Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga, sophisticated freelance assassin
Bangkok, Thailand, Spring 1974
Film: The Man with the Golden Gun
Release Date: December 20, 1974
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Sir Christopher Lee, the imposing yet debonair screen icon known to many for portraying Count Dracula a total of nine times while Bond fans may know him best as Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous villain who faced off against Roger Moore’s James Bond in Moore’s sophomore 007 outing, The Man with the Golden Gun.
Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann, intuitive hotel head chef
Silver Creek, Colorado, Fall 1979
Film: The Shining
Release Date: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero
To honor the late Scatman Crothers, who was born 112 years ago today on May 23, 1910, today’s post explores his memorable role as Dick Hallorann, the head chef at the mysterious Overlook Hotel in The Shining. (Coincidentally, The Shining was released 42 years ago today on Crothers’ 70th birthday!)
On the last day of the Overlook’s season, Dick presents himself to the newcomer Torrance family and is assigned by hotel manager Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson) to provide a tour of the hotel’s vast kitchen. Dick shows an interest in nicknames, first establishing with Mrs. Torrance (Shelley Duvall) that she’s neither a Winnie nor a Freddie but a Wendy (“the prettiest,” he adds), while intuiting via his shine that the young Danny (Danny Lloyd) has been nicknamed “Doc” by his parents.
When Ullman comes to collect Wendy for the rest of a tour with her husband Jack (Jack Nicholson), Dick sits Danny down for a bowl of ice cream… and a discussion of their shared telepathic abilities. Continue reading
Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr, disillusioned British spy
Paris, Spring 1974
Film: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Costume Designer: Jacqueline Durran
With increasingly warmer weather as spring continues through the Northern Hemisphere, I’m swapping out wool coats for windbreakers at the front of my closet. Of course, on some recent climatically chaotic days that start at temperatures around freezing and then rise to over 70°F by mid-afternoon with the occasional burst of rain, I often rely on smart layers to effectively dress for this unpredictable weather.
One of my favorite examples of smart casual layering that illustrates versatility for different weather and situations is the combination of a Harrington jacket over a light sweater and open-necked shirt. William Claxton had famously photographed his friend Steve McQueen dressed accordingly in 1964, and these headshots are still used to illustrate the enduring style of both the jacket and the King of Cool himself.
Decades after his death in 1980, McQueen remains a seminal style icon whose blend of practicality and toughness has influenced scores of men from stars to schlubs (like yours truly)… and a few movie spies, as well. McQueen’s legacy seemed particularly prevalent on silver screen espionage fashions beginning in the late 2000s as Daniel Craig’s James Bond fully embraced Harrington jackets, shawl-collar cardigans, and suede boots as particularly seen in Quantum of Solace, his 007’s action-packed sophomore adventure.
Three years later, costume designer Jacqueline Durran also saw McQueen as her muse when dressing a fellow British agent, the more grounded—and cynical—Ricki Tarr, as portrayed by Tom Hardy in Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of the John le Carré novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
“We very much looked to that kind of ’60s Steve McQueen look for all of them,” Durran explained to GQ of Ricki Tarr’s costumes, first dressing Tarr in a Belstaff shearling coat often associated with McQueen before pulling together the lighter layers as seen in McQueen’s MGM headshot shoot with Claxton as the film approached its conclusion with Tarr in Paris, working to flush out an MI6 mole. Continue reading
Harry Dean Stanton as Brett, wry engineering technician
Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, June 2122
Release Date: May 25, 1979
Director: Ridley Scott
Costume Designer: John Mollo
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Alien Day was first celebrated several years ago on April 26, chosen in honor of the moon LV-426 where the crew of USCSS Nostromo first encountered the dangerous xenomorph that proceeded to terrorize and slaughter them as depicted in Ridley Scott’s suspenseful classic Alien.
A masterful blend of sci-fi and horror, Alien boasts an ensemble cast led by Sigourney Weaver as the resourceful warrant officer Ellen Ripley, in addition to Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, and the great Harry Dean Stanton as the junior engineering technician known only as “Brett” (but whose full name was said to be Samuel Elias Brett.) Continue reading
Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough Mafia enforcer
New York City, Spring 1972
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
Fifty years ago tonight, Mafia violence shook the streets of New York City when dangerous mobster “Crazy Joe” Gallo was shot and killed while celebrating his 43rd birthday with his family at Umbertos Clam House on Mulberry Street.
The most widely accepted facts attribute the slaying to four associates of the Colombo crime family, in retaliation for their suspicions that Gallo had ordered the attempted assassination of boss Joseph Colombo during an Italian-American Civil Rights League rally the previous June. Gallo’s widow recalled multiple men of short stature and likely Italian descent storming the Mulberry Street restaurant, where more than 20 shots were fired at her husband, who staggered onto the sidewalk and died shortly before 5:30 a.m. on April 7, 1972.
However, Charles Brandt’s nonfiction best-seller I Heard You Paint Houses includes an explosive claim by labor official and mob hitman Frank Sheeran that he alone was responsible for the hit. Continue reading
Michael Douglas as Richard Adams, idealistic TV news cameraman
Outside Los Angeles, Spring 1978
Film: The China Syndrome
Release Date: March 16, 1979
Director: James Bridges
Costume Designer: Donfeld (Donald Lee Feld)
Nearly a decade before he would win an Academy Award as the sharply tailored yet unfathomably unscrupulous financier Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, Michael Douglas starred as the arguably more altruistic cameraman in The China Syndrome. Adapted from an Oscar-nominated original screenplay by Mike Gray, T.S. Cook, and James Bridges—who also directed—this nuclear thriller proved frighteningly prescient less than two weeks after its release when the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania suffered a partial meltdown on March 28, 1979, 43 years ago today. Continue reading
George Segal as Bill Denny, magazine writer and casual gambler
Los Angeles, Winter 1973
Film: California Split
Release Date: August 7, 1974
Director: Robert Altman
Costumer: Hugh McFarland
In honor of George Segal, who died a year ago today, today’s post introduces us to his character in California Split, directed by Robert Altman and described by Tim Grierson and Will Leitch for Vulture as the greatest movie about gambling ever made, “one of the high watermarks of ’70s hangout cinema.” Continue reading
Johnny Cash as Tommy Brown, homicidal gospel singer
From Bakersfield to Los Angeles, Spring 1974
Episode: “Swan Song” (Episode 3.07)
Air Date: March 3, 1974
Director: Nicholas Colasanto
Credited by: Richard Levinson & William Link
Johnny Cash was born 90 years ago today on February 26, 1932. Following more than a decade and a half of country hits, the Man in Black riffed on his own image as the villainous guest star in the penultimate episode of Columbo‘s third season, airing just a week after his 42nd birthday. Continue reading
Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith, newspaper cartoonist and crusading crime investigator
San Francisco Bay Area, Fall 1975 thorough summer 1979
Release Date: March 2, 2007
Director: David Fincher
Costume Designer: Casey Storm
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
By the mid-1970s, active investigations for the infamous Zodiac Killer had cooled; the intrepid San Francisco detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) had been urged to refocus his efforts, his partner Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) had requested to move on, and investigative reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) was no longer writing about the case… leaving the burden of investigation in the surprising hands of San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith. Continue reading
Johnny Depp as George Jung, fugitive pot dealer
Weymouth, Massachusetts, Fall 1973
Release Date: April 6, 2001
Director: Ted Demme
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
Blow chronicles the chaotic career of real-life drug dealer George Jung, who evolved his marijuana-dealing enterprise into a dangerously successful cocaine-smuggling operation with the Medellín cartel until it all came crashing down around him. Continue reading