Peter Falk as Charlie Adamo, ambitious gangster
San Francisco and Las Vegas, Summer 1968
Film: Machine Gun McCain
(Italian title: Gli intoccabili)
Release Date: April 1, 1969
Director: Giuliano Montaldo
Costume Designer: Enrico Sabbatini
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Born 96 years ago today on September 16, 1927, Peter Falk may be best remembered as the rumpled but indefatigable Lieutenant Columbo (to the extent that his September 16th is also observed as “Wrinkled Raincoat Day”), but Falk spending most of his screen time wearing a handsomely tailored tuxedo in the 1969 Italian crime film Machine Gun McCain illustrates how the Bronx-born actor could clean up well. (And yes, I do plan on writing about Falk’s iconic wardrobe in Columbo someday!)
Released in Italy as Gli intoccabili (translated to “The Untouchables”) and based on the Ovid Demaris novel Candyleg, Machine Gun McCain joins the subject of my prior post as a prime example of poliziottesco, an Italian crime subgenre that emerged during the nation’s violent “Years of Lead” era and typified by corruption, violence, cynicism… and American lead actors. In this case, Falk was joined by his pal and frequent collaborator John Cassavetes, who portrays the eponymous ex-bank robber opposite Falk as gangster Charlie Adamo. Continue reading
Klaus Maria Brandauer as Maximillian Largo, billionaire businessman and SPECTRE terrorist
Monte Carlo, Spring 1983
Film: Never Say Never Again
Release Date: October 7, 1983
Director: Irvin Kershner
Costume Designer: Charles Knode
1983 was the year of the dueling James Bonds. Roger Moore continued as the canonical 007 in Eon Productions’ Octopussy, while Bond emeritus Sean Connery surprised audiences by starring in Never Say Never Again, an “unofficial” reimagining of Thunderball released 40 years ago next month by Jack Schwartzman’s Taliafilm.
Never Say Never Again resulted from a two-decade effort by producer Kevin McClory, who had collaborated with Ian Fleming and screenwriter Jack Whittingham on an original Bond screenplay in the late 1950s. When Fleming published a novelization of their unproduced screenplay as Thunderball in 1961, McClory and Whittingham sued and settled out of court, albeit with a string of conditions that ultimately maintained Eon’s rights to the story for up to ten years after the release of their own cinematic adaptation of Thunderball, released in 1965.
By the mid-1970s when McClory announced his plans to produce his own version of the story, both Whittingham and Fleming had died, and Connery had hung up 007’s shoulder holster—presumably for good—after reluctantly returning to the iconic role in Diamonds are Forever. After more legal and production hurdles, the end result released in October 1983 was Never Say Never Again, titled in reference to Connery reprising his role after twice saying he would never play Bond again. (While Moore turned 55 during the production of Octopussy, it’s Never Say Never Again that focuses more on Bond’s advancing age… despite Connery actually being three years younger than Moore and looking considerably more fit than the last time Connery starred as the “official” Bond in Diamonds are Forever a dozen years earlier.)
Not being produced by Eon meant many signature elements were missing, like the James Bond theme, the opening gunbarrel, and a familiar cast portraying 007’s allies at MI6. However, Bond still received his briefing from M (Edward Fox), flirted with Miss Moneypenny (Pamela Salem), and received his equipment from an uncharacteristically jolly Q (Alec McCowen) before jetting off to the Bahamas to investigate a missing nuclear warhead… just as he had in Thunderball.
Never Say Never Again globe-hops with more ferocity than Thunderball, and it’s not long before Bond arrives in southern France, tracking the enigmatic billionaire Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and his girlfriend Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger). Bond literally gets his hands on Domino at a Villefranche-sur-Mer massage parlor, where he learns that Largo is hosting a charity ball that night across the border in Monte Carlo. Good thing Bond packed his tuxedo!
Largo: Do you enjoy games, Mr. Bond?
Bond: Depends with whom I’m playing.
An oft-criticized scene from Never Say Never Again pits Bond against Largo during a duel for world domination… in the form of a pixilated video game that Largo invented. Titled “Domination”, the Atari-style game was clearly an attempt to make the story seem fashionable for the 1980s—though it likely seemed dated by the time its first audiences were already out of the theater. A beaming Largo explains that “unlike armchair generals, we will share the pain of our soldiers in the form of electric shocks.” Even after almost passing out from the pain, Bond keeps the game going—is it because he wants to prove a point to Largo, or does he just not want to give $58,000 to a children’s charity?
As September 12 is National Video Games Day (not to be confused with plain old “Video Games Day” observed on July 8), BAMF Style’s inaugural Never Say Never Again post will explore Largo’s creative black tie for the event. Continue reading
Roger Moore as James Bond, British government agent
Udaipur, India, Spring 1983
Release Date: June 6, 1983
Director: John Glen
Costume Designer: Emma Porteous
Tailor: Douglas Hayward
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy 00-7th of April! Easter weekend feels like the appropriate occasion to celebrate the debonair Roger Moore’s evening-wear for James Bond’s memorable “egg hunt” in his penultimate 007 adventure—the provocatively titled Octopussy, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this June. Continue reading
Ernest Borgnine as Mike Rogo, a tough New York detective
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
Happy New Year’s Eve! Fifty years ago, the holiday was celebrated in spectacular fashion aboard the S.S. Poseidon, the fictitious ship at the center of “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen’s Academy Award-winning 1972 blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure, based on Paul Gallico’s novel on the same name inspired by a journey on the RMS Queen Mary, the now-defunct ship where parts of the movie were filmed. Following the example set by the subgenre-establishing Airport two years earlier, The Poseidon Adventure gathered a group of a stars in a perilous situation that picked them off one by one, allowing its substantial advertising campaign to ask audiences “who will survive?” Continue reading
Al Martino as Johnny Fontane, down-on-his-luck crooner
Long Island, New York, Summer 1945
Film: The Godfather
Release Date: March 14, 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone
Today in 1927, Al Martino was born in Philadelphia to two Italian immigrants from Abruzzo, the same southern Italian region from which much of my family hails. Following his U.S. Navy service during World War II, the singer began earnestly following his career in entertainment. Twenty years after his first single, “Here in My Heart”, reached #1 in the U.S. Billboard and UK Singles charts, Martino joined the cast of The Godfather as Johnny Fontane, an Italian-American crooner whose early career parallels that of Martino’s contemporary Frank Sinatra. Continue reading
Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1929
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Several years ago, I published a high-level overview of the various black tie ensembles across the male cast of the original 1932 version of Scarface, adapted from Armitage Trail’s pulp novel of the same name, which had been inspired by the then-contemporary exploits of the infamous Al Capone.
Now, after eight more years of learning, I want to focus specifically on the evening-wear worn by the eponymous Tony Camonte, portrayed by Paul Muni—who was born on this day in 1895—as Tony’s tuxedo had long been one of the driving sartorial influences in my choice to have a double-breasted dinner jacket made for my wedding, which will be one month from today. Continue reading
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!
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
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!
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.
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
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, 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
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