Robert Cummings as Barry Kane, civilian aircraft mechanic
From Glendale, California, into the High Desert, Spring 1942
Film:Saboteur Release Date: April 22, 1942 Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock’s wartime thriller Saboteur—not to be confused with his earlier movie Sabotage—was released 80 years ago this month. Though production began just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the idea had actually been months in the making after Hitch’s original pitch to David O. Selznick. “We were in 1941 and there were pro-German elements who called themselves America Firsters and who were, in fact, American Fascists. This was the group I had in mind while writing the scenario,” Hitchcock later explained to François Truffaut.
Despite his traditional elements of the wronged man, the beautiful blonde, and the “MacGuffin,” Hitch identified several disappointments with Saboteur, most notably in the casting of his two heroes and the villain. Of leading male star Robert Cummings, who portrayed the accused saboteur, Hitch commented to Truffaut that “he’s a competent performer, but he belongs to the light-comedy class of actors,” though this wouldn’t stop him from casting him a decade later in a strong supporting role in Dial M for Murder. Continue reading →
Danny McBride as Jesse Gemstone on The Righteous Gemstones, Episode 1.07: “And Yet One of You Is a Devil”
Danny McBride as Jesse Gemstone, crude megachurch pastor
Charleston, South Carolina, Easter 2019
Series:The Righteous Gemstones Episode: “And Yet One of You Is a Devil” (Episode 1.07) Air Date: September 29, 2019 Director: Jody Hill Creator: Danny McBride Costume Designer: Sarah Trost
Now when I say “Easter”, a lot of images come to mind. The bunny. Easter egg hunts. Them marshmallow Peeps that taste better when they’re stale.
Created by Danny McBride, who wrote or co-wrote every episode in addition to starring, The Righteous Gemstones sends up American televangelism and megachurch culture through McBride’s usual comedic style that characterized his previous shows Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals.
A twisted take on if King Lear had been written about Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, The Righteous Gemstones centers around the fictional titular family led by patriarch Eli Gemstone (John Goodman), a sincere if overly prideful pastor who seemingly failed to pass his altruism on to his three children: the insecure youth pastor Kelvin (Adam Devine), the chaotic Judy (Edi Patterson), and the crude Jesse (McBride) who, by virtue of being the eldest, seems poised to succeed his aging father despite his debauched lifestyle. Continue reading →
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic (1997)
Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, charismatic American artist
North Atlantic Ocean, April 1912
Film:Titanic Release Date: December 19, 1997 Director: James Cameron Costume Designer: Deborah Lynn Scott Tailor: Dominic Gherardi
110 years ago today, the sinking of the RMS Titanic resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers and crew. The global mourning and focus on transportation safety in the tragedy’s aftermath was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, so to speak, as the disaster and those involved have continued to be mythologized in countless books, movies, plays, songs, and more.
Ryan Reynolds as Adam Reed in The Adam Project (2022)
Ryan Reynolds as Adam Reed, time-traveling fighter pilot
Washington State, Spring 2022… then fall 2018
Film:The Adam Project Release Date: March 11, 2022 Director: Shawn Levy Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan
For four weeks after it premiered, The Adam Project remained the #1 most streamed movie on Netflix, only recently surpassed. This adventure comedy incorporates elements of sci-fi and action into a fun and often touching celebration of nerdom, summed up by a character stating that “sometimes it pays to be a nerd, guys.” Continue reading →
Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, ambitious film actor, singer, and dancer
Hollywood, Spring 1927
Film:Singin’ in the Rain Release Date: April 11, 1952 Directed by: Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett
What better way to welcome April showers than by celebrating the 70th anniversary of Singin’ in the Rain, which was widely released on this day in 1952, just two weeks after it premiered at Radio City Music Hall.
Now considered not just one of the best musical films but one of the best movies of all time, Singin’ in the Rain centers around Hollywood during the waning months of the silent era as studios made the shift to “talkies” following the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927. The transition is no problem for the multi-talented Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), who shares his portrayer’s finely honed abilities to sing, act, and dance, but previews for Don’s latest feature—the period drama The Dueling Cavalier—illustrate that Don’s brassy, vain co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) is woefully underprepared for the new phase of their career, her shrill accent eliciting laughter and frustration from the test audiences.
Brainstorming over late-night sandwiches and milk with his professional partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) and his new love interest Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), Don’s brain trust determines that The Dueling Cavalier could potentially be retooled as a musical, with Kathy dubbing Lina’s grating voice behind the scenes. This being a musical, the trio celebrates their breakthrough with a rousing rendition of “Good Mornin'” as the rain falls outside, followed by a gleeful Don kissing Kathy goodnight and—delighted with the prospects of his professional and romantic futures—singing the titular ditty as he dances home in the downpour. Continue reading →
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Ferdinand Griffon in Pierrot le Fou (1965)
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Ferdinand Griffon, runaway husband
Paris, Spring 1965
Film:Pierrot le Fou Release Date: November 5, 1965 Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Born 89 years ago on April 9, 1933, today marks the first of Jean-Paul Belmondo’s birthdays since the iconic French actor died in September 2021. One of Bébel’s most memorable movies is the colorful Pierrot le Fou, a pop art equivalent of the French New Wave cinematic movement that marked the actor’s third and final collaboration with director Jean-Luc Godard. Continue reading →
Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman (2019)
Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough Mafia enforcer
New York City, Spring 1972
Film:The Irishman Release Date: November 1, 2019 Director: Martin Scorsese Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
Fifty years ago tonight, Mafia violence shook the streets of New York City when dangerous mobster “Crazy Joe” Gallo was shot and killed while celebrating his 43rd birthday with his family at Umbertos Clam House on Mulberry Street.
The most widely accepted facts attribute the slaying to four associates of the Colombo crime family, in retaliation for their suspicions that Gallo had ordered the attempted assassination of boss Joseph Colombo during an Italian-American Civil Rights League rally the previous June. Gallo’s widow recalled multiple men of short stature and likely Italian descent storming the Mulberry Street restaurant, where more than 20 shots were fired at her husband, who staggered onto the sidewalk and died shortly before 5:30 a.m. on April 7, 1972.
However, Charles Brandt’s nonfiction best-seller I Heard You Paint Houses includes an explosive claim by labor official and mob hitman Frank Sheeran that he alone was responsible for the hit. Continue reading →
Spencer Tracy as Matt Drayton in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Spencer Tracy as Matt Drayton, newspaper editor
San Francisco, Spring 1967
Film:Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Release Date: December 12, 1967 Director: Stanley Kramer Costume Designer: Joe King
Considered one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history by audiences and peers, Spencer Tracy was born 122 years ago on April 5, 1900 in Milwaukee. His prolific career that spanned nearly half a century culminated with his final role in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, for which he received his ninth and final Academy Award nomination (one of ten that the film received), a posthumous honor as Tracy had died only 17 days after completing his work. Continue reading →
Brad Pitt as Jesse James in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Brad Pitt as Jesse James, legendary outlaw
Missouri, Fall 1881 through Spring 1882
Film:The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Release Date: September 21, 2007 Director: Andrew Dominik Costume Designer: Patricia Norris
An old adage advises us to never meet our heroes, as they’re sure to disappoint. This theme permeates one of my favorite Westerns, Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, depicting the months leading up to the titular betrayal that surprised the country 140 years ago today.
All these years later, Jesse James remains a household name, wisely portrayed on screen by A-lister Brad Pitt to reinforce to audiences the presence that the bandit would have commanded during his heyday. Continue reading →