Category: Three-Piece Suit

The Public Enemy: Cagney’s New Clothes and Car

James Cagney leans on the door of a LaSalle as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

James Cagney leans on the door of a LaSalle as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

Vitals

James Cagney as Tom Powers, dangerous gangster and bootlegger

Chicago, Spring 1920

Film: The Public Enemy
Release Date: April 23, 1931
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Wardrobe Credit: Earl Luick

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today is the 86th anniversary of the 21st Amendment that repealed Prohibition, the 13-year ban on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States. Even before Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933, the wave of organized crime it inspired across the country was a popular subject for movies of the era, with Warner Brothers taking the lead with hits like Little CaesarThe Public Enemy, and Scarface that made stars out of intense actors like Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney.

The latter was particularly renowned for his performance in The Public Enemy, a “ripped-from-the-headlines” tour de force of violence based on an unpublished novel written by two former newspapermen who had witnessed firsthand the impact of Al Capone’s brutal stronghold on Chicago during the beer wars of the roaring ’20s.

As #CarWeek continues, let’s flash back to the Prohibition era as Cagney’s Tom Powers hopes to make an impression with his new tailored suits and shiny new touring convertible. Continue reading

Scent of a Woman: Al Pacino’s Glenurquhart Plaid Suit

Al Pacino tangos with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman (1992)

Al Pacino tangos with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of a Woman (1992)

Vitals

Al Pacino as Frank Slade, blind and bitter retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel “who likes to spit in everybody’s eye”

New York City, Thanksgiving 1992

Film: Scent of a Woman
Release Date: December 23, 1992
Director: Martin Brest
Costume Designer: Aude Bronson-Howard
Tailor: Martin Greenfield

Background

On the eve of Thanksgiving, today seemed like a fitting occasion to address one of the most requested suits I’ve heard from readers: Al Pacino’s freshly tailored Glenurquhart check three-piece suit as the cantankerous Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman. Pacino turned in a landmark performance in his prolific career, winning his sole Academy Award after six nominations (with one additional nod the same year for Glengarry Glen Ross), a result of the intense method actor’s painstaking research in meeting with clients of New York’s Associated Blind to understand life—from mood to mobility—as a person without sight.

After 26 years in the Army, a nearly blind Frank “Don’t Call Me ‘Sir'” Slade spends his days sitting in the darkened corner of his modest home, filling lowball glasses to the brim with Jack Daniel’s, berating his family, and spitting anger at anyone brave enough to visit him, including Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell), the mild-mannered prep school student hired by Frank’s niece Karen to take care of her uncle through Thanksgiving weekend. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Nucky Thompson’s Final Suit in “Eldorado”

Steve Buscemi as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 5.08: "Eldorado")

Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 5.08: “Eldorado”)

Vitals

Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, corrupt Atlantic City politician and bootlegger

Atlantic City, Late Spring 1931

Series: Boardwalk Empire
Episode: “Eldorado” (Episode 5.08)
Air Date: October 26, 2014
Director: Tim Van Patten
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
Tailor: Martin Greenfield

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary since the final episode of Boardwalk Empire aired. Set in 1931, the fifth and final season of HBO’s Prohibition-set crime drama took a seven-year leap to conclude the stories of Atlantic City’s corrupt ex-treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi) and those in his orbit, whether based on reality like “Lucky” Luciano (Vincent Piazza) or fictional creations for the show like Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol). Nucky himself is based on Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, the colorful and indeed corrupt politician from Atlantic City’s heyday in the roaring ’20s.

Continue reading

Walter Matthau’s Navy Striped Suit in Charade

Walter Matthau as Carson Dyle in Charade (1963)

Walter Matthau as Carson Dyle in Charade (1963)

Vitals

Walter Matthau as Carson Dyle, posing as CIA administrator Hamilton Bartholomew

Paris, April 1963

Film: Charade
Release Date: December 5, 1963
Director: Stanley Donen

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today commemorates the 99th birthday of the great Walter Matthau, the New York-born actor and comedian. After playing heavies in movies like the Elvis vehicle King Creole (1958) and his self-directed Gangster Story (1960), Matthau got a chance to exercise his versatility and comedic chops with a delightfully duplicitous role in Stanley Donen’s romantic comedy thriller Charade (1963).

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Scarface (1932) – Tony’s Brown Striped Suit

Paul Muni, flanked by Vince Barnett and Karen Morley, in Scarface (1932)

Paul Muni, flanked by Vince Barnett and Karen Morley, in Scarface (1932)

Vitals

Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer

Chicago, Summer 1927

Film: Scarface
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks

Background

Today’s #MafiaMonday post goes back to the Prohibition era, the age that gave rise to the modern American gangster… and the American gangster movie.

After Warner Brothers scored back-to-back hits with Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931), effectively establishing the subgenre of the gangster film, Howard Hughes entered the fray with Scarface, an explosive, influential, and fast-paced criminal epic adapted from Armitage Trail’s novel that had been based on the life of Al Capone. Hughes had been warned against taking on Warner’s dominance in the genre, so he packed his production with talent including screenwriter Ben Hecht, director Howard Hawks, and lead actor Paul Muni, who was born 124 years ago yesterday on September 22, 1895.

In the wake of movies like Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, the Hays Office had been increasing its efforts to censor what it deemed to be glamorization of criminal lifestyles in cinema, but its notoriously restrictive production code had yet to be put into place, giving Scarface full reign to arm its vaguely incestuous central character with a Thompson submachine gun, once dubbed “the gun that made the twenties roar,” as he rose the ranks of the criminal underworld in a series of violent vignettes paralleling the life and crimes of the infamous Capone.

Continue reading

William Powell’s Chalkstripe Suit in Manhattan Melodrama

William Powell as Jim Wade in Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

William Powell as Jim Wade in Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Vitals

William Powell as Jim Wade, crusading assistant district attorney

New York City, Spring 1934

Film: Manhattan Melodrama
Release Date: May 4, 1934
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Costume Designer: Dolly Tree

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Happy birthday, William Powell! The suave actor was born July 29, 1892, in my hometown of Pittsburgh, though he moved to Kansas City as a teenager. He only stayed there three years before moving to New York at the age of 18 to pursue a career as an actor, eventually becoming one of the best known actors of Hollywood’s “golden era” with three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor recognizing his performances in The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and Life with Father (1947).

Powell’s chemistry with Myrna Loy, most famously showcased as detective couple Nick and Nora Charles in the “Thin Man” series, made them one of the most iconic on-screen duos, though their first of 14 cinematic collaborations was Manhattan Melodrama in 1934. Continue reading

The Great Gatsby: Three Suits in Three Adaptations

Vitals

Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974), Toby Stephens in The Great Gatsby (2000), and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby (2013)

Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974), Toby Stephens in The Great Gatsby (2000), and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby (2013)

Jay Gatsby, romantic millionaire and shady bootlegger

Long Island, NY, Summer 1922

Played by Robert Redford in…

Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: March 29, 1974
Director: Jack Clayton
Costume Designer: Theoni V. Aldredge
Clothes: Ralph Lauren

Played by Toby Stephens in…

Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: March 29, 2000
Director: Robert Markowitz
Costume Designer: Nicoletta Massone

and played by Leonardo DiCaprio in…

Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin
Clothes: Brooks Brothers

Background

With its now famous tale of doomed romance, debauchery and death, and the failure of the American dream against a backdrop of riotous parties and scandalous adultery, The Great Gatsby was destined for the screen from the moment it hit shelves in the spring of 1925 at the height of what its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, coined “the Jazz Age.” Continue reading

Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer in The Highwaymen

Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer with a Remington Model 8 rifle in The Highwaymen (2019)

Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer with a Remington Model 8 rifle in The Highwaymen (2019)

Vitals

Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer, tough Texas special investigator and former Texas Ranger

Texas and Louisiana, Spring 1934

Film: The Highwaymen
Release Date: March 15, 2019 (March 29, 2019, on Netflix)
Director: John Lee Hancock
Costume Designer: Daniel Orlandi

Background

Following a decorated career in law enforcement that found him bravely and successfully leading investigations and captures of violent criminals, Frank Hamer is not the sort of man who should need a cultural reevaluation in his defense. And yet, it was the most celebrated victory of Hamer’s career—bringing an end to Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker’s violent crime spree—that would eventually result in the former Texas Ranger being villianized in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde that romanticized the titular outlaw couple to carry out its countercultural message.

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Nucky Thompson’s Blue Glen Plaid Suit

Steve Buscemi as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 4.08: "Old Ship of Zion")

Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 4.08: “The Old Ship of Zion”)

Vitals

Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, corrupt Atlantic City politician and bootlegger

Atlantic City, Summer 1924

Series: Boardwalk Empire
Episodes:
– “The Old Ship of Zion” (Episode 4.08, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 10/27/2013)
– “White Horse Pike” (Episode 4.10, dir. Jake Paltrow, aired 11/10/2013)
– “Farewell Daddy Blues” (Episode 4.12, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 11/24/2013)
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
Tailor: Martin Greenfield

Background

This #MafiaMonday, turn back the calendar almost a century to some spring-friendly fashions courtesy of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the delightfully corrupt bootlegger who ruled Prohibition-era Atlantic City on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Continue reading

Chalky White’s Green Tweed Suit on Boardwalk Empire

Michael K. Williams as Albert "Chalky" White on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 4.12: "Farewell Daddy Blues")

Michael K. Williams as Albert “Chalky” White on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 4.12: “Farewell Daddy Blues”)

Vitals

Michael Kenneth Williams as Albert “Chalky” White, nightclub owner and bootlegger

Atlantic City, August 1924

Series: Boardwalk Empire
Episode: “Farewell Daddy Blues” (Episode 4.12)
Air Date: November 24, 2013
Director: Tim Van Patten
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, a time when many observe the feast day of Ireland’s foremost patron saint by donning their greenest attire and celebrating in a range of style, whether it’s the customary indulgence in classic Irish recipes like corned beef and cabbage or the more contemporary tradition of getting plastered on Jameson and taking selfies next to an artificially viridescent Chicago River.

If you’re at a loss for what to wear, you can take a page from the Chalky White playbook and borrow some green tweeds. Continue reading