Category: Suit

Detour: Tom Neal’s Borrowed Clothes and Borrowed Lincoln

Tom Neal as Al Roberts in Detour (1945)

Tom Neal behind the wheel of a ’41 Lincoln as Al Roberts in Detour (1945)

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Tom Neal as Al Roberts, hitchhiking nightclub pianist

Across the United States, especially Arizona to California, Spring 1945

Film: Detour
Release Date: November 30, 1945
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Wardrobe Designer: Mona Barry

Background

On the last day of #Noirvember, let’s also kick off #CarWeek with a look at one of the best examples of “road noir” with Detour, the enduring B-movie that saw a limited release 76 years ago today on November 30, 1945, just over two weeks after its initial premiere in Boston.

Martin M. Goldsmith worked with an uncredited Martin Mooney to adapt his own 1939 novel of the same name into a screenplay. Known as “the King of PRC” for his reputation as an efficient director working for the Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Corporation, the Austrian-born Edgar G. Ulmer filmed Detour in less than a month in the summer of 1945, with a shoestring budget of less than $100,000; for comparison, this was less than 10% of the final budget for that year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, The Lost Weekend. (Perhaps overstating his efficiency, Ulmer would later cite that he made the movie in six days for $20,000.)

Detour was my gateway to film noir, thanks to a multi-pack DVD that I was gifted in high school that included many pulp classics like D.O.A.The HitchhikerQuicksand, and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, many of which—like Detour—were regularly available in budget-friendly home video releases as they had fallen into the public domain. Clocking in at just over an hour, the story may be simple, but it contains all the characteristic noir themes and stock characters, including the femme fatale (and how!) and the wrongly accused man whose questionable ethics and unfortunate circumstances launch him headway into increasingly dangerous circumstances.

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JFK: Kevin Costner’s Shirt Collars as Jim Garrison

Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison in JFK (1991)

Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison in JFK (1991)

Vitals

Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison, District Attorney of Orleans Parish, Louisiana, and World War II veteran

New Orleans, Fall 1963 through Spring 1969

Film: JFK
Release Date: December 20, 1991
Director: Oliver Stone
Costume Designer: Marlene Stewart

Background

Today would have been the 100th birthday of Jim Garrison, the Louisiana district attorney whose prosecution of New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw remains the only trial to be brought for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who was murdered in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Born November 20, 1921, Earling Carothers “Jim” Garrison had just celebrated his 42nd birthday and was nearly halfway through his first of three four-year terms as Orleans Parish District Attorney when Kennedy was killed.

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Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Vitals

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, smooth private detective and “a chap worth knowing”

San Francisco, Spring 1941

Film: The Maltese Falcon
Release Date: October 3, 1941
Director: John Huston
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly (credited for gowns)

Background

Now considered a seminal film noir, The Maltese Falcon celebrated its 80th anniversary last month. Dashiell Hammett’s excellent 1930 detective novel had already been adapted twice for the screen—once as a “lewd” pre-Code thriller and recycled as a zanier mid-’30s vehicle for Bette Davis—before Warner Bros. finally got it right.

The Maltese Falcon was the directorial debut for John Huston, who had faithfully adapted Hammett’s source material for his sharp script and demonstrated his sense of methodical efficiency, resulting in a masterpiece that benefited from the formula of director of photography Arthur Edelson’s low-key cinematography and a perfect cast led by Humphrey Bogart as the wisecracking gumshoe who “don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” Continue reading

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981): Nicholson’s Navy Striped Murder Suit

Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

Vitals

Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers, dangerous drifter

Southern California, Spring 1934

Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: March 20, 1981
Director: Bob Rafelson
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

After posting about John Cassavetes in the 1964 remake of The Killers last week, I wanted to focus on another color remake of classic film noir: the 1981 adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, reuniting Nicholson with director Bob Rafelson following their earlier collaborations in Head (1968), Five Easy Pieces (1970), and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). Continue reading

The Killers: Burt Lancaster’s Light Flannel Double-Breasted Suit

Burt Lancaster as Ole "Swede" Anderson in The Killers (1946)

Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson in The Killers (1946)

Vitals

Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson, ex-boxer

Philadelphia, Spring 1938

Film: The Killers
Release Date: August 30, 1946
Director: Robert Siodmak

Background

Let’s kick off #NoirVember with a memorable scene featuring birthday boy Burt Lancaster. Born November 2, 1913 in Manhattan, Lancaster remains an icon of American film noir, having made his debut in The Killers, which also marked most of the screen-going world’s introduction to the alluring Ava Gardner.

The Killers‘ straight-outta-Hemingway opening introduces us in finem res to Lancaster as “The Swede”, an ex-boxer with a sketchy past who has been tracked down by the two eponymous killers to a small town in New Jersey. Despite having spent the last six years in hiding, the Swede makes no attempt to flee his assassins, who efficiently complete their gruesome task and leave insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) to reconstruct the decade of mistakes that led from Anderson’s career as a boxer to that of a marked man by the mob.

As with all great film noir, the Swede’s undoing begins with a dame… Continue reading

The Beetlejuice Striped Suit

Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice (1988)

Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice (1988)

Vitals

Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse, boorish “bio-exorcist”

Connecticut, Summer 1987

Film: Beetlejuice
Release Date: March 30, 1988
Director: Tim Burton
Costume Designer: Aggie Guerard Rodgers

Background

Happy Halloween!

As delightfully and unapologetically weird as its director, Beetlejuice was Tim Burton’s follow-up to his directorial debut, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The darkly comic story about a recently deceased couple summoning an unprincipled poltergeist was developed by Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren, and Larry Wilson, with Burton channeling the cheap B-movies of decades past in his interpretation that balanced humor and horror.

In less than a decade of screen roles, Michael Keaton had already established a range of versatility between zany comedy (Night Shift) and thoughtful drama (Clean and Sober) before he took on the outlandish quasi-title role as the uh, well, Julliard-trained Betelgeuse. Continue reading

Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy

Warren Beatty in Dick Tracy (1990)

Warren Beatty in Dick Tracy (1990)

Vitals

Warren Beatty as Dick Tracy, square-jawed detective

“Homeville”, December 1938

Film: Dick Tracy
Release Date: June 15, 1990
Director: Warren Beatty
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero

Background

Ninety years ago today on Sunday, October 4, 1931, Chester Gould’s comic strip Dick Tracy premiered in the Detroit Mirror, introducing the world—or at least Detroit—to the determined detective in his trademark yellow coat.

Despite the strip’s longevity and popularity, attempts to adapt it for the screen never came into fruition for nearly six decades until the blockbusting success of Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 proved to studios there a profitable market for comic book adaptations. Bringing Dick Tracy to Hollywood became a passion project for Warren Beatty, who starred as the title character as well as producing, directing, and attracting a cavalcade of stars to portray the colorful—and colorfully dressed—figures of the mysterious Chicago-like city where Tracy faced off against gangsters and gun molls.

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Once Upon a Time in America: De Niro’s Herringbone for a Heist

Robert De Niro as David "Noodles" Aaronson in Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Robert De Niro as David “Noodles” Aaronson in Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Vitals

Robert De Niro as David “Noodles” Aaronson, mob bootlegger and ex-convict

Detroit, Fall 1932

Film: Once Upon a Time in America
Release Date: May 23, 1984
Director: Sergio Leone
Costume Designer: Gabriella Pescucci

Background

After premiering at Cannes in May and undergoing a truncated release stateside that summer, Sergio Leone’s controversial mob saga Once Upon a Time in America was finally released in the Italian-born director’s home country on this day in 1984. Leone’s final film, and the first he had directed in 13 years, Once Upon a Time in America marked the conclusion to his unofficial “Once Upon a Time…” trilogy.

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Wall Street: Meeting Gordon Gekko in Shirt Sleeves and Suspenders

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987)

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987)

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Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, smug and successful corporate raider

New York City, Spring 1985

Film: Wall Street
Release Date: December 11, 1987
Director: Oliver Stone
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
Tailor: Alan Flusser

Background

Happy birthday to Michael Douglas, the actor, producer, and activist born September 25, 1944, who may be most famous for his iconic Academy Award-winning performance as ruthless financier Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.

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Batman: Michael Keaton Gets Nuts in Layered Taupe

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989)

Vitals

Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, enigmatic millionaire and defender of Gotham

Gotham City, Fall 1989

Film: Batman
Release Date: June 23, 1989
Director: Tim Burton
Costume Designer: Bob Ringwood
Clothes By: Giorgio Armani

Background

Happy 70th birthday, Michael Keaton! Born September 5, 1951 just outside of Pittsburgh, Keaton rose to fame throughout the ’80s in comedies like Night ShiftMr. Mom, and Beetlejuice before he was tapped for the titular role in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Bob Kane’s famous comics. The casting decision initially soured fans, who mailed thousands of letters to Warner Bros. in protest, but his unassuming performance quickly won over audiences and Batman became one of the top-grossing movies of 1989.

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