Sure, my friend @berkeley_breathes had primed me to expect some standout Ivy-inspired style worn by Ryan O’Neal as our romantic hero Oliver, but I guess the half-century since Love Story has yielded considerably cornier products with the odd effect that this aged… relatively well? Or maybe I’m just speaking from behind the blinders of my enduring crush on early ’70s Ali MacGraw. Continue reading

Christopher Plummer in Knives Out

Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey in Knives Out (2019)

Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey in Knives Out (2019)

Vitals

Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey, mystery novelist and wealthy patriarch

Massachusetts, November 2018

Film: Knives Out
Release Date: November 27, 2019
Director: Rian Johnson
Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan

Background

The great Canadian actor Christopher Plummer died a week ago today at the age of 91 after three quarters of a century honing his craft across stage and screen from Shakespeare to The Sound of Music.

In his penultimate screen credit, Knives Out, Plummer starred as Harlan Thrombey, a charismatic writer who built his fortune through writing mystery novels and, on his 85th birthday, resolves to finally set his free-loading family free. Continue reading

La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty): Jep’s Red Jacket

Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella in The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) (2013)

Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella in The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) (2013)

Vitals

Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella, cultured art critic and one-time novelist

Rome, Summer 2012

Film: The Great Beauty
(Italian title: La grande bellezza)
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Costume Designer: Daniela Ciancio
Tailor: Cesare Attolini

Background

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday, and whether you’re celebrating with a great beauty in your life or observing Singles Appreciation Day, you may want to have some eye-catching red ready to wear in the spirit of the season.

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James Dean in Breton Stripes

James Dean, photographed by Sanford Roth, 1955.

James Dean, photographed by Sanford Roth, 1955.

Vitals

James Dean, enigmatic young actor and rebellious emblem

Los Angeles, Summer 1955

Photographs by Sanford Roth

Part of BAMF Style’s Iconic Photo Series, focusing on style featured in famous photography of classic stars rather than from specific productions.

Background

Today would have been the 90th birthday of James Dean, born in central Indiana on February 8, 1931. Considering his cultural impact, it’s remarkable that Dean condensed his entire career into less than a half decade in the early 1950s, acting in a series of commercials, TV anthology programs, and uncredited bit parts in movies until delivering a trio of enduring performances in East of EdenRebel Without a Cause, and Giant that would be released within a year and a half of each other.

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James Caan in Thief: Frank’s Black Leather Jacket

James Caan as Frank in Thief (1981)

James Caan as Frank in Thief (1981)

Vitals

James Caan as Frank, professional jewel thief

Chicago, Spring 1980

Film: Thief
Release Date: March 27, 1981
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Supervisor: Jodie Lynn Tillen

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Michael Mann—born today in 1943—directed (and wrote) his feature-length debut, Thief, a moody neo-noir thriller that would portend his particular brand of stylized crime dramas to follow like ManhunterHeat, and Collateral, as well as his work on the landmark series Miami Vice. The source material was the 1975 novel The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by “Frank Hohimer”, a real-life criminal named John Seybold who served as an on-set technical advisor despite the pending FBI warrants against him.

As the eponymous thief, James Caan’s Frank establishes an early template for the professional criminals that populate Mann’s work, subdued in appearance and demeanor but ruthless against any target getting in the way of his payday…and his freedom.

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A Bullet for Pretty Boy: Fabian’s Navy Suit

Fabian Forte as Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd in A Bullet for Pretty Boy (1970)

Fabian Forte as Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd in A Bullet for Pretty Boy (1970)

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Fabian Forte as Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Depression-era bank robber

Kansas City, Spring 1930 and 1931

Film: A Bullet for Pretty Boy
Release Date: June 1970
Director: Larry Buchanan (and Maury Dexter, uncredited)
Wardrobe Credit: Ron Scott

Background

After Warner Brothers’ success with Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, American International Pictures (AIP) leapt at the chance to capitalize on the emerging trend of Depression-era crime movies using their own brand of inexpensive, exploitative filmmaking. This wasn’t AIP’s first rodeo in the realm of ’30s public enemies, having earlier produced The Bonnie Parker Story and Machine Gun Kelly, both released in May 1958. Their B-movie output in the decade that followed Bonnie and Clyde ranged from fictional stories like Boxcar Bertha (1972) directed by Martin Scorsese to those loosely based on actual criminals like Bloody Mama (1970) starring Shelley Winters as a caricature of “Ma” Barker (alongside a young Robert De Niro as one of her sons) to Dillinger (1973).

Even before that arguably most famous ’30s bank robber would be played by a grizzled Warren Oates, one-time teen idol Fabian got a shot to rebrand his image by playing Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, the outlaw whose moniker alone lent itself to suit the fresh-faced Mr. Forte.

The real Charles Arthur Floyd was born 117 years ago on February 3, 1904, in Adairsville, Georgia, though his family moved to Oklahoma when Floyd was seven, and it was the Cookson Hills that he would consider home for the 30 years of his life.

A fellow Aquarius, Forte was born only three days (and 39 years) later on February 6, 1943, making him 26—the same age as Floyd was for his first bank robbery—when A Bullet for Pretty Boy was filmed from June to October 1969. A Bullet for Pretty Boy loosely follows the facts of Floyd’s life, albeit exaggerated and certainly simplified for the sake of AIP’s low-budget, short-runtime formula for success that would thrill teens at the drive-ins just before these audiences found the real thrills in their own back seats later that night. Continue reading