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!
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
James Shigeta as Joe Kojaku, LAPD homicide detective
Los Angeles, Summer 1959
Film: The Crimson Kimono
Release Date: October 1959
Director: Samuel Fuller
Costume Supervisor: Bernice Pontrelli
Are you among the many movie buffs who observe #Noirvember, the month-long celebration of shadowy cinema often set in worlds populated by gumshoes, gunsels, and femmes fatale. Defining film noir is often as murky as the outlines of the shadows in some of its seminal works, though even applying the infamous Potter Stewart rule yields at least dozens of crime dramas produced within and beyond the United States during the 1940s and ’50s.
Earlier this year, the Criterion Channel again showcased a collection of noir from Columbia Pictures, the erstwhile Poverty Row studio that churned out some of the most quintessential high-talent noir in including Gilda (1946), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), and In a Lonely Place (1950) as well as an array of criminally underseen B-movies that balanced their low budgets with high quality. One of my favorites from the collection was The Crimson Kimono (1959), directed by former crime reporter and World War II veteran Samuel Fuller.
Modern audiences may recognize James Shigeta as the patient and ultimately doomed Nakatomi executive in Die Hard. Here, a considerably younger Shigeta plays the charismatic Joe Kojaku, an apple-munching, piano-playing Japanese-American homicide detective called in with his partner Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) to investigate the murder of burlesque dancer Sugar Torch (Gloria Pall) on L.A.’s” Main Street” one brightly lit, jazz-filled night in August 1959. Continue reading
Robert Redford as Bill McKay, charismatic lawyer-turned-senatorial candidate
San Francisco to Los Angeles, Summer through Fall 1972
Film: The Candidate
Release Date: June 29, 1972
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Design: Patricia Norris
Costume Supervisor: Bernie Pollack
Tomorrow is Election Day here in the United States… though I doubt anyone has missed the memo given the barrage of emails, texts, social media posts, and more designed to serve as reminders and instructions.
Avoiding any discussion of this year’s contentious political arena, let’s step back nearly 50 years to the early 1970s when Robert Redford was seeking to work again with director Michael Ritchie after their first collaboration in Downhill Racer (1969). The duo reportedly former political writer Jeremy Larner to pen what would become an Academy Award-winning screenplay chronicling “a candidate who sold his soul.” Larner had worked as a speechwriter for Senator Eugene McCarthy during McCarthy’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968, using this experience to draft the story of Bill McKay, the activist lawyer from California tapped to challenge the popular Republican incumbent in the battle for a U.S. Senate seat.
Peter Cushing as Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing, occult researcher and descendant of the famous vampire hunter
London, Fall 1972… A.D. 1972, that is
Film: Dracula A.D. 1972
Release Date: September 28, 1972
Director: Alan Gibson
Wardrobe Supervisor: Rosemary Burrows
Just days away from Halloween, today’s post responds to a request received earlier this year from BAMF Style reader Alan, who suggested the “extremely cheesy and, at times, ridiculous” Hammer production Dracula A.D. 1972, starring horror maestros and real-life pals Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing reprising their usual roles as Count Dracula and Van Helsing, respectively.
Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, eccentric Belgian detective
Egypt, September 1937
Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell
In his adaptation of perhaps the best-known Hercule Poirot mystery from Agatha Christie’s prolific canon, Kenneth Branagh all but confirmed at the end of Murder on the Orient Express that his follow-up film would find the fussy Belgian detective solving a murder “right on the bloody Nile!”
Indeed, just weeks after Murder on the Orient Express was released in November 2017, it was officially announced that Death on the Nile would be entering production as the third major adaptation of Christie’s 1937 novel. Even after the intended December 2019 release was postponed to October 9, 2020, Death on the Nile joined the ranks of films like The Many Saints of Newark, No Time to Die, and Tenet whose release dates were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The October date was optimistically shifted forward two weeks to October 23 (today!) before the perhaps more realistic release date of December 18 was announced.
Of course, Christie fans looking to get their Nile fix have long had a very watchable solution available with the 1978 adaptation of Death on the Nile, the first of six films to star two-time Academy Award winner Peter Ustinov as the detail-oriented detective.
Patrick McGoohan as Number Six, recently resigned secret agent
“The Village”, Fall 1967
Series: The Prisoner
– “Arrival” (Episode 1.01, dir. Don Chaffey, aired 9/29/1967)
– “Fall Out” (Episode 1.17, dir. Patrick McGoohan, aired 2/1/1968)
Created by: Patrick McGoohan & George Markstein
Wardrobe: Masada Wilmot & Dora Lloyd
Tailored by: Dimi Major & Douglas Hayward (Major, Hayward Ltd.)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Prisoner debuted in the UK on this date in 1967, a passion project from Patrick McGoohan after his rise to stardom on the British espionage series Danger Man. Mystery continues to surround the series, which has been argued as a surreal explanation of ego and individualism within the trappings of the then-fashionable “spy-fi” genre mix, inspiring more questions than answers over its seventeen-episode run, including the true identity of McGoohan’s character known only as “Number 6”, suggested to be a continuation of John Drake from Danger Man or possibly even an allegory for the actor himself. Continue reading
Ben Gazzara as Jackie Treehorn, smooth pornography mogul
Malibu, California, Fall 1991
Film: The Big Lebowski
Release Date: March 6, 1998
Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres
Jeff Bridges’ slacker at the heart of The Big Lebowski may not rank in the pantheon of style icons like Grant, McQueen, Newman, or Poitier oft cited in discussions of the best movie menswear, but Mary Zophres’ costume design in this cult classic from the Coen brothers is an exemplar in the power of using costume to establish character.
In addition to the Dude in his hoodies, shorts, and jelly sandals (as well as that cowichan cardigan!), we have the aggressive survivalist Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) whose gonzo-esque yellow-tinted aviators, fishing vest, and combat boots suggest that he’s the type of guy to keep a loaded .45 in his bowling bag even before he draws it. Bowling-obsessed Donny (Steve Buscemi) has an array of bowling shirts in every color to suit his favorite sport, super-assistant Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman) looks the part in his off-the-peg Brooks Brothers, and the millionaire Lebowski (David Huddleston)—ahem, the Big Lebowski—dresses to achieve in his business suits by day and opulent smoking jackets by night. Also worthy of mention is the tight purple jumpsuit worn by Jesus Quintana (John Turturro), which tells and unfortunately shows all we may have guessed about the convicted pederast.
While most of these characters are introduced as we meet them, powerful porn producer Jackie Treehorn stands out as an exception, receiving a degree of in-universe mythology as the enigmatic center who may hold the key to the film’s mysterious MacGuffin. As a result, we may already have a sense of what we expect Jackie to look like by the time Ben Gazzara steps from the shadows to greet the Dude at his Malibu beach party. Continue reading
Stephan James as John Lewis, civil rights activist and future congressman
Selma, Alabama, Spring 1965
Release Date: December 25, 2014
Director: Ava DuVernay
Costume Designer: Ruth E. Carter
On the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, today’s post celebrates the life and legacy of the late John Lewis, the prolific civil rights activist and longtime member of the U.S. House of Representatives who had been an instrumental force in the fight for voter and racial equality.
Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa, pugnacious and passionate labor official
Miami, Summer 1972
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
It was on this day in 1975 that James R. Hoffa was last seen outside the Machus Red Fox restaurant in a suburb of Detroit. The outspoken labor leader had spent his decades in and out of power making dangerous enemies from law enforcement and the Mafia to the executive branch and his own union. Martin Scorsese’s latest epic, The Irishman, was released to Netflix last year, adapting Charles Brandt’s I Hear You Paint Houses that purportedly “closed the case” on what happened to Hoffa after he disappeared 45 years ago today.
That afternoon, Hoffa had been planning to meet with Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone and Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, two La Cosa Nostra capos, though The Irishman suggests that the animosity that stemmed from a prior meeting between Hoffa and Tony Pro made disaster inevitable for the pugnacious Teamster boss.
Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent presumed dead
Tokyo, Summer 1966
Film: You Only Live Twice
Release Date: June 13, 1967
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Wardrobe Master: Eileen Sullivan
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond.
Sean Connery’s fifth film as James Bond was the first of the franchise to considerably depart from Ian Fleming’s source novel, though it retains the title, the basic plot line and characters, and the Japanese setting. In fact, while most Bond films are continent-hopping travelogues, Japan hosts the majority of the action in You Only Live Twice aside from the pre-credits sequence, set in Hong Kong where Bond is ostensibly murdered.
Of course, it’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that the assassination is a ruse to fool Bond’s enemies into thinking he is out of the picture while the agent himself lives to die another day… in fact, you could say he lived twice! Presumed dead by his enemies after his burial at sea, Bond is free to be sent to Japan to investigate a mysterious spacecraft that has seemingly landed in the Sea of Japan. Bond soon makes contact with his lovely ally Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), who drives him around Tokyo in a sporty Toyota 2000GT that had been customized by the production to accommodate Sean Connery’s height.
I had long wanted to cover this sequence as I love Bond’s tailoring, Aki’s Toyota, and the trio of drinks he imbibes with varying degrees of satisfaction, but it felt particularly appropriate to write about for a #CarWeek post this 00-7th of July given James Bond’s safe pro-masking message…