Tagged: Connecticut

The Swimmer: Donald’s Suburban Poolside Style

Tony Bickley as Donald Westerhazy in The Swimmer

Tony Bickley as Donald Westerhazy in The Swimmer (1968)

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Tony Bickley as Donald Westerhazy, affable and affluent advertising executive

Suburban Connecticut, Summer 1966

Film: The Swimmer
Release Date: May 15, 1968
Director: Frank Perry
Wardrobe Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone

Background

It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, “I drank too much last night.”

… begins John Cheever’s 1964 short story “The Swimmer”, which was adapted by the husband-and-wife team of director Frank Perry and screenwriter Eleanor Perry into a hallucinatory drama starring Burt Lancaster as the eponymous Ned Merrill, a well-tanned embodiment of the failed American dream.

The focus of today’s post is a little more esoteric than usual, not necessarily because of the movie—which is relatively well-known, if offbeat—but more the relatively minor character and his little-known portrayer, Tony Bickley. The Swimmer was Bickley’s fifth and final screen credit and his only significant movie role, more than a decade after his four sporadic appearances in TV anthologies during the early 1950s.

Bickley co-starred in The Swimmer as Donald Westerhazy, a gregarious suburbanite whose palatial home is Ned’s first stop on what becomes his route to “swim home” through the backyard pools of his neighbors. Donald and his wife Helen (Diana Van der Vlis) are nursing hangovers from the previous evening’s party… with the help of martinis, of course. Continue reading

Don Draper’s Dinner Party Plaid Jacket in “Signal 30”

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men, Episode 5.05: “Signal 30”. From photo by Michael Yarish/AMC.

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Jon Hamm as Don Draper, smooth ad man

Cos Cob, Connecticut, Summer 1966

Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Signal 30” (Episode 5.05)
Air Date: April 15, 2012
Director: John Slattery
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

To commemorate Jon Hamm’s 51st birthday today, let’s return to his Emmy-winning performance as the conflicted advertising director Don Draper. After four stylish seasons set across the early ’60s, Mad Men‘s fifth season took a darker and experimental turn with its storytelling, reflective of the more disturbing events of a decade that was evolving from the idealistic ’50s into an violent age of assassinations, serial murder, and war.

Following the dark “Mystery Date” with its homicidal fever dreams and Richard Speck references, the fifth episode “Signal 30” took its title from the gruesome instructional film illustrating the dangers of the road, shown to new drivers like Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s ambitious but insecure account manager, who could be argued as the central character of this episode.

Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner described “Signal 30″—which he co-wrote with Dog Day Afternoon‘s Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Pierson—as “probably the saddest episode we’ve ever had.”

Directed by series regular John Slattery, “Signal 30” is an episode of plumbing mishaps and forbidden passions, culminating in office fisticuffs. These passions range from Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) continuing his literary side hustle against the wishes of his employers, Lane Pryce (Jared Harris) fighting his own battles with personal and professional masculinity, a business trip to a brothel where all attendees but Don indulge themselves, and Pete’s disturbing crush on a teenage girl in his driver’s ed class.

But before Pete lecherously throws himself at anything on legs—or throws any punches at colleagues—he and his delightful wife Trudy (Alison Brie) welcome the Drapers and Cosgroves for a dinner party. Perhaps appropriate for the only season of Mad Men where we don’t see him engaging in extramarital romance, Don allows his new wife Megan (Jessica Paré) to talk him into swapping his staid suit jacket out for a loudly checked sports coat more on trend for the middle of the swingin’ sixties. Continue reading

Dennis Haysbert’s Brown Plaid Jacket in Far From Heaven

Dennis Haysbert as Raymond Deagan in Far From Heaven (2002)

Dennis Haysbert as Raymond Deagan in Far From Heaven (2002)

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Dennis Haysbert as Raymond Deagan, affable gardener and widowed father

Suburban Connecticut, Fall 1957 into Winter 1958

Film: Far From Heaven
Release Date: November 8, 2002
Director: Todd Haynes
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Todd Haynes’ 1950s-set Far From Heaven paid homage to Douglas Sirk’s visually stunning mid-century melodramas like All That Heaven AllowsImitation of LifeMagnificent Obsession, and Written on the Wind, addressing themes of love, class, and race, often against stunningly idyllic autumnal backdrops that belie the intense personal dramas beyond those white picket fences and manicured lawns.

After years of semi-satisfied suburban life, well-to-do housewife Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) finds herself in a maelstrom of conflict after discovering her husband’s homosexuality as well as her own feelings for Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), the son of her family’s late gardener whose race has her “friends” and neighbors clutching their proverbial pearls in reaction to the developing relationship between the two. Continue reading

The Beetlejuice Striped Suit

Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice (1988)

Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice (1988)

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Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse, boorish “bio-exorcist”

Connecticut, Summer 1987

Film: Beetlejuice
Release Date: March 30, 1988
Director: Tim Burton
Costume Designer: Aggie Guerard Rodgers

Background

Happy Halloween!

As delightfully and unapologetically weird as its director, Beetlejuice was Tim Burton’s follow-up to his directorial debut, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The darkly comic story about a recently deceased couple summoning an unprincipled poltergeist was developed by Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren, and Larry Wilson, with Burton channeling the cheap B-movies of decades past in his interpretation that balanced humor and horror.

In less than a decade of screen roles, Michael Keaton had already established a range of versatility between zany comedy (Night Shift) and thoughtful drama (Clean and Sober) before he took on the outlandish quasi-title role as the uh, well, Julliard-trained Betelgeuse. Continue reading

Gregory Peck as The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Gregory Peck as Tom Rath in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)

Gregory Peck as Tom Rath in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)

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Gregory Peck as Tom Rath, hardworking business writer haunted by his war service

New York City and suburban Connecticut, Fall 1955

Film: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
Release Date: April 12, 1956
Director: Nunnally Johnson
Wardrobe Director: Charles Le Maire

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Born 105 years ago today on April 5, 1916, Gregory Peck enjoyed one of his most celebrated—and notably tailored—performances in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Nunnally Johnson’s 1956 adaptation of the Sloan Wilson novel of the same name.

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Dennis Haysbert’s Yellow Plaid Coat in Far From Heaven

Dennis Haysbert as Raymond Deagan in Far From Heaven (2002)

Dennis Haysbert as Raymond Deagan in Far From Heaven (2002)

Vitals

Dennis Haysbert as Raymond Deagan, affable gardener and widowed father

Suburban Connecticut, Fall 1957

Film: Far From Heaven
Release Date: November 8, 2002
Director: Todd Haynes
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell

Background

A recent Instagram post from my friend @chimesatmidnight reminded me of the fantastic fall style and autumnal aesthetic in Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes’ tribute to the incandescent melodramas directed by Douglas Sirk in the 1950s. Influenced by movies like All that Heaven Allows, Imitation of Life, and Written on the Wind, Haynes employed techniques from the era to provide the same idyllic mid-century look, feel, and sound, with the help of Elmer Bernstein’s original score, Kelley Baker’s sound, the richly detailed world created by production designer Mark Friedberg, and Edward Lachman’s thoughtful cinematography.

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Christmas in Connecticut: Chief Quartermaster Jones

Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

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Dennis Morgan as Jefferson Jones, U.S. Navy Chief Quartermaster and war hero

Connecticut, Christmas 1944

Film: Christmas in Connecticut
Release Date: August 11, 1945
Director: Peter Godfrey

Background

Something about a naval uniform always reminds me of the holidays. Maybe it’s the happy homecoming of the heroic Commander Harry Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, or maybe it’s the charming naval hero in Christmas in Connecticut who finds himself instantly falling for Barbara Stanwyck (relatable enough) after he arrives on her doorstep to spend a memorable holiday in New England. Continue reading