George Lazenby as James Bond, smooth British secret agent
Bern, Switzerland, Christmas Eve 1969
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Release Date: December 18, 1969
Director: Peter R. Hunt
Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Wrapping up this winter Car Week on the 00-7th of December, let’s flash back to 1969 and Aussie actor George Lazenby’s sole adventure as James Bond. Whether the Bond production team was reversing its formula after the larger-than-life You Only Live Twice or playing it safe after Sean Connery left the role, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service closely follows the plot of Ian Fleming’s source novel, chronicling the agent’s romance with the self-destructive Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) as well as setting up his snowbound investigation of arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas) at his research institute Piz Gloria, located high in the picturesque Swiss Alps.
The action culminates in a Christmas Eve confrontation that results in 007’s alpine getaway on commandeered skis, assisted by Tracy and her bright red 1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7 that had first captured his attention when they met in Portugal three months prior. Continue reading
Ryan O’Neal as Oliver Barrett IV, preppy Harvard student
Boston, Winter 1966
Film: Love Story
Release Date: December 16, 1970
Director: Arthur Hiller
Costume Design: Alice Manougian Martin & Pearl Somner
As Car Week continues, it may not seem like it makes sense to focus on such an exposed car like the vintage MG roadster that appears in Love Story, but Ryan O’Neal bundles up accordingly in his reversible raincoat while behind the wheel with Ali MacGraw by his side.
Sidney Poitier as Dr. John Wade Prentice, widowed physician and professor
San Francisco, Spring 1967
Film: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Release Date: December 12, 1967
Director: Stanley Kramer
Costume Designer: Joe King
As we gear up for arguably the biggest family dinner of the year this week, I want to revisit one of the most famous “dinner movies” despite never actually seeing the titular meal on screen. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner broke ground upon its release 55 years ago for its positive portrayal of an interracial relationship when the white Joanna Drayton (Katharine Houghton) returns from a Hawaiian vacation with her new fiancé, a widowed black doctor named John Prentice (Sidney Poitier). Continue reading
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
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.
Sean Connery as James Bond, sophisticated and resourceful British government agent
Morgan’s Harbour, Jamaica, Spring 1962
Film: Dr. No
Release Date: October 5, 1962
Director: Terence Young
Wardrobe Master: John Brady
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
With the release of Dr. No sixty years ago today, October 5 has since been immortalized as Global James Bond Day in commemoration of when Sean Connery first uttered that now-iconic character introduction:
Bond. James Bond.
Dr. No had actually been Ian Fleming’s sixth novel featuring the worldly secret agent, set primarily in Jamaica as he penned the novel from his Jamaican estate Goldeneye. The author had tired of the character and left Bond’s fate somewhat ambiguous at the end of his previous novel From Russia With Love, though ultimately choosing that the agent would live to die another day and beginning Dr. No with 007’s recovery from the poison inflicted by the sharp-shoed Rosa Klebb.
Back to relatively full health, Bond finds his punishment in the form of a simple assignment meant to ease him back into duty (and possibly penalize him for letting his guard down), investigating the disappearance of a station chief and his secretary in Jamaica. There, Bond learns that the late chief had been investigating an eccentric recluse with the equally eccentric name of Doctor Julius No (Joseph Wiseman). With the help of his CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) and local contact Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), Bond ultimately determines that he and his newly issued Walther owe the
good bad doctor a long-overdue visit. Continue reading
Sid Caesar as Melville Crump, honeymooning dentist
Southern California, Summer 1962
Film: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Release Date: November 7, 1963
Director: Stanley Kramer
Costume Designer: Bill Thomas
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Sid Caesar, the pioneering comic actor whose influential variety series Your Show of Shows set a new standard during what some call the first “Golden Age of Television”, though I first knew Caesar for his part among the ensemble cast of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
Bill Cummings as Quist, silent yet easily subdued SPECTRE henchman
Nassau, Summer 1965
Release Date: December 29, 1965
Director: Terence Young
Wardrobe Designer: Anthony Mendleson
As summer winds to an unofficial end, I want to continue celebrating some of my favorite warm-weather fashions. During a recent rewatch of Thunderball, I was again struck by how contemporary the men’s summer style remains almost sixty years later, with tropical prints and terry cloth still best-sellers for many modern-day outfitters.
Naturally, Sean Connery’s wardrobe as 007 remains a highlight, but I also delighted in the aloha shirts worn by his allies Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and Felix Leiter (Rik Van Nutter) as well as the beach-wear sported by a character so minor that he’s routinely dismissed not just by the characters, but even the movie itself as Bill Cummings’ performance goes uncredited in the official end credits cast roll. Continue reading
David Hemmings as Thomas, hip London photographer
Swinging London, Fall 1966
Release Date: December 18, 1966
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Some people are bullfighters, some people are politicians… I’m a photographer.
August 19 being World Photography Day feels like an apt opportunity to delve into Blowup, Michelangelo Antonioni’s enticing and meandering mystery that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was nominated for two Academy Awards despite its then-unprecedented sexual content that defied the mainstream movies released under the aging Motion Picture Production Code that had been enforced in Hollywood for over three decades. Indeed, Blowup‘s critical popularity and box-office success has been credited as one of the final blows that killed the restrictive “Hays Code” once and for all, in favor of the MPAA rating system that ushered in a new, uninhibited era of American cinema.
Blowup centers around Thomas (David Hemmings), a stylish young photographer living the swinging London dream, though kept so busy that he bemoans “I haven’t even got a couple of minutes to have my appendix out.” Continue reading
Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Tabor, recent divorcée
Nevada desert, Summer 1960
Film: The Misfits
Release Date: February 1, 1961
Director: John Huston
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Sixty years after her fatal overdose on August 4, 1962, Marilyn Monroe remains a major figure in pop culture, the subject of countless books, art, music, and movies, including Blonde, scheduled to release next month starring Ana de Armas as the actress. Monroe’s final completed film was John Huston’s The Misfits, an elegiac contemporary Western written by her then-husband Arthur Miller that afforded the actress with the opportunity to provide her arguably best performance, which earned her the 1961 Golden Globe Award for “World Film Favorite” despite her own reported contempt for her performance. Continue reading
Tony Bickley as Donald Westerhazy, affable and affluent advertising executive
Suburban Connecticut, Summer 1966
Film: The Swimmer
Release Date: May 15, 1968
Director: Frank Perry
Wardrobe Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone
It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, “I drank too much last night.”
… begins John Cheever’s 1964 short story “The Swimmer”, which was adapted by the husband-and-wife team of director Frank Perry and screenwriter Eleanor Perry into a hallucinatory drama starring Burt Lancaster as the eponymous Ned Merrill, a well-tanned embodiment of the failed American dream.
The focus of today’s post is a little more esoteric than usual, not necessarily because of the movie—which is relatively well-known, if offbeat—but more the relatively minor character and his little-known portrayer, Tony Bickley. The Swimmer was Bickley’s fifth and final screen credit and his only significant movie role, more than a decade after his four sporadic appearances in TV anthologies during the early 1950s.
Bickley co-starred in The Swimmer as Donald Westerhazy, a gregarious suburbanite whose palatial home is Ned’s first stop on what becomes his route to “swim home” through the backyard pools of his neighbors. Donald and his wife Helen (Diana Van der Vlis) are nursing hangovers from the previous evening’s party… with the help of martinis, of course. Continue reading