Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious advertising creative director
New York City, Spring 1960 and 1962
Series: Mad Men
– “5G” (Episode 1.05), dir. Lesli Linka Glatter, aired 8/16/2007
– “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07), dir. Tim Hunter, aired 8/30/2007
– “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05), dir. Jennifer Getzinger, aired 8/24/2008
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Happy birthday to Jon Hamm, born March 10, 1971, and arguably most famous for his Emmy-winning performance on AMC’s Mad Men as suave 1960s ad man Don Draper.
Donald Draper? What kinda name is that?
Clark Gable as Michael Hamilton, Philadelphia lawyer and World War II veteran
Naples to Capri, Italy, Late Summer 1959
Film: It Started in Naples
Release Date: August 7, 1960
Director: Melville Shavelson
Costume Designer: Orietta Nasalli-Rocca
Screen legend Clark Gable was born 119 years ago today on February 1, 1901, the start of a storied life that included an Academy Award for It Happened One Night (1934), acclaimed performances in iconic movies like Gone with the Wind (1939) and Mogambo (1953), and decorated service with the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. While The Misfits (1961) co-starring Marilyn Monroe was Gable’s final film to be theatrically released, It Started in Naples was his final performance released during his lifetime. Continue reading
Paul Newman as “Fast Eddie” Felson, liquor salesman and former pool hustler
Chicago, Spring 1986
Film: The Color of Money
Release Date: October 17, 1986
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
Today would have been the 95th birthday of Paul Newman, the acclaimed actor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and motorsports enthusiast. Over his legendary career that spanned more than half a century, Newman’s sole Academy Award for acting recognized his performance in The Color of Money (1986), in which he reprised the role of “Fast Eddie” Felson that he had originated on screen in The Hustler (1961). Continue reading
Reda Kateb as Django Reinhardt, gypsy jazz guitar virtuoso
Paris, Summer 1943
Release Date: April 26, 2017
Director: Étienne Comar
Costume Designer: Pascaline Chavanne
My interest in Django Reinhardt’s music began in the spring of 2004, when 14-year-old me eagerly purchased Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, a computer game that was essentially the Grand Theft Auto series with a Prohibition-era twist and a dash of Scorsese-ese inspiration. Set in 1930s New Jersey, the game was scored by period music including familiar favorites by Duke Ellington and a style that was all new to me, the rhythmic, guitar-driven gypsy jazz pioneered by Django Reinhardt. Continue reading
James Cagney as Tom Powers, dangerous gangster and bootlegger
Chicago, Spring 1922
Film: The Public Enemy
Release Date: April 23, 1931
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Wardrobe Credit: Earl Luick
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
One hundred years ago at midnight tonight, on January 17, 1920, the Volstead Act went into effect, beginning a 13-year prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States… and kicking off what Herbert Asbury referred to in his informal history of the Chicago underworld as “the saturnalia of crime and corruption which has been called ‘a noble experiment’,” due to the resulting surge in organized crime that effectively gave rise to the modern gangster.
As moving pictures evolved as a popular medium in the waning years of Prohibition, so too did the gangster movie. Warner Brothers took the lead, exposing audiences to snarling violent hoodlums based on the real-life criminals who bloodied the streets of New York and Chicago. It was in the 1931 hit The Public Enemy that James Cagney made his star-making turn as the psychopathic gangster Tom Powers.
Frank Sinatra, multi-talented entertainer and Rat Pack crooner
Sixty two years ago this week, on January 6, 1958, Frank Sinatra released his ninth concept album for Capitol Records, Come Fly With Me. Anchored by the title track specifically penned for Frank by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, the album celebrated the contemporary Jet Age, specifically the chic “jet setters” who were able to afford the luxurious amenities offered by BOAC and Pan Am flights that would spirit them between London and New York, Paris and Rome, and Hong Kong and Tokyo.
The album, which was Sinatra’s first collaboration with arranger and conductor Billy May, ascended like a state-of-the-art Boeing to #1 on the Billboard album charts in only its second week and would be nominated for Album of the Year at the first annual Grammy Awards, held May 4, 1959, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.
In the spirit of Frank’s musical trip around the world on this #SinatraSaturday, let’s take a look at how the Rat Pack leader himself dressed “where the air is rarified…” Continue reading
Fred Astaire as Tony Hunter, musical comedy star
New York, Spring 1953
Film: The Band Wagon
Release Date: August 7, 1953
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Costume Designer: Mary Ann Nyberg
Let’s dance into the new year with a dapper Fred Astaire in the dazzling opening sequence of Vincent Minnelli’s 1953 musical The Band Wagon, more than a decade after Astaire had danced across the screen with Bing Crosby, Virginia Dale, and Marjorie Reynolds for two on-screen New Year celebrations in Holiday Inn. Continue reading
Jack Lemmon as C.C. “Bud” Baxter, mild-mannered insurance accountant
New York City, Christmas Eve through New Year’s Eve 1959
Film: The Apartment
Release Date: June 30, 1960
Director: Billy Wilder
Men’s Wardrobe: Forrest T. Butler (uncredited)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Apartment stars one of my favorite actors, Jack Lemmon, as bored, lonely office drone Calvin Clifford Baxter who, after nearly four years at the toxic Manhattan insurance company where he works (“one of the top five in the country!” he boasts), manages to climb the corporate ladder by lending out his West 67th Street apartment to his superiors for their extramarital affairs… though many of them don’t regard him any higher than “some schnook who works in the office.”
Peter Lawford as Jimmy Foster, resentful profligate heir and 82nd Airborne veteran
Las Vegas, New Year’s Eve 1959
Film: Ocean’s Eleven
Release Date: August 10, 1960
Director: Lewis Milestone
Costume Designer: Howard Shoup
Tailor: Sy Devore
“I made a cardinal rule never to answer the telephone during the month of December,” the urbane Jimmy Foster tells a masseuse deep at work in fixing his back in a Phoenix hotel suite he shares with his wartime pal. “One December, every time I picked up the phone, they’d send me out in the snow to play with my little friends,” he elaborates. “That was at the Bulge.”
Arguably the most famous film featuring the infamous Rat Pack, Ocean’s Eleven starred Frank Sinatra and his celebrated pallies Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford among a group of eleven veterans from the 82nd Airborne who gather in Las Vegas after Christmas “to liberate millions of dollars” from five major casinos as Sin City rings in the new year. Continue reading
Richard Burton as Paul Andros, millionaire industrialist
Heathrow Airport, London, Winter 1963
Film: The V.I.P.s
(also released as Hotel International)
Release Date: September 19, 1963
Director: Anthony Asquith
Costume Designer: Pierre Cardin (uncredited)
As December continues and plans are being made to travel home for the holidays, we’d be well-served to recall Anthony Asquith’s paean to the Jet Age, The V.I.P.s, a lavish and star-studded drama released five years after more passengers were making their transatlantic crossings by air than by sea.
Also known as Hotel International, The V.I.P.s was released in September 1963, just three months after Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton scandalized the silver screen in Cleopatra. Though Cleopatra met with polarizing reviews, the buzz around Taylor and Burton’s illicit affair generated enough buzz about their subsequent cinematic collaboration, though The V.I.P.s was a relatively tame effort when compared to the Egyptian epic that had been the most expensive movie ever made at the time of its release.