Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent and photographer
New Mexico to Phoenix, August 1965
Film: The Silencers
Release Date: February 18, 1966
Director: Phil Karlson
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Tailor: Sy Devore
Dean Martin infused his lounge lizard persona into a James Bond-like spy for his four-film portrayal of Matt Helm, a playboy whose love for turtlenecks, womanizing, and drinking above actual spying may make him more of an antecedent for the character of Sterling Archer than of 007 himself.
With a bossa nova score by Elmer Bernstein and a hip mid-sixties sartorialism styled by costume designer Moss Mabry and the Rat Pack’s go-to tailor Sy Devore, the Matt Helm series serves as a swingin’ time capsule to the waning heyday of hi-fis and hedonism. Though it may be dated, the series—particularly this first film, The Silencers—seems perfectly content with that and, in fact, it may be an intentional way for the 1966 zeitgeist to remain intact for modern audiences. Never taking itself too seriously, packed with decent talent, and sticking to a tight, quick-paced plot, The Silencers differentiates itself from its contemporary spy spoofs like Casino Royale in that it can still entertain 50 years later.
James Garner as Robert Hendley, American-born RAF Flight Lieutenant and “scrounger”
Sagan-Silesia (Zagan, Poland), Spring 1944
Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson
Steve McQueen’s daring Captain Hilts may get all the glory of The Great Escape‘s legacy, but James Garner’s affable and resourceful “scrounger” Hendley remains one of my favorite characters from any war movie.
George C. Scott as Harry Garmes, washed-up expatriate getaway driver
Portugal, Spring 1971
Film: The Last Run
Release Date: July 7, 1971
Director: Richard Fleischer
Wardrobe Supervisor: Annalisa Nasalli-Rocca
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Last Run is a relatively obscure crime flick from the early ’70s that starred George C. Scott, fresh off of his Oscar-winning turn in Patton, as a retired Bogart-esque criminal living the easy expatriate life in Europe à la Hemingway when he is called back for the proverbial “one last job”. Of course, anyone who’s ever seen any movie ever knows that “one last job” is never quite as easy as it sounds, and our aging protagonist finds himself facing more than he bargained for when driving escaped killer Paul Rickard (Tony Musante) and his girlfriend Claudie Scherrer (Trish Van Devere) across Portugal and Spain into France. Continue reading
Michael Caine as Charlie Croker, cheeky and charming mob thief
Turin, Italy, Spring 1969
Film: The Italian Job
Release Date: June 2, 1969
Director: Peter Collinson
Wardrobe Supervisor: Dulcie Midwinter
Although modern American audiences may be more familiar with the 2003 Mark Wahlberg film The Italian Job, most Brits and film buffs recognize the classic 1969 version as the truer of the two. Continue reading
101 years ago at 2:20 a.m., the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean, resulting in the death of more than 1,500 passengers and crew.
Kenneth More as Charles Lightoller, Second Officer of the RMS Titanic
North Atlantic Ocean, April 1912
Film: A Night to Remember
Release Date: July 3, 1958
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Costume Designer: Yvonne Caffin
Obviously, the death of 1,500 people is going to be a tragic event. Unfortunately, the extent of most of a modern generation’s knowledge about the event is that “OMG Leo died bc he loved Rose so much,” naturally referring to James Cameron’s well-researched but poorly focused 1997 epic Titanic. The individual stories of everyone on board, whether they stepped onto a lifeboat, fought for their lives in the icy water and managed to survive, or perished are legitimately heartbreaking and fascinating without having to pander to teenage emotions.
Cameron stated that he was inspired by scenes from the 1958 film A Night to Remember, a comparatively little-known film when compared to his blockbuster. However, most experts will call A Night to Remember the definitive filmed adaptation of the disaster. Continue reading