Waylon Jennings, outlaw country star
Hazzard County, Georgia, Fall 1984
Series: The Dukes of Hazzard
Episode: “Welcome, Waylon Jennings” (Episode 7.02)
Air Date: September 28, 1984
Director: Bob Sweeney
Creator: Gy Waldron
Costume Supervisor: Bob Christenson
After six seasons as Hazzard County’s official off-screen “balladeer”, country legend Waylon Jennings finally showed more than just his hands on the long-running series about those two celebrated good ol’ boys.
James Stewart as John “Chip” Hardesty, earnest FBI agent
Oklahoma, June 1930
Film: The FBI Story
Release Date: October 1959
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Costume Designer: Adele Palmer
One of the greatest stars of the 20th century, James Stewart—known to friends and fans as “Jimmy”—was born on this day in 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, just about an hour west of Pittsburgh.
Among the less celebrated titles in the actor’s extensive filmography is The FBI Story, a J. Edgar Hoover-influenced epic exploring the early successes of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Jimmy plays our fictional all-American agent John “Chip” Hardesty, whose Forrest Gump-like decades-long career with the Bureau includes a role in nearly every major investigation from tracking down the bank-robbing “Public Enemies” of the Depression and World War II spies to the bombing of United Flight 629 in 1955.
An interesting chapter of The FBI Story sends Chip to Oklahoma in the summer of 1930 to investigate the “Reign of Terror” in Osage County, Oklahoma, represented on screen as the obsoletely named “Wade County”. These murders of dozens of Osage Native Americans throughout the ’20s were recently explored by David Grann in his fascinating book, Killers of the Flower Moon, which provided the basis for a Martin Scorsese film of the same name currently in production starring Jesse Plemons, Robert De Niro, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Continue reading
M. Emmet Walsh as Loren Visser, sleazy private detective
Texas, Fall 1982
Film: Blood Simple
Release Date: January 18, 1985
Director: Joel & Ethan Coen
Costume Designer: Sara Medina-Pape
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Spring is officially here, the season of warmer weather and bright colors… though a tacky yellow leisure suit may not be exactly what you had in mind! On the 86th birthday of prolific character actor M. Emmet Walsh, today’s post explores his eccentric but dangerous private eye in Blood Simple, the directorial debut of brothers Joel and Ethan Coen.
Glenn Ford as Ben Wade, bandit leader
Arizona Territory, 1880s
Film: 3:10 to Yuma
Release Date: August 7, 1957
Director: Delmer Daves
Costume Designer: Jean Louis
Looking for a movie to watch on 3/10? I recommend 3:10 to Yuma, the swift, suspenseful, and compelling Western based on an early short story by Elmore Leonard.
Modern audiences may be more familiar with the 2007 adaptation starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale as the outlaw and the rancher, respectively, though the original black-and-white version was produced in 1957, four years after Leonard’s story was published in Dime Western Magazine.
A decade before revisionist Westerns would become fashionable in “New Hollywood”, the original 3:10 to Yuma followed in the allegorical tradition of High Noon (1952) with complex characters and moral questions that paint a worldview where the concept of right and wrong are less black and white than the cinematography.
Clark Gable as Gay Langland, aging cowboy
Nevada desert, Summer 1960
Film: The Misfits
Release Date: February 1, 1961
Director: John Huston
The Misfits was released sixty years ago today on what would have been star Clark Gable’s 60th birthday. As the actor died three months earlier in November 1960 (just days after filming wrapped), audiences strolling into the theater were already aware that it had been the screen icon’s swan song but were tragically unaware that it would be the last for Marilyn Monroe, who died in 1962 before she could complete production in Something’s Gotta Give.
As it turned out, none of the film’s leading trio would survive the decade as third-billed Montgomery Clift died at the age of 45 in July 1966.
Though not warmly received at the time of its release, The Misfits‘ reputation has benefited from contemporary reconsideration over the years as critics have come to appreciate this somewhat offbeat take on a group of lovable losers and no-account boozers, to pinch a phrase from Billy Joe Shaver. Continue reading
Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, U.S. Army Air Cavalry commander and surf fanatic
Vietnam, Summer 1969
Film: Apocalypse Now
Release Date: August 15, 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Supervisor: Charles E. James
Costumers: Luster Bayless, Norman A. Burza, Dennis Fill, and George L. Little
Happy 90th birthday, Robert Duvall! Today’s post looks at one of the most recognizable roles from the actor’s prolific career, his Academy Award-nominated performance as the gung-ho surf enthusiast Colonel Kilgore in Coppola’s war epic Apocalypse Now.
Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s you-probably-had-to-read-it-in-high-school novella Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now needs little introduction, nor does Kilgore’s famous monologue celebrating the aromas of incendiary devices after commanding his 9th Cavalry squadron to attack a VC-held village to the tune of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”.
Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens, old-fashioned Deputy U.S. Marshal
Harlan County, Kentucky, Fall 2011
Episode: “Harlan Roulette” (Episode 3.03)
Air Date: January 31, 2012
Director: Jon Avnet
Creator: Graham Yost
Costume Designer: Patia Prouty
More than two years have passed since I last waxed poetic about Justified, Graham Yost’s continuation of Elmore Leonard’s stories and novels centered around Raylan Givens, a modern-day Deputy U.S. Marshal who brings old west sensibilities and style to his duties. After being criticized by his superiors for his all-too-quick—if justified—trigger finger, Raylan is reassigned to the Eastern District of Kentucky, which includes the coal-mining Harlan County where was raised and acquainted with arch-criminal Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) as well as many other colorful characters who shoot in and out of the series over its six seasons.
As we get closer to the weekend, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite moments from the series as well as Raylan’s characteristically dressed-down off-duty duds.
Burt Reynolds as Bo “the Bandit” Darville, daredevil driver
Texarkana to Atlanta, Summer 1976
Film: Smokey and the Bandit
Release Date: May 27, 1977
Director: Hal Needham
♫ You’ve heard about the legend of Jesse James and John Henry just to mention some names,
Well, there’s a truck-drivin’ legend in the South today, a man called Bandit from Atlanta, GA… ♫
After seven years of biannual Car Week features, how did it take me this long get around to what might be the most famous “car movie” of all? On a day commemorating the anniversary of American independence, it feels appropriate to celebrate Burt Reynolds bedecked in red, white, and blue (or at least red and blue) as he speeds across half the country in a muscle car, all in the name of beer… or as the Bandit himself declares:
For the money, for the glory, and for the fun… but mostly for the money.
Clint Eastwood as Blondie, aka “the Man with No Name”, taciturn bounty hunter
New Mexico Territory, Spring 1862
Film: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(Italian title: Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo)
Release Date: December 23, 1966
Director: Sergio Leone
Costume Designer: Carlo Simi
Today marks the 90th birthday of screen legend Clint Eastwood, born May 31, 1930, in San Francisco. (Between John Wayne on May 26, James Stewart on May 20, and Gary Cooper on May 7, there must be something about being in born in May that positions an actor for stardom in the Western genre!)
After Eastwood’s initial success on the TV series Rawhide, he traveled to Italy to star in a trio of Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, firmly establishing the significance of the “spaghetti Western”. In A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), Eastwood ostensibly played a variation of the same mysterious, laconic gunfighter alternately known as Joe, Manco, or Blondie, respectively, but immortalized in cinema as “the Man with No Name.”
John Wayne as Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, tough Deputy U.S. Marshal
Fort Smith, Arkansas, into Indian Territory, Fall 1880
Film: True Grit
Release Date: June 12, 1969
Director: Henry Hathaway
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Wardrobe: Luster Bayless (uncredited)
To commemorate John Wayne’s birthday 113 years ago today on May 26, 1907, let’s take a look at one of Duke’s most enduring roles and the one that won him the Academy Award after more than forty years making over 200 movies.
Swiftly adapted from Charles Portis’ source novel of the same name, True Grit follows 14-year-old Mattie Ross as she seeks the help of a drunken U.S. Marshal, chosen by virtue of his reputation as the meanest marshal, to avenge the murder of her father. Continue reading