Tagged: 1930s

Nightmare Alley: Comparing Carlisle’s Cardigans in 1947 vs. 2021

Left: Tyrone Power as Stan Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (1947)
Right: Bradley Cooper as Stan Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (2021)

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Tyrone Power (1947) and Bradley Cooper (2021) as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, opportunistic drifter-turned-carny

Rural Kentucky, Summer into fall 1939

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: October 9, 1947
Director: Edmund Goulding
Costume Designer: Bonnie Cashin

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Costume Designer: Luis Sequeira

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Almost immediately after William Lindsay Gresham published his 1946 novel Nightmare Alley chronicling the grifters, geeks, and gals populating a second-rate sideshow, Tyrone Power asked 20th Century Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck to purchase the film rights.

Power had built his swashbuckling screen image in movies like The Mask of Zorro (1940), Blood and Sand (1941), and The Black Swan (1942), but—as so many had—returned from his World War II service as a changed man. The decorated Lieutenant Power was released from Marine Corps active duty in January 1946 and, after flying dangerous transport missions during the war, sought roles that would expand his image beyond the romantic hero he had established.

Director Edmund Goulding helmed the production that brought Gresham’s creepy carnival world to life via a working carnival constructed on ten acres of the Fox back lot, even employing actual carnies and more than 100 sideshow attractions to add verisimilitude. The talented cast also included Joan Blondell, appropriately appearing about fifteen years beyond her Warner Brothers heyday as she deliciously dives into the role of the washed-up tarot reader “Mademoiselle Zeena” whom the unscrupulous Stanton Carlisle manipulates into revealing the trick to her successful mentalist act. The married Zeena allows herself to fall for Carlisle’s romantic advances despite being married to her alcoholic stage partner Pete (Ian Keith) and Carlisle’s own obvious interest in the ingenue Molly (Coleen Gray).

Nightmare Alley premiered 75 years ago today on October 9, 1947, with Power’s performance lauded by critics like James Agee, who noted for Time that he “steps into a new class as an actor,” playing against type as Carlisle.

The Nightmare Alley story was recently revived for Guillermo del Toro’s re-adaptation of the novel, reinstating some of the darker components to blend Gothic horror with the noir-ish elements that were also present in Goulding’s film. Released in December 2021, del Toro’s Oscar-nominated Nightmare Alley featured a star-studded cast led by Bradley Cooper as Carlisle, Toni Collette as Zeena, Rooney Mara as Molly, David Strathairn as Pete, and Cate Blanchett as Dr. Lilith Ritter, the mysterious femme fatale who Carlisle meets after escaping the carnival world and re-establishing himself as the debonair mentalist “The Great Stanton”. Continue reading

Paul Muni’s 1932 Tuxedo in Scarface

Paul Muni in Scarface (1932)

Paul Muni as Tony Camonte in Scarface (1932)

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

Chicago, Summer 1929

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

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Several years ago, I published a high-level overview of the various black tie ensembles across the male cast of the original 1932 version of Scarface, adapted from Armitage Trail’s pulp novel of the same name, which had been inspired by the then-contemporary exploits of the infamous Al Capone.

Now, after eight more years of learning, I want to focus specifically on the evening-wear worn by the eponymous Tony Camonte, portrayed by Paul Muni—who was born on this day in 1895—as Tony’s tuxedo had long been one of the driving sartorial influences in my choice to have a double-breasted dinner jacket made for my wedding, which will be one month from today. Continue reading

Hot Saturday: Cary Grant’s White Suit

Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday (1932)

Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday (1932)

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Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield, smooth playboy

Ohio, Summer 1932

Film: Hot Saturday
Release Date: October 28, 1932
Director: William A. Seiter

Background

Today being a hot Saturday in late summer reminded me of the early Cary Grant movie called, well, Hot Saturday. 1932 had been a breakout year for the Bristol-born star, as the erstwhile Archie Leach had worked his way in six months from his screen debut (This is the Night) to his first leading role, as the dapper playboy Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday. (Curiously, this marks the second time both this month and in the decade-long history of this blog that I’m writing about a character named Romer!)

Romer provides a prototype of what would become Grant’s signature screen persona: charming, debonair, and romantic yet wickedly self-deprecating. We meet him on a warm afternoon in the fictional Ohio berg of Marysville, where he strolls into the local bank and makes a date with the young clerk, Ruth Brock (Nancy Carroll), despite his already scandalous living arrangement with a woman named Camille Renault (Rita La Roy). As Ruth already has a date set that weekend with co-worker Connie Billop (Edward Woods), Romer invites both to his lakeside estate for what promises to be a hot Saturday indeed. Continue reading

Inside Daisy Clover: Robert Redford’s Breton Stripes at Sea

Robert Redford and Natalie Wood in Inside Daisy Clover (1965)

Robert Redford and Natalie Wood in Inside Daisy Clover (1965)

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Robert Redford as Wade Lewis, cheeky, charismatic, and closeted actor

Santa Monica, California, Fall 1937

Film: Inside Daisy Clover
Release Date: December 22, 1965
Director: Robert Mulligan
Costume Designer: Bill Thomas

Background

Ahead of Robert Redford’s birthday tomorrow, let’s flashback to one of the actor and director’s earliest prominent roles. Redford had spent the early 1960s taking small parts in movies like Tall Story (1960) and War Hunt (1962), appearing occasionally on TV shows like MaverickPerry MasonRoute 66The Untouchables, and Alfred Hitchcock’s anthology series. His most significant performance at the time was on stage, originating the role of the hapless newlywed Paul Bratter in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, which would provide Redford’s breakthrough big screen success when adapted by Gene Saks in 1967.

The movie adaptation of Barefoot in the Park launched a nearly 40-year stretch where charismatic Redford exclusively played leading roles, following a two-year period of supporting performances in mostly forgettable movies like Inside Daisy Clover, which Gavin Lambert had adapted from his novel of the same name. Continue reading

Live By Night: Ben Affleck’s White Gangster Suit

Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin in Live by Night (2016)

Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin in Live by Night (2016)

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Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin, gangster and war veteran

Ybor City, Florida, Spring 1933

Film: Live by Night
Release Date: December 25, 2016
Director: Ben Affleck
Costume Designer: Jacqueline West

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

After years of memes picturing him in various states of Dunkin’-fueled despair, Ben Affleck seems to be doing pretty well for himself these days, recently married to Jennifer Lopez as they have evidently to put the past—including Gigli—well behind them. On Affleck’s 50th birthday, let’s explore one of his more stylish roles as the Prohibition-era protagonist in Live By Night.

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Nightmare Alley: Bradley Cooper’s Plaid Mackinaw Jacket

Bradley Cooper as Stanton Carlisle in Nightmare Alley

Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (2021)

Vitals

Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, opportunistic drifter-turned-carny

Rural Kentucky, Summer into fall 1939

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Costume Designer: Luis Sequeira

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

William Lindsay Gresham’s novel Nightmare Alley was first adapted to the screen in 1947, just a year after its initial publication, via Edmund Goulding’s classic noir starring Tyrone Power. Guillermo del Toro’s newly released version is a less a remake of Goulding’s movie and more a reimagining of the source material from a screenplay he co-wrote with Kim Morgan, presented as a vividly stylish Gothic quasi-horror that landed a quartet of worthy Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.

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Death on the Nile: Simon MacCorkindale’s White Mess Jacket

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile (1978)

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile (1978)

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Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle, newlywed honeymooner

Egypt, September 1937

Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today would have been the 70th birthday of Simon MacCorkindale, the English actor whose breakthrough role was in Death on the Nile, the 1978 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery of the same name.

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It’s a Wonderful Life: Jimmy Stewart’s Barleycorn Tweed Suit

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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James Stewart as George Bailey, reluctant banker

Bedford Falls, New York, Spring 1932

Film: It’s a Wonderful Life
Release Date: December 20, 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson

Background

Released 75 years ago today, It’s a Wonderful Life has become an enduring Christmas classic… almost by accident! Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s self-published novella The Greatest Gift, the movie had been relatively well-received at the time of its release, even earning five Academy Award nominations including one for Best Picture, but it would be overshadowed by the epic blockbuster The Best Years of Our Lives that told the story of servicemen returning from World War II.

Despite being a personal favorite of director Frank Capra and star Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life seemed destined for obscurity as just another “old movie” when a clerical error prevented proper renewal of the copyright. Though small royalties were still owed as it was derived from Stern’s story, TV stations leapt at the chance to air high-quality, low-cost seasonal programming, launching It’s a Wonderful Life to its status as a perennial favorite for holiday viewers by the 1980s.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981): Nicholson’s Navy Striped Murder Suit

Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

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Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers, dangerous drifter

Southern California, Spring 1934

Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: March 20, 1981
Director: Bob Rafelson
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

After posting about John Cassavetes in the 1964 remake of The Killers last week, I wanted to focus on another color remake of classic film noir: the 1981 adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, reuniting Nicholson with director Bob Rafelson following their earlier collaborations in Head (1968), Five Easy Pieces (1970), and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). Continue reading

The Killers: Burt Lancaster’s Light Flannel Double-Breasted Suit

Burt Lancaster as Ole "Swede" Anderson in The Killers (1946)

Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson in The Killers (1946)

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Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson, ex-boxer

Philadelphia, Spring 1938

Film: The Killers
Release Date: August 30, 1946
Director: Robert Siodmak

Background

Let’s kick off #NoirVember with a memorable scene featuring birthday boy Burt Lancaster. Born November 2, 1913 in Manhattan, Lancaster remains an icon of American film noir, having made his debut in The Killers, which also marked most of the screen-going world’s introduction to the alluring Ava Gardner.

The Killers‘ straight-outta-Hemingway opening introduces us in finem res to Lancaster as “The Swede”, an ex-boxer with a sketchy past who has been tracked down by the two eponymous killers to a small town in New Jersey. Despite having spent the last six years in hiding, the Swede makes no attempt to flee his assassins, who efficiently complete their gruesome task and leave insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) to reconstruct the decade of mistakes that led from Anderson’s career as a boxer to that of a marked man by the mob.

As with all great film noir, the Swede’s undoing begins with a dame… Continue reading