James Stewart as George Bailey, newlywed banker
Bedford Falls, NY, fall 1932 through spring 1934
Film: It’s a Wonderful Life
Release Date: December 20, 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Although the film takes place over the course of one man’s whole life, It’s a Wonderful Life has earned a comfortable home among nostalgic holiday cinema. The man in question, George Bailey (James Stewart), spends a depressing Christmas Eve questioning his existence… prompting a visit from his guardian angel to remind him of the titular wonderful life that he has led.
Frank Sinatra, multi-talented entertainer
Hollywood, December 1957
Series: The Frank Sinatra Show
Episode: “Happy Holidays with Bing & Frank” (Episode 1.10)
Air Date: December 20, 1957
Director: Frank Sinatra
Wardrobe Credit: Morris Brown
Tailor: Sy Devore
Happy birthday, Frank Sinatra! To celebrate the 103rd anniversary of Ol’ Blue Eyes entering the world in a Hoboken tenement, let’s look back at a time when Frankie was sittin’ on top of the world: the late 1950s.
After the low point of his life and the prospect of his career in ruins, Sinatra bounced back with an Academy Award-winning performance in From Here to Eternity (1953) and a seven-year recording contract with Capitol Records that yielded an impressive string of concept albums that remain among the best popular music ever recorded.
Sinatra was one of the biggest stars of the world in 1957 when ABC signed him to a $3 million contract for The Frank Sinatra Show, a variety and drama series for which Sinatra would have almost total artistic freedom.
As the Chairman of the Board was a lifelong Christmas fanatic, it was unquestioned that the series would feature a special holiday episode, which Sinatra himself stepped up to direct, though he knew the show would need a guest worthy of the season he loved. Continue reading
James Garner as Philip Marlowe, cynical private detective
Los Angeles, Spring 1969
Release Date: October 22, 1969
Director: Paul Bogart
Costume Design: Florence Hackett & James Taylor
Save for a single season of a loosely adapted ABC TV series, he character of Philip Marlowe had gone more than two decades without a cinematic portrayal at the time Marlowe was released in 1969. Directed by the appropriately named Paul Bogart (no relation), this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s 1949 pulp novel The Little Sister updated the setting to contemporary Los Angeles.
James Garner took some criticism for his take on the famous private eye, but I think the likable actor’s vulnerable sincerity works for his interpretation of Chandler’s anti-hero. Continue reading
Henry Fonda as Charles “Hopsie” Pike, brewery heir and ophidiologist
SS Southern Queen, sailing north from South America,
Film: The Lady Eve
Release Date: February 25, 1941
Director: Preston Sturges
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Men’s Wardrobe: Richard Bachler
To celebrate the birthday today of my wonderful, patient, and charming girlfriend, I’d like to highlight the elegant evening wear worn by Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve, a classic screwball comedy that I first discovered with her family. Continue reading
Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, shrewd British agent and anti-Bolshevik
St. Petersburg, Russia, October 1910, and
London, November 1918
Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
– “Dreadnoughts and Doublecrosses” (Episode 6), dir. Jim Goddard, aired 10/5/1983
– “After Moscow”(Episode 9), dir. Martin Campbell, aired 10/26/1983
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller
Reilly: Ace of Spies fictionalizes the exploits of Russian-born spy Sidney Reilly, often cited as a real-life basis for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. While the showrunners must have been cognizant of the need to place their suave British secret agent in a tuxedo, the series’ narrative also coincided with the rise of the dinner jacket over the first quarter of the 20th century.
Clifton Webb as Richard Ward Sturges, millionaire and estranged family man
RMS Titanic, April 1912
Release Date: April 16, 1953
Director: Jean Negulesco
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Before there was Kate and Leo, there was Barbara and Clifton.
To know me is to know my obsession with the Titanic and other maritime disasters of the early 20th century. SS Valencia, Empress of Ireland, Lusitania, Princess Sophia, Titanic‘s hospital sister ship Britannic… chances are that if it sank in the first few decades of last century, I know a thing or two about it.
It was today in 1912 that the RMS Titanic actually struck the iceberg that sank her. The collision happened around 11:40 p.m., North Atlantic time, on the night of Sunday, April 14. Compared to most of the other disasters in the previous paragraph, it took considerable time to sink, finally settling under the waves at 2:20 a.m. on the morning of Monday, April 15, 1912, ending more than 1,500 lives of the roughly 2,200 that had been aboard.
Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, baseball prodigy and “middle-aged rookie”
New York, June 1939
Film: The Natural
Release Date: May 11, 1984
Director: Barry Levinson
Costume Design: Gloria Gresham & Bernie Pollack
Baseball season is back and in full swing (forgive the pun), and I’m feeling much better about it this year after my hometown Pirates won their home opener against the Twins yesterday, making us 4-0 for the season… after last year, I’ll take all the hope I can get! In the spirit of America’s pastime, today’s post explores one of the great baseball movies ever made.
Based on Bernard Malamud’s 1952 debut novel – and considered by many to be an improvement on it – The Natural stars Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, an earnest, homespun, and sincere baseball player whose sole ambition is glory on the diamond. As he himself wonders, “What else is there?”
Of course, when we first meet Roy Hobbs in media res, you’d never know it to look at him that he was about to embark on his last shot at big-league stardom.