Gustaf Gründgens as “The Safecracker”, criminal community leader
Berlin, Fall 1930
(German title: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder)
Release Date: May 11, 1931
Director: Fritz Lang
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
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
Jack Lemmon as C.C. “Bud” Baxter, mild-mannered insurance accountant
New York City, Christmas Eve through New Year’s Eve 1959
Film: The Apartment
Release Date: June 30, 1960
Director: Billy Wilder
Men’s Wardrobe: Forrest T. Butler (uncredited)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Apartment stars one of my favorite actors, Jack Lemmon, as bored, lonely office drone Calvin Clifford Baxter who, after nearly four years at the toxic Manhattan insurance company where he works (“one of the top five in the country!” he boasts), manages to climb the corporate ladder by lending out his West 67th Street apartment to his superiors for their extramarital affairs… though many of them don’t regard him any higher than “some schnook who works in the office.”
Gregory Peck as Jim McKay, “neat, clean, and polite” former sea captain and aspiring rancher
West Texas, Summer 1886
Film: The Big Country
Release Date: August 13, 1958
Director: William Wyler
Costume Design: Emile Santiago & Yvonne Wood
A couple years ago, I had received a request via Twitter from venerated BAMF Style reader Ryan to explore Gregory Peck’s “taupe city slicker suit” in The Big Country, which also happened to be the favorite movie of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, born 129 years ago today on October 14, 1890. In fact, Ike was such a fan of William Wyler’s Technicolor Western that he screened the 166-minute epic on four separate occasions during his administration’s second term in the White House.
Clint Eastwood as Joe Kidd, laconic hunter and former bounty hunter
New Mexico, Spring 1902
Film: Joe Kidd
Release Date: July 14, 1972
Director: John Sturges
Penned by Elmore Leonard, Joe Kidd is a unique revisionist Western starring Clint Eastwood as the titular ex-bounty hunter who finds himself reluctantly hired to join a posse tracking down a group of Mexican revolutionaries fighting for land reform.
Although the Joe Kidd character could be interchanged with any of Eastwood’s usual taciturn and iron-willed Western heroes (not that he’s any less entertaining for it!), the movie benefits from its interesting and oft-ignored setting and context as well as the usual Elmore Leonard touch of an array of unique characters populating the film’s world.
At the outset, Joe is locked up in the small town of Sinola, New Mexico as he awaits his trial for poaching. When he is asked if he knew it was illegal to hunt on reservation land, Joe responds:
Well the deer didn’t know where he was, and I wasn’t sure either.
What’d He Wear?
Audiences had become well-acquainted with the sight of Clint Eastwood’s familiar “Man With No Name” guise in Westerns, so it must have caught many audiences off-guard when Joe Kidd is first introduced in a suit – albeit, a raggedly worn one after his night in the slammer. Continue reading
Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes, eccentric consulting detective
London, August 1890
Film: Sherlock Holmes
Release Date: December 25, 2009
Director: Guy Ritchie
Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan
Few have heard of Dr. Joseph Bell, a physician at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and eventual lecturer at the University of Edinburgh’s medical school who was born today in 1837. Those who do know Dr. Bell, however, likely know him due to his fame as a likely inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes. A very observant and proud doctor, Bell was often called in to assist with police investigations, teaming up with forensic expert Professor Henry Littlejohn. Arthur Conan Doyle had met Bell in 1877 and worked as his clerk at the infirmary. Bell later took pride in knowing that Doyle’s most famed and beloved creation – the character of Sherlock Holmes – was at least partly based on him. Though this inspiration has been exaggerated by series like Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, the Bell-Doyle connection is undeniable.
To honor Dr. Bell’s birthday, I’ll be exploring the first appearance of Robert Downey, Jr. as Sherlock Holmes in the 2009 reboot, Sherlock Holmes. In this sequence, Holmes and Watson pair up to arrest the evil Lord Blackwood and stop his black magic practices. The scene involves many elements that would become trademarks of the new films, including Holmes’ predictive and fluid fighting technique that proves most effective against Britain’s most thickheaded thugs. Continue reading
Robert Redford as Harry Longbaugh, aka “The Sundance Kid”, American outlaw and sharpshooter
Colorado to Bolivia (via New York City), Spring 1901
Film: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Release Date: October 24, 1969
Director: George Roy Hill
Costume Designer: Edith Head
For Throwback Tuesday (that’s a thing, right?), BAMF Style is focusing on another BAMF hero – Robert Redford, who celebrated his 78th birthday yesterday – in the role that arguably shot his career into megastardom.
As Harry Longbaugh, alias “The Sundance Kid”, Redford played a level-headed – if pessimisitc – ying to the optimistic dreamer Butch Cassidy played by Paul Newman. Butch and the Kid were outlaws, killers, and thieves, but William Goldman’s script, George Roy Hill’s direction, and Newman and Redford’s bickering chemistry reinvented the two bandits’ image. Continue reading