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
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
Tom Selleck as Nick Lassiter, debonair jewel thief
London, June 1939
Release Date: February 17, 1984
Director: Roger Young
Costume Designer: Barbara Lane
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.
Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1927
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
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
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
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.
Steve McQueen as Eric “the Kid” Stoner, hotshot poker player
Louisiana, Fall 1936
Film: The Cincinnati Kid
Release Date: October 15, 1965
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Donfeld (Donald Lee Feld)
The Cincinnati Kid was released today in 1965 with Steve McQueen in the title role as the actor was paving his way to stardom through the decade with a string of iconic movie including The Great Escape (1963), The Sand Pebbles (1966), and finally Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair in his banner year of 1968.
McQueen’s timeless sense of cool adds an era-defying quality to his performance as poker prodigy Eric “the Kid” Stoner. The Kid’s simple, functional wardrobe was hip enough to be contemporary to the 1960s while also reflective of the film’s 1930s setting. Continue reading
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, adventurer and archaeology professor
India, Summer 1935
Film: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Release Date: May 23, 1984
Director: Steven Spielberg
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell
A memorable scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom finds the titular archaeologist and his two newly introduced companions, Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and Short Round (Ke Huy Quan), invited to a banquet at Pankot Palace hosted by the young Majarajah Zalim Singh (Raj Singh). The trio doesn’t take warmly to the feast, which includes such delicacies as “snake surprise” and chilled monkey brains.
One of my favorite aspects of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the alternative costumes that Indy sports when not in his signature leather jacket and fedora. In addition to a Casablanca-inspired (but ’80s-executed) white dinner jacket at the film’s outset, Indy uses this dinner as an opportunity to dress up his usual bush shirt and “pinks” trousers by donning a tweed sport jacket and bow tie.
Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, baseball prodigy and “middle-aged rookie”
New York, June 1939
Film: The Natural
Release Date: May 11, 1984
Director: Barry Levinson
Costume Design: Gloria Gresham & Bernie Pollack
Baseball season is back and in full swing (forgive the pun), and I’m feeling much better about it this year after my hometown Pirates won their home opener against the Twins yesterday, making us 4-0 for the season… after last year, I’ll take all the hope I can get! In the spirit of America’s pastime, today’s post explores one of the great baseball movies ever made.
Based on Bernard Malamud’s 1952 debut novel – and considered by many to be an improvement on it – The Natural stars Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, an earnest, homespun, and sincere baseball player whose sole ambition is glory on the diamond. As he himself wonders, “What else is there?”
Of course, when we first meet Roy Hobbs in media res, you’d never know it to look at him that he was about to embark on his last shot at big-league stardom.