Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter, cynical CIA agent
Jamaica, Spring 2020
Film: No Time to Die
Release Date: September 30, 2021
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Costume Designer: Suttirat Anne Larlarb
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
On the 00-7th of August, let’s celebrate the return of Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter to the 007 franchise in No Time to Die. Years after the events of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, Felix and his politically appointed State Department crony Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen) track down the now-retired James Bond (Daniel Craig) to his secluded life in Jamaica, hoping to recruit him into assisting them in locating a missing MI6 scientist.
“It’ll be like old times,” Leiter pitches to Bond over beers, adding that “I wanna get back to my family, tell ’em I saved the world again!” Continue reading
Don Johnson as Harry Madox, drifter and used car salesman
Texas, Summer 1990
Film: The Hot Spot
Release Date: October 12, 1990
Director: Dennis Hopper
Costume Designer: Mary Kay Stolz
I’m wrapping up this summer’s #CarWeek with the under-discussed neo-noir The Hot Spot, made among the wave of sweaty erotic crime dramas of the ’80s and ’90s exemplified by movies like Body Heat through Basic Instinct.
Don Johnson was nearing the end of his star-making tenure on Miami Vice when he was tapped for The Hot Spot‘s leading role as Harry Madox, an enigmatic drifter whose arrival in the quiet Texas berg of Landers sets forth a series of events straight out of James M. Cain or Jim Thompson’s poison pen.
The Hot Spot comes by its pulp credentials honestly, adapted from Charles Williams’ 1952 novel Hell Hath No Fury and originally intended to be adapted as a Robert Mitchum vehicle in the early ’60s. Though set in the present, The Hot Spot retains much of this retro style inspired by the era of its original conception, as seen in many of the costumes and cars, most specifically Harry’s black ’59 Studebaker Silver Hawk that he drives into town. Continue reading
Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough Mafia enforcer
New Castle, Delaware, Summer 1962
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
Tailor: Leonard Logsdail
I recently had the pleasure to rejoin my friends Pete Brooker and Ken Stauffer (@oceansographer) on Pete’s podcast From Tailors With Love, discussing The Irishman with master tailor Leonard Logsdail, who crafted many suits for the movie’s principals.
While recording the episode—released today and available to download via iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify—I had the opportunity to ask Leonard firsthand about one of my favorite sartorial moments from the film, the gold-suited reveal of a newly elevated Frank Sheeran as president of his local union, Teamsters #326, headquartered about 40 miles southwest of Philadelphia in New Castle, Delaware.
The Irishman dramatizes the decades-long association between Sheeran, labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and the mob, uniting cinematic tough guys Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel with director Martin Scorsese in a movie that’s less a flashy chronicle of mob history (like Goodfellas and Casino) and more a meditation on age and loyalty in a violent world. Continue reading
Philip Baker Hall as Richard M. Nixon, disgraced former U.S. President
New Jersey, early 1980s
Film: Secret Honor
Release Date: July 6, 1984
Director: Robert Altman
This week, we learned that the great Philip Baker Hall died at the age of 90. Familiar as a recurring face in Paul Thomas Anderson movies and as the anachronistic, straight-talking “library cop” Bookman on an early Seinfeld episode, Hall’s breakthrough screen performance was reprising his stage role as a disgraced Richard Nixon in Secret Honor.
“You have read in the press the reasons for the Watergate affair. Today, my client is going to reveal to you the reasons behind the reasons,” Hall narrates into a tape recorder as the now-former President Nixon. It was fifty years ago today when five burglars were caught breaking into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate hotel, igniting a political scandal that resulted in the fall of a president and a widespread cynical distrust of American government.
Subtitled “A Political Myth”, Secret Honor was originally a one-man play written by Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone, who adapted their work for Robert Altman’s film of the same name. Avoiding caricature of an easily caricatured man, Hall portrayed Nixon—the only human who ever appears on screen—who spends the film’s hour-and-a-half runtime ranting to the contents of his study, specifically a tape recorder, an increasingly empty bottle of Scotch, a loaded revolver, his mother’s grand piano, and portraits of presidents and significant figures in his life from Henry Kissinger to his own mother. Continue reading
Adam Sandler as Barry Egan, anxious novelty swag entrepreneur
San Fernando Valley (and Hawaii), Spring 2002
Film: Punch-Drunk Love
Release Date: October 11, 2002
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
Though it would be widely released in theaters five months later, today marks the 20th anniversary of when Paul Thomas Anderson’s offbeat romantic comedy Punch-Drunk Love premiered at Cannes in May 19, 2002.
A fan of his work in lower-brow ’90s comedies like Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy, Anderson had been interested in collaborating with Adam Sandler, sensing the greater dramatic potential under his distinctive comedic signature. The unconventional casting choice baffled entertainment journalists and even Sandler himself, though he delivered a career-high performance as Punch-Drunk Love‘s central character, Barry Egan. Continue reading
On George Clooney’s 61st birthday, I’m pleased to present another guest post contributed by my friend Ken Stauffer, who had also covered the actor’s plaid suit in Out of Sight and Clooney’s fashionable co-star Brad Pitt from this same scene in Ocean’s Eleven. You can learn more from him about the style of the Ocean’s film series on his Instagram account, @oceansographer.
George Clooney as Danny Ocean, recently paroled con man and casino heister
Los Angeles, Spring 2001
Film: Ocean’s Eleven
Release Date: December 7, 2001
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Costume Designer: Jeffrey Kurland
Tailor: Dominic Gherardi
Happy birthday to George Clooney, who turns 61 today! To celebrate, we’re looking back at one of his most striking tailored looks in Ocean’s Eleven, the movie which arguably made him a household name and cemented his image as a suave leading man.
The film opens with Clooney’s Danny Ocean being released from North Jersey State Prison on a frigid winter morning. After a shave and a wardrobe change, his first stop is Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza to find Frank Caton (Bernie Mac), a fellow career criminal currently eking out a living under an alias as a blackjack dealer. Within a handful of lines, we learn that Danny is on the hunt for Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), whom he quickly learns is now “teaching movie stars how to play cards.” A day later, the parolee has flown across the country to rope in his felonious old friend at a Hollywood nightclub. Continue reading
Harry Belafonte as David Boyeur, popular local politician
On the fictional Caribbean island of Santa Marta, Spring 1955
Film: Island in the Sun
Release Date: June 12, 1957
Director: Robert Rossen
Costume Design: Phyllis Dalton & David Ffolkes
Tomorrow will be the 95th birthday of Harry Belafonte, the singer, actor, and activist born March 1, 1927. Belafonte has tireless worked in show business and to advance social causes since beginning his recording career in the late 1940s. Though he’s narrated documentaries and appeared sporadically in features in the decades since, his screen acting career were primarily throughout the ’50s in features ranging from the musicals that made obvious use of his singing talent to drama, sci-fi, and noir.
Belafonte co-starred with Dorothy Dandridge in his first three films, their collaborations concluding in the colorfully lush drama Island in the Sun, based on Alec Waugh’s novel of the same name. The eponymous island was said to be the fictitious “Santa Marta” in the Caribbean, though actually filmed on location in Barbaos and Grenada through the fall of 1956. Continue reading
Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith, newspaper cartoonist and crusading crime investigator
San Francisco Bay Area, Fall 1975 thorough summer 1979
Release Date: March 2, 2007
Director: David Fincher
Costume Designer: Casey Storm
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
By the mid-1970s, active investigations for the infamous Zodiac Killer had cooled; the intrepid San Francisco detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) had been urged to refocus his efforts, his partner Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) had requested to move on, and investigative reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) was no longer writing about the case… leaving the burden of investigation in the surprising hands of San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith. Continue reading
Jack Lemmon as Stanley Ford, comic strip artist and dedicated bachelor
New York City, Summer 1964
Film: How to Murder Your Wife
Release Date: September 20, 1965
Director: Richard Quine
Wardrobe: Izzy Berne & Marie Osborne
On what would have been the birthday of one of my favorite actors—Jack Lemmon, born February 8, 1925—I want to revisit his style in the first of his filmography that I had ever seen, the swingin’ ’60s comedy How to Murder Your Wife which, as the title implies, balances black comedy with classic screwball elements.
Lemmon stars as Stanley Ford, a successful newspaper cartoonist whose spun his success writing the daily adventures of super-spy “Bash Brannigan” into an enviable bachelor lifestyle, complete with a swanky Lenox Hill townhouse and his devoted valet Charles (Terry-Thomas), whose daily duties include cleaning up after Stanley’s latest romantic conquests, providing reassurance and advice, and ensuring that a “properly chilled” vodka martini awaits Stanley at the end of each day. Continue reading
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Howard Langston,
massive Austrian bodybuilder midwestern mattress sales executive and family man
Minneapolis, Christmas Eve 1996
Film: Jingle All the Way
Release Date: November 22, 1996
Director: Brian Levant
Costume Designer: Jay Hurley
With only a few more shopping days left until Christmas, some may still be scrambling for that perfect gift to put under the tree. This family-friendly ’90s comedy satirized the lengths to which people had to go in the blessed pre-Amazon days, represented by Minneapolis mattress king Howard Langston’s increasingly desperate attempts to track down a prized Turbo-Man action figure for his son… on Christmas Eve!