Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker, taciturn Mossad agent, and
Amir Khoury as Salim Al-Khadar, aka “Michel”, Palestinian revolutionary leader
Athens to Munich, Spring 1979
Series: The Little Drummer Girl (Episodes 1-3)
Air Date: October 28, 2018 to November 11, 2018
Director: Park Chan-wook
Costume Design: Sheena Napier & Steven Noble
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
John le Carré was one of the most prolific espionage authors, penning more than two dozen novels including The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Tailor of Panama, many of which were successfully adapted as movies or limited series that made the most of le Carré’s richly drawn worlds of deception.
Le Carré died in December 2020 at the age of 89, following in death within the month by his half-sister Charlotte Cornwall. Charlotte reportedly inspired the titular character at the center of his novel The Little Drummer Girl about a free-spirited, idealistic, and impressionable actress named Charmian “Charlie” Ross who gets pulled into the world of espionage. Continue reading
Warren Beatty as Joe Frady, maverick political reporter
Rural Washington state, Spring 1974
Film: The Parallax View
Release Date: June 14, 1974
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Costume Designer: Frank L. Thompson
Happy birthday to Warren Beatty, born 84 years ago today on March 30, 1937. A rising star through the ’60s, Beatty established himself as a forced to be reckoned with when he spearheaded production of Bonnie & Clyde in 1967, not only starring in but producing the acclaimed gangster film. Following his innovative success with Bonnie & Clyde, Beatty slowed down his career to only occasional movies, frequently going several years without acting while putting much of his energy into political activism and—more notoriously—dating his way through many of Hollywood’s hottest before marrying Annette Bening after the two co-starred in Bugsy.
One of Beatty’s most notable post-Bonnie & Clyde films was The Parallax View, the second in a trio of Alan J. Pakula’s paranoid political thrillers of the ’70s. Continue reading
Fred Rogers, America’s favorite neighbor
Pittsburgh, late 1960s through early 2000s
Series: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood
Air Dates: February 19, 1968 through August 31, 2001
Created by: Fred Rogers
I’ve written plenty about characters and figures who may have influenced my fashion sense and lifestyle, but today I want to recognize someone who (I hope!) had one of the most significant impacts on my personality during my formative years. Fred Rogers was born 93 years ago today on March 20, 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, just about an hour east of where I currently live. For more than thirty years, he celebrated acceptance, inclusiveness, curiosity, emotional intelligence, open-mindedness, and love as the warm host of the Emmy Award-winning series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, filmed at WQED Studios in Pittsburgh.
Cleavon Little as Super Soul, blind radio DJ
Nevada Desert, Summer 1971
Film: Vanishing Point
Release Date: March 13, 1971
Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Wardrobe Master: Ed Wynigear
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Before he blazed into Rock Ridge as the controversial new sheriff, Cleavon Little was already shaking up the desert as Super Soul, the almost mystic blind radio DJ who guides our laconic hero in in his white Dodge Challenger through the blue highways of the west in Vanishing Point, released 50 years ago today on March 13, 1971.
The Oklahoma-born Little was already a stage star at the time he walked Super Soul’s dog to the KOW radio booth in Goldfield, Nevada, having won a Tony Award in Ossie Davis’ Purlie just one year after making his Broadway debut. Vanishing Point was only his third credited screen role, his charismatic energy a contrast to Barry Newman’s taciturn Kowalski, whom Super Soul dubs “the last American hero.” Continue reading
Sidney Poitier as Matt Younger, widowed father and clinic physician
London, Summer 1972
Film: A Warm December
Release Date: May 23, 1973
Director: Sidney Poitier
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson
Happy birthday to screen legend Sidney Poitier, born 94 years ago today on February 20, 1927 in Miami. After two decades of screen success that landed him the Academy Award for Best Actor (and he remains both the oldest living and longest surviving recipient), Poitier began directing his own movies in the early 1970s, beginning with the groundbreaking 1972 Western Buck and the Preacher.
Poitier proved the diversity of his directorial talent by sliding to the other end of the genre spectrum the following year when he released the romantic drama A Warm December, in which he also starred as a recently widowed doctor who finds love across the Atlantic when he meets the magnetic Catherine (Esther Anderson) during an extended trip to London with his daughter.
Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka, disciplined ex-Yakuza
Kyoto, Japan, Spring 1974
Film: The Yakuza
Release Date: December 28, 1974
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Today would have been the 90th birthday of Ken Takakura, the Nakama-born actor with a record four Japan Academy Prizes for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. His presence in yakuza films through the 1960s brought him to the attention of screenwriting brothers Leonard and Paul Schrader, who wrote their action drama The Yakuza with Takakura in mind. Continue reading
Gene Hackman as Reverend Frank Scott, fiery, independent-minded minister
aboard the S.S. Poseidon en route Athens, New Year’s Eve 1972
Film: The Poseidon Adventure
Release Date: December 12, 1972
Director: Ronald Neame
Costume Designer: Paul Zastupnevich
Happy New Year’s Eve… and #TurtleneckThursday? After this disaster of a year, I can’t think of a better movie to bid good riddance to 2020 than one of the most famous disaster movies of the ’70s.
Produced by “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen, The Poseidon Adventure followed the Airport template of a star-studded cast fighting to survive a perilous disaster while tackling their own personal issues. While Airport had originated the disaster film boom of the ’70s, The Poseidon Adventure proved its enduring box office power, recouping more than 25 times its initial budget and paving the way for a decade’s worth of similar stories set amidst tropical storms, within fire-prone skyscrapers, and even aboard a famous airship.
Unlike the ill-fated Titanic which sank during its maiden voyage in 1912, the fictional S.S. Poseidon—partially filmed aboard the decommissioned Cunard liner RMS Queen Mary—is making one last run before it will be scrapped in Athens. The cautious Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen) finds his authority challenged by the ship’s aggressive owner Linarcos (Fred Sadoff), establishing the dangers of hubris that would remain a consistent theme throughout the disaster sub-genre.
Down in the ship’s elegant dining room, the Poseidon‘s glamorous passengers are celebrating New Year’s Eve amidst their own personal dramas or crises of faith. Seated at the captain’s table are New York detective Mike Rogo (Ernest Borgnine), his ex-prostitute wife Linda (Stella Stevens), and Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), a controversial cleric yet popular passenger who had captivated a congregation earlier that day with his religious philosophy said to be based on director Ronald Neame’s own hybrid of Christian, Buddhist, and New Age spiritualist beliefs.
While the champagne pops and auld acquaintances be forgot, the crew learns of a massive undersea earthquake that results in a rare wave that strikes the ship broadside, capsizing the S.S. Poseidon and quite literally turning the lives of its passengers upside down.
We’re floating upside-down… we’ve gotta climb up.
Al Pacino as Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero, washed-up Mafia soldier
New York City, Christmas 1978
Film: Donnie Brasco
Release Date: February 28, 1997
Director: Mike Newell
Costume Designer: Aude Bronson-Howard & David C. Robinson
Like The Godfather and Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco follows the tradition of great Mafia movies by featuring some Cosa Nostra Christmas celebrations. The frequency with which the holidays appear in mob cinema is no coincidence, as Catholic traditions are very important to we Italian-Americans.
Donnie Brasco features a casual Christmas on Mulberry Street, perhaps more reflective than the Phil Spector-scored Goodfellas party of how many yuletide observances will look in 2020. Continue reading
Andy Garcia as Vincent Mancini, hotheaded mob enforcer
New York City, Spring 1979
Film: The Godfather Part III
Release Date: December 25, 1990
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Speed 2: Cruise Control.
Jaws 4: The Revenge.
The Godfather, Part III.
Francis Ford Coppola’s conclusion to the saga of the Corleone family may not be as bad as its fellow reviled franchise continuations, but it was certainly among the more disappointing given the quality and prestige of The Godfather‘s first two installments. Coppola sought to rectify its reputation with Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, a recut and restructured version released this month to coincide with the 30th anniversary of The Godfather, Part III‘s original theatrical release. The limited theatrical run of Coda began on Friday, December 4, and will be scheduled to release to streaming services and home video on Tuesday, December 8.
“In musical term, a coda is sort of like an epilogue, a summing up, and that’s what we intended the movie to be,” explained Coppola. “You’ll see a film which has a different beginning and ending, many scenes throughout have been repositioned, and the picture has been given, I think, a new life.” Continue reading
Steven Keats as Jackie Brown, swaggering street-level arms dealer
Boston, Fall 1972
Film: The Friends of Eddie Coyle
Release Date: June 26, 1973
Director: Peter Yates
Costume Designer: Eric Seelig
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
A year after The Godfather introduced the cinematic world to the prestigious “honor among thieves” world of the Corleone crime family, The Friends of Eddie Coyle shined a gritty spotlight on the other side of the criminal spectrum: the unscrupulous robbers, rats, and gun-runners who would just as soon double-cross an erstwhile partner-in-crime if it meant an extra twenty bucks in their pocket.
There are no wood-paneled mansions, dramatic monologues, or swanky long-wheelbase limousines in Eddie Coyle’s world, a polluted Boston where our profane crooks conduct their business in dive bars and out of the trunks of the latest Detroit gas guzzler. At the surprising epicenter of these enterprises sits Eddie “Fingers” Coyle (Robert Mitchum), a long-in-the-tooth three-time loser far more at home warming his favorite saloon stool than helming an ambitious heist.
Enter Jackie Brown, an opportunistic twentysomething arms dealer motoring through the Beantown suburbs in a Plymouth Road Runner, dropping platitudes of “wisdom” about how hard life is to any of the scumbag suppliers or customers who will buy his guns. He prides himself on his caution but doesn’t recognize the irony of touting his illegal wares from his hardly unobtrusive electric green muscle car while boasting about his success to crooks all just one pinch away from spilling the proverbial beans to Boston’s finest.