The Godfather, Part II: Tom Hagen’s Seersucker Suit

Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen in The Godfather, Part II (1974)

Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen in The Godfather, Part II (1974)

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Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, levelheaded Mafia lawyer

Lake Tahoe, Fall 1958

Film: The Godfather Part II
Release Date: December 12, 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

The second Thursday in June is recognized as National Seersucker Day in the United States, an observance that began in Congress during the late 1990s to celebrate the traditional congressional summer dress in the days of the early 20th century before air conditioning reached the Capitol.

Apropos his quiet persona, Tom Hagen makes his inconspicuous return in The Godfather, Part II, seen almost in silhouette against the window as he greets the smarmy, crooked, and proudly blunt Senator Pat Geary (G.D. Spradlin) in the Don’s Lake Tahoe estate on the day of his son’s first communion. Continue reading

Don Draper’s Plaid Party Jacket in “The Runaways”

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 7.05: "The Runaways")

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 7.05: “The Runaways”)

Vitals

Jon Hamm as Don Draper, conflicted ad man

Los Angeles, Spring 1969

Series: Mad Men
Episode: “The Runaways” (Episode 7.05)
Air Date: May 11, 2014
Director: Christopher Manley
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Despite being one of the most popular shows in the streaming service’s stable of non-original content, today marks the last day that Mad Men is available to Netflix subscribers in the U.S. The first part of Mad Men‘s seventh and final season spends time with displaced ad man Don Draper as he travels from coast to coast by plane, juggling his professional aspirations in New York with his slowly stagnating marriage in L.A.

The geographic reversal is interesting, not only in the context of Mad Men but also in the east vs. west trope espoused by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry David Thoreau, as we’re used to seeing Don romanticizing California even when professionally soaring through the ranks of Madison Avenue’s advertising world. Now, his position has shifted with decided roots in L.A. via second wife Megan (Jessica Paré) taking up residence in Laurel Canyon to further her acting career while, back in New York, he’s been reduced to a glorified intern at the agency he helped to start… and that’s just in the eyes of those who are comfortable working with him.

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Matt Helm’s Light Blue Knitwear in Murderers’ Row

Dean Martin as Matt Helm in Murderers' Row (1966)

Dean Martin as Matt Helm in Murderers’ Row (1966)

Vitals

Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent

New Mexico, Summer 1966

Film: Murderers’ Row
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Henry Levin
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Happy birthday, Dean Martin! The charismatic entertainer known for his laidback charm and boozy, breezy persona was born June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio. Having established himself as a singer and actor, first in his partnership with Jerry Lewis and then among the swingers of the Rat Pack, Dino set out on his own direction in the mid-1960s, first with his variety series The Dean Martin Show on NBC and then his starring role as easygoing counter-agent Matt Helm in a multi-film franchise based on Donald Hamilton’s espionage novels. Unlike their more straightforward and serious source material, Martin’s Matt Helm movies followed the decade’s zeitgeist for spy parodies in the spirit of Carry On Spying and Our Man Flint. If you thought James Bond was a womanizer, lounge lizard Matt Helm proves that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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The Yakuza: Ken Takakura’s Navy Baracuta G9

Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka in The Yakuza (1974)

Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka in The Yakuza (1974)

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Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka, disciplined ex-Yakuza

Tokyo, Spring 1974

Film: The Yakuza
Release Date: December 28, 1974
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins

Background

Fans of ’70s action would no doubt appreciate The Yakuza, Paul Schrader’s debut screenplay, co-written with his brother Leonard Schrader based on Leonard’s own experiences in Japan. A driving factor that compelled the brothers to finish their initial script was the stoic screen presence of Ken Takakura, who appeared in the film as the ex-akuza gangster who now teaches kendo.

Ken takes up his sword as part of his giri with Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum), formerly a U.S. Marine MP who had dated Ken’s sister while serving in Tokyo during the post-WWII occupation of Japan. Loosely defined as a lifelong debt that can never truly be repaid, the giri concept is central to The Yakuza, in which Ken describes it to Harry as “the burden hardest to bear” and refuses to rid himself of his obligation even when Dusty (Richard Jordan) suggests that the nature of his debt is relatively arbitrary.

Having arrived in Japan in search of his associate’s kidnapped daughter, Harry seeks out Ken’s assistance, but the blood they spill rescuing the young woman results in Yakuza contracts placed on both Harry and Ken, a threat that can only be eliminated by Ken killing the powerful gangster Tono (Eiji Okada) with a sword. While Harry arms himself with a .45 and a double-barreled shotgun, Ken takes a katana to appropriately exact his vengeance on the dangerous crime boss.

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A Warm December: Sidney Poitier’s Diamond-Grid Suit

Sidney Poitier as Dr. Matt Younger in A Warm December (1973)

Sidney Poitier as Dr. Matt Younger in A Warm December (1973)

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Sidney Poitier as Matt Younger, widowed father and clinic physician

London, Summer 1972

Film: A Warm December
Release Date: May 23, 1973
Director: Sidney Poitier
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson

Background

Despite its title, Sidney Poitier’s second directorial effort A Warm December is actually set during a summer in London. (The title is contextualized during one of the film’s final scenes, so I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it!) Poitier plays Dr. Matt Younger, a recent widow who brings his daughter across the pond for what he hopes to be a mindless vacation spent riding his motorbike until he makes the acquaintance of the mysterious and magnetic Catherine (Ester Anderson) and falls for her.

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Clint Eastwood as “The Man with No Name” in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Clint Eastwood as Blondie, aka "the Man with No Name", in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

Clint Eastwood as Blondie, aka “the Man with No Name”, in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

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Clint Eastwood as Blondie, aka “the Man with No Name”, taciturn bounty hunter

New Mexico Territory, Spring 1862

Film: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(Italian title: Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo)
Release Date: December 23, 1966
Director: Sergio Leone
Costume Designer: Carlo Simi

Background

Today marks the 90th birthday of screen legend Clint Eastwood, born May 31, 1930, in San Francisco. (Between John Wayne on May 26, James Stewart on May 20, and Gary Cooper on May 7, there must be something about being in born in May that positions an actor for stardom in the Western genre!)

After Eastwood’s initial success on the TV series Rawhide, he traveled to Italy to star in a trio of Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, firmly establishing the significance of the “spaghetti Western”. In A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), Eastwood ostensibly played a variation of the same mysterious, laconic gunfighter alternately known as Joe, Manco, or Blondie, respectively, but immortalized in cinema as “the Man with No Name.”

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The Aviator: Leo’s Navy Jacket and White Slacks

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004)

Vitals

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, eccentric and ambitious aviation and movie mogul

Los Angeles, Summer 1935

Film: The Aviator
Release Date: December 25, 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell

Background

Almost five years after the success of his World War I epic Hell’s Angels, Howard Hughes lands his seaplane at the beach to the tune of Bing Crosby crooning the 1933 ballad “Thanks”, backed by “musical host of the coast” Jimmie Grier and his Orchestra. The graceful approach of the Sikorsky S-38 “Flying Boat” and the dapper Hughes deplaning from it dazzles the cast and crew of Sylvia Scarlett, Katharine Hepburn’s first of four films with director George Cukor and co-star Cary Grant.

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John Wayne in True Grit

John Wayne as Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn in True Grit (1969)

John Wayne as Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn in True Grit (1969)

Vitals

John Wayne as Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, tough Deputy U.S. Marshal

Fort Smith, Arkansas, into Indian Territory, Fall 1880

Film: True Grit
Release Date: June 12, 1969
Director: Henry Hathaway
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Wardrobe: Luster Bayless (uncredited)

Background

To commemorate John Wayne’s birthday 113 years ago today on May 26, 1907, let’s take a look at one of Duke’s most enduring roles and the one that won him the Academy Award after more than forty years making over 200 movies.

Swiftly adapted from Charles Portis’ source novel of the same name, True Grit follows 14-year-old Mattie Ross as she seeks the help of a drunken U.S. Marshal, chosen by virtue of his reputation as the meanest marshal, to avenge the murder of her father. Continue reading

Tony Soprano’s Aloha Panel-Print Shirt in “Irregular Around the Margins”

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano on The Sopranos (Episode 5.05: "Irregular Around the Margins")

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano on The Sopranos (Episode 5.05: “Irregular Around the Margins”)

Vitals

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss

Newark, New Jersey, Spring 2004

Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Irregular Around the Margins” (Episode 5.05)
Air Date: April 4, 2004
Director: Allen Coulter
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Memorial Day weekend has traditionally been the unofficial start of the summer season with cookouts and amusement park openings, despite the solstice itself still being a month away. (Today also concludes Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, highlighting a topic that anchors to The Sopranos‘ central narrative.)

Many spent time during self-isolation this spring to catch up on classic TV shows, with The Sopranos frequently cited as a show that people were re-watching or discovering for the first time. As we’re hopefully moving away from the weeks and months of social distancing, I want to take a look at one of many summer-friendly looks from the show’s central character, conflicted Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano played by James Gandolfini, who deservedly racked up three Emmy Awards among other accolades for his portrayal. Tony brings a summery sartorial spirit to a moment of isolated indoor frivolity in “Irregular Around the Margins”, the memorable fifth episode of The Sopranos‘ fifth season.

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Grand Prix: James Garner’s Derby-Style Jacket

James Garner as Pete Aron in Grand Prix (1966)

James Garner as Pete Aron in Grand Prix (1966)

Vitals

James Garner as Pete Aron, determined Formula One driver

Monaco, Spring 1966

Film: Grand Prix
Release Date: December 21, 1966
Director: John Frankenheimer
Costume Supervisor: Sydney Guilaroff

Background

The 2020 Monaco Grand Prix was to begin today, which also commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Monaco Grand Prix’s first inclusion in the inaugural FIA World Championship. Unfortunately, the spread of the dangerous coronavirus pandemic resulted in the race being cancelled for the first time since the 1954 Formula One season.

“In my opinion, still the best picture ever made about auto racing,” wrote James Garner in his memoir, The Garner Files, an opinion into which I put a lot of stock given the actor’s real-life passion for racing and his characteristic modest regarding his own cinematic career. Continue reading