Tagged: 1930s

William Powell’s Chalkstripe Suit in Manhattan Melodrama

William Powell as Jim Wade in Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

William Powell as Jim Wade in Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

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William Powell as Jim Wade, crusading assistant district attorney

New York City, Spring 1934

Film: Manhattan Melodrama
Release Date: May 4, 1934
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Costume Designer: Dolly Tree

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Happy birthday, William Powell! The suave actor was born July 29, 1892, in my hometown of Pittsburgh, though he moved to Kansas City as a teenager. He only stayed there three years before moving to New York at the age of 18 to pursue a career as an actor, eventually becoming one of the best known actors of Hollywood’s “golden era” with three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor recognizing his performances in The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and Life with Father (1947).

Powell’s chemistry with Myrna Loy, most famously showcased as detective couple Nick and Nora Charles in the “Thin Man” series, made them one of the most iconic on-screen duos, though their first of 14 cinematic collaborations was Manhattan Melodrama in 1934. Continue reading

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The Last Tycoon: Monroe Stahr’s Green Printed Shirt

Matt Bomer as Monroe Stahr on The Last Tycoon (Episode 8: "An Enemy Among Us")

Matt Bomer as Monroe Stahr on The Last Tycoon (Episode 8: “An Enemy Among Us”)

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Matt Bomer as Monroe Stahr, charming studio wunderkind

Hollywood, February 1937

Series: The Last Tycoon
Episode: “An Enemy Among Us” (Episode 8)
Streaming Date: July 28, 2017
Director:
Scott Hornbacher
Developed By: Billy Ray
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Do you celebrate Christmas in July? If so, do you struggle with finding just the right thing to wear for your holiday fun in the sun when celebrating with swimming pools and margaritas rather than snowmen and mulled wine?

On the much-too-short-lived Amazon original series The Last Tycoon, developed by Billy Ray from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished final novel, the young and dashing Hollywood hotshot Monroe Stahr (Matt Bomer) is rarely seen in anything less than a beautifully tailored three-piece suit or white tie and tails, but he gives himself a sartorial break in the name of love and leisure for a warm February morning on the terrace with his new paramour, aspiring actress Kathleen Moore (Dominique McElligott).

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Gregory Peck’s Checked Summer Shirt in The Snows of Kilimanjaro

Gregory Peck as Harry Street in Ernest Hemingway's The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)

Gregory Peck as Harry Street in Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)

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Gregory Peck as Harry Street, expatriate writer and former newspaper reporter

French Riviera (Côte d’Azur), Summer 1936

Film: The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Release Date: September 17, 1952
Director: Henry King
Wardrobe Supervisor: Charles Le Maire

Background

As I spend this week on vacation, I reflect on how my birthday buddy Ernest Hemingway—born 120 years ago this week on July 21, 1899—would have spent his daiquiri-soaked summers. A brief vignette from Henry King’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro, an adaptation of Papa’s short story of the same name, may shed some light on the life of a bored writer spending the warm season in the French Riviera.

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The Grissom Gang: Tony Musante’s Tan Plaid Jacket

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971)

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971)

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Tony Musante as Eddie Hagan, smooth and ruthless fringe mobster

Kansas City, Summer 1931

Film: The Grissom Gang
Release Date: May 28, 1971
Director: Robert Aldrich
Costume Designer: Norma Koch

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Based on James Hadley Chase’s controversial novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish, Robert Aldrich’s sweat-soaked Depression-set crime drama The Grissom Gang hardly features the finest or most inspiring of that elegant era’s sartorialism, but it does showcase unique and interesting approaches to 1930s menswear, particuarly in the wardrobe of the slick underworld dandy Eddie Hagan (Tony Musante).

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Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer in The Highwaymen

Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer with a Remington Model 8 rifle in The Highwaymen (2019)

Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer with a Remington Model 8 rifle in The Highwaymen (2019)

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Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer, tough Texas special investigator and former Texas Ranger

Texas and Louisiana, Spring 1934

Film: The Highwaymen
Release Date: March 15, 2019 (March 29, 2019, on Netflix)
Director: John Lee Hancock
Costume Designer: Daniel Orlandi

Background

Following a decorated career in law enforcement that found him bravely and successfully leading investigations and captures of violent criminals, Frank Hamer is not the sort of man who should need a cultural reevaluation in his defense. And yet, it was the most celebrated victory of Hamer’s career—bringing an end to Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker’s violent crime spree—that would eventually result in the former Texas Ranger being villianized in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde that romanticized the titular outlaw couple to carry out its countercultural message.

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The Grissom Gang: Tony Musante’s Brown Striped Suit

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971)

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971)

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Tony Musante as Eddie Hagan, smooth and ruthless fringe mobster

Kansas City, Summer 1931

Film: The Grissom Gang
Release Date: May 28, 1971
Director: Robert Aldrich
Costume Designer: Norma Koch

Background

The Grissom Gang had intrigued me ever since I was in eighth grade. I was flipping through a book about crime cinema from the school library when I found myself paused on a full-page photo of a man in a bloody white dinner jacket stumbled out of a roadster while Kim Darby sat in the passenger seat with her mouth agape. I had been newly introduced to Bonnie and ClydeDillinger, and other films depicting that famous 1930s crime wave, but The Grissom Gang remained elusive.

Half a decade later, I was a college student with a considerably better budget and the vast resources of the internet at my disposal. I finally managed to track down a DVD of The Grissom Gang and, despite what the critics said, I was far from disappointed. Granted, I had no idea what to expect, so a sweaty, exploitative period crime piece from The Dirty Dozen was exactly what I was happy to get.

The Grissom Gang was the second major cinematic adaptation of James Hadley Chase’s 1939 novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish, following the poorly received British-made noir wannabe from 1948. When Robert Aldrich stepped into the wheelhouse for his adaptation, he kicked the setting back to the early 1930s when the Depression-era desperadoes reigned from powerful organized crime figures down to the lowliest highway robbers.

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Clark Gable in It Happened One Night

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934)

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934)

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Clark Gable as Peter Warne, recently fired newspaper reporter

Miami to New York, Spring 1933

Film: It Happened One Night
Release Date: February 22, 1934
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Robert Kalloch
Tailor: Eddie Schmidt

Background

Today marks the birthday of Clark Gable, born 118 years ago on February 1, 1901, as William Clark Gable, though he would shave off his first name to assume the stage name of Clark Gable by 1924. Within a decade, the young actor from Cadiz, Ohio, had turned Clark Gable into a household name.

Released 85 years ago this month, It Happened One Night earned Clark Gable his only Academy Award while also racking up wins in the category of Best Picture, Best Director (for Frank Capra), Best Actress (for Claudette Colbert), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Robert Riskin). In the decades since, only two other movies have won this “big five” quinfecta of Oscar categories: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs. Esteemed company, indeed.

With Gable’s birthday today and the 91st Academy Awards just four weeks from now, let’s take a look at the dapper actor’s style in this trailblazing pre-Code comedy that’s still charming, witty, and ageless the better part of a century later. Continue reading

Lassiter: Tom Selleck’s Gray Tweed and Argyle

Tom Selleck as Nick Lassiter in Lassiter (1984)

Tom Selleck as Nick Lassiter in Lassiter (1984)

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Tom Selleck as Nick Lassiter, debonair jewel thief

London, June 1939

Film: Lassiter
Release Date: February 17, 1984
Director: Roger Young
Costume Designer: Barbara Lane

Background

Happy birthday, Tom Selleck!

On the actor’s 74th birthday, I’m responding to a frequent request from a fellow Tom who kindly brought my attention to Selleck’s pre-World War II style in the little-known 1984 caper film Lassiter, made during the actor’s Magnum P.I. heyday. Selleck starred as the title character, Nick Lassiter, a daring and debonair jewel thief in the tradition of David Niven’s “Phantom” from the Pink Panther series with a twist of Indiana Jones… perhaps to make up for the fact that Selleck had turned down Raiders of the Lost Ark before Harrison Ford made the iconic role his own.

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Scarface (1932) – Tony’s Silk Dressing Gown

Paul Muni and Karen Morley in Scarface (1932)

Paul Muni and Karen Morley in Scarface (1932)

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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

Tomorrow would have been the 120th birthday of Al Capone, had the infamous gangster not rotted to his syphilic demise in 1947.

Capone’s story remains one of the most frequently adapted for movies and TV, beginning with Rod Steiger in the cleverly titled 1959 film Al Capone through Neville Brand (twice), Ben Gazzara, Jason Robards, Ray Sharkey, and F. Murray Abraham, up through Robert de Niro’s iconic performance in The Untouchables (1987). The gangster was most recently—and most prolifically—portrayed by Stephen Graham in all five seasons of Boardwalk Empire, though Tom Hardy is set to play Capone in the upcoming feature film Fonzo.

Of course, a larger-than-life character like Al Capone didn’t have to wait until after he was dead to see his story unfold on the screen. While his name was never used in movies released during his lifetime, Capone provided the obvious inspiration for a number of gangsters in pre-Code crime cinema, most famously the ambitious, smooth, and lethal Tony Camonte, played by Paul Muni in Scarface. Continue reading

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

James Stewart as George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart as George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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James Stewart as George Bailey, newlywed banker

Bedford Falls, NY, fall 1932 through spring 1934

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

Background

Although the film takes place over the course of one man’s whole life, It’s a Wonderful Life has earned a comfortable home among nostalgic holiday cinema. The man in question, George Bailey (James Stewart), spends a depressing Christmas Eve questioning his existence… prompting a visit from his guardian angel to remind him of the titular wonderful life that he has led.

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