Category: Movies

The Last of Sheila: James Coburn’s White Yachting Gear

James Coburn in The Last of Sheila (1973)

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James Coburn as Clinton Greene, eccentric Hollywood producer

French Riviera, Late summer 1972

Film: The Last of Sheila
Release Date: June 14, 1973
Director: Herbert Ross
Costume Designer: Joel Schumacher

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

If you’re the sort of person who follows such sartorial conventions, Labor Day on Monday makes this the last weekend where it’s “acceptable” to wear white. Of course, there are many who take umbrage to being told what’s acceptable to wear and when—such as Clinton Greene, the flamboyant film producer at the center of The Last of Sheila‘s sun-bleached mystery. Clinton was played by James Coburn, the versatile Nebraska-born actor born 95 years ago today on August 31, 1928.

Recently widowed after his wife Sheila was killed during a mysterious hit-and-run accident near their Hollywood home, Clinton commemorates the one-year anniversary of Sheila’s death by inviting his six closest frenemies—most of whom had been present during the party at their home the night Sheila was killed—to spend a week playing high-stakes puzzles on his luxury yacht off the coast of southern France. Continue reading

Richard Attenborough in The Great Escape

Richard Attenborough in The Great Escape (1963)

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Richard Attenborough as Roger Bartlett, aka “Big X”, RAF Squadron Leader and escape artist

Sagan-Silesia (now Żagań, Poland), Spring 1944

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today would have been the 100th birthday of English actor and director Richard Attenborough, born August 29, 1923 in Cambridge. One of this prolific stage and screen actor’s best-known roles was leading the ensemble cast of The Great Escape (1963) as Roger Bartlett, aka “Big X”, the Royal Air Force officer who organized the mass breakout from Stalag Luft III.

Bartlett was based on real-life RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, whose birthday was only one day after (and 13 years before) the actor who portrayed him—born August 30, 1910 in Springs, Transvaal, South Africa. Bushell pursued his secondary education in England, first at Wellington College before studying law at Cambridge, where the athletic scholar distinguished himself as a champion skier. A skiing accident scarred Bushell’s left eye for the rest of his life, represented in The Great Escape by a scar painted over Richard Attenborough’s opposite eye as the fictionalized Roger Bartlett.

“He was a big, tempestuous man with broad shoulders and the most chilling, pale-blue eyes I ever saw,” Paul Brickhill described Bushell in his excellent 1950 chronicle The Great Escape, which formed the basis for the film of the same name. “After it had been sewn up, the corner of his eye drooped permanently, and the effect on his look was strangely sinister and brooding.”

The adventurous Bushell yearned to fly and was commissioned as a Royal Air Force officer in 1932. He continued practicing law, defending fellow RAF fliers including Paddy Byrne, with whom he would eventually be imprisoned at Stalag Luft III. After England entered World War II, Bushell was given command of No. 92 Squadron and promoted to Squadron Leader (OF-3). In May 1940, Bushell was leading his squadron against their first enemy engagement and damaged two German planes before he himself was shot down, crash-landing his Supermarine Spitfire fighter in occupied France. The downed Bushell was quickly captured by the Germans and transferred into a prisoner-of-war camp for Allied airmen. “If the Germans had realized what a troublesome man they had caught, they would possibly have shot him then,” Brickhill editoralized. Continue reading

The Day of the Jackal: Edward Fox’s Tan Herringbone Suit

Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal (1973)

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Edward Fox as “The Jackal”, mysterious professional assassin

Europe, Summer 1963

Film: The Day of the Jackal
Release Date: May 16, 1973
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Costume Design: Joan Bridge, Rosine Delamare, and Elizabeth Haffenden

Background

The Day of the Jackal culminated 60 years ago today on August 25, 1963 in Paris, commemorating the liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during World War II. Frederick Forsyth’s excellent 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal was hardly two years old before it was adapted for the screen by screenwriter Kenneth Ross and director Fred Zinnemann, who reportedly wanted to make the film after reading Forsyth’s yet-unpublished manuscript all in one night.

Zinnemann didn’t want a recognizable major star to distract from the intrigue on screen, and—despite Universal Studios pushing for Jack Nicholson—cast Edward Fox as the eponymous “Jackal”, whose codename is determined in the book after he was “speaking of hunting” with his handlers. In addition to the film benefiting from faithfully following Forysth’s narrative and structure, a highlight is Fox’s performance as the enigmatic and oft-elegantly dressed assassin, whose demeanor can shift from affable to icily dangerous as needed. Continue reading

The Rocky IV Hugo Boss Sweatshirt

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

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Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, two-time heavyweight world champion boxer

Las Vegas, Fall 1985

Film: Rocky IV
Release Date: November 27, 1985
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Costume Designer: Tom Bronson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

If he dies, he dies.

Cold-hearted Russian boxing champion and Soviet Army captain Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) has little remorse for the brutal clobbering he delivers to Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) during their exhibition fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. As Apollo indeed dies in the arms of his respected rival-turned-friend Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), Rocky takes it upon himself to avenge his fallen friend… and essentially defend the very concept of American freedom and all things red, white, and blue.

After the groundbreaking global success of Rocky (1976) propelled Stallone to stardom, the actor-and-writer added directing to his plate, making his debut with the 1940s-set Paradise Alley (1978) which—like Rocky—he also wrote and starred in. He continued feeding the franchise that made him, writing, directing, and starring in three Rocky sequels throughout the 1980s. (Stallone would not direct the 1990 sequel, Rocky V, though he did direct the 2006 continuation Rocky Balboa.)

The third highest-grossing movie of 1985, Rocky IV has remained a pop culture touchstone of the decade’s patriotic excess, as illustrated during the Creed vs. Drago match, where the flag-bedecked Apollo made his entrance surrounded by showgirls and James Brown singing “Living in America” while his three trainers—Rocky, Duke (Tony Burton), and Paulie (Burt Young) observe in their red, white, and blue Hugo Boss sweatshirts.

Continue reading

Top Gun: Maverick — CWU Flight Jacket and Jeans

Tom Cruise and Jennifer Connelly in Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

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Tom Cruise as CAPT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, experienced U.S. Navy test pilot-turned-instructor

NAS North Island near San Diego, Fall 2019

Film: Top Gun: Maverick
Release Date: May 27, 2022
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Costume Designer: Marlene Stewart

Background

It’s been a minute, huh Mav?

To commemorate August 19 being National Aviation Day, today’s post celebrates one of the most famous fictional naval aviators in movie history.

Thirty-six years to the month after its predecessor flew into theaters, Top Gun: Maverick returned Tom Cruise to the flight deck as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a virtuoso Naval Aviator who still lives up to his nickname more than three decades since he was a swaggering but skilled lieutenant in the U.S. Navy’s prestigious “Top Gun” training program.

“Captain? Still?” he’s asked, prompting Maverick to clarify that he’s “a highly decorated Captain.” His insubordination repeatedly preventing promotion to flag officer like his pal and one-time rival Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer), CAPT Pete Mitchell is still “the fastest man alive”, now a Navy test pilot living in a hangar in the Mojave Desert, fighting the good fight for practical flight vs. the unmanned preferences of bureaucrats like RADM Chester Cain (Ed Harris), aka “The Drone Ranger”.

Despite Maverick falling out of favor among Navy brass, Iceman still looks out for his pal and—when Maverick is in danger of being grounded—has the distinguished aviator recalled to Top Gun at NAS North Island, where the stern, by-the-book commander VADM Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm) briefs him on a dangerous mission, tasked to destroy an unsanctioned underground uranium enrichment plant… clarifying “we don’t want you to fly it, we want you to teach it.”

While at “Fightertown U.S.A.”, Maverick reconnects with former fling Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), who now runs The Hard Deck, a local bar frequented by fliers like the recent graduates that Maverick will be training for the mission. Among these aviators—played by a cast of rising stars like Monica Barbaro, Manny Jacinto, and Glen Powell—is Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), son of Maverick’s late friend and RIO Goose, who resents Mav for having blocked his Naval Academy application. Over the course of the accelerated training, a mutual respect grows between the confident young lieutenants and the experienced veteran. Continue reading

The Godfather, Part II: De Niro’s Blue Two-Toned Shirt as Young Vito

Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II (1974)

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Robert De Niro as Vito Corleone, née Andolini, Sicilian-born immigrant-turned-gangster

New York City, Summer 1917 to Spring 1920

Film: The Godfather Part II
Release Date: December 12, 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

On screen legend Robert De Niro’s 80th birthday, today’s post revisits his star-making, Oscar-winning role as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II.

Born August 17, 1943, De Niro’s birthday falls the day after the traditional August 16th observance of the Feast of San Rocco—the backdrop of the young Vito’s 1917 assassination of Black Hand extortionist Don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin) that propels his gangland ascension. Continue reading

Ron Howard in American Graffiti

Ron Howard as Steve Bolander in American Graffiti (1973)

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Ron Howard as Steve Bolander, conflicted high school graduate

Modesto, California, Summer 1962

Film: American Graffiti
Release Date: August 11, 1973
Director: George Lucas
Costume Designer: Aggie Guerard Rodgers

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

“Where were you in ’62?” asked the promotional materials for American Graffiti, widely released 50 years ago today on August 11, 1973. George Lucas followed his directorial debut THX 1138 with a neon-lit nostalgic ode to his rock-scored youth cruising the streets of Modesto, California in the early 1960s.

The film centers around four recent high school graduates who meet in the parking lot of Mel’s Drive-In on the last night of summer vacation: even-keeled Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss), confident drag-racer John Milner (Paul Le Mat), the fittingly nicknamed Terry “the Toad” Fields (Charles Martin Smith), and the aloof Steve Bolander (Ron Howard), who lends his stunning white ’58 Impala to Terry while he’s away at college.

It’s a moody night for Steve, battling with his decision to leave both Modesto and his relationship with Laurie (Cindy Williams), summing up the movie’s thesis when he observes “you just can’t stay seventeen forever.” Continue reading

The Cotton Club: Gregory Hines Dances in Houndstooth

Gregory Hines as Sandman Williams in The Cotton Club (1984)

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Gregory Hines as Delbert “Sandman” Williams, affable and ambitious dancer

Harlem, Spring 1929

Film: The Cotton Club
Release Date: December 14, 1984
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero

Background

One of the most celebrated tap dancers of all time, the multi-talented Gregory Hines died 20 years ago today on August 9, 2003. His charismatic performance as “Sandman” Williams in The Cotton Club remains a highlight from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club, an ambitious and controversial part-musical, part-mob drama that producer Robert Evans spent five years bringing to the screen.

Centered around the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem, the movie boasts all the ingredients to entertain: an evocative Prohibition-era setting at an iconic nightclub, a pitch-perfect period soundtrack from John Barry that replicates the sounds of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, and a talented cast that includes then-rising stars like Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Grey, James Remar, and Gregory and Maurice Hines. Continue reading

The Fugitive: Samuel Gerard’s Navy Blazer and Jeans

Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive (1993)

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Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Gerard, intrepid Deputy U.S. Marshal

Chicago, Spring 1993

Film: The Fugitive
Release Date: August 6, 1993
Director: Andrew Davis
Costume Designer: Aggie Guerard Rodgers

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today is the 30th anniversary since the release of The Fugitive, Andrew Davis’ 1993 update of the 1960s TV series that followed a doctor wrongly accused of his wife’s murder as he travels the country in the hopes of clearing his name by finding the one-armed man he believes to be guilty.

Pursuing the innocent Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) through the Midwest is Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), the determined Deputy U.S. Marshal leading the hunt with his team of trusted pros. Though a snarky master of caustic wit, Gerard is serious about doing his job—and only his job—as established during the memorable scene when Kimble tries to dissuade his persuader by assuring him of his innocence.

Dr. Kimble: I didn’t kill my wife!
Gerard: I don’t care!

Continue reading

Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Vacation

Chevy Chase with Anthony Michael Hall, Beverly D’Angelo, and Dana Barron in National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

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Chevy Chase as Clark W. Griswold, Jr., hapless family man

Chicago to Los Angeles, Summer 1982

Film: National Lampoon’s Vacation
Release Date: July 29, 1983
Director: Harold Ramis
Men’s Costumer: Robert Harris Jr.

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun, you know that!

Today is the 40th anniversary of the release National Lampoon’s Vacation, a comedy classic celebrating the great American tradition of the family summer road trip. Inspired by John Hughes’ short story “Vacation ’58” about a fictitious cross-country trip to Disneyland in a lemony station wagon that ends with our protagonist’s Dad shooting Walt Disney in the leg, Vacation introduced audiences to Clark W. Griswold, Jr., a well-intended family man who regularly goes disastrously above and beyond expectations to attempt to create memorable experiences for his family.

National Lampoon’s Vacation sends the Griswold family toward the fictional southern California destination of Walley World, a thinly veiled nomen à clef of Disneyland, though filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valenica. Clark packs his wife Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and their children Rusty (Anthony Michael Hall) and Audrey (Dana Barron) into a clunky conglomeration of American automotive excess for a nightmarish family vacation from the Windy City to Walley World that Clark eventually describes to Roy Walley (Eddie Bracken) as “two weeks of living hell.” Continue reading