Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini, playboy gossip journalist-turned-publicity agent
Fregene, Italy, Summer 1959
Film: La Dolce Vita
Release Date: February 5, 1960
Director: Federico Fellini
Costume Designer: Piero Gherardi
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
No, no one’s leaving. It’s a long way ’til dawn.
The seventh and final “episode” of Fellini’s divine comedy La Dolce Vita catches up with our sleek protagonist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), erstwhile chronicler of Roman nightlife, as he and a group of friends descend upon his friend Riccardo’s beach house in Fregene, about 25 miles west of Rome on the Tyrrhenian coast. Continue reading
Peter O’Toole as Alan Swann, self-destructive screen swashbuckler
New York City, Fall 1954
Film: My Favorite Year
Release Date: October 8, 1982
Director: Richard Benjamin
Costume Designer: May Routh
Today would have been the 90th birthday of Peter O’Toole, legend of stage and screen. Though he was ultimately presented with an Academy Honorary Award, O’Toole holds the dubious distinction of having received the most Academy Award nominations without a win. One of his eight nominations was for the 1982 comedy My Favorite Year, Richard Benjamin’s directorial debut written by Norman Steinberg and Dennis Palumbo, set behind the scenes at NBC’s famous studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza during the Golden Age of live television.
“1954. You don’t get years like that anymore… it was my favorite year,” begins the narration by Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker), a junior comedy writer reportedly based on Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, who had both written for Your Show of Shows in the early ’50s. The story was inspired by Errol Flynn’s real-life guest appearance on Your Show of Shows, with Flynn reimagined as the erratic Alan Swann. Benjy describes Swann as the greatest screen idol of all time, despite his boss dismissing Swann’s performances as no more than “kissing and jumping and drinking and humping.”
Richard Benjamin explained in an interview with Donald Leibenson that “in the original script, there’s a scene which I shot that would have played after what’s in the movie. It took place in a Hollywood cemetery, and Benjy is walking past the gravestones. He says in voiceover that Alan Swann made him promise he would do something on his birthday every year. Alan has passed away, and Benjy comes to his grave, kneels down and pours a bottle of Courvoisier over the tombstone. That’s what’s on the last page. Peter asked me to read the date that was on the tombstone. It was Aug. 2. He said, ‘Aug. 2 is my birthday; did you know that?’ I asked Norman if he knew that, and Norman said no, he had made it up. And Peter says, ‘Therefore, I must do the film.'” Continue reading
Murray Bartlett as Armond, frantic resort hotel manager and recovering addict
Maui, Hawaii, Summer 2020
Series: The White Lotus
Episode: “Arrivals” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: July 11, 2021
Director: Mike White
Creator: Mike White
Costume Designer: Alex Bovaird
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This week, the Primetime Emmy Award nominations were announced, with HBO’s limited series The White Lotus tied with Ted Lasso for the second-most nominations (20), behind only Succession‘s staggering 25 nominations. Most of The White Lotus‘ cast was nominated in the acting categories, with Murray Bartlett emerging as a favorite for his performance as Armond, the obsequious and increasingly distressed manager of the eponymous Hawaiian resort. Continue reading
Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough Mafia enforcer
New Castle, Delaware, Summer 1962
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
Tailor: Leonard Logsdail
I recently had the pleasure to rejoin my friends Pete Brooker and Ken Stauffer (@oceansographer) on Pete’s podcast From Tailors With Love, discussing The Irishman with master tailor Leonard Logsdail, who crafted many suits for the movie’s principals.
While recording the episode—released today and available to download via iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify—I had the opportunity to ask Leonard firsthand about one of my favorite sartorial moments from the film, the gold-suited reveal of a newly elevated Frank Sheeran as president of his local union, Teamsters #326, headquartered about 40 miles southwest of Philadelphia in New Castle, Delaware.
The Irishman dramatizes the decades-long association between Sheeran, labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and the mob, uniting cinematic tough guys Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel with director Martin Scorsese in a movie that’s less a flashy chronicle of mob history (like Goodfellas and Casino) and more a meditation on age and loyalty in a violent world. Continue reading
Anthony Quinn as Colonel Andrea Stavros, tough Greek officer
Middle East, Fall 1943
Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann
Seersucker Thursday may be one of the few remaining bipartisan aspects of American politics. Inspired by the practice of early 20th century congressmen donning their tailored seersucker suits, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott reinstated the tradition in 1996, to be observed by men and women of the Senate on the second or third Thursday in June to coincide with National Seersucker Day, a standing celebration of the cool-wearing cloth.
There have certainly been more elegant showcases of seersucker suits in cinematic history, but one of the toughest examples can be seen with The Guns of Navarone‘s introduction of Colonel Andrea Stavros, the pipe-smoking officer of the Hellenic Army’s 19th Motorized Division. Continue reading
Adam Sandler as Barry Egan, anxious novelty swag entrepreneur
San Fernando Valley (and Hawaii), Spring 2002
Film: Punch-Drunk Love
Release Date: October 11, 2002
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
Though it would be widely released in theaters five months later, today marks the 20th anniversary of when Paul Thomas Anderson’s offbeat romantic comedy Punch-Drunk Love premiered at Cannes in May 19, 2002.
A fan of his work in lower-brow ’90s comedies like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy, Anderson had been interested in collaborating with Adam Sandler, sensing the greater dramatic potential under his distinctive comedic signature. The unconventional casting choice baffled entertainment journalists and even Sandler himself, though he delivered a career-high performance as Punch-Drunk Love‘s central character, Barry Egan. Continue reading
Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson, smooth gambler
Havana to New York, Spring 1955
Film: Guys and Dolls
Release Date: November 3, 1955
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff
On the traditionally unlucky day of Friday the 13th, we could all use a dash of lady luck, the concept popularized in the standard “Luck Be a Lady” that Frank Loesser had composed for the musical Guys and Dolls. Five years after Robert Alda had originated the song on stage in 1950, Marlon Brando overcame his own insecurities about his singing voice resembling “the mating call of a yak” to perform the song in Mank’s cinematic adaptation… much to the likely chagrin of his co-star Frank Sinatra, who would record it twice for his own Reprise Records label in the ’60s.
But before Sky Masterson asked lady luck to show him just how nice a dame she can be, he sets his sights on another doll, specifically the prim and pretty Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) of the Save-a-Soul Mission, whose organizational goals could not be more antithetical to all Sky holds dear. To win a bet with fellow gambler Nathan Detroit (Sinatra), Sky invites her to dinner in Havana, where Sister Sarah’s uncharacteristic Thursday night results in plenty of Bacardi and barfighting. Continue reading
Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito, volatile and violent Mafia associate
New York, Spring 1970
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy Mother’s Day! One of my favorite cinematic sequences depicting the relationship between a son and his mother comes by way of my favorite movie, in which master auteur Martin Scorsese cast his own mother Catherine as the charming Mrs. DeVito, mother to the psychotic gangster Tommy (Joe Pesci) who brings his cohorts Henry (Ray Liotta) and Jimmy (Robert De Niro) seeking a shovel in a covert night-time stop to fetch a shovel… only to be sweet-talked into an early breakfast.
Catherine Scorsese endearingly embodies the familiar archetype of the aging Italian-American matriarch with her plastic-covered furniture, the gift to effortlessly slip between American English and Italian dialects, and the fierce desire to feed her children and their friends… regardless of whether they’re hungry or not. Continue reading
On George Clooney’s 61st birthday, I’m pleased to present another guest post contributed by my friend Ken Stauffer, who had also covered the actor’s plaid suit in Out of Sight and Clooney’s fashionable co-star Brad Pitt from this same scene in Ocean’s Eleven. You can learn more from him about the style of the Ocean’s film series on his Instagram account, @oceansographer.
George Clooney as Danny Ocean, recently paroled con man and casino heister
Los Angeles, Spring 2001
Film: Ocean’s Eleven
Release Date: December 7, 2001
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Costume Designer: Jeffrey Kurland
Tailor: Dominic Gherardi
Happy birthday to George Clooney, who turns 61 today! To celebrate, we’re looking back at one of his most striking tailored looks in Ocean’s Eleven, the movie which arguably made him a household name and cemented his image as a suave leading man.
The film opens with Clooney’s Danny Ocean being released from North Jersey State Prison on a frigid winter morning. After a shave and a wardrobe change, his first stop is Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza to find Frank Caton (Bernie Mac), a fellow career criminal currently eking out a living under an alias as a blackjack dealer. Within a handful of lines, we learn that Danny is on the hunt for Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), whom he quickly learns is now “teaching movie stars how to play cards.” A day later, the parolee has flown across the country to rope in his felonious old friend at a Hollywood nightclub. Continue reading
Spencer Tracy as Matt Drayton, newspaper editor
San Francisco, Spring 1967
Film: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Release Date: December 12, 1967
Director: Stanley Kramer
Costume Designer: Joe King
Considered one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history by audiences and peers, Spencer Tracy was born 122 years ago on April 5, 1900 in Milwaukee. His prolific career that spanned nearly half a century culminated with his final role in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, for which he received his ninth and final Academy Award nomination (one of ten that the film received), a posthumous honor as Tracy had died only 17 days after completing his work. Continue reading