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
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
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
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)
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.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious and award-winning Madison Avenue ad man
Series: Mad Men
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
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 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
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.
Timothy Dalton as James Bond, British government agent
Bratislava, Fall 1986
Film: The Living Daylights
Release Date: June 27, 1987
Director: John Glen
Costume Designer: Emma Porteous
Costume Supervisor: Tiny Nicholls
Happy birthday to Timothy Dalton, born 74 years ago today on March 21, 1946! To celebrate the Welsh actor’s birthday, I want to revisit Dalton’s debut as James Bond, bringing a serious, Ian Fleming-influenced approach two decades before Daniel Craig would approach the role in a similar manner.
Dalton had long been a contender for the role, turning it down twice due to his youth when the filmmakers sought a replacement for Sean Connery and then for George Lazenby. When it was unclear if Roger Moore would return for his trio of 007 films in the ’80s, Dalton’s name came up each time, but it wasn’t until Pierce Brosnan was contractually obligated to turn down the role to return to Remington Steele in 1986 that a pathway was finally opened for Dalton, then 40 years old and seasoned enough to play the agent, to slip into Bond’s finely tailored dinner jacket for The Living Daylights. Continue reading
Cary Grant as Philip Shayne, smooth, sophisticated, and suave investment executive and “perfect gentleman”
Bermuda, Spring 1962
Film: That Touch of Mink
Release Date: June 14, 1962
Director: Delbert Mann
Tailor: Cardinal Clothes (credited “for Cary Grant’s suits”)
To commemorate the birthday of Cary Grant, born on this day in 1904, let’s celebrate the debonair actor who was seemingly born to wear a tuxedo. After three decades of a well-tailored career, the erstwhile Archie Leach sported his final on-screen dinner suit in the romantic comedy That Touch of Mink released in 1962, the same year as the first James Bond movie was released, thus heralding the transfer of the definitive screen dinner suit-wearer to 007. Continue reading
Cary Grant as Philip Adams, sophisticated playboy economist
London, Fall 1957 to Spring 1958
Release Date: June 26, 1958
Director: Stanley Donen
Happy birthday to the great Cary Grant, born 115 years ago today on January 18, 1904, in Bristol, England. Born Archibald Leach before he assumed his catchier stage name, Grant’s signature screen presence blended his self-deprecating sense of humor with peerless suavity in both attitude and style. Grant’s popularity during the mid-20th century and the height of the dinner suit’s ubiquity meant the debonair actor would don a tuxedo almost as frequently as James Bond… and it’s not surprising to hear that Grant was an early contender for the role of 007, at least in the mind of the character’s creator Ian Fleming.
Between 1955 and 1962, Grant starred in seven contemporary-set films that didn’t require him to be in military uniform; of these, he sported a tuxedo in all but one (the lone exception, North by Northwest, featured the actor wearing arguably the most famous suit in movie history so there was little need for black tie.) In the middle of this impressive and stylish run of movies is Indiscreet, a Stanley Donen-directed romantic comedy that earned Grant his first of five Golden Globe nominations. Continue reading
Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, shrewd British agent and anti-Bolshevik
St. Petersburg, Russia, October 1910, and
London, November 1918
Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
– “Dreadnoughts and Doublecrosses” (Episode 6), dir. Jim Goddard, aired 10/5/1983
– “After Moscow”(Episode 9), dir. Martin Campbell, aired 10/26/1983
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller
Reilly: Ace of Spies fictionalizes the exploits of Russian-born spy Sidney Reilly, often cited as a real-life basis for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. While the showrunners must have been cognizant of the need to place their suave British secret agent in a tuxedo, the series’ narrative also coincided with the rise of the dinner jacket over the first quarter of the 20th century.
Clifton Webb as Richard Ward Sturges, millionaire and estranged family man
RMS Titanic, April 1912
Release Date: April 16, 1953
Director: Jean Negulesco
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Before there was Kate and Leo, there was Barbara and Clifton.
To know me is to know my obsession with the Titanic and other maritime disasters of the early 20th century. SS Valencia, Empress of Ireland, Lusitania, Princess Sophia, Titanic‘s hospital sister ship Britannic… chances are that if it sank in the first few decades of last century, I know a thing or two about it.
It was today in 1912 that the RMS Titanic actually struck the iceberg that sank her. The collision happened around 11:40 p.m., North Atlantic time, on the night of Sunday, April 14. Compared to most of the other disasters in the previous paragraph, it took considerable time to sink, finally settling under the waves at 2:20 a.m. on the morning of Monday, April 15, 1912, ending more than 1,500 lives of the roughly 2,200 that had been aboard.