Albert Finney as Liam “Leo” O’Bannon, Irish Mob-connected political boss
Upstate New York, Fall 1929
Film: Miller’s Crossing
Release Date: September 21, 1990
Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Costume Designer: Aude Bronson-Howard
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Following an assassination attempt that he foiled with his Thompson artistry, small-town political boss Leo O’Bannon summons his troops to his office. One of said troops, Hammett-esque anti-hero Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) uses the opportunity to earn the ire of his boss by revealing his affair with Leo’s main squeeze, Verna (Marcia Gay Harden).
John Travolta as Chili Palmer, Miami loan shark and aspiring filmmaker
Los Angeles, Winter 1995
Film: Get Shorty
Release Date: October 20, 1995
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann
December is here, and while you may not be in the mood yet for that “bold” Christmas sweater with working lights (these exist!), a nice warm long-sleeve polo in a reddish, rustic shade is the perfect layer for transitioning from the fall harvest season into the chilly first weekend of the holiday month.
Of course, in the L.A. of Get Shorty, the sun is brightly shining on Chili Palmer and his new acquaintances in the film industry as he takes a meeting with the eccentric pint-sized superstar Martin Weir (Danny DeVito), supposedly based on Dustin Hoffman after Elmore Leonard’s experiences working with him in the ’80s. Continue reading
Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1927
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
I’m wrapping up what turned out to be a week focused on classic gangster style with a look at one of my favorite mob movies, the original Scarface released in 1932. Both the film and its source novel of the same name by Armitage Trail (Maurice R. Coons) were undoubtedly inspired by the rise and fall of Chicago kingpin Al Capone, who reportedly grew to love the film so much that the owned his own print of it.
Tony Camonte’s rise through the underworld is depicted by a Thompson submachine gun blowing through the pages of a calendar, stopping somewhere around Friday, August 26, for the action to begin. (August 26 fell on a Friday in 1927 and 1932; as the events that inspired the film occurred throughout the 1920s and production wrapped in mid-1931, it’s safe to assume that this scene picks up the action around the late summer of 1927. Anyway…)
Spectacularly attired in a bold new suit, Tony runs into Poppy (Karen Morley), his boss’s platinum blonde moll, who is getting a little warmer to Tony’s form after his repeated attempts at seduction. Continue reading
Warren Oates as John Dillinger, Depression-era bank robber
Indiana, Fall 1933
Release Date: July 20, 1973
Director: John Milius
Costume Designer: James M. George
Eighty four years ago tonight – November 15, 1933. Four police cars converge on a small office building on Irving Park Boulevard in the Chicago Loop. In an upstairs doctor’s office, one of the most wanted men in the tri-state area is being treated for either a ringworm infection or “barber’s itch,” an inflammation of hair follicles, depending on which account you read. On the floor below, a cagey informant named Art McGinnis is signaling desperately to police that their quarry is upstairs. Fate, however, is on the side of the outlaw, a thirty-year-old bank robber named John Dillinger. Continue reading
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
New Jersey, Fall 2007
Series: The Sopranos
– “Moe n’ Joe” (Episode 6.10, dir. Steve Shill, aired May 14, 2006)
– “Cold Stones” (Episode 6.11, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired May 21, 2006)
– “Walk Like a Man” (Episode 6.17, dir. Terence Winter, aired May 6, 2007)
– “The Second Coming” (Episode 6.19, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired May 20, 2007)
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers (and a rather graphic screenshot) ahead! Continue reading
Emile Hirsch as Clyde Barrow, amateur armed robber
Texas, Spring 1932
Series Title: Bonnie and Clyde
Air Date: December 8, 2013
Director: Bruce Beresford
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Earlier this week, I posted about the (possibly brown) single-breasted, peak-lapel suit worn by Derrick De Marney in Hitchcock’s 1930s thriller Young and Innocent. Today’s post expands on that theme, exploring a similar suit worn by another desperate young man on the run during the 1930s.
Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, maverick Depression-era bank robber
Chicago, Spring 1934
Film: Public Enemies
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
It’s been quite some time since I’ve visited Public Enemies, the Michael Mann-directed action thriller depicting the life and crimes of Depression-era desperado John Dillinger. The film received mixed to positive reviews upon its release with much of the praise going to Michael Mann’s usual attention to detail as well as Johnny Depp’s performance as the Indiana-born outlaw.
Colleen Atwood’s period costumes are also worthy of attention and praise. High fashion was the signifier of success for Depression-era gangsters, and Dillinger rarely led his gun-toting cronies into a bank without being dressed to the nines.
Even when on the run, such as this scene set not long after Dillinger’s narrow escape from an FBI ambush at the Little Bohemia lodge in Wisconsin, John Dillinger made a consistent effort to dress well. (The film plays with historical accuracy to present its own narrative, pushing Billie Frechette’s arrest to after the Little Bohemia raid; in real life, Billie was arrested on April 9, 1934, two weeks before Melvin Purvis’ federal agents attempted to trap the Dillinger gang at Little Bohemia.) Continue reading