Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent and photographer
New Mexico to Phoenix, August 1965
Film: The Silencers
Release Date: February 18, 1966
Director: Phil Karlson
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Tailor: Sy Devore
Dean Martin infused his lounge lizard persona into a James Bond-like spy for his four-film portrayal of Matt Helm, a playboy whose love for turtlenecks, womanizing, and drinking above actual spying may make him more of an antecedent for the character of Sterling Archer than of 007 himself.
With a bossa nova score by Elmer Bernstein and a hip mid-sixties sartorialism styled by costume designer Moss Mabry and the Rat Pack’s go-to tailor Sy Devore, the Matt Helm series serves as a swingin’ time capsule to the waning heyday of hi-fis and hedonism. Though it may be dated, the series—particularly this first film, The Silencers—seems perfectly content with that and, in fact, it may be an intentional way for the 1966 zeitgeist to remain intact for modern audiences. Never taking itself too seriously, packed with decent talent, and sticking to a tight, quick-paced plot, The Silencers differentiates itself from its contemporary spy spoofs like Casino Royale in that it can still entertain 50 years later.
Clifton Webb as Richard Ward Sturges, millionaire, estranged family man, and fastidious dresser
RMS Titanic, April 1912
Release Date: April 16, 1953
Director: Jean Negulesco
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Julia: You’re up early.
Richard: I had to scratch around for something to wear. Not a bad shop, they have everything.
Julia: Dinner jackets, I trust.
Richard: Naturally. It will be ready tonight. So… life can go on.
This exchange summarizes the 1953 melodrama Titanic, one of the first attempts to tell the now-infamous story of the real-life sinking of the White Star Line’s premiere ocean liner during its maiden voyage in April 1912, sending more than 1,500 passengers and crew to their deaths as a few more than 700 spend a chilly night in uncovered lifeboats, waiting for help to arrive.
Released 66 years ago tomorrow, 20th Century Fox’s Titanic focuses more on the personal drama of the fictional Sturges family: pretentious and aloof patriarch Richard (Clifton Webb) and his strong-willed, responsible wife Julia (Barbara Stanwyck) who tries to protect their children from taking after their profligate father. Cut from the same cloth as his wickedly snobbish Waldo Lydecker character in Laura, Richard Ward Sturges delights in his children’s obvious preference for him as he showers them with a decadent lifestyle that would no doubt spoil them as adults if not for their more practical mother’s interventions. Continue reading
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard, small-time car thief
Marseille, France, August 1959
(French title: À bout de souffle)
Release Date: March 16, 1960
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Happy birthday, Bébel! Jean-Paul Belmondo was born 86 years ago today in Neuilly-sur-Seine, west of Paris. Following a brief career as an amateur boxer and his compulsory military service, Belmondo began acting in the mid-1950s and found international stardom after his performance in Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (Breathless to English-speaking audiences), a seminal example of the burgeoning French New Wave cinematic movement.
James Garner as Jim Rockford, wisecracking private detective and ex-convict
Los Angeles, Summer 1974
Series: The Rockford Files
Episode: “Backlash of the Hunter” (Pilot)
Air Date: March 27, 1974
Director: Richard T. Heffron
Creator: Roy Huggins & Stephen J. Cannell
Costume Designer: Charles Waldo
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today would have been the 91st birthday of James Garner, the charismatic actor who grew to stardom with his starring roles on the Western series Maverick and in The Great Escape (1963) before taking on what would be his signature role as struggling private eye Jim Rockford on The Rockford Files.
Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell developed The Rockford Files as a spiritual successor to Maverick, reinventing Garner’s charming gambler Bret Maverick as a modern-day private investigator with the same sarcastic yet sincere attitude and conflict-averse nature. Having already proven his private eye credentials by playing Raymond Chandler’s famous detective in Marlowe (1969), Garner stepped into Jim Rockford’s loafers and established one of the greatest TV roles ever.
This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and number. I’ll get back to you…
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, advertising creative director and whiskey aficionado
All around the United States, Summer 1968 through Summer 1969
Series: Mad Men
– “For Immediate Release” (Episode 6.06), dir. Jennifer Getzinger, aired 5/5/2013
– “The Better Half” (Episode 6.09), dir. Phil Abraham, aired 5/26/2013
– “Time Zones” (Episode 7.01), dir. Scott Hornbacher, aired 4/13/2014
– “The Strategy” (Episode 7.06), dir. Phil Abraham, aired 5/18/2014
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead! Continue reading
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
New Jersey, December 2000
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “The Telltale Moozadell” (Episode 3.09)
Air Date: April 22, 2001
Director: Dan Attias
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
In a late second season episode of The Sopranos, Christopher Moltisanti warns his fellow Italian-American mobsters about his vision of hell, “an Irish bar where it’s St. Patrick’s Day everyday forever.” Thus, let’s take a look at a stylish outfit from this seminal HBO drama on the first #MafiaMonday after St. Patrick’s Day!
Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka, disciplined ex-Yakuza
Tokyo, Spring 1974
Film: The Yakuza
Release Date: December 28, 1974
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
The Yakuza was the first screenplay credited to either Paul Schrader or Leonard Schrader, whose experiences in Japan inspired his brother to write the story. Leonard returned to the United States, where he spend the holiday season in Venice co-writing the screenplay’s first draft with Paul, who would later famously collaborate with Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver and Raging Bull among others. While the brothers watched many yakuza films for inspiration, what impressed them the most was the stoic screen presence of Ken Takakura, the Nakama-born actor who’d made his screen debut two decades earlier.