Pedro Armendáriz as Ali Kerim Bey, gregarious MI6 station chief
Istanbul, Turkey, Spring 1963
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Kerim Bey, the gregarious head of MI6’s Station T (T for Turkey), is one of the more memorable characters from the early films of the James Bond franchise. A proudly streetwise counter to the taciturn and sophisticated agent 007, the two got on like gangbusters. It’s tragic that Kerim was designated by Ian Fleming as the story’s “sacrificial lamb” as it would have been satisfying to follow his interactions with Bond across multiple adventures à la Felix Leiter or even René Mathis, who actually returned in Fleming’s novel version of From Russia With Love, though Armendáriz’s death would have prevented this anyway. Today’s 00-7th of May post is a tribute to this charismatic character. Continue reading
Gig Young as Roger, neurotic financial advisor
New York City, Spring 1962
Film: That Touch of Mink
Release Date: June 14, 1962
Director: Delbert Mann
Though not regarded among the best of either Cary Grant or Doris Day’s filmographies, That Touch of Mink will always have a special place for me as one of the movies I used to watch with my grandma, who introduced me to many classic stars from the era through her collection of VHS tapes that we watched nearly to oblivion.
In this romantic comedy, it’s the leads’ best friends who are the most fun to watch, both Audrey Meadows (who Grant—a fan of her work on The Honeymooners—campaigned to have added to the cast) and Gig Young as Grant’s right-hand man.
Gregory Peck as David Pollock, American hieroglyphics professor
London, June 1965
Release Date: May 5, 1966
Director: Stanley Donen
Tailor: H. Huntsman & Sons, London
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today marks the 103rd birthday of Eldred G. Peck, better known to the world as Gregory Peck after dropping his first name in pursuit of his now legendary acting career. Peck received five Academy Award nominations over the course of his career, finally winning the Best Actor statue for his performance in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Later in the decade, Peck starred opposite his friend Sophia Loren in Arabesque, Stanley Donen’s follow-up to Charade that—like its predecessor—blended elements of comedy, espionage, and romance into one Hitchcockian package, though even Donen had to admit that the film was more style than substance.
James Stewart as John “Scottie” Ferguson, former San Francisco detective
San Francisco, Fall 1957
Release Date: May 9, 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
In the spirit of yesterday, March 12, being deemed Alfred Hitchcock Day, not to mention being one week away from the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, even if the weather itself can’t make up its mind…
For those whose offices call for jackets and ties, dressing for work during these transitional weather periods can be a challenge, balancing professionalism with comfort in the context of an uncertain weather forecast. As San Francisco detective “Scottie” Ferguson in Vertigo, James Stewart provides a solution.
Lee Marvin as Nick Devlin, mob enforcer
Kansas City, summer 1972
Film: Prime Cut
Release Date: June 28, 1972
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Designer: Patricia Norris
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Lee Marvin’s submachine gun-packing mob enforcer Nick Devlin gets plenty of opportunities for badass action in Michael Ritchie’s sophomore film, Prime Cut, but the smooth gangster also takes the chance to show a more genteel side, such as when escorting Poppy (Sissy Spacek) to a fancy dinner in a hotel restaurant.
Tony Musante as Eddie Hagan, smooth and ruthless fringe mobster
Kansas City, Summer 1931
Film: The Grissom Gang
Release Date: May 28, 1971
Director: Robert Aldrich
Costume Designer: Norma Koch
The Grissom Gang had intrigued me ever since I was in eighth grade. I was flipping through a book about crime cinema from the school library when I found myself paused on a full-page photo of a man in a bloody white dinner jacket stumbled out of a roadster while Kim Darby sat in the passenger seat with her mouth agape. I had been newly introduced to Bonnie and Clyde, Dillinger, and other films depicting that famous 1930s crime wave, but The Grissom Gang remained elusive.
Half a decade later, I was a college student with a considerably better budget and the vast resources of the internet at my disposal. I finally managed to track down a DVD of The Grissom Gang and, despite what the critics said, I was far from disappointed. Granted, I had no idea what to expect, so a sweaty, exploitative period crime piece from The Dirty Dozen was exactly what I was happy to get.
The Grissom Gang was the second major cinematic adaptation of James Hadley Chase’s 1939 novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish, following the poorly received British-made noir wannabe from 1948. When Robert Aldrich stepped into the wheelhouse for his adaptation, he kicked the setting back to the early 1930s when the Depression-era desperadoes reigned from powerful organized crime figures down to the lowliest highway robbers.
Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, Philadelphia homicide detective
Sparta, Mississippi, September 1966
Film: In the Heat of the Night
Release Date: August 2, 1967
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
Happy birthday to the great Sidney Poitier, born 92 years ago today on February 20, 1927. The actor’s personal favorite among his prolific filmography is In the Heat of the Night, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1967, a year that found him pulling off a peerless hat trick that included that film as well as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and To Sir, with Love. Continue reading
Clint Ritchie as “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, born Vincenzo Gabaldi, Chicago mob enforcer
Chicago, Winter 1928
Film: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Release Date: June 30, 1967
Director: Roger Corman
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is one of the few true incidents from mob lore to have expanded into mainstream pop culture. The killing of seven men affiliated with Chicago’s North Side Gang on February 14, 1929, startled and intrigued the public with its brutality, and the event became symbolic of the ugly violence that permeated through Prohibition-era America. Continue reading
Clark Gable as Peter Warne, recently fired newspaper reporter
Miami to New York, Spring 1933
Film: It Happened One Night
Release Date: February 22, 1934
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Robert Kalloch
Tailor: Eddie Schmidt
Today marks the birthday of Clark Gable, born 118 years ago on February 1, 1901, as William Clark Gable, though he would shave off his first name to assume the stage name of Clark Gable by 1924. Within a decade, the young actor from Cadiz, Ohio, had turned Clark Gable into a household name.
Released 85 years ago this month, It Happened One Night earned Clark Gable his only Academy Award while also racking up wins in the category of Best Picture, Best Director (for Frank Capra), Best Actress (for Claudette Colbert), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Robert Riskin). In the decades since, only two other movies have won this “big five” quinfecta of Oscar categories: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs. Esteemed company, indeed.
With Gable’s birthday today and the 91st Academy Awards just four weeks from now, let’s take a look at the dapper actor’s style in this trailblazing pre-Code comedy that’s still charming, witty, and ageless the better part of a century later. Continue reading
Tom Selleck as Nick Lassiter, debonair jewel thief
London, June 1939
Release Date: February 17, 1984
Director: Roger Young
Costume Designer: Barbara Lane
Happy birthday, Tom Selleck!
On the actor’s 74th birthday, I’m responding to a frequent request from a fellow Tom who kindly brought my attention to Selleck’s pre-World War II style in the little-known 1984 caper film Lassiter, made during the actor’s Magnum P.I. heyday. Selleck starred as the title character, Nick Lassiter, a daring and debonair jewel thief in the tradition of David Niven’s “Phantom” from the Pink Panther series with a twist of Indiana Jones… perhaps to make up for the fact that Selleck had turned down Raiders of the Lost Ark before Harrison Ford made the iconic role his own.