Robert Redford as Bill McKay, charismatic lawyer-turned-senatorial candidate
California, Spring through Fall 1972
Film: The Candidate
Release Date: June 29, 1972
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Designer: Patricia Norris
Costume Supervisor: Bernie Pollack
In case my fellow Americans’ phones haven’t been buzzing with incessant reminders about it… this Tuesday is Election Day!
Fifty years ago, American electoral politics were lampooned in The Candidate, starring Robert Redford as Bill McKay, an idealistic California lawyer tapped to run for a supposedly unwinnable seat in the U.S. Senate.
Inspired by screenwriter Jeremy Larner’s own experiences working on Senator Eugene McCarthy’s unsuccessful bid for the presidency in ’68, The Candidate chronicles the unpredictable insanity of American politics ranging from the mundane to the dramatic. Continue reading
Jack Nicholson as Randle P. McMurphy, cheeky petty criminal undergoing psychiatric evaluation
Oregon State Hospital, Fall 1963
Film: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Release Date: November 19, 1975
Director: Miloš Forman
Costume Designer: Aggie Guerard Rodgers
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today is Jack Nicholson’s 85th birthday, a worthy occasion for recalling one of his most iconic roles: the irreverent and incorrigible Randle P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Robert Cummings as Barry Kane, civilian aircraft mechanic
From Glendale, California, into the High Desert, Spring 1942
Release Date: April 22, 1942
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock’s wartime thriller Saboteur—not to be confused with his earlier movie Sabotage—was released 80 years ago this month. Though production began just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the idea had actually been months in the making after Hitch’s original pitch to David O. Selznick. “We were in 1941 and there were pro-German elements who called themselves America Firsters and who were, in fact, American Fascists. This was the group I had in mind while writing the scenario,” Hitchcock later explained to François Truffaut.
Despite his traditional elements of the wronged man, the beautiful blonde, and the “MacGuffin,” Hitch identified several disappointments with Saboteur, most notably in the casting of his two heroes and the villain. Of leading male star Robert Cummings, who portrayed the accused saboteur, Hitch commented to Truffaut that “he’s a competent performer, but he belongs to the light-comedy class of actors,” though this wouldn’t stop him from casting him a decade later in a strong supporting role in Dial M for Murder. Continue reading
Lee Marvin as Walker, drunken sailor and future thief
San Francisco, early 1960s
Film: Point Blank
Release Date: August 30, 1967
Director: John Boorman
Costume Designer: Margo Weintz
Lee Marvin, Academy Award-winning actor and U.S. Marine Corps veteran of World War II, was born 98 years ago today on February 19, 1924. Marvin would be established as one of the most charismatic tough guys of the screen, particularly due to movies like The Killers (1964), The Professionals (1966), The Dirty Dozen (1967), and Point Blank (1967).
Adapted from Donald E. Westlake’s pulp crime novel The Hunter (published under the pseudonym Richard Stark), Point Blank stars Marvin as the mononymous Walker, a thief left for dead by his wife Lynne (Sharon Acker) and his double-crossing partner-in-crime Mal Reese (John Vernon) after a dangerous heist. Continue reading
Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs, desperate drifter-turned-treasure hunter
Mexico, Spring to Summer 1925
Film: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Release Date: January 6, 1948
Director: John Huston
Wardrobe: Robert O’Dell & Ted Schultz (uncredited)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
On the 65th anniversary of when Humphrey Bogart died on January 14, 1957, I wanted to visit one of his most lasting—if not exactly best-dressed—roles.
“Wait until you see me in my next picture,” Bogie had proclaimed to a New York Post critic outside 21 one night. “I play the worst shit you ever saw!” Indeed, unlike his previous protagonists like Sam Spade, Rick Blaine, and Philip Marlowe, who were primarily heroes marred by a cynical streak, there are few redeeming factors to Fred C. Dobbs, the panhandling prospector whose treacherous greed leads him well past the point of no return. Continue reading
Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr, disillusioned British spy
Istanbul, Fall 1973
Film: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Release Date: September 16, 2011
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Costume Designer: Jacqueline Durran
Happy birthday to Tom Hardy, born September 15, 1977. Following his debut in Black Hawk Down (2001), Hardy’s steady work through the decade established his stardom by the time he joined the ensemble cast of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on John le Carré’s famous 1974 spy novel of the same name. Continue reading
Nick Nolte as David Sanders, vacationing scuba diver
Off the Bermuda coast, Summer 1976
Film: The Deep
Release Date: June 17, 1977
Director: Peter Yates
Costume Designer: Ron Talsky
Okay, yes, I acknowledge that one of the few reasons anyone might still be talking about The Deep more than 40 years later is… well, the same reason anyone talked about it when it was released.
The Deep‘s enduring cultural significance indeed resulted from a costuming decision, though not related to anything Nick Nolte wore but rather Jacqueline Bisset’s simple but oh-so-memorable white tee during the underwater opening sequence.
Once I registered what all the fuss was about, I also observed that Nolte—playing Bisset’s partner, David Sanders—begins the movie wearing an aquatic-adjacent outfit appropriate for gents developing their spring-to-summer transitional wardrobe or dressing for any seagoing getaways over Memorial Day weekend. Continue reading
Cleavon Little as Super Soul, blind radio DJ
Nevada Desert, Summer 1971
Film: Vanishing Point
Release Date: March 13, 1971
Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Wardrobe Master: Ed Wynigear
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Before he blazed into Rock Ridge as the controversial new sheriff, Cleavon Little was already shaking up the desert as Super Soul, the almost mystic blind radio DJ who guides our laconic hero in in his white Dodge Challenger through the blue highways of the west in Vanishing Point, released 50 years ago today on March 13, 1971.
The Oklahoma-born Little was already a stage star at the time he walked Super Soul’s dog to the KOW radio booth in Goldfield, Nevada, having won a Tony Award in Ossie Davis’ Purlie just one year after making his Broadway debut. Vanishing Point was only his third credited screen role, his charismatic energy a contrast to Barry Newman’s taciturn Kowalski, whom Super Soul dubs “the last American hero.” Continue reading
Laurence Harvey as Dove Linkhorn, determined drifter
Texas to New Orleans, September 1933
Film: Walk on the Wild Side
Release Date: February 21, 1962
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Costume Designer: Charles Le Maire
While this may not be the ideal weekend for an outdoors adventure, we can at least walk vicariously with Depression-era drifter Dove Linkhorn (Laurence Harvey), whose solo trek from Texas to New Orleans is interrupted by the arrival of the fiery and opportunistic runaway Kitty (Jane Fonda). The two hitchhike and hop trains together, though Dove turns down her advances as he sticks to his single-minded goal of tracking down the woman he had loved and lost, Hallie Gerard (Capucine). Continue reading
Steve McQueen as Jake Holman, maverick U.S. Navy Machinist’s Mate, 1st Class (MM1)
Yangtze River, China, Summer 1926 through Spring 1927
Film: The Sand Pebbles
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Robert Wise
Costume Design: Wingate Jones, John Napolitano, Bobbie Read, and James W. Tyson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Navy League of the United States organized the first Navy Day on October 27, 1922, to commemorate the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt who—before becoming the 26th President of the United States—had long championed the U.S. Navy and had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Set four years after the establishment of Navy Day, The Sand Pebbles begins in 1926 China, “a country of factions trying to unite to become a nation… through revolution…” according to the opening text. Continue reading