Tagged: Criminal

Pulp Fiction: Tim Roth’s Surfer Shirt

Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction (1994)

Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction (1994)

Vitals

Tim Roth as “Pumpkin”, aka “Ringo”, an otherwise unnamed small-time crook

Los Angeles, Summer 1992

Film: Pulp Fiction
Release Date: October 14, 1994
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Now that it’s summer—and already a hot one!—I’ve started rotating my favorite aloha shirts and tropical prints into my wardrobe. Luckily for me, bright Hawaiian-style resort shirts have been undergoing a wave of revival each summer, perhaps encouraged by Brad Pitt’s now-famous yellow aloha shirt in Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Style in QT’s early movies typically conjures the well-armed professional criminals in their uniforms of black suits, white shirts, and black ties, but outside of this lethal look, characters in the Tarantino-verse often pulled from the Hawaiian shirts in their closet. The first example would be Harvey Keitel’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it palm-print shirt before taking Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange for tacos in Reservoir Dogs. Two years later, it was Roth himself that would be tropically attired for the next of Tarantino’s defining cinematic works. Continue reading

John Garfield in He Ran All the Way

John Garfield as Nick Robey in He Ran All the Way

John Garfield as Nick Robey in He Ran All the Way (1951)

Vitals

John Garfield as Nick Robey, desperate small-time thief

Los Angeles, Summer 1951

Film: He Ran All the Way
Release Date: June 19, 1951
Director: John Berry
Wardrobe Credit: Joe King

Background

John Garfield, one of the most talented and naturalistic actors of Hollywood’s “golden age”, died 70 years ago today on May 21, 1952. Garfield had long been troubled with heart health issues, but it’s been argued that the resulting stress brought on by harassment from the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee contributed to his early death at the age of 39, nearly a year after the release of his final film, He Ran All the Way (1951).

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Goodfellas: Tommy’s Gray Suit for Mob Mayhem and Mom Visits

Joe Pesci in Goodfellas

Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas (1990)

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Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito, volatile and violent Mafia associate

New York, Spring 1970

Film: Goodfellas
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Happy Mother’s Day! One of my favorite cinematic sequences depicting the relationship between a son and his mother comes by way of my favorite movie, in which master auteur Martin Scorsese cast his own mother Catherine as the charming Mrs. DeVito, mother to the psychotic gangster Tommy (Joe Pesci) who brings his cohorts Henry (Ray Liotta) and Jimmy (Robert De Niro) seeking a shovel in a covert night-time stop to fetch a shovel… only to be sweet-talked into an early breakfast.

Catherine Scorsese endearingly embodies the familiar archetype of the aging Italian-American matriarch with her plastic-covered furniture, the gift to effortlessly slip between American English and Italian dialects, and the fierce desire to feed her children and their friends… regardless of whether they’re hungry or not. Continue reading

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in Joker (2019)

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Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, aka “Joker”, disturbed and disgraced ex-party clown

Gotham City, Fall 1981

Film: Joker
Release Date: October 4, 2019
Director: Todd Phillips
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges

Background

Could there be a more appropriate character to focus on for April Fool’s Day than the Joker?

When I was growing up, the only two actors who had prominently portrayed Gotham City’s psychopathic prankster were Cesar Romero in the classic ’60s series and Jack Nicholson, who received top billing despite not playing the title role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. Since then, we’ve seen a handful of actors cycle through the iconic role, beginning with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008), a few appearances by Ben Affleck and Jared Leto, and most recently a smaller part performed by Barry Keoghan in The Batman (2022).

Joaquin Phoenix received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the eponymous role in Joker, a reimagined origin story that pays significant homage to Martin Scorsese’s character studies like Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1983)—both starring Robert De Niro, who would appear in Joker—as well as twists of social commentary and themes from Death Wish (1973) and Fight Club (1999).

Many loved it and many hated it, but there’s little doubting Phoenix’s effectiveness intensity chronicling the troubled Arthur Fleck’s transformation from a desperate wannabe stand-up comedian who feels let down by society into a chaotic killer who unintentionally inspires anarchic revolution and class warfare. Continue reading

Tony Soprano’s Nautical Vacation Shirt in “Remember When”

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano on The Sopranos

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano on The Sopranos, Episode 6.15: “Remember When”

Vitals

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss

Miami Beach, Fall 2007

Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Remember When” (Episode 6.15)
Air Date: April 22, 2007
Director: Phil Abraham
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa

Background

Even gangsters get to go on spring break! Of course, being gangsters, Tony Soprano’s trip to Florida with Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) is less about tequila shots on the beach and more about laying low to avoid the heat after an old murder resurfaces from 1982… but the two wiseguys still get plenty of time to relax in the sun while the remaining arm of the DeMeo crime family scrambles to control any potential damage. Continue reading

Point Blank: Lee Marvin’s Flashback N-1 Deck Jacket

Lee Marvin as Walker in Point Blank (1967)

Lee Marvin as Walker in Point Blank (1967)

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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

Background

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

Paul Newman’s Tan Work Jacket as Butch Cassidy

Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

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Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy, affable leader of the Hole-in-the-Wall bandit gang

Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, Fall 1898

Film: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Release Date: September 23, 1969
Director: George Roy Hill
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

“He speaks well and quickly, and has been all his life a leader of men; but if you asked him, he would be damned if he could tell you why,” William Goldman introduced Robert Leroy Parker in his Academy Award-winning screenplay, inspired by the true story of Parker and his partner-in-crime Harry Longabaugh… aka Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, respectively. Continue reading

M: The Safecracker

Gustaf Gründgens in M (1931)

Gustaf Gründgens in M (1931)

Vitals

Gustaf Gründgens as “The Safecracker”, criminal community leader

Berlin, Fall 1930

Film: M
(German title: M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder)
Release Date: May 11, 1931
Director: Fritz Lang

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Fritz Lang’s groundbreaking masterpiece M was released 90 years ago. Self-described by the director as his magnum opus, M drew on the wave of sadistic child-murderers that had terrorized Germany through the previous decade—monsters like Carl Großmann, Fritz Haarmann, and Peter Kürten—to create a fictionalized cautionary tale centered around the crimes of Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), a creepy little killer who signals his presence by whistling “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, one of the first leitmotifs on screen as Lang experimented with the capabilities of sound in his first non-silent film.

As the increased police attention has disrupted Berlin’s underworld, the ruthless master criminal known only as “Der Schränker” (The Safecracker) calls together the city’s crime lords to form a united front against the killer. Continue reading

Miami Blues: Pink Blazer and Pastel Plaid Pants

Alec Baldwin in Miami Blues (1990)

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Alec Baldwin as Frederick J. Frenger Jr., sociopathic ex-con

Miami, Fall 1989

Film: Miami Blues
Release Date: April 20, 1990
Director: George Armitage
Costume Designer: Eugenie Bafaloukos

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

I wanted to write about some pastels leading up to Easter and stumbled upon this chaotic look from Miami Blues, an adaptation of Charles Willeford’s 1984 novel that was the first in his Hoke Moseley series. “Nobody writes a better crime novel,” Elmore Leonard had once said of Willeford, who died in March 1988, two years before the novel made it to the screen. Miami Blues was only the second cinematic adaptation of a Willeford novel, following the 1974 release of Cockfighter starring Warren Oates.

Fred Ward—who also served as executive producer—starred as Moseley while Alec Baldwin (who celebrates his 63rd birthday today) played the sociopathic Frederick J. Frenger Jr., wreaking havoc through the Magic City with a badge stolen from Moseley. Continue reading

James Caan in Thief: Frank’s ’80s Gray Leather Blousons

James Caan as Frank in Thief (1981)

James Caan as Frank in Thief (1981)

Vitals

James Caan as Frank, professional jewel thief

Chicago, Spring 1980

Film: Thief
Release Date: March 27, 1981
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Supervisor: Jodie Lynn Tillen

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Considered by many to be one of the director’s best movies, Michal Mann’s debut Thief was released in theaters 40 years ago today. Thief established many of what would become Mann trademarks, from its “principled” yet ruthless professional character who expertly handles a .45 to the setting city elevated to a secondary character itself, particularly its less glamorous underbelly as photographed at night. (Originally titled Violent Streets, even the one-word title would become a Mann signature as evidenced by his future features AliBlackhat, Collateral, Heat, and Manhunter.)

Mann adapted the 1975 novel The Home Invaders: Confessions of a Cat Burglar by real-life thief John Seybold (writing as “Frank Hohimer”) for his screen debut, retaining the first name of Seybold’s nom de plume for the taciturn thief that would be memorably played by James Caan, who celebrated his 81st birthday yesterday.

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