Tagged: Classic Hollywood

Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra

Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941)

Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941)

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Humphrey Bogart as Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, professional armed robber on parole

Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, Spring 1940

Film: High Sierra
Release Date: January 21, 1941
Director: Raoul Walsh
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Tomorrow marks the 80th anniversary of the release of High Sierra, arguably the movie that launched Humphrey Bogart from a Warner Bros. background player in the ’30s to superstardom in the ’40s. A violent criminal with an earnest streak, Roy Earle was the ideal role for Bogie to transition from the secondary sniveling bastard in movies like The Petrified Forest and The Roaring Twenties to the tilted-hat heroes we love in The Maltese FalconCasablanca, and more.

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The Awful Truth: Cary Grant’s White Tie and Tails

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth (1937)

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth (1937)

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Cary Grant as Jerry Warriner, witty divorcee

New York, Fall 1937

Film: The Awful Truth
Release Date: October 21, 1937
Director: Leo McCarey
Costume Designer: Robert Kalloch

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Archibald Leach was born 117 years ago today on January 18, 1904. Though he’d established his now-iconic stage name just before his film debut in This is the Night (1932), I consider Leo McCarey’s 1937 screwball comedy The Awful Truth to be the symbolic start of Cary Grant’s screen persona as a stylish yet self-deprecating gentleman with a remarkable penchant for physical comedy as well as wit. Continue reading

After the Thin Man: Nick Charles’ Light Double-Breasted Suit for the New Year

William Powell and Myrna Loy in After the Thin Man (1936)... with Skippy as Asta

William Powell and Myrna Loy in After the Thin Man (1936)… with Skippy as Asta

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William Powell as Nick Charles, retired private detective

San Francisco, New Year’s Eve 1936

Film: After the Thin Man
Release Date: December 25, 1936
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Wardrobe Credit: Dolly Tree

Background

Happy New Year! Dashiell Hammett and “One-Take Woody” Van Dyke continued the runaway success of The Thin Man by reuniting William Powell and Myrna Loy as crime-solving power couple Nick and Nora Charles, coming home to San Francisco after solving the famous “Thin Man” case during their holiday in New York. The three-day train ride returns Nick and Nora to the City by the Bay just in time for New Year’s Eve, where they find their home commandeered by revelers that have already kicked off their celebrations.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice: John Garfield’s Blanket Robe

John Garfield, understandably distracted by Lana Turner while filming The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

John Garfield, understandably distracted by Lana Turner while filming The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

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John Garfield as Frank Chambers, restless drifter-turned-diner worker

Laguna Beach, California, Summer 1945

Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: May 2, 1946
Director: Tay Garnett
Costume Supervisor: Irene

Background

As #Noirvember continues, let’s step away from the trench coats and fedoras to see how our hardboiled anti-heroes dress for a day at the beach. An ode to deviance that originated from James M. Cain’s 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice was adapted twice by European filmmakers before Hollywood dared to tackle it during the golden age of noir in the 1940s.

The lascivious source material had presented a challenge for presenting the story in a way that would satisfy the draconian Motion Picture Production Code and, even before it was published, a synopsis of Cain’s story had been deemed “definitely unsuitable for motion picture production” by the pearl-clutching Hays Office. After the two European adaptations were released, MGM was finally ready to proceed with its own version, inspired by the success of Double Indemnity, another piece from Cain’s poison pen centered around adultery and murder. By this time, nearly a dozen years into the rigid enforcement years of the Production Code, American filmmakers had mastered the art of stylized shadows and suggestive innuendo that allowed—and often enhanced—these films noir set in lurid worlds filled with unscrupulous and unsavory elements.

“It was on a side road outside of Los Angeles,” Frank Chambers begins his story, as the down-on-his-luck hitchhiker stumbles into the Twin Oaks diner boasting a $1.25 “best in the world” chicken dinner. The simple sign, “Man wanted,” echoes both the restaurant’s staffing needs as well as the sensuous needs of Cora (Lana Turner), the ambitious young platinum blonde who runs the roadside lunch room with her proud yet oblivious husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway)… and, even if you haven’t read or seen it, you probably already see where this is going.

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Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past

Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham in Out of the Past (1947)

Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham in Out of the Past (1947)

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Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham, aka Jeff Bailey, laconic gas station owner and former private detective

Bridgeport, California, to San Francisco via Lake Tahoe, Fall 1946

Film: Out of the Past
Release Date: November 25, 1947
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Costume Credit: Edward Stevenson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Regarded among the best of classic film noir, Out of the Past showcases the genre’s quintessential elements: shadowy cinematography (thanks to Nicholas Musuraca), a story of double-cross and intrigue told in flashback, a charismatic antagonist, an alluring and ultimately deadly femme fatale, and—of course—a tough-talking, chain-smoking private eye light on words and sentiment:

Baby, I don’t care.

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Criss Cross: Burt Lancaster’s Loafer Jacket

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949)

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949)

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Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson, larcenous armored car driver

Los Angeles, Summer 1948

Film: Criss Cross
Release Date: January 19, 1949
Director: Robert Siodmak

Background

After directing the actor’s debut screen performance in quintessential film noir The Killers (1946), Robert Siodmak reteamed with Burt Lancaster three years later for Criss Cross, a quick, moody thriller that begins in media res with Steve Thompson (Lancaster) in the evening shadows of a nightclub parking lot, embracing his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo).

As De Carlo makes her plea to the camera that Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller called “noir’s defining moment”, we learn that the former spouses are forced into secrecy to avoid detection from Anna’s slick gangster boyfriend Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), with whom Steve is planning a six-figure “chance of a lifetime” heist the following day.

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James Shigeta in The Crimson Kimono

James Shigeta as Detective Joe Kojaku in The Crimson Kimono (1959)

James Shigeta as Detective Joe Kojaku in The Crimson Kimono (1959)

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James Shigeta as Joe Kojaku, LAPD homicide detective

Los Angeles, Summer 1959

Film: The Crimson Kimono
Release Date: October 1959
Director: Samuel Fuller
Costume Supervisor: Bernice Pontrelli

Background

Are you among the many movie buffs who observe #Noirvember, the month-long celebration of shadowy cinema often set in worlds populated by gumshoes, gunsels, and femmes fatale. Defining film noir is often as murky as the outlines of the shadows in some of its seminal works, though even applying the infamous Potter Stewart rule yields at least dozens of crime dramas produced within and beyond the United States during the 1940s and ’50s.

Earlier this year, the Criterion Channel again showcased a collection of noir from Columbia Pictures, the erstwhile Poverty Row studio that churned out some of the most quintessential high-talent noir in including Gilda (1946), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), and In a Lonely Place (1950) as well as an array of criminally underseen B-movies that balanced their low budgets with high quality. One of my favorites from the collection was The Crimson Kimono (1959), directed by former crime reporter and World War II veteran Samuel Fuller.

Modern audiences may recognize James Shigeta as the patient and ultimately doomed Nakatomi executive in Die Hard. Here, a considerably younger Shigeta plays the charismatic Joe Kojaku, an apple-munching, piano-playing Japanese-American homicide detective called in with his partner Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) to investigate the murder of burlesque dancer Sugar Torch (Gloria Pall) on L.A.’s” Main Street” one brightly lit, jazz-filled night in August 1959. Continue reading

Cary Grant’s Flight Jacket in Only Angels Have Wings

Cary Grant as Geoff Carter in Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Cary Grant as Geoff Carter in Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

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Cary Grant as Geoff Carter, regional airline manager and pilot

South America, Spring 1939

Film: Only Angels Have Wings
Release Date: May 15, 1939
Director: Howard Hawks
Costume Designer: Robert Kalloch

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Calling Barranca, calling Barranca…

Set in the fictional “port of call for the South American banana boats”, Only Angels Have Wings begins with the arrival of Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur), a Brooklyn musician who soon catches the eye of two American aviators, Joe (Noah Beery Jr.) and Les (Allyn Joslyn). While the daredevil duo gambles for the opportunity to take Bonnie to dinner, Cary Grant makes his swaggering introduction as Geoff Carter, a fellow pilot and manager of a regional mail carrier flying regular routes over the treacherous Andes Mountains.

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A Place in the Sun: Montgomery Clift’s Labor Day Glen Plaid Sports Coat

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)

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Montgomery Clift as George Eastman, dangerously ambitious factory executive

“Loon Lake”, Missouri, Labor Day 1950

Film: A Place in the Sun
Release Date: August 14, 1951
Director: George Stevens
Costume Designer: Edith Head

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

With Labor Day weekend ahead, today’s post explores the style from one of my favorite movies set across the late summer holiday. A Place in the Sun was adapted by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown from Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy, which was itself based on Chester Gillette’s 1906 murder of his pregnant partner Grace Brown in the Adirondacks.

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Bonjour Tristesse: David Niven’s Coral Shirt and Sunglasses

David Niven as Raymond in Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

David Niven as Raymond in Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

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David Niven as Raymond, bon vivant widowed father

French Riviera, Summer 1957

Film: Bonjour Tristesse
Release Date: January 15, 1958
Director: Otto Preminger
Costume Coordinator: Hope Bryce

Background

Secluded for the summer at their villa in the Côte d’Azur, libertine Raymond and his equally free-spirited daughter Cécile (Jean Seberg) enjoy a comfortable and carefree season living la belle vie by the sea. In fact, Raymond and Cécile would have fared quite well had they needed to spend their summer in quarantine, as few outsiders enter their lives aside from whichever mistress (or two) Raymond is entertaining at the moment. These young women are typically no more than a few years older than Cécile, who grows particularly attached to his latest paramour, Elsa (Mylène Demongeot), to the extent that she joins Raymond in waking the vivacious blonde from her nude slumber and helps her apply sunscreen during one of their typical days spent on the beach.

While all may be cordial and close, there’s no getting between the fiercely intimate bond between Cécile and her father, of which Elsa comments: “You do not even need words… the perfect marriage!”

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