Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann, intuitive hotel head chef
Silver Creek, Colorado, Fall 1979
Film: The Shining
Release Date: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero
To honor the late Scatman Crothers, who was born 112 years ago today on May 23, 1910, today’s post explores his memorable role as Dick Hallorann, the head chef at the mysterious Overlook Hotel in The Shining. (Coincidentally, The Shining was released 42 years ago today on Crothers’ 70th birthday!)
On the last day of the Overlook’s season, Dick presents himself to the newcomer Torrance family and is assigned by hotel manager Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson) to provide a tour of the hotel’s vast kitchen. Dick shows an interest in nicknames, first establishing with Mrs. Torrance (Shelley Duvall) that she’s neither a Winnie nor a Freddie but a Wendy (“the prettiest,” he adds), while intuiting via his shine that the young Danny (Danny Lloyd) has been nicknamed “Doc” by his parents.
When Ullman comes to collect Wendy for the rest of a tour with her husband Jack (Jack Nicholson), Dick sits Danny down for a bowl of ice cream… and a discussion of their shared telepathic abilities. Continue reading
James Gandolfini as Anthony Soprano, precision optics salesman with an uncanny resemblance to heating systems merchant Kevin Finnerty
Costa Mesa, California, Spring 2006
Series: The Sopranos
– “Join the Club” (Episode 6.02, dir. David Nutter, aired 3/19/2006)
– “Mayham” (Episode 6.03, dir. Jack Bender, aired 3/26/2006)
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Who am I? Where am I going?
Sixteen years ago this week, The Sopranos first aired what became one of my favorite arcs from TV, exploring the mysterious, mythical adventures of the unconscious Tony Soprano, reborn as a de-Jersey-fied defense optics salesman on a surreal business trip in Costa Mesa. Continue reading
Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella, cultured art critic and one-time novelist
Rome, Summer 2012
Film: The Great Beauty
(Italian title: La grande bellezza)
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Costume Designer: Daniela Ciancio
Tailor: Cesare Attolini
Few images illustrate Gershwin’s celebrated concept of “summertime… and the livin’ is easy” as effectively as the hammock. Fittingly, #NationalHammockDay comes at us in midsummer, celebrated annually on July 22.
Paolo Sorrentino’s magnificent masterpiece La grande bellezza stars Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella, the 65-year-old “king of the high life” whose opulent apartment on Piazza del Colosseo boasts a terrace overlooking the Eternal City. When not hosting his stylish coterie of fellow cultural critics, Jep often takes to the self-suspended hammock positioned on his terrace, drink in hand as he allows his mind to wander while basking under the Roman sun. Continue reading
Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway, impressionable bachelor and bond salesman
Long Island, New York, Summer 1925
Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: March 29, 1974
Director: Jack Clayton
Costume Designer: Theoni V. Aldredge
Clothes by: Ralph Lauren
Summer officially started yesterday up here in the Northern Hemisphere, signifying a seasonal return to festive outdoor gatherings. Over the last year, I’d read a number of takes from people who were drawing parallels between our current era and the raucous reputation of the roaring ’20s, noting that the decade worth of parties to follow may have been inspired by the scores of Americans eager to socialize again after months in quarantine during the Spanish flu, Prohibition be damned. With vaccination rates continuing to climb and daily COVID diagnoses declining, we may indeed be on the precipice of a roaring 2020s.
Today, thinking of the ’20s often conjures scenes straight out of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of romance, wealth, and tragedy against the backdrop of the Jazz Age… a term Fitz had reportedly coined himself for the title of a 1922 short story collection. Continue reading
John Slattery as Roger Sterling, Madison Avenue ad executive
New York City, Fall 1966
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Far Away Places” (Episode 5.06)
Air Date: April 22, 2012
Director: Scott Hornbacher
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Tomorrow may have a storied association with cannabis, but today—April 19—has been deemed “Bicycle Day”, recognizing that wild Monday night in 1943 when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann recognized the highly potent psychoactive properties of LSD during a mind-bending bicycle ride home from his Basel lab.
Sidney Poitier as Matt Younger, widowed father and clinic physician
London, Summer 1972
Film: A Warm December
Release Date: May 23, 1973
Director: Sidney Poitier
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson
Happy birthday to screen legend Sidney Poitier, born 94 years ago today on February 20, 1927 in Miami. After two decades of screen success that landed him the Academy Award for Best Actor (and he remains both the oldest living and longest surviving recipient), Poitier began directing his own movies in the early 1970s, beginning with the groundbreaking 1972 Western Buck and the Preacher.
Poitier proved the diversity of his directorial talent by sliding to the other end of the genre spectrum the following year when he released the romantic drama A Warm December, in which he also starred as a recently widowed doctor who finds love across the Atlantic when he meets the magnetic Catherine (Esther Anderson) during an extended trip to London with his daughter.
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!
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
Jack Lemmon as Wendell Armbruster, Jr., bitter Baltimore businessman
Ischia, Bay of Naples, Summer 1972
Release Date: December 17, 1972
Director: Billy Wilder
Wardrobe Supervisor: Annalisa Nasalli-Rocca
“I guess there is something to what it says in the tourist guide… it says Italy is not a country, it’s an emotion,” says Pamela Piggott (Juliet Mills), laying naked on a rock surrounded by sun and sea next to an equally bare but considerably more nervous Wendell Armbruster, Jr., who exclaims in response, “Well, it’s certainly been an experience!”
Despite the context, the two aren’t yet lovers, instead brought to the romantic bay of Naples after the death of Wendell’s father and Pamela’s mother who, as they learn, had been enjoying a decade-long extramarital affair. While not among the more celebrated of Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder’s seven cinematic collaborations, Avanti! is a fitting and still entertaining work as both actor and director were maturing in their age and career. “Billy Wilder’s last great comic romance is an Italian vacation soaked in music, food, scenery and sunshine,” wrote Glenn Erickson in his excellent review for Trailers from Hell. “It’s the best movie ever about Love and Funerals.”
Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, eccentric and ambitious aviation and movie mogul
Los Angeles, Summer 1935
Film: The Aviator
Release Date: December 25, 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell
Almost five years after the success of his World War I epic Hell’s Angels, Howard Hughes lands his seaplane at the beach to the tune of Bing Crosby crooning the 1933 ballad “Thanks”, backed by “musical host of the coast” Jimmie Grier and his Orchestra. The graceful approach of the Sikorsky S-38 “Flying Boat” and the dapper Hughes deplaning from it dazzles the cast and crew of Sylvia Scarlett, Katharine Hepburn’s first of four films with director George Cukor and co-star Cary Grant.
Gary Cooper as Frank Flannagan, wealthy playboy industrialist
Yvelines, France, Summer 1957
Film: Love in the Afternoon
Release Date: May 29, 1957
Director: Billy Wilder
Costume Designer: Jay A. Morley, Jr. (uncredited)
April 23 is celebrated as National Picnic Day, an observance that can still be observed in relative isolation for those willing and able to safely venture outdoors. The word “picnic” derives from the late 17th century French word pique-nique that had originally described restaurant diners who brought their own wine, essentially an early form of BYOB. In the years following the French revolution, the word took on its more familiar connotation as the country’s royal parks were opened to the greater public, who would spend hours and even days preparing lavish luncheons for outdoor dining. Given this French association, let’s check in on two classic film stars enjoying a picnic near Château de Vitry in the 1957 romantic comedy Love in the Afternoon.