Matthew McConaughey as Willis Newton, good-natured Texas-born outlaw
Toronto, Summer 1923
Film: The Newton Boys
Release Date: March 27, 1998
Director: Richard Linklater
Costume Designer: Shelley Komarov
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
One hundred years ago today, the Newton Gang—a quartet of Texan brothers best known for their nighttime bank burglaries and the occasional train holdup—attempted a daring yet disastrous heist of pedestrian bank messengers in downtown Toronto. Though financially successful as it netted the gang around C$84,000, the July 24, 1923 robbery tarnished their reputation for nonviolence when a physical altercation resulted in Willis Newton wounding two messengers during his struggle to get away. Continue reading
Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, vengeful insurance investigator with anterograde amnesia
Los Angeles, Summer 1999
Release Date: September 5, 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Costume Designer: Cindy Evans
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
I have no short-term memory. I know who I am, I know all about myself, I just—since my injury, I can’t make new memories. Everything fades. If we talk for too long, I’ll forget how we started. The next time I see you, I’m not gonna remember this conversation.
Memento stars Guy Pearce as Leonard Shelby, a former insurance claims investigator out for revenge after an attack on his wife that left him with a rare form of short-term memory loss. Appropriate for today (July 17th) being National Tattoo Day, Leonard covers his body with tattoos to help him instantly recall his understanding of the facts of what happened and who he must target for revenge. Continue reading
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, country rock guitarist and singer
Memphis, Tennessee, July 4, 1956
Release Date: June 23, 2022
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin
Tailor: Gloria Bava
It doesn’t get much more American than Elvis.
Austin Butler went all out in his performance as the King of Rock and Roll in Baz Lurhmann’s characteristically flamboyant biopic, released last summer. Butler’s performance received particular praise—including endorsements from the Presley family—and Elvis would be nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Costume Design.
Elvis follows Presley’s brief life from boyhood through the various levels of stardom, particularly through the lens of his complicated relationship with his domineering manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks). In the early years of his fame, Presley’s hip-swinging celebration of Black music is shown to so enrage the bigoted establishment that he’s being threatened with legal trouble.
The film presents his July 4, 1956 concert in Memphis as an opportunity for Presley to maintain the cleaned-up “New Elvis” image he had introduced three days early while performing “Hound Dog” on The Steve Allen Show three days earlier, stuffed into a white tie and tails as he crooned to an actual basset hound. Instead, having rediscovered the meaning behind his music among the blues joints on Beale Street, Elvis delivers a sweltering performance of “Trouble”—and lands himself right in it, arrested by the Memphis vice squad when he soundly disobeys being told to not “so much as wiggle a finger.” To avoid prosecution, Colonel Tom devises a plan for Elvis to swap out his blue suede shoes for spit-shined service derbies: “It’s either the Army or jail.”
Except that isn’t quite what really happened. Continue reading
Roger Moore as James Bond, British secret agent
“San Monique” (actually Jamaica), Spring 1973
Film: Live and Let Die
Release Date: June 27, 1973
Director: Guy Hamilton
Costume Designer: Julie Harris
Tailor: Cyril Castle
Released 50 years ago today, Live and Let Die officially began Roger Moore’s 12-year, seven-film tenure as James Bond. Eon Productions’ first attempt recast Sean Connery in the iconic role resulted in the excellent On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), though some audiences—as well as George Lazenby himself—had trouble accepting the inexperienced Aussie as agent 007.
With credits like Maverick, The Saint, and The Persuaders! to his name, Roger Moore brought considerably more experience to the role when he was recruited after Connery’s brief return in Diamonds are Forever (1971). Continue reading
Logan Lerman as Charlie Kelmeckis, anxious high school freshman
Pittsburgh, Christmas 1991 through Spring 1992
Film: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Release Date: September 21, 2012
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Costume Designer: David C. Robinson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
If you read my last post about Jonah Hill’s party gear in Superbad, you know I’ve been on a bit of a high school nostalgia kick lately. And I’m keeping that going with a look at the very significant suit gifted to our sensitive narrator in the book and movie adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Continue reading
Tom Ewell as Richard Sherman, imaginative publishing executive and a self-described “foolish, well-to-do married man”
New York City, Summer 1955
Film: The Seven Year Itch
Release Date: June 3, 1955
Director: Billy Wilder
Costume Designer: Travilla
Wardrobe Director: Charles Le Maire
Men’s Wardrobe: Sam Benson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Born 97 years ago today on June 1, 1926, Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe may be indelibly associated with the iconic image of the star’s white dress being blown upwards by a subway grate on Lexington Avenue. The much-photographed moment was part of a scene in The Seven Year Itch, which premiered on Monroe’s 29th birthday before its wider release later that month.
The title and concept were inspired by a then-common psychological term for the period in a marriage when a partner’s eye supposedly begins to wander, aligned with the mid-20th century practice of wives and children traveling to the country or seaside for the summer while their husbands remain in the city to work… though The Seven Year Itch proposes that their work was more focused on bedrooms than boardrooms. (Mad Men fans may recall a relevant plot from the first season episode “Long Weekend”, set during Labor Day 1960.)
After shipping his wife Helen and son Ricky up to Maine, our protagonist Richard Sherman seems to think he’s above that level of sleaze… until a falling tomato plant introduces him to The Girl, a voluptuous blonde living upstairs in a neighboring couple’s apartment for the summer:
Boy, if anybody were to walk in here right now, would they ever get the wrong idea… cinnamon toast for two, strange blonde in the shower, you go explain that to someone. Don’t tell ’em you spent the whole night wrapping a paddle!
Inexplicably billed as “Tommy Ewell”, Tom Ewell reprised the role he originated on Broadway as Richard Sherman. Viennese-born actress Vanessa Brown (who had an IQ of 165 and whose family fled Europe in 1937 to avoid Nazi persecution) had played The Girl on stage, but the part was recast for the screen, in turn providing Marilyn Monroe with one of her most enduring performances. Interestingly, there were several actors considered to play Richard before the part went to Ewell, who had already won a Tony for his stage portrayal and wasn’t expecting to be cast. Despite that, there was never any question that The Girl would be played on screen by anyone but Monroe. Continue reading
Colin Farrell as James “Sonny” Crockett, maverick Miami-Dade PD undercover detective
Miami to Havana, Summer 2005
Film: Miami Vice
Release Date: July 28, 2006
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Design: Michael Kaplan & Janty Yates
Colin Farrell’s Costumer: Jody Felz
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Ahead of Colin Farrell’s birthday tomorrow, I want to take a much-requested look at his style in Miami Vice, Michael Mann’s cinematic adaptation of the iconic TV show he had executive-produced in the 1980s.
The mid-2000s had been full of movies inspired by TV shows of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s… just off the top of my head, Bewitched, The Dukes of Hazzard, Get Smart, I Spy, and Starsky & Hutch come to mind. Rather than these nostalgia-driven quasi-parodies, Miami Vice surprised audiences as more of a gritty reimagining than the pastel pastiche they may have been expecting. Though critical and audience reception was lukewarm at the time, the movie has grown a more positive reputation over the years, thanks in part to a dedicated cult following.
The 2006 update maintained the core essence, characters, and overall concept, though the vibes were updated from the vibrant ’80s aesthetic to match the darker tones of a decade that also rebooted larger-than-life characters like Batman and James Bond in more serious movies like Batman Begins and Casino Royale, respectively. Instead of Gotham’s Dark Knight and agent 007, our heroes are the ice-cool undercover cops James “Sonny” Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs, played by Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx in the roles originated by Don Johnson and EGOT hopeful Philip Michael Thomas. Continue reading
John Cusack as Roy Dillon, swaggering con man with mommy issues
Phoenix and Los Angeles, Summer 1990
Film: The Grifters
Release Date: December 5, 1990
Director: Stephen Frears
Costume Designer: Richard Hornung
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
At seventeen going on eighteen, Roy Dillon had left home. He took nothing with him but the clothes he wore—clothes he had bought and paid for himself. He took no money but the little in the pockets of his clothes, and that too he had earned.
He wanted nothing from Lilly. She had given him nothing when he needed it, when he was too small to get for himself, and he wasn’t letting her into the game at this late date.
He had no contact with her during the first six months he was away. Then, at Christmas time, he sent her a card, and on Mother’s Day he sent her another. Both were of the gooey sentimental type, dripping with sickly sweetness, but the latter was a real dilly. Hearts and flowers and fat little angels swarmed over it in an insanely hilarious montage. The engraved message was dedicated to Dear Old Mom, and it gushed tearfully of goodnight kisses and platters and pitchers of oven-fresh cookies and milk when a little boy came in from play.
You would have thought that Dear Old Mom (God bless her silvering hair) had been the proprietor of a combination dairy-bakery, serving no customer but her own little tyke (on his brand-new bike).
He was laughing so hard when he sent it that he almost botched up the address. But afterward, he had some sobering second thoughts. Perhaps the joke was on him, yes? Perhaps by gibing at her he was revealing a deep and lasting hurt, admitting that she was tougher than he. And that, naturally, wouldn’t do. He’d taken everything she had to hand out, and it hadn’t made a dent in him. He damned well mustn’t ever let it think it had.
— Jim Thompson, The Grifters, Chapter 5
Reading this passage from one of my favorite pulp novelists inspired today’s Mother’s Day post, by way of Jim Thompson’s acid pen translated onto the screen.
Nominated for four Academy Awards, Stephen Frears’ slick 1990 neo-noir The Grifters joins Psycho (1960) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962) in a cinematic fraternity of twisted depictions of mother-son relationships, represented by short-con operator Roy Dillon (John Cusack) and his estranged mother Lilly (Anjelica Huston), a fellow swindler who has long been in service to sadistic bookie Bobo Justus (Pat Hingle) and eventually requires resources from her son to make her clean getaway:
I gave you your life twice. I’m asking you to give me mine once.
Roy and Lilly’s reunion is complicated by Roy’s hustler girlfriend Myra Langtry (Annette Bening), who schemes to remove the domineering matriarch as an obstacle to partnering with Roy. Continue reading
Ryan O’Neal as Moses “Moze” Pray, charismatic con artist
Kansas to Missouri, Spring 1936
Film: Paper Moon
Release Date: May 9, 1973
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Costume Designer: Polly Platt (uncredited)
Today is the 50th anniversary of Paper Moon, Peter Bogdanovich’s artfully nostalgic road comedy that was released May 9, 1973, exactly a month after its Hollywood premiere. Filmed in black-and-white and set during the Great Depression, Paper Moon stars Ryan O’Neal and his real-life daughter Tatum O’Neal in her big-screen debut who turned nine during the film’s production. When 10-year-old Tatum won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Paper Moon, she set a record as the youngest-ever performer to win a competitive Oscar. Continue reading
I’m again pleased to present a guest post contributed by my friend Ken Stauffer, who has written several pieces for BAMF Style previously and chronicles the style of the Ocean’s film series on his excellent Instagram account, @oceansographer.
George Clooney as Danny Ocean, veteran casino heister
Las Vegas, Summer 2007
Film: Ocean’s Thirteen
Release Date: June 8, 2007
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Costume Designer: Louise Frogley
Happy birthday to George Clooney, who turns 62 today! To honor the two-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker and tequila company founder, we’re taking a look back at a standout outfit he wore in his last turn as Danny Ocean (so far) in Ocean’s Thirteen.
After the mixed reception that Ocean’s Twelve received, it was decided that the gang would return to Las Vegas for the duration of the next film. As such, the 2007 threequel finds Ocean & Co. reuniting to get revenge on ruthless hotel tycoon Willy Bank (Al Pacino, in one of his best late career roles) after he swindles their brother-in-arms Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), sending him into a coma by way of a heart attack. The bulk of the action takes place as the crew prepares for the grand opening of Bank’s opulent new Vegas Strip casino on July 3rd.
Mid-way through the film, we watch as Danny and his right hand man, Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), navigate a series of debilitating setbacks while running around Las Vegas on one very long June day. Sure, they’re out of time and money, and their plan is falling apart, but you’d never know it to look at them. Through a combination of movie star charm and expert tailoring, the pair manage to exude an effortlessly cool air even in 100°F+ desert temps. Continue reading