Tagged: Balmorals/Oxford Shoes

It’s a Wonderful Life: Jimmy Stewart’s Barleycorn Tweed Suit

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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James Stewart as George Bailey, reluctant banker

Bedford Falls, New York, Spring 1932

Film: It’s a Wonderful Life
Release Date: December 20, 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson

Background

Released 75 years ago today, It’s a Wonderful Life has become an enduring Christmas classic… almost by accident! Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s self-published novella The Greatest Gift, the movie had been relatively well-received at the time of its release, even earning five Academy Award nominations including one for Best Picture, but it would be overshadowed by the epic blockbuster The Best Years of Our Lives that told the story of servicemen returning from World War II.

Despite being a personal favorite of director Frank Capra and star Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life seemed destined for obscurity as just another “old movie” when a clerical error prevented proper renewal of the copyright. Though small royalties were still owed as it was derived from Stern’s story, TV stations leapt at the chance to air high-quality, low-cost seasonal programming, launching It’s a Wonderful Life to its status as a perennial favorite for holiday viewers by the 1980s.

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Detour: Tom Neal’s Borrowed Clothes and Borrowed Lincoln

Tom Neal as Al Roberts in Detour (1945)

Tom Neal behind the wheel of a ’41 Lincoln as Al Roberts in Detour (1945)

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Tom Neal as Al Roberts, hitchhiking nightclub pianist

Across the United States, especially Arizona to California, Spring 1945

Film: Detour
Release Date: November 30, 1945
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Wardrobe Designer: Mona Barry

Background

On the last day of #Noirvember, let’s also kick off #CarWeek with a look at one of the best examples of “road noir” with Detour, the enduring B-movie that saw a limited release 76 years ago today on November 30, 1945, just over two weeks after its initial premiere in Boston.

Martin M. Goldsmith worked with an uncredited Martin Mooney to adapt his own 1939 novel of the same name into a screenplay. Known as “the King of PRC” for his reputation as an efficient director working for the Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Corporation, the Austrian-born Edgar G. Ulmer filmed Detour in less than a month in the summer of 1945, with a shoestring budget of less than $100,000; for comparison, this was less than 10% of the final budget for that year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, The Lost Weekend. (Perhaps overstating his efficiency, Ulmer would later cite that he made the movie in six days for $20,000.)

Detour was my gateway to film noir, thanks to a multi-pack DVD that I was gifted in high school that included many pulp classics like D.O.A.The HitchhikerQuicksand, and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, many of which—like Detour—were regularly available in budget-friendly home video releases as they had fallen into the public domain. Clocking in at just over an hour, the story may be simple, but it contains all the characteristic noir themes and stock characters, including the femme fatale (and how!) and the wrongly accused man whose questionable ethics and unfortunate circumstances launch him headway into increasingly dangerous circumstances.

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Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

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Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, smooth private detective and “a chap worth knowing”

San Francisco, Spring 1941

Film: The Maltese Falcon
Release Date: October 3, 1941
Director: John Huston
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly (credited for gowns)

Background

Now considered a seminal film noir, The Maltese Falcon celebrated its 80th anniversary last month. Dashiell Hammett’s excellent 1930 detective novel had already been adapted twice for the screen—once as a “lewd” pre-Code thriller and recycled as a zanier mid-’30s vehicle for Bette Davis—before Warner Bros. finally got it right.

The Maltese Falcon was the directorial debut for John Huston, who had faithfully adapted Hammett’s source material for his sharp script and demonstrated his sense of methodical efficiency, resulting in a masterpiece that benefited from the formula of director of photography Arthur Edelson’s low-key cinematography and a perfect cast led by Humphrey Bogart as the wisecracking gumshoe who “don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” Continue reading

The Killers: Burt Lancaster’s Light Flannel Double-Breasted Suit

Burt Lancaster as Ole "Swede" Anderson in The Killers (1946)

Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson in The Killers (1946)

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Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson, ex-boxer

Philadelphia, Spring 1938

Film: The Killers
Release Date: August 30, 1946
Director: Robert Siodmak

Background

Let’s kick off #NoirVember with a memorable scene featuring birthday boy Burt Lancaster. Born November 2, 1913 in Manhattan, Lancaster remains an icon of American film noir, having made his debut in The Killers, which also marked most of the screen-going world’s introduction to the alluring Ava Gardner.

The Killers‘ straight-outta-Hemingway opening introduces us in finem res to Lancaster as “The Swede”, an ex-boxer with a sketchy past who has been tracked down by the two eponymous killers to a small town in New Jersey. Despite having spent the last six years in hiding, the Swede makes no attempt to flee his assassins, who efficiently complete their gruesome task and leave insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) to reconstruct the decade of mistakes that led from Anderson’s career as a boxer to that of a marked man by the mob.

As with all great film noir, the Swede’s undoing begins with a dame… Continue reading

The Godfather, Part III: Pacino’s Brick-Red Cardigan

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III (1990)

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III (1990)

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Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, repentant mob boss and World War II veteran

New York City, Fall 1979

Film: The Godfather Part III
Release Date: December 25, 1990
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in.

Sixteen years after its masterpiece sequel told the parallel stories of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his father Vito (Robert De Niro) building their crime families, Francis Ford Coppola returned to the Corleone clan with the polarizing coda, The Godfather, Part III. Continue reading

Wall Street: Meeting Gordon Gekko in Shirt Sleeves and Suspenders

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987)

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987)

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Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, smug and successful corporate raider

New York City, Spring 1985

Film: Wall Street
Release Date: December 11, 1987
Director: Oliver Stone
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
Tailor: Alan Flusser

Background

Happy birthday to Michael Douglas, the actor, producer, and activist born September 25, 1944, who may be most famous for his iconic Academy Award-winning performance as ruthless financier Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.

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M: The Safecracker

Gustaf Gründgens in M (1931)

Gustaf Gründgens in M (1931)

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Gustaf Gründgens as “The Safecracker”, criminal community leader

Berlin, Fall 1930

Film: M
(German title: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder)
Release Date: May 11, 1931
Director: Fritz Lang

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking masterpiece M was released 90 years ago. Self-described by the director as his magnum opus, M drew on the wave of sadistic child-murderers that had terrorized Germany through the previous decade—monsters like Carl Großmann, Fritz Haarmann, and Peter Kürten—to create a fictionalized cautionary tale centered around the crimes of Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), a creepy little killer who signals his presence by whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, one of the first leitmotifs on screen as Lang experimented with the capabilities of sound in his first non-silent film.

As the increased police attention has disrupted Berlin’s underworld, the ruthless master criminal known only as “Der Schränker” (The Safecracker) calls together the city’s crime lords to form a united front against the killer. Continue reading

A Night to Remember: Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews

Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews in A Night to Remember (1958)

Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews in A Night to Remember (1958)

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Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews, shipbuilder

North Atlantic Ocean, April 1912

Film: A Night to Remember
Release Date: July 3, 1958
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Costume Designer: Yvonne Caffin

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

109 years ago, around 11:40 p.m. on the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912, the celebrated luxury liner RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean, sinking within three hours, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 of the 2,200 on board.

Among the dead were many instrumental in the ship’s operations including its captain Edward J. Smith, three of his officers, and Irish-born shipbuilder Thomas Andrews, who oversaw the design of the Titanic and her two sister ships from the time they were conceptualized for the White Star Line five years earlier. Continue reading

The Godfather, Part II: Michael Corleone’s Navy Jacket and Cravats

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974)

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974)

Vitals

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, calculating Mafia boss

Havana, December 1958, and Lake Tahoe, Spring 1959

Film: The Godfather Part II
Release Date: December 12, 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

When “gangster style” comes to mind, you may think first of the silk suits from Goodfellas or tracksuits of The Sopranos, but Michael Corleone established an aristocratic sense of style as he grew into his leadership role in accordance with his reserved nature. Continue reading

Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra

Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941)

Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941)

Vitals

Humphrey Bogart as Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, professional armed robber on parole

Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, Spring 1940

Film: High Sierra
Release Date: January 21, 1941
Director: Raoul Walsh
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Tomorrow marks the 80th anniversary of the release of High Sierra, arguably the movie that launched Humphrey Bogart from a Warner Bros. background player in the ’30s to superstardom in the ’40s. A violent criminal with an earnest streak, Roy Earle was the ideal role for Bogie to transition from the secondary sniveling bastard in movies like The Petrified Forest and The Roaring Twenties to the tilted-hat heroes we love in The Maltese FalconCasablanca, and more.

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