Category: Uniform

Battle of Britain: Robert Shaw as Squadron Leader Skipper

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader "Skipper" in Battle of Britain (1969)

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader “Skipper” in Battle of Britain (1969)

Vitals

Robert Shaw as “Skipper”, RAF Squadron Leader

England, Summer to Fall 1940

Film: Battle of Britain
Release Date: September 15, 1969
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

Although the battle was waged for more than three months in 1940 over British airspace, September 15 has been established as Battle of Britain Day in recognition of the No. 11 Group RAF repelling two waves of German attacks on London. The Germans had instigated their air and sea blockade earlier that summer, followed by Luftwaffe air raids that started with ports and shipping centers, eventually moving further inland to airfields, factories, and ultimately civilian areas. Hitler had intended to gain air superiority over England prior to an invasion dubbed Operation Sea Lion, but a strong national defense from the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy successfully routed the Luftwaffe and prevented this full-scale invasion of the United Kingdom.

This British victory was considered an early turning point in favor of the Allies during World War II that inspired Winston Churchill to famously declare: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

On the 29th anniversary of this famous British defense against Germany in the skies over London, the United Artists war epic Battle of Britain with a star-studded cast including Sir Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Shaw. The latter portrays a talented and brash Squadron Leader, said to be inspired by South African fighter ace Sailor Malan, commander of No. 74 Squadron RAF during the actual Battle of Britain.

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri: William Holden’s Naval Flight Jacket

William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

Vitals

William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker, bitter U.S. Navy Reserve aviator

Off the Korean coast, November 1952

Film: The Bridges at Toko-Ri
Release Date: December 1954
Director: Mark Robson
Costume Designer: Edith Head

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Mid-century flight must be my subconscious theme heading into the new year given my last few posts about Frank Sinatra’s jet-setting style and then Sean Connery’s charcoal traveling suit in Goldfinger. Let’s at least move forward from the fuselage to the cockpit where William Holden sits at the controls of his Grumman F9F-2 Panther in The Bridges at Toko-Ri as military aviator LT Harry Brubaker, flying for the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.

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White Christmas: Captain Wallace on Christmas Eve 1944

Bing Crosby is joined by an exuberant Danny Kaye in White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby is joined by an exuberant Danny Kaye in White Christmas (1954)

Vitals

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, U.S. Army captain and popular entertainer

European Theater, Christmas Eve 1944

Film: White Christmas
Release Date: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

Merry Christmas Eve! The prologue of perennial holiday cinema classic White Christmas begins exactly 75 years ago today, Christmas Eve 1944, as the title card tells us…

Private First Class Phil Davis is proudly assisting Captain Bob Wallace, evidently a known entertainer on par with Al Jolson, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, or—um—Bing Crosby, as they host a “yuletide clambake” for the men of the fictitious 151st Division, providing the type of entertainment that Davis boasts would cost $6.60 or even $8.80 stateside. Continue reading

Steve McQueen’s Navy Uniforms in The Sand Pebbles

Steve McQueen as Jake Holman, Machinist's Mate, 1st Class, U.S. Navy, in The Sand Pebbles (1966)

Steve McQueen as Jake Holman, Machinist’s Mate, 1st Class, U.S. Navy, in The Sand Pebbles (1966)

Vitals

Steve McQueen as Jake Holman, maverick U.S. Navy Machinist’s Mate, 1st Class (MM1)

Yangtze River, China, Summer 1927 through Spring 1927

Film: The Sand Pebbles
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Robert Wise
Costume Design: Wingate Jones, John Napolitano, Bobbie Read, and James W. Tyson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

The Navy League of the United States organized the first Navy Day on October 27, 1922, to commemorate the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt who—before becoming the 26th President of the United States—had long championed the U.S. Navy and had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Set four years after the establishment of Navy Day, The Sand Pebbles begins in 1926 China, “a country of factions trying to unite to become a nation… through revolution…” according to the opening text. Continue reading

Gary Cooper’s Aviator Uniform in Wings (1927)

Gary Cooper as Cadet White in Wings (1927)

Gary Cooper as Cadet White in Wings (1927)

Vitals

Gary Cooper as Cadet White, U.S. Army Aviation Section, Signal Corps aviator

Camp Kelly (San Antonio, Texas), Spring 1917

Film: Wings
Release Date: August 12, 1927
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Design: Travis Banton & Edith Head (uncredited)

Background

Ninety years ago today, Wings won the first Academy Award for Best Picture—more accurately, the award read “Academy Award for Outstanding Picture.” Though silent movies were still the norm at the time of Wings’ release in August 1927, The Jazz Singer introduced recorded sound to film upon its release two months later, and Wings remains the only true silent film (unless you include The Artist) to take home the Best Picture prize.

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Allied Uniforms of The Great Escape

Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, Nigel Stock, and Gordon Jackson in The Great Escape (1963)

Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, Nigel Stock, and Gordon Jackson in The Great Escape (1963)

Today marks the 75th anniversary of “the great escape”, the mass breakout of allied airmen from the Luftwaffe-operated Stalag Luft III in Sagan-Silesia—now Zagan—in Poland on March 24, 1944. Of the 76 men who escaped, only three made it to freedom and 50 of the group were murdered by the Nazis in retaliation.

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Paul Brickhill, one of the Allied officers who had worked on the various tunnels used for the escape, wrote the definitive account of prison camp life, the famous March 1944 breakout, and the subsequent fallout in The Great Escape, published in 1950.

Thirteen years later, a star-studded cast reenacted the incident in The Great Escape, a now-classic war movie that dramatized this real-life story of heroism, humor, and tragedy.

Today’s post—coinciding both with the 75th anniversary of the escape and the 89th birthday of the film’s star Steve McQueen—examines the uniforms of the Allied airmen, sorted by each major character’s surname. Continue reading

Hendley in The Great Escape

James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Hendley in The Great Escape (1963)

James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Hendley in The Great Escape (1963)

Vitals

James Garner as Robert Hendley, American-born RAF Flight Lieutenant and “scrounger”

Sagan-Silesia (Zagan, Poland), Spring 1944

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

Steve McQueen’s daring Captain Hilts may get all the glory of The Great Escape‘s legacy, but James Garner’s affable and resourceful “scrounger” Hendley remains one of my favorite characters from any war movie.

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Christmas in Connecticut: Chief Quartermaster Jones

Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Vitals

Dennis Morgan as Jefferson Jones, U.S. Navy Chief Quartermaster and war hero

Connecticut, Christmas 1944

Film: Christmas in Connecticut
Release Date: August 11, 1945
Director: Peter Godfrey

Background

Something about a naval uniform always reminds me of the holidays. Maybe it’s the happy homecoming of the heroic Commander Harry Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, or maybe it’s the charming naval hero in Christmas in Connecticut who finds himself instantly falling for Barbara Stanwyck (relatable enough) after he arrives on her doorstep to spend a memorable holiday in New England. Continue reading

Top Gun – Maverick’s G-1 Flight Jacket

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun (1986)

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun (1986)

Vitals

Tom Cruise as LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, hotshot United States Naval Aviator

NAS Miramar near San Diego, Summer 1985

Film: Top Gun
Release Date: May 16, 1986
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Design: Wingate Jones, John Napolitano, Bobbie Read, and James W. Tyson

Background

On March 3, 1969 the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art of aerial combat and to insure[sic] that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots in the world.

They succeeded.

Today, the Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School. The flyers call it: TOP GUN.

In 1922, the same year that the U.S. Navy commissioned its first aircraft carrier, Navy Day was established to commemorate the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt, whose vast accomplishments included serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy before he ascended to the presidency. On Navy Day, it’s hard to think of a movie more associated with the United States’ naval warfare branch than Top Gun, which celebrated the talents and competition among U.S. Naval Aviators.

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M*A*S*H – Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce

Alan Alda as Captain "Hawkeye" Pierce on M*A*S*H, Episode 1.06 ("Yankee Doodle Doctor").

Alan Alda as Captain “Hawkeye” Pierce on M*A*S*H, Episode 1.06 (“Yankee Doodle Doctor”).

Vitals

Alan Alda as Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce, U.S. Army doctor

Korean War, 1950-1953

Series: M*A*S*H
Air Dates: September 17, 1972 – February 28, 1983
Creator: Larry Gelbart
NB: Almost all screencaps below are from the first season, which aired during the 1972-1973 season.

Background

Adapted from Robert Altman’s 1970 film MASH, itself inspired by Richard Hornberger’s 1968 novel (published under the pseudonym Richard Hooker), the Korean War-set series M*A*S*H lasted four times as long as the war it portrayed and broke new ground for serialized television, blending comedy and drama.

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