Paul Newman as Brick Pollitt, bitter and repressed ex-athlete
Mississippi, Summer 1958
Film: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Release Date: August 27, 1958
Director: Richard Brooks
Wardrobe Credit: Helen Rose
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
April 16 is traditionally National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day, designed as a sartorial reprieve after the stress of meeting a late-night deadline to file taxes by April 15. As it felt incongruous to celebrate that “holiday” on a Sunday, I waited until today to celebrate a Hollywood icon who had the good fortune to wear pajamas for the majority of his screen-time in his first Oscar-nominated performance.
Thanks to movies like Somebody Up There Likes Me and The Long, Hot Summer, Paul Newman’s career was on the rise through the late 1950s when he was cast as Brick Pollitt alongside Elizabeth Taylor in the cinematic adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Continue reading
Monty Woolley as Sheridan Whiteside, catty, cantankerous, and “celebrated author and critic”
Ohio, Winter 1941
Film: The Man Who Came to Dinner
Release Date: January 1, 1942
Director: William Keighley
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly
Based on a play of the same name by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, the holiday-centered screwball comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner was released 80 years ago this year. Inspired by Hart’s own experiences with critic and writer Alexander Woollcott, the eponymous “man” is Sheridan Whiteside, an acerbic radio personality whose well-publicized national tour includes a stop in the invented town of Mesalia, Ohio, where his prestige has preceded him more than his condescending attitude. Continue reading
Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, laidback stoner and bowler
Los Angeles, Fall 1991
Film: The Big Lebowski
Release Date: March 6, 1998
Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres
To commemorate the day that The Big Lebowski was released in 1998, March 6 is considered the high holy day of Dudeism, an “ancient” religious philosophy that touts itself as “the slowest-growing religion in the world” and inspired by the easygoing, non-judgmental attitude of The Dude himself.
We meet The Dude during a late-night Ralph’s run to pick up some much-needed half-and-half for his beloved White Russians, dressed in a soft robe, plaid shorts, sandals and sunglasses, a laidback loungewear ensemble emblematic of the unofficial wardrobe of Dudeists. Continue reading
John Garfield as Frank Chambers, restless drifter-turned-diner worker
Laguna Beach, California, Summer 1945
Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: May 2, 1946
Director: Tay Garnett
Costume Supervisor: Irene
As #Noirvember continues, let’s step away from the trench coats and fedoras to see how our hardboiled anti-heroes dress for a day at the beach. An ode to deviance that originated from James M. Cain’s 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice was adapted twice by European filmmakers before Hollywood dared to tackle it during the golden age of noir in the 1940s.
The lascivious source material had presented a challenge for presenting the story in a way that would satisfy the draconian Motion Picture Production Code and, even before it was published, a synopsis of Cain’s story had been deemed “definitely unsuitable for motion picture production” by the pearl-clutching Hays Office. After the two European adaptations were released, MGM was finally ready to proceed with its own version, inspired by the success of Double Indemnity, another piece from Cain’s poison pen centered around adultery and murder. By this time, nearly a dozen years into the rigid enforcement years of the Production Code, American filmmakers had mastered the art of stylized shadows and suggestive innuendo that allowed—and often enhanced—these films noir set in lurid worlds filled with unscrupulous and unsavory elements.
“It was on a side road outside of Los Angeles,” Frank Chambers begins his story, as the down-on-his-luck hitchhiker stumbles into the Twin Oaks diner boasting a $1.25 “best in the world” chicken dinner. The simple sign, “Man wanted,” echoes both the restaurant’s staffing needs as well as the sensuous needs of Cora (Lana Turner), the ambitious young platinum blonde who runs the roadside lunch room with her proud yet oblivious husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway)… and, even if you haven’t read or seen it, you probably already see where this is going.
Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent
New Mexico, Summer 1966
Film: Murderers’ Row
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Henry Levin
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday, Dean Martin! The charismatic entertainer known for his laidback charm and boozy, breezy persona was born June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio. Having established himself as a singer and actor, first in his partnership with Jerry Lewis and then among the swingers of the Rat Pack, Dino set out on his own direction in the mid-1960s, first with his variety series The Dean Martin Show on NBC and then his starring role as easygoing counter-agent Matt Helm in a multi-film franchise based on Donald Hamilton’s espionage novels. Unlike their more straightforward and serious source material, Martin’s Matt Helm movies followed the decade’s zeitgeist for spy parodies in the spirit of Carry On Spying and Our Man Flint. If you thought James Bond was a womanizer, lounge lizard Matt Helm proves that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
James Stewart as L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies, bored photographer
New York City, Summer 1954
Film: Rear Window
Release Date: September 1, 1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
April 16 is celebrated as National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day, an observance that many would have considered unthinkable until the spread of the coronavirus pandemic last month found many around the world working from home for the first time, finding comfort in their lounge-wear while struggling with unfamiliar teleconferencing software. The idea of being confined to one’s home in pajamas while a growing terror lurks outside brought one movie to mind: Alfred Hitchcock’s damn-near-perfect thriller Rear Window.
Cary Grant as Philip Adams, sophisticated playboy economist
London, Christmas Eve 1957
Release Date: June 26, 1958
Director: Stanley Donen
Merry Christmas, BAMF Style readers! In the spirit of the holidays, let’s continue looking at stylish dressers in “Christmas-adjacent” fare by focusing on that most famously elegant icon, Cary Grant, in what was reportedly the actor’s favorite among his own movies.
Stanley Donen’s 1958 romantic comedy Indiscreet reteamed Grant with Ingrid Bergman a dozen years after the two iconic stars had shared the screen in Hitchcock’s spy thriller Notorious (1946), though the suspense of Indiscreet is less a matter of international espionage and more romantic intrigue with Bergman’s character believing herself to be engaged in a clandestine affair with a married man… though Grant’s Philip Adams only pretends to be married to limit his commitments to the women he can’t resist.
Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, Vegas casino executive and mob associate
Las Vegas, Spring 1978
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Rita Ryack & John A. Dunn
More than a year has passed since I last explored the expansive and flashy wardrobe worn by Robert De Niro as “Ace” Rothstein in Casino, so what better occasion than the real Ace’s birthday to take another look at the casino executive’s colorful attire.
Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal was born 90 years ago today—June 12, 1929—in Chicago, where he spent his formative years and early career until moving to Miami in the early ’60s. Within the decade, Lefty grew tired of the attention from local police and federal authorities and moved out to Las Vegas, where he swiftly and secretly established himself as the operator of the now-demolished Stardust Resort and Casino.
Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1927
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
Tomorrow would have been the 120th birthday of Al Capone, had the infamous gangster not rotted to his syphilic demise in 1947.
Capone’s story remains one of the most frequently adapted for movies and TV, beginning with Rod Steiger in the cleverly titled 1959 film Al Capone through Neville Brand (twice), Ben Gazzara, Jason Robards, Ray Sharkey, and F. Murray Abraham, up through Robert de Niro’s iconic performance in The Untouchables (1987). The gangster was most recently—and most prolifically—portrayed by Stephen Graham in all five seasons of Boardwalk Empire, though Tom Hardy is set to play Capone in the upcoming feature film Fonzo.
Of course, a larger-than-life character like Al Capone didn’t have to wait until after he was dead to see his story unfold on the screen. While his name was never used in movies released during his lifetime, Capone provided the obvious inspiration for a number of gangsters in pre-Code crime cinema, most famously the ambitious, smooth, and lethal Tony Camonte, played by Paul Muni in Scarface. Continue reading
Frank Sinatra as Joey Evans, womanizing nightclub singer
San Francisco, Spring 1957
Film: Pal Joey
Release Date: October 25, 1957
Director: George Sidney
Costume Designer: Jean Louis
The same year that Pal Joey was released, Frank Sinatra released A Swingin’ Affair!, his latest concept album from Capitol Records. The fourth track, “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan”, was written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz in 1929, when it was introduced by Clifton Webb in the songwriting duo’s revue The Little Show.
I guess I’ll have to change my plan
I should have realized there’d be another man
Why did I buy those blue pajamas
Before the big affair began