Tagged: 1940s

William Holden in Stalag 17

In recognition of POW/MIA Day, observed on the third Friday of September, let’s delve into one of the first major movies to shine a light on the POW experience.

William Holden as Staff Sergeant J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17 (1953)

William Holden as Staff Sergeant J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17 (1953)

Vitals

William Holden as J.J. Sefton, USAAF Staff Sergeant and prisoner of war

“Somewhere on the Danube”, December 1944

Film: Stalag 17
Release Date: May 29, 1953
Director: Billy Wilder
Wardrobe Credit: J. Allen Slone

Background

I don’t know about you, but it always makes me sore when I see those war pictures… all about flying leathernecks and submarine patrols and frogmen and guerrillas in the Philippines. What gets me is there never was a movie about POWs… about prisoners of war.

… and so Clarence Harvey Cook (Gil Stratton) begins his narration, setting the scene for the week leading up to Christmas 1944 when he and his fellow downed colleagues discovered a potential informant—er, a “dirty stinkin’ stoolie”—in their barracks.

After two airmen are shot trying to escape, suspicion eventually falls on J.J. Sefton, the cigarette-dealing but cigar-chomping staff sergeant whose cynicism has already rendered him unpopular with most of the Americans aside from Cookie, who serves as Sefton’s unofficial batman and describes him as “one of the most unforgettable ch-characters you’ve ever met.” Continue reading

Robert Redford Dressed for Tennis in The Way We Were

Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were (1973)

Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were (1973)

Vitals

Robert Redford as Hubbell Gardiner, Hollywood screenwriter

Los Angeles, September 1947

Film: The Way We Were
Release Date: October 19, 1973
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Design: Dorothy Jeakins & Moss Mabry

Background

Tomorrow will be the final day of the 2021 Wimbledon tennis championships, which—due to COVID-19—were canceled last year for the first time since World War II. In the spirit of the oldest tennis tournament in the world, I wanted to highlight the classic tennis garb worn by Robert Redford for a brief scene in The Way We Were.

More than a decade after the popular athlete Hubbell Gardiner and passionate activist Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) kindled their mutual attraction in college, the two have reunited and have moved out to southern California, where the carefree Hubbell is all too comfortable turning his successful novel into a much tamer screenplay, aimed for mainstream audiences.

Continue reading

Robert Redford’s Tweed Jacket and Navy Polo in The Way We Were

Robert Redford as Hubbell Gardner in The Way We Were (1973)

Robert Redford as Hubbell Gardner in The Way We Were (1973)

Vitals

Robert Redford as Hubbell Gardiner, Hollywood screenwriter

Malibu, California, September 1947

Film: The Way We Were
Release Date: October 19, 1973
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Design: Dorothy Jeakins & Moss Mabry

Background

Don’t take any crap…to the both of us… and all the absent friends, class of ’37.

Navy pals-turned-Tinseltown teammates Hubbell (Robert Redford) and J.J. (Bradford Dillman) cynically reflect on the decade since they graduated from college together, one world war and sold-out script later.

Continue reading

Bugsy’s Houndstooth Sports Coat

Warren Beatty as Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel in Bugsy (1991)

Warren Beatty as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel in Bugsy (1991)

Vitals

Warren Beatty as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, “celebrity” gangster and casino builder

Los Angeles, Spring 1945 and Las Vegas, Fall 1946

Film: Bugsy
Release Date: December 13, 1991
Director: Barry Levinson
Costume Designer: Albert Wolsky

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Everybody deserves a fresh start once in a while.

At least three times while wearing this outfit alone, Warren Beatty’s Bugsy Siegel pontificates on the power of fresh starts. While the real Siegel may not have been quite as forgiving, Beatty plays him with the actor’s characteristic charisma to better communicate to audiences how a violent gangster could have charmed the stars of “golden age” Hollywood.

Continue reading

Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra

Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941)

Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941)

Vitals

Humphrey Bogart as Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, professional armed robber on parole

Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, Spring 1940

Film: High Sierra
Release Date: January 21, 1941
Director: Raoul Walsh
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Tomorrow marks the 80th anniversary of the release of High Sierra, arguably the movie that launched Humphrey Bogart from a Warner Bros. background player in the ’30s to superstardom in the ’40s. A violent criminal with an earnest streak, Roy Earle was the ideal role for Bogie to transition from the secondary sniveling bastard in movies like The Petrified Forest and The Roaring Twenties to the tilted-hat heroes we love in The Maltese FalconCasablanca, and more.

Continue reading

Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock

Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Vitals

Spencer Tracy as John J. Macreedy, one-armed war veteran

Black Rock, California, Fall 1945

Film: Bad Day at Black Rock
Release Date: January 7, 1955
Director: John Sturges

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Bad Day at Black Rock may have been one of the most requested movies I’ve been asked to write about, so when I saw that the Criterion Channel had added it to their streaming collection in December, I wasted no time in finally watching this swift and spectacular thriller that had been recommended by so many of you.

Based on Howard Breslin’s short story “Bad Time at Honda”, the account begins in the sprawling desert of eastern California, specifically the isolated berg of Black Rock, where no train has stopped in four years—the duration of American participation in World War II—until this particular day in late 1945, when the one-armed John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) requests a stop.

Conductor: Man, they look woebegone and far away.
Macreedy: Oh, I’ll only be here 24 hours.
Conductor: In a place like this, it could be a lifetime.

Continue reading

The Postman Always Rings Twice: John Garfield’s Blanket Robe

John Garfield, understandably distracted by Lana Turner while filming The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

John Garfield, understandably distracted by Lana Turner while filming The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

Vitals

John Garfield as Frank Chambers, restless drifter-turned-diner worker

Laguna Beach, California, Summer 1945

Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: May 2, 1946
Director: Tay Garnett
Costume Supervisor: Irene

Background

As #Noirvember continues, let’s step away from the trench coats and fedoras to see how our hardboiled anti-heroes dress for a day at the beach. An ode to deviance that originated from James M. Cain’s 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice was adapted twice by European filmmakers before Hollywood dared to tackle it during the golden age of noir in the 1940s.

The lascivious source material had presented a challenge for presenting the story in a way that would satisfy the draconian Motion Picture Production Code and, even before it was published, a synopsis of Cain’s story had been deemed “definitely unsuitable for motion picture production” by the pearl-clutching Hays Office. After the two European adaptations were released, MGM was finally ready to proceed with its own version, inspired by the success of Double Indemnity, another piece from Cain’s poison pen centered around adultery and murder. By this time, nearly a dozen years into the rigid enforcement years of the Production Code, American filmmakers had mastered the art of stylized shadows and suggestive innuendo that allowed—and often enhanced—these films noir set in lurid worlds filled with unscrupulous and unsavory elements.

“It was on a side road outside of Los Angeles,” Frank Chambers begins his story, as the down-on-his-luck hitchhiker stumbles into the Twin Oaks diner boasting a $1.25 “best in the world” chicken dinner. The simple sign, “Man wanted,” echoes both the restaurant’s staffing needs as well as the sensuous needs of Cora (Lana Turner), the ambitious young platinum blonde who runs the roadside lunch room with her proud yet oblivious husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway)… and, even if you haven’t read or seen it, you probably already see where this is going.

Continue reading

Mitchum as Marlowe: Farewell, My Lovely

Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

Vitals

Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe, sharp-tongued private investigator

Los Angeles, Summer 1941

Film: Farewell, My Lovely
Release Date: August 8, 1975
Director: Dick Richards
Men’s Wardrobe Credit: G. Tony Scarano

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Robert Mitchum had been credentialed in film noir for more than a generation (as explored in Saturday’s #Noirvember post) before the actor first took on the role of Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye, Philip Marlowe. Based on an Edgar Allen Poe Award-winning screenplay by David Zulag Goodman, Dick Richards’ adaptation of Chandler’s 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely premiered just two days after Mitchum’s 58th birthday, making the actor almost double the age of the character he portrayed… but his grizzled presence is just right as he navigates his way through the sordid City of Angels on the eve of the second world war:

This past spring was the first that I’d felt tired and realized I was growing old. Maybe it was the rotten weather we’d had in L.A., maybe it was the rotten case I’d had, mostly chasing a few missing husbands… and then chasing their wives once I found them in order to get paid. Or maybe it was just the plain fact that I am tired and growing old.

We find Mitchum’s Marlowe in media res “holed up in a dingy hotel, ducking the police,” staring under the brim of his ubiquitous hat through the neon and Philip Morris cigarette smoke. Continue reading

Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past

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

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

Vitals

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

Bridgeport, California, to San Francisco via Lake Tahoe, Fall 1946

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

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Regarded among the best of classic film noir, Out of the Past showcases the genre’s quintessential elements: shadowy cinematography (thanks to Nicholas Musuraca), a story of double-cross and intrigue told in flashback, a charismatic antagonist, an alluring and ultimately deadly femme fatale, and—of course—a tough-talking, chain-smoking private eye light on words and sentiment:

Baby, I don’t care.

Continue reading

Criss Cross: Burt Lancaster’s Loafer Jacket

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949)

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949)

Vitals

Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson, larcenous armored car driver

Los Angeles, Summer 1948

Film: Criss Cross
Release Date: January 19, 1949
Director: Robert Siodmak

Background

After directing the actor’s debut screen performance in quintessential film noir The Killers (1946), Robert Siodmak reteamed with Burt Lancaster three years later for Criss Cross, a quick, moody thriller that begins in media res with Steve Thompson (Lancaster) in the evening shadows of a nightclub parking lot, embracing his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo).

As De Carlo makes her plea to the camera that Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller called “noir’s defining moment”, we learn that the former spouses are forced into secrecy to avoid detection from Anna’s slick gangster boyfriend Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), with whom Steve is planning a six-figure “chance of a lifetime” heist the following day.

Continue reading