Tagged: 1940s

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Monty Woolley as Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

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Monty Woolley as Sheridan Whiteside, catty, cantankerous, and “celebrated author and critic”

Ohio, Winter 1941

Film: The Man Who Came to Dinner
Release Date: January 1, 1942
Director: William Keighley
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly

Background

Based on a play of the same name by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, the holiday-centered screwball comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner was released 80 years ago this year. Inspired by Hart’s own experiences with critic and writer Alexander Woollcott, the eponymous “man” is Sheridan Whiteside, an acerbic radio personality whose well-publicized national tour includes a stop in the invented town of Mesalia, Ohio, where his prestige has preceded him more than his condescending attitude. Continue reading

Cary Grant in The Bishop’s Wife

For this holiday treat, I again welcome BAMF Style contributor Ken Stauffer (@oceansographer on Instagram), here sharing his thoughtful analysis of a screen icon in a holiday classic.


Cary Grant and Loretta Young in The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

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Cary Grant as Dudley, debonair angel

New York City, December 1947

Film: The Bishop’s Wife
Release Date: December 9, 1947
Director: Henry Koster
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff

Background

Happy holidays, BAMF Style readers! To celebrate the season, we’re looking back at the Christmas classic The Bishop’s Wife, which premiered at the Astor Theater in Times Square exactly 75 years ago today. Interestingly, general audiences would not have a chance to see the movie until the following February, an odd marketing decision that shows how much the film industry has evolved over the years.

The film stars Cary Grant as Dudley, a literal angel on Earth, assigned to help Manhattan-based Episcopalian Bishop Henry Brougham, drolly performed by David Niven. While acting as the bishop’s assistant, Dudley finds himself drawn to his eponymous wife Julia, played by Loretta Young in an enchanting turn. Continue reading

Devil in a Blue Dress: Don Cheadle as Mouse Alexander

Don Cheadle as Raymond “Mouse” Alexander in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

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Don Cheadle as Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, smooth but dangerous gunsel

Los Angeles, Summer 1948

Film: Devil in a Blue Dress
Release Date: September 29, 1995
Director: Carl Franklin
Costume Designer: Sharen Davis

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

As #Noirvember comes to a close, I want to celebrate one of my favorite characters from neo-noir, the trigger-happy “Mouse” Alexander in Devil in a Blue Dress, played by Don Cheadle who was born November 29, 1964 and celebrates his 58th birthday today.

Fledgling private eye Ezekial “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) calls his old pal Mouse for some high-caliber help as the stakes climb but soon regrets his decision: “You ain’t been in my house five minutes and you gone and shot somebody already, Mouse!” Continue reading

Out of the Past: Robert Mitchum’s Suede Fishing Jacket

Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham in Out of the Past (1947)

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Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham, aka Jeff Bailey, laconic gas station owner and former private detective

Bridgeport, California, Fall 1946

Film: Out of the Past
Release Date: November 25, 1947
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Costume Credit: Edward Stevenson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today marks the 75th anniversary since the release of Out of the Past, often considered among the best of classic film noir, the shadowy sub-genre known for its murky morals, gat-toting gumshoes, and double-crossing dames.

We begin in the small northern California town of Bridgeport, where laconic gas station owner Jeff Bailey enjoys a quiet fishing date with his girlfriend Ann Miller (Virginia Huston) until he’s silently interrupted by his deaf employee, “The Kid” (Dickie Moore), signing for Jeff to return. Back in town, Jeff is greeted by Joe Stefanos (Paul Valentine), a mob torpedo sent to invite Jeff—whom we learn is actually an ex-private investigator named Jeff Markham—to Lake Tahoe to meet a mysterious figure from… out of his past. Continue reading

James Coburn in The Great Escape

James Coburn as Louis Sedgwick in The Great Escape (1963)

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James Coburn as Louis Sedgwick, Australian RAAF Flying Officer

Sagan-Silesia (Zagan, Poland), Spring 1944

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of James Coburn, the prolific and reliable Nebraska-born star who grew to fame through memorable appearances in the ’60s, including the requisite Westerns and war films including the 1963 ensemble epic The Great Escape, dramatizing the real-life mass breakout of more than six dozen Allied airmen from Stalag Luft III during World War II. Ultimately, there were three successful escapees; of the 73 captured, 50 were summarily executed on Hitler’s direct orders.

Coburn portrayed the fictional Australian officer Louis Sedgwick, an amalgamation of the camp “manufacturer” Johnny Travis (RAF) and Dutch flying ace Bram “Bob” van der Stok, one of the three successful escapees who made his getaway, crossing much of occupied Europe with the help of French Resistance networks. Continue reading

Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire

Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in This Gun for Hire (1942)

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Alan Ladd as Philip Raven, cold-blooded, cat-loving contract killer

San Francisco to Los Angeles, Spring 1942

Film: This Gun for Hire
Release Date: April 24, 1942
Director: Frank Tuttle
Costume Designer: Edith Head

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

I had already been planning to write about This Gun for Hire this month when I realized that today would have been the 100th birthday of Veronica Lake, who was born in Brooklyn on November 14, 1922 with the decidedly less glamorous name of Constance Ockelman. Lake was still in her teens when cast in her first starring role in Sullivan’s Travels (1941), the success of which convinced Paramount to cast her in their upcoming thriller, which would also be a vehicle to launch their next up-and-comer, Alan Ladd. Continue reading

Desert Fury: Wendell Corey’s Herringbone Tweed Suit

Wendell Corey as Johnny Ryan in Desert Fury (1947)

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Wendell Corey as Johnny Ryan, stone-cold mob enforcer

Nevada, Spring 1947

Film: Desert Fury
Release Date: August 15, 1947
Director: Lewis Allen
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

In the spirit of #Noirvember, I want to celebrate an entry in the relatively rare “color noir” category as well as the career of Wendell Corey, the Massachusetts-born actor and one-time AMPAS President who died on this day in 1968.

Corey was a familiar face in classic film noir like I Walk Alone (1948), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), and The File on Thelma Jordon (1950) before his perhaps most recognized performance as the skeptical Detective Tom Doyle assisting Jimmy Stewart‘s peeping amateur crime-solver in Rear Window (1954). It had been an impressive rise for an actor whose feature film debut had only been a few years earlier, appearing in Desert Fury (1947) as the gay-coded mob killer Johnny Ryan, right-hand man to smooth racketeer Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak).

Also starring Lizabeth Scott and Burt Lancaster, with whom Corey would again co-star in I Walk AloneDesert Fury joins contemporaries like Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and Niagara (1953) as the rare examples of full-color movies that maintain enough of the themes, style, and sinister story elements of traditional film noir to still qualify for this classification. Continue reading

The Right Stuff: Sam Shepard’s Flight Jacket as Chuck Yeager

Sam Shepard with Brig Gen Chuck Yeager during production of The Right Stuff (1983)

Sam Shepard with Brig Gen Chuck Yeager during production of The Right Stuff (1983)

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Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, record-setting U.S. Air Force test pilot

Murac Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base), Kern County, California, from fall 1947 to summer 1961

Film: The Right Stuff
Release Date: October 21, 1983
Director: Philip Kaufman
Costume Supervisor: James W. Tyson

Background

Today marks the 75th anniversary of when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, piloting a rocket-propelled Bell X-1 aircraft—named Glamorous Glennis, after his wife—over the Mojave Desert at a speed greater than Mach 1. The event is depicted at the start of The Right Stuff, Philip Kaufman’s 1983 flight epic based on Tom Wolfe’s nonfiction book of the same name, chronicling the pivotal early years of American aeronautics between Yeager’s supersonic achievement and the conclusion of the successful Project Mercury manned space missions.

Continue reading

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

The Godfather: Johnny Fontane’s Cream Silk Suit

Al Martino as Johnny Fontane in The Godfather (1972)

Al Martino as Johnny Fontane in The Godfather (1972)

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Al Martino as Johnny Fontane, down-on-his-luck crooner

Long Island, New York, Summer 1945

Film: The Godfather
Release Date: March 14, 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone

Background

Today in 1927, Al Martino was born in Philadelphia to two Italian immigrants from Abruzzo, the same southern Italian region from which much of my family hails. Following his U.S. Navy service during World War II, the singer began earnestly following his career in entertainment. Twenty years after his first single, “Here in My Heart”, reached #1 in the U.S. Billboard and UK Singles charts, Martino joined the cast of The Godfather as Johnny Fontane, an Italian-American crooner whose early career parallels that of Martino’s contemporary Frank Sinatra. Continue reading