Tagged: 1920s

Cagney’s Chalkstripe Suit in The Public Enemy

James Cagney as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

James Cagney as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

Vitals

James Cagney as Tom Powers, dangerous gangster and bootlegger

Chicago, Spring 1922

Film: The Public Enemy
Release Date: April 23, 1931
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Wardrobe Credit: Earl Luick

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

One hundred years ago at midnight tonight, on January 17, 1920, the Volstead Act went into effect, beginning a 13-year prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States… and kicking off what Herbert Asbury referred to in his informal history of the Chicago underworld as “the saturnalia of crime and corruption which has been called ‘a noble experiment’,” due to the resulting surge in organized crime that effectively gave rise to the modern gangster.

As moving pictures evolved as a popular medium in the waning years of Prohibition, so too did the gangster movie. Warner Brothers took the lead, exposing audiences to snarling violent hoodlums based on the real-life criminals who bloodied the streets of New York and Chicago. It was in the 1931 hit The Public Enemy that James Cagney made his star-making turn as the psychopathic gangster Tom Powers.

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The Public Enemy: Cagney’s New Clothes and Car

James Cagney leans on the door of a LaSalle as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

James Cagney leans on the door of a LaSalle as Tom Powers in The Public Enemy (1931)

Vitals

James Cagney as Tom Powers, dangerous gangster and bootlegger

Chicago, Spring 1920

Film: The Public Enemy
Release Date: April 23, 1931
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Wardrobe Credit: Earl Luick

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today is the 86th anniversary of the 21st Amendment that repealed Prohibition, the 13-year ban on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States. Even before Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933, the wave of organized crime it inspired across the country was a popular subject for movies of the era, with Warner Brothers taking the lead with hits like Little CaesarThe Public Enemy, and Scarface that made stars out of intense actors like Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney.

The latter was particularly renowned for his performance in The Public Enemy, a “ripped-from-the-headlines” tour de force of violence based on an unpublished novel written by two former newspapermen who had witnessed firsthand the impact of Al Capone’s brutal stronghold on Chicago during the beer wars of the roaring ’20s.

As #CarWeek continues, let’s flash back to the Prohibition era as Cagney’s Tom Powers hopes to make an impression with his new tailored suits and shiny new touring convertible. Continue reading

Sean Connery’s Tweed Coat and Cardigan in The Untouchables

Sean Connery as Jim Malone in The Untouchables (1987)

Sean Connery as Jim Malone in The Untouchables (1987)

Vitals

Sean Connery as Jim Malone, tough and honest Chicago beat cop

Canadian border, September 1930

Film: The Untouchables
Release Date: June 3, 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance

Background

Recently recruited off the streets of Chicago, aging beat cop Jim Malone is more than happy to bring his grizzled brand of tough justice to the Canadian border to assist federal agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and their small but effective band of “untouchable” lawmen in stopping an illegal shipment of liquor from making its way into the United States.

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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

Scarface (1932) – Tony’s Brown Striped Suit

Paul Muni, flanked by Vince Barnett and Karen Morley, in Scarface (1932)

Paul Muni, flanked by Vince Barnett and Karen Morley, in Scarface (1932)

Vitals

Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer

Chicago, Summer 1927

Film: Scarface
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks

Background

Today’s #MafiaMonday post goes back to the Prohibition era, the age that gave rise to the modern American gangster… and the American gangster movie.

After Warner Brothers scored back-to-back hits with Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931), effectively establishing the subgenre of the gangster film, Howard Hughes entered the fray with Scarface, an explosive, influential, and fast-paced criminal epic adapted from Armitage Trail’s novel that had been based on the life of Al Capone. Hughes had been warned against taking on Warner’s dominance in the genre, so he packed his production with talent including screenwriter Ben Hecht, director Howard Hawks, and lead actor Paul Muni, who was born 124 years ago yesterday on September 22, 1895.

In the wake of movies like Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, the Hays Office had been increasing its efforts to censor what it deemed to be glamorization of criminal lifestyles in cinema, but its notoriously restrictive production code had yet to be put into place, giving Scarface full reign to arm its vaguely incestuous central character with a Thompson submachine gun, once dubbed “the gun that made the twenties roar,” as he rose the ranks of the criminal underworld in a series of violent vignettes paralleling the life and crimes of the infamous Capone.

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The Great Gatsby: Three Suits in Three Adaptations

Vitals

Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974), Toby Stephens in The Great Gatsby (2000), and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby (2013)

Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby (1974), Toby Stephens in The Great Gatsby (2000), and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby (2013)

Jay Gatsby, romantic millionaire and shady bootlegger

Long Island, NY, Summer 1922

Played by Robert Redford in…

Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: March 29, 1974
Director: Jack Clayton
Costume Designer: Theoni V. Aldredge
Clothes: Ralph Lauren

Played by Toby Stephens in…

Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: March 29, 2000
Director: Robert Markowitz
Costume Designer: Nicoletta Massone

and played by Leonardo DiCaprio in…

Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin
Clothes: Brooks Brothers

Background

With its now famous tale of doomed romance, debauchery and death, and the failure of the American dream against a backdrop of riotous parties and scandalous adultery, The Great Gatsby was destined for the screen from the moment it hit shelves in the spring of 1925 at the height of what its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, coined “the Jazz Age.” Continue reading

Nucky Thompson’s Blue Glen Plaid Suit

Steve Buscemi as Enoch "Nucky" Thompson on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 4.08: "Old Ship of Zion")

Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 4.08: “The Old Ship of Zion”)

Vitals

Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, corrupt Atlantic City politician and bootlegger

Atlantic City, Summer 1924

Series: Boardwalk Empire
Episodes:
– “The Old Ship of Zion” (Episode 4.08, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 10/27/2013)
– “White Horse Pike” (Episode 4.10, dir. Jake Paltrow, aired 11/10/2013)
– “Farewell Daddy Blues” (Episode 4.12, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 11/24/2013)
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
Tailor: Martin Greenfield

Background

This #MafiaMonday, turn back the calendar almost a century to some spring-friendly fashions courtesy of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, the delightfully corrupt bootlegger who ruled Prohibition-era Atlantic City on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Continue reading

The Aviator: Leo’s Belstaff Flying Jacket

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

Hollywood, Fall 1927 through Summer 1928

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

Background

The Aviator wastes no time in establishing why the film is titled as such, providing the first look at the adult Howard Hughes as he’s beginning production on his World War I epic Hell’s Angels (1930). Hughes hires Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) to run his business enterprises—”and do a damn good job,” he adds—so he can focus his obsessive Capricorn energy on Hell’s Angels, a production combining the ambitious young mogul’s passions for aviation and movie-making. After beginning production on October 31, 1927, the film would take nearly three years to complete.

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The Natural – Roy Hobbs’ Cardigan

Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in The Natural (1984)

Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in The Natural (1984)

Vitals

Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, eager baseball prodigy

Chicago, Spring 1923

Film: The Natural
Release Date: May 11, 1984
Director: Barry Levinson
Costume Design: Gloria Gresham & Bernie Pollack

Background

Tomorrow is MLB Opening Day, meaning baseball season is back and in full swing (forgive the pun), so let’s take a look at a look from one of the most classic of baseball movies, The Natural.

“I guess some mistakes you never stop paying for,” are the words that must echo through Roy Hobbs’ brain every day for the 16 years after he was shot by a self-destructive—or just generally destructive—baseball groupie, Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey).

When Bernard Malamud was working on his debut novel, The Natural, he took inspiration from the story of Eddie Waitkus, the former first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies who was shot and nearly killed by an obsessive female stalker who, as she later told an assistant state attorney, wanted “to do something exciting in my life.”

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Chalky White’s Green Tweed Suit on Boardwalk Empire

Michael K. Williams as Albert "Chalky" White on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 4.12: "Farewell Daddy Blues")

Michael K. Williams as Albert “Chalky” White on Boardwalk Empire (Episode 4.12: “Farewell Daddy Blues”)

Vitals

Michael Kenneth Williams as Albert “Chalky” White, nightclub owner and bootlegger

Atlantic City, August 1924

Series: Boardwalk Empire
Episode: “Farewell Daddy Blues” (Episode 4.12)
Air Date: November 24, 2013
Director: Tim Van Patten
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, a time when many observe the feast day of Ireland’s foremost patron saint by donning their greenest attire and celebrating in a range of style, whether it’s the customary indulgence in classic Irish recipes like corned beef and cabbage or the more contemporary tradition of getting plastered on Jameson and taking selfies next to an artificially viridescent Chicago River.

If you’re at a loss for what to wear, you can take a page from the Chalky White playbook and borrow some green tweeds. Continue reading