Category: Black Tie

Sam Neill’s Peak-Lapel Dinner Jacket as Sidney Reilly

Sam Neill, Jeananne Crowley, Laura Davenport, and Celia Gregory in Reilly: Ace of Spies

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly on Reilly: Ace of Spies, with Jeananne Crowley, Laura Davenport, and Celia Gregory, who portrayed Reilly’s three wives.

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Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, shrewd British agent and anti-Bolshevik

New York City and Berlin, Fall 1924

Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “The Trust” (Episode 10)
Air Date: November 2, 1983
Director: Martin Campbell
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Although there’s little consensus on the details of his life—including his birth name—the famous adventurer who would eventually known as Sidney Reilly is said to have been born on March 24, though even the year is a question of debate; he may have been born Georgy Rosenblum in Odessa in 1873, or he may have been born Sigmund Rosenblum to a wealth Bielsk family in 1874. His escapades as a British agent during the Russian Revolution cemented his self-aggrandized reputation as the “Ace of Spies”, establishing a legend that would inspire no less than Ian Fleming when developing the character of his fictional agent James Bond.

The opportunistic Reilly—as he had rechristened himself during his initial service for Special Branch in the late 1890s—never missed a chance to build his wealth or reputation, crafting a legend during his lifetime that would live well beyond his ostensible execution by the Soviets in 1925. A household name by the end of the decade, Reilly was the subject of multiple books, including Ace of Spies, written by the son of R.H. Bruce Lockhart, the Scottish-born diplomat who had worked with Reilly in the infamous “Ambassadors’ Plot” attempt to overthrow the fledgling Bolshevik government in 1918 and resulted in both men being sentenced to death in absentia. Robin Lockhart’s book was adapted into Reilly: Ace of Spies, a stylish twelve-part miniseries that originally aired in ITV across the fall of 1983. Continue reading

Death on the Nile: Simon MacCorkindale’s White Mess Jacket

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile (1978)

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile (1978)

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Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle, newlywed honeymooner

Egypt, September 1937

Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today would have been the 70th birthday of Simon MacCorkindale, the English actor whose breakthrough role was in Death on the Nile, the 1978 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery of the same name.

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Jack Lemmon’s Bachelor Tuxedo in How to Murder Your Wife

Jack Lemmon in How to Murder Your Wife

Jack Lemmon as Stanley Ford in How to Murder Your Wife (1965)

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Jack Lemmon as Stanley Ford, comic strip artist and dedicated bachelor

New York City, Summer 1964

Film: How to Murder Your Wife
Release Date: September 20, 1965
Director: Richard Quine
Wardrobe: Izzy Berne & Marie Osborne

Background

On what would have been the birthday of one of my favorite actors—Jack Lemmon, born February 8, 1925—I want to revisit his style in the first of his filmography that I had ever seen, the swingin’ ’60s comedy How to Murder Your Wife which, as the title implies, balances black comedy with classic screwball elements.

Lemmon stars as Stanley Ford, a successful newspaper cartoonist whose spun his success writing the daily adventures of super-spy “Bash Brannigan” into an enviable bachelor lifestyle, complete with a swanky Lenox Hill townhouse and his devoted valet Charles (Terry-Thomas), whose daily duties include cleaning up after Stanley’s latest romantic conquests, providing reassurance and advice, and ensuring that a “properly chilled” vodka martini awaits Stanley at the end of each day. Continue reading

Frank Sinatra’s 1971 Retirement Concert Tuxedo

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra sings his ’40s-era hit “All or Nothing at All” during his June 1971 retirement concert in L.A.

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Frank Sinatra, multi-talented entertainer facing retirement

Los Angeles, Summer 1971

Series: Sinatra: All or Nothing At All
Air Date: April 5-6, 2015
Director: Alex Gibney

Background

Born December 12, 1915, Frank Sinatra had recently turned 55 when he started talking seriously with close friends about retirement. For more than 30 years, the entertainer had enjoyed a landmark career, beginning with his days as a pop idol, then a career downturn in the early ’50s that was reinvigorated by an Oscar win for From Here to Eternity and a series of concept albums for Capitol Records that launched him to massive success.

Throughout the ’60s, Sinatra evolved from one of the most popular entertainers in the nation to one of the most influential entertainers across the world. He had founded his own record label with Reprise Records, been a confidante of a sitting U.S. President (before their famous falling-out), and continued to prove his success on the charts with songs like “My Way” (despite his resentment for this particular tune.)

Like so many successful 55-year-old Americans, Ol’ Blue Eyes decided to hang up his tilted hat and retire, with his final performance to be June 13, 1971, at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Alex Gibney’s 2015 HBO documentary Sinatra: All or Nothing at All was framed around the singer’s hand-chosen setlist for the concert, and how the eleven musical milestones Sinatra selected essentially told the story of his life to that point. Continue reading

The Grass is Greener: Cary Grant’s Velvet Dinner Jacket

Cary Grant as Victor, Earl of Rhyall, in The Grass is Greener (1960)

Cary Grant as Victor, Earl of Rhyall, in The Grass is Greener (1960)

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Cary Grant as Victor, Earl of Rhyall, deadpan but debonair nobleman

Rural England, Spring 1960

Film: The Grass is Greener
Release Date: December 23, 1960
Director: Stanley Donen
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson

Background

Today marks the 35th anniversary since the death of screen legend and style icon Cary Grant. To commemorate the actor’s prolific career, I wanted to highlight his characteristically stylish clothing from one of his lesser-discussed works, the Stanley Donen-directed romantic comedy The Grass is Greener.

While The Grass is Greener isn’t among my favorite of Grant’s filmography, I can certainly appreciate its cast and style! The execution feels a little too stagey for my liking, which makes sense as it was adapted by Hugh Williams and Margaret Vyner from their own hit play, deriving its title from the centuries-old idiom that is paraphrased by Grant’s character when he admits that “indeed, the grass is always greener on the other side of the hedge.”

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Death on the Nile: Peter Ustinov’s Dinner Suit as Poirot

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978)

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978)

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Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, eccentric Belgian detective

Egypt, September 1937

Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell

Background

Today would have been the 100th birthday of Peter Ustinov, the brilliant dramatist and diplomat who—among his many achievements—played Agatha Christie’s celebrated sleuth Hercule Poirot in a half-dozen productions.

Fluent in multiple languages, Ustinov was easily able to glide between the English and French required to play the fussy Belgian detective and was able to provide his own voice in the French and German versions of his movies, including several of the Poirot productions.

Death on the Nile was the first—and often considered the strongest—of Ustinov’s six films as Poirot. Continue reading

Walk the Line: Johnny Cash in Rockabilly White and Black

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005)

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005)

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Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, rising country rock star

Texarkana, Texas, Summer 1955

Film: Walk the Line
Release Date: November 18, 2005
Director: James Mangold
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
Tailor: Pam Lisenby

Background

Eighty-nine years ago on February 26, 1932, J.R. Cash was born in Arkansas. His childhood was dominated by music, as there was little else to encourage the family enduring the hard years of the Depression made worse by a dangerous flood and the violent death of Jack, one of the seven Cash children. It was when he joined the military that the 18-year-old Cash expanded his first name as the Air Force wouldn’t allow just initials, though it wasn’t until cutting his first recording at Sun Records that he established the name that would become legendary: Johnny Cash. Continue reading

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)

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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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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”).

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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

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Black Tie in The Great Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (2013)

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, eagerly romantic millionaire and bootlegger

Long Island, New York, Summer 1922

Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin

Background

On the eve of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday, let’s look at the most recent major adaptation of his most famous work, The Great Gatsby. Fitz’s 1925 novel had been adapted for the big screen at least four times before Baz Luhrmann directed his colorful spectacle during the past decade.

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