Category: Frock Coat

Arsenic and Old Lace’s “Teddy Roosevelt”

John Alexander as "Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace (1941)

John Alexander as “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace (1941)

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John Alexander as “Teddy Roosevelt” Brewster

Brooklyn, Halloween 1941

Film: Arsenic and Old Lace
Release Date: September 23, 1944
Director: Frank Capra

Background

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, was born this day 159 years ago on October 27, 1858. A son of New York City, the timid Theodore overcame his childhood asthma with his robust physical pursuits matched only by his professional ambition as a career soldier, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, and finally the youngest President of the United States when he assumed office at the age of 42 after the assassination of William McKinley.

The proximity of T.R.’s birthday to Halloween always makes me think of Arsenic and Old Lace, the Frank Capra-directed dark comedy set one Halloween in Brooklyn involving Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant), his two dangerous but darling elderly aunts, and – like all of the best movies of the 1940s – Peter Lorre being Peter Lorre.

Originally a play (and doubtlessly one that your high school has performed), actor John Alexander reprised his role from the stage as “Teddy” Brewster, Mortimer’s delusional but harmless brother who believes that he is Teddy Roosevelt.

“So what?” says a friendly local cop who visits the Brewsters on his beat. “There’s a lot worse guys he could think he was.” Continue reading

Col. Mortimer in For a Few Dollars More

An Italian poster for For a Few Dollars More (1965), featuring Lee Van Cleef as Colonel Douglas Mortimer.

An Italian poster for For a Few Dollars More (1965), featuring Lee Van Cleef as Colonel Douglas Mortimer.

Vitals

Lee Van Cleef as Douglas Mortimer, taciturn Old West bounty hunter and former U.S. Army Colonel

El Paso, Fall 1873

Film: For a Few Dollars More
Release Date: November 18, 1965
Director: Sergio Leone
Costume Designer: Carlo Simi

Background

Where life had no value, death, sometimes, had its price.

That is why the bounty hunters appeared.

…is how For a Few Dollars More introduces itself after blazing onto the screen, underlined by yet another iconic Ennio Morricone score. Clint Eastwood returns to the Sergio Leone spaghetti western scene as one of these bounty hunters, a laconic loner referred to only as “Manco”. While his dress and demeanor would imply that this was the same character he portrayed in A Fistful of Dollars the previous year, a lawsuit actually prevented Leone from using Eastwood’s “Joe” character from that film. Thus, the “Man with No Name” was born more out of legal necessity than artistic intention. Continue reading

Sherlock Holmes’ Purple Frock Coat

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Robert Downey, Jr. on set as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes (2009).

Robert Downey, Jr. on set as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes (2009).

Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, eccentric consulting detective

London, August 1890

Film: Sherlock Holmes
Release Date: December 25, 2009
Director: Guy Ritchie
Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan

Background

Few have heard of Dr. Joseph Bell, a physician at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and eventual lecturer at the University of Edinburgh’s medical school who was born today in 1837. Those who do know Dr. Bell, however, likely know him due to his fame as a likely inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes. A very observant and proud doctor, Bell was often called in to assist with police investigations, teaming up with forensic expert Professor Henry Littlejohn. Arthur Conan Doyle had met Bell in 1877 and worked as his clerk at the infirmary. Bell later took pride in knowing that Doyle’s most famed and beloved creation – the character of Sherlock Holmes – was at least partly based on him. Though this inspiration has been exaggerated by series like Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, the Bell-Doyle connection is undeniable.

To honor Dr. Bell’s birthday, I’ll be exploring the first appearance of Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes in the 2009 reboot, Sherlock Holmes. In this sequence, Holmes and Watson pair up to arrest the evil Lord Blackwood and stop his black magic practices. The scene involves many elements that would become trademarks of the new films, including Holmes’ predictive and fluid fighting technique that proves most effective against Britain’s most thickheaded thugs. Continue reading

Sherlock Holmes’ Black Frock Coat

Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes (2009).

Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes (2009).

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Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, eccentric consulting detective

London, November 1890

Film: Sherlock Holmes
Release Date: December 25, 2009
Director: Guy Ritchie
Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan

Background

Announcement of the 2009 update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes, met with some initial criticism. Many believed that the action-oriented director Guy Ritchie would dumb down the flawed but efficient genius of Doyle’s stories and instead focus on action and box office draws. However, the smartly-paced story, the excellent performances (notable Downey, Jr. as Holmes), and the era-evoking visuals surprised many and the film received mostly positive reviews and critical attention, with a sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, released two years later. Continue reading

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone

Val Kilmer as

Val Kilmer as “Doc” Holliday in Tombstone.

Sorry about the length in advance, but I wasn’t totally sure how to structure this one. If there is repeated information, consider it valuable knowledge that you should never ever forget.

Vitals

Val Kilmer as John “Doc” Holliday, failed dentist, proficient gambler, and excellent gunfighter

Tombstone, AZ, October 1881

Film: Tombstone
Release Date: December 24, 1993
Director: George P. Cosmatos (but really, Kurt Russell)
Costume Designer: Joseph A. Porro

Background

Today is the 132nd anniversary of one of the most infamous shootouts in the history of the Old West, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral! Continue reading

The Many Marriages of Sidney Reilly

Yet another Week of Weddings two-partner, this time looking at the many marriages of Sidney Reilly, just in time for Throwback Thursday.

1901

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly during his first wedding on Reilly: Ace of Spies.

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly during his first wedding on Reilly: Ace of Spies (Episode: “An Affair with a Married Woman”).

Vitals

Sam Neill as the former Shlomo Rosenblum, now Sidney Reilly, an ex-professor hired as an informant for the British Secret Service

Southampton, Summer 1901

Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “An Affair with a Married Woman” (Episode 1)
Air Date: September 5, 1983
Director: Jim Goddard
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller

Background

Hopefully you know all about Reilly from the first Reilly: Ace of Spies post on this blog. What? You don’t want to go back and read all million paragraphs I wrote? Too bad, here’s a million more:

The first episode, “An Affair with a Married Woman”, quickly establishes Reilly as a cunning man who will stop at nothing in pursuit of his goals. In the summer of 1901, the young Reilly’s primary goal is money. Thus, the following sequence is appealing to him:

  1. Reilly meets a young woman who is married to a rich older man
  2. Reilly sleeps with the young woman, who falls in love with him
  3. The rich older man dies, leaving the young woman with a lot of money

Continue reading