Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, narcissistic profligate playboy
Italy, October 1958
Film: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Release Date: December 25, 1999
Director: Anthony Minghella
Costume Design: Ann Roth & Gary Jones
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Whether you’re dressing for a snazzy summer brunch this sunny Sunday morning or taking sprezzatura inspiration for the office, Jude Law’s wardrobe from The Talented Mr. Ripley radiates mid-century Mediterranean luxury essential for your spring-to-summer sartorial transformation.
This 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s classic psychological thriller novel spends more time with the doomed Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) than its stylish French predecessor, Plein soleil (1960), including this brief foray from Naples to Rome where the obsessive Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) joins Dickie for some drinks al fresco.
Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent
French Riviera, Summer 1966
Film: Murderers’ Row
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Henry Levin
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Tailor: Sy Devore
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday to Dean Martin, born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio! After a successful singing and acting career that included partnerships with Jerry Lewis and the Rat Pack as well as his own TV show, Dino was tapped for the role of Matt Helm, the American counter-agent at the center of author Donald Hamilton’s espionage novels.
While Hamilton wrote his Matt Helm novels with a serious tone, Dino’s characterization parodied the character as more of a playboy lounge lizard, the American satirical answer to his contemporary womanizer James Bond. Thus, the four Matt Helm movies produced in the late ’60s often starred the popular singer opposite many of the most attractive leading ladies of the decade. Continue reading
Clifton Webb as Richard Ward Sturges, millionaire, estranged family man, and fastidious dresser
RMS Titanic, April 1912
Release Date: April 16, 1953
Director: Jean Negulesco
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Julia: You’re up early.
Richard: I had to scratch around for something to wear. Not a bad shop, they have everything.
Julia: Dinner jackets, I trust.
Richard: Naturally. It will be ready tonight. So… life can go on.
This exchange summarizes the 1953 melodrama Titanic, one of the first attempts to tell the now-infamous story of the real-life sinking of the White Star Line’s premiere ocean liner during its maiden voyage in April 1912, sending more than 1,500 passengers and crew to their deaths as a few more than 700 spend a chilly night in uncovered lifeboats, waiting for help to arrive.
Released 66 years ago tomorrow, 20th Century Fox’s Titanic focuses more on the personal drama of the fictional Sturges family: pretentious and aloof patriarch Richard (Clifton Webb) and his strong-willed, responsible wife Julia (Barbara Stanwyck) who tries to protect their children from taking after their profligate father. Cut from the same cloth as his wickedly snobbish Waldo Lydecker character in Laura, Richard Ward Sturges delights in his children’s obvious preference for him as he showers them with a decadent lifestyle that would no doubt spoil them as adults if not for their more practical mother’s interventions. Continue reading
Tommy Wiseau as Johnny, a “misunderstood” banker and Lisa’s future husband
San Francisco, Fall 2002
Film: The Room
Release Date: June 27, 2003
Director: Tommy Wiseau
Costume Designer: Safowa Bright-Asare
It’s April Fools’ Day! The perfect time to switch gears from looking at timeless style in great movies and TV shows… and reflect on extremely questionable “style” from a movie celebrated as an unmitigated cinematic disaster.
The Room is nearly two hours of brain-numbing non-sequiturs, unresolved “plot” threads and an inconsistent narrative, more screen time for a single football than The Longest Yard, Any Given Sunday, and Rudy combined, and writing that fails to compare with a monkey pounding on a keyboard… and yet this bizarre melodrama has racked up one of the most loyal cult followings in American cinema. Its nonsensical dialogue (“Do you understand life? Do you?!”) has permeated pop culture and sent packs of people to midnight screenings each year, armed with plastic spoons and questions and praise for the film’s eccentric auteur, Tommy Wiseau. Continue reading
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
Frank Sinatra as Joey Evans, womanizing nightclub singer
San Francisco, Spring 1957
Film: Pal Joey
Release Date: October 25, 1957
Director: George Sidney
Costume Designer: Jean Louis
Let’s ease into #SinatraSaturday with a return to Pal Joey, the story of an ambitious nightclub performer played by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself who finds himself in a love triangle with an ingenue chorus girl (Kim Novak) and a wealthy widowed former stripper (Rita Hayworth), all set to more than a dozen classic Rodgers and Hart tunes.
Ted Danson as Michael, afterlife “architect”
The Good Place, present day
Series: The Good Place
Episode: “Flying” (Episode 1.02)
Air Date: September 19, 2016
Director: Michael McDonald
Creator: Michael Schur
Costume Designer: Kirston Mann
This weekend, my focus returns to NBC’s The Good Place, where Ted Danson’s architect Michael struts some of the snappiest style this side of the afterlife.
I recently researched and wrote about the classic boldly striped boating blazer for an exploration of Alain Delon’s style in Purple Noon (Plein soleil), but that’s only one type of boating blazer. Another variation is a solid-colored blazer with wide piping along the edges.
Though not quite as distinctive as a true rowing blazer, the piped blazer that Michael wears for a conversation about exploding turkey carcasses and coffee cups at the end of The Good Place‘s second episode finds itself worthy of discussion for today’s #NiceDay post.
Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, groundbreaking R&B musician
Houston, Summer 1953
Release Date: October 29, 2004
Director: Taylor Hackford
Costume Designer: Sharen Davis
Jamie Foxx became only the second actor in history to receive a Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild award for a single performance when he played Ray Charles. Though it was released five months after the real Ray Charles died of liver disease at age 73, Ray had the blessing of the real Ray Charles who had received – and approved – a braille version of the original shooting script.
Fresh off the success of his first hit for Atlantic Records, the exciting “Mess Around”, we see Ray Charles’ career shooting skyward. He endorses a group called the Cecil Shaw Singers while on-air at a Houston radio station, resulting in a lunch date with the group’s tenor, Della Bea (Kerry Washington), who is amazed that he was able to pick out her voice. Continue reading
Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, old-fashioned Deputy U.S. Marshal
Harlan County, Kentucky, Fall 2014
Episode: “Cash Game” (Episode 6.02)
Air Date: January 27, 2015
Director: Dean Parisot
Creator: Graham Yost
Costume Designer: Patia Prouty
The second episode of Justified‘s sixth and final season introduced a few new characters that would be help drive the series toward its action-packed endgame, including a shockingly mustache-less Sam Elliott as ruthless yet refined gangster Avery Markham.
John Slattery as Roger Sterling, hedonistic Madison Avenue ad executive
New York City, spring 1969 and spring 1970
Series: Mad Men
– “The Monolith” (Episode 7.04), dir. Scott Hornbacher, aired 5/4/2014
– “Severance” (Episode 7.08), dir.Scott Hornbacher, aired 4/5/2015
– “Person to Person” (Episode 7.14), dir.Matthew Weiner, aired 5/17/2015
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Though we in the Northern Hemisphere welcomed spring yesterday, some cities (I can speak personally for Pittsburgh) were greeted by the new season with a fresh onslaught of snowfall.
Bitterness aside… spring often finds well-dressed gents pushing their heavy flannel suits to the back of the closet and bringing forth items perfect for greeting sunnier days ahead. The double-breasted navy blazer remains a stalwart menswear staple for transitioning into the warm and wonderful days of spring, whether sporting it for an evening in the Riviera, greeting the morning on your yacht… or spending the afternoon in your Midtown Manhattan office, counting down the days to retirement.
Naturally, the latter situation brings to mind one Roger Sterling, the increasingly redundant but effortlessly witty Madison Avenue executive on AMC’s Mad Men. Continue reading