Mel Gibson as Dale “Mac” McKussic, retired drug dealer
Los Angeles, Summer 1988
Film: Tequila Sunrise
Release Date: December 2, 1988
Director: Robert Towne
Costume Designer: Julie Weiss
Following his success as a screenwriter—credited and uncredited—on some of the most memorable movies of the ’70s, Robert Towne intended for his sophomore directorial film, Tequila Sunrise, to be something of a spiritual follow-up to Chinatown, which… it isn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I did get some enjoyment out of Tequila Sunrise and there’s no denying that it’s refreshingly original—almost to a questionable degree—but I would argue it’s not even close to the same league as Chinatown, let alone Bonnie & Clyde, The Godfather, The Last Detail, Marathon Man, or the other excellent films that benefited from Towne’s contributions.
Several had recommended Tequila Sunrise to me for its style, and I’ll admit the name intrigued me, so I mentally scheduled to watch it and write about it in time for #NationalTequilaDay, celebrated annually on July 24… so happy National Tequila Day!
Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker, aka “Peter”, mysterious Mossad agent
Naxos, Greece, Spring 1979
Series: The Little Drummer Girl (Episode 1)
Air Date: October 28, 2018
Director: Park Chan-wook
Costume Design: Sheena Napier & Steven Noble
Today marks the start of my beach vacation, an annual getaway that finds me clad almost exclusively in tropical-printed or terry cloth shirts as I laze about in the sun and sand with tequila in hand, trying not to think about the hundreds of emails amassing to greet me when I open my inbox exactly one week from now.
And then there are those lucky enough who actually get to do this for a living, particularly the globe-trotting super-spies penned by the likes of Ian Fleming and John le Carré, whose 1983 novel The Little Drummer Girl was recently re-adapted for the screen via a stylish six-part miniseries starring Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård. Continue reading
John Garfield as Frank Chambers, restless drifter-turned-diner worker
Laguna Beach, California, Summer 1945
Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: May 2, 1946
Director: Tay Garnett
Costume Supervisor: Irene
As #Noirvember continues, let’s step away from the trench coats and fedoras to see how our hardboiled anti-heroes dress for a day at the beach. An ode to deviance that originated from James M. Cain’s 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice was adapted twice by European filmmakers before Hollywood dared to tackle it during the golden age of noir in the 1940s.
The lascivious source material had presented a challenge for presenting the story in a way that would satisfy the draconian Motion Picture Production Code and, even before it was published, a synopsis of Cain’s story had been deemed “definitely unsuitable for motion picture production” by the pearl-clutching Hays Office. After the two European adaptations were released, MGM was finally ready to proceed with its own version, inspired by the success of Double Indemnity, another piece from Cain’s poison pen centered around adultery and murder. By this time, nearly a dozen years into the rigid enforcement years of the Production Code, American filmmakers had mastered the art of stylized shadows and suggestive innuendo that allowed—and often enhanced—these films noir set in lurid worlds filled with unscrupulous and unsavory elements.
“It was on a side road outside of Los Angeles,” Frank Chambers begins his story, as the down-on-his-luck hitchhiker stumbles into the Twin Oaks diner boasting a $1.25 “best in the world” chicken dinner. The simple sign, “Man wanted,” echoes both the restaurant’s staffing needs as well as the sensuous needs of Cora (Lana Turner), the ambitious young platinum blonde who runs the roadside lunch room with her proud yet oblivious husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway)… and, even if you haven’t read or seen it, you probably already see where this is going.
Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent
Miami Beach, Summer 1964
Release Date: September 18, 1964
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday, Sean Connery! On his 90th birthday, let’s take a look at one of the Scottish legend’s most talked-about (and controversial) outfits as James Bond… and see how it can be updated for the modern Bond style enthusiast catching some late summer rays or rubdowns by the pool.
Troy Donahue as Johnny Hunter, college student and “silly sentimentalist”
New England, Spring 1959
Film: A Summer Place
Release Date: November 18, 1959
Director: Delmer Daves
Costume Designer: Howard Shoup
Sixty years after shaking up more genteel audiences with its frank but ultimately tame depictions of adultery and sexuality, A Summer Place may be most widely remembered for its serene theme song. Originally written by Max Steiner, it was Percy Faith’s arrangement of “Theme from A Summer Place” that transformed the instrumental ballad into a #1 hit that took the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking nine consecutive weeks in early 1960.
Elliott Gould as Ted Henderson, married attorney with a wandering eye
Los Angeles, Summer 1969
Film: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Release Date: September 17, 1969
Director: Paul Mazursky
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Every month, particularly when passing the time under lockdown this spring, I look forward to the Criterion Channel announcing its new releases which also making it a priority to watch any films leaving the service. When I saw that Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice would be leaving at the end of May 2020, I knew this was my opportunity to watch this influential film considered to be emblematic of the late ’60s zeitgeist. Groundbreaking for its time, Paul Mazurky’s sex comedy enjoyed a recent resurgence in interest as one of ten films Quentin Tarantino cited as a direct influence on his latest hit, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
Putnam Valley, New York, August 2007*
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Soprano Home Movies” (Episode 6.13)
Air Date: April 8, 2007
Director: Tim Van Patten
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday to Tony Soprano… and David Chase! According to Tony’s driver’s license in “Another Toothpick” (Episode 3.05) and his hospital bracelet seen in “Mayham” (Episode 6.03), Anthony Soprano was born on August 22, 1959, exactly 14 years to the day after his creator, David Chase.
Cary Grant as John Robie, retired cat burglar and jewel thief
French Riviera, Summer 1954
Film: To Catch a Thief
Release Date: August 5, 1955
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
In commemoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s 120th birthday on August 13, this week continues with a look at one of the Master of Suspense’s most stylish movies, the 1955 romantic caper To Catch a Thief.
David Niven as Raymond, bon vivant single father
French Riviera, Summer 1957
Film: Bonjour Tristesse
Release Date: January 15, 1958
Director: Otto Preminger
Costume Coordinator: Hope Bryce
Thanks to Otto Preminger’s direction and Georges Périnal’s lush color cinematography that captures the richness of the French Riviera, the visual delights of Bonjour Tristesse secure its place among the great “summer movies” of Hollywood’s celebrated golden era.
Based on Françoise Sagan’s 1954 novel, Bonjour Tristesse—which translates to “Hello, Sadness” in English—tells the story of the precocious but undisciplined teenager Cécile’s (Jean Seberg) summer holiday in the Côte d’Azur with her libertine father Raymond (David Niven) and his bevy of mistresses, often barely older than Cécile herself. Continue reading
Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, narcissistic profligate playboy
Italy, Summer 1959
Film: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Release Date: December 25, 1999
Director: Anthony Minghella
Costume Design: Ann Roth & Gary Jones
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
My last post focused on one of the unlucky Mr. Greenleaf’s unique summer shirts that fell into the hands of an envious Tom Ripley in Purple Noon (Plein Soleil), the 1960 French adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thriller novel The Talented Mr. Ripley. Highsmith’s novel was adapted under its original title by writer and director Anthony Minghella in 1999, starring Jude Law as the expatriate playboy Dickie Greenleaf and Matt Damon as the obsessive Ripley.