Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke, “King of Soul”
Miami, February 25, 1964
Film: One Night in Miami
Release Date: December 25, 2020
Director: Regina King
Costume Designer: Francine Jamison-Tanchuck
Soul legend Sam Cooke was born 90 years ago today, on January 22, 1931. Although Cooke died young, shot at a Beverly Hills motel just over a month before his 34th birthday, his smooth voice endures as the pioneering “King of Soul” who not only wrote and recorded scores of classic hits but also supported, produced, and influenced some of the most talented musicians of the day.
A week ago today, One Night in Miami was released to stream on Amazon Prime Video, adapted by Kemp Powers from his own one-act play. The night in question is February 25, 1964, the night that Cassius Clay won the world heavyweight boxing championship in a surprise victory over Sonny Liston. Powers brings Clay together to celebrate his victory with Cooke, Malcolm X, and Jim Brown on a night that proves to be pivotal for all four icons. Continue reading
Spencer Tracy as John J. Macreedy, one-armed war veteran
Black Rock, California, Fall 1945
Film: Bad Day at Black Rock
Release Date: January 7, 1955
Director: John Sturges
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Bad Day at Black Rock may have been one of the most requested movies I’ve been asked to write about, so when I saw that the Criterion Channel had added it to their streaming collection in December, I wasted no time in finally watching this swift and spectacular thriller that had been recommended by so many of you.
Based on Howard Breslin’s short story “Bad Time at Honda”, the account begins in the sprawling desert of eastern California, specifically the isolated berg of Black Rock, where no train has stopped in four years—the duration of American participation in World War II—until this particular day in late 1945, when the one-armed John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) requests a stop.
Conductor: Man, they look woebegone and far away.
Macreedy: Oh, I’ll only be here 24 hours.
Conductor: In a place like this, it could be a lifetime.
Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough Mafia enforcer
Philadelphia, Christmas 1960
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
Last year’s holiday season, there was plenty of buzz around The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s latest mob epic which had been released to Netflix following a brief limited theatrical run. At 209 minutes, The Irishman clocked in as Scorsese’s longest movie to date, following real-life enforcer Frank Sheeran (Robert de Niro) through his connections to the mob via Philadelphia boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his friendship with outspoken labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).
Everything seems to change for the boys after the Kennedy administration puts the mob in the government’s crosshairs, but they get one final moment of peace at Christmas 1960, just less than a month before JFK would take office. Frank and Russell gather with their families for an intimate holiday celebration where the only real tension is Frank’s 11-year-old daughter Peggy withholding her affection for the Bufalino patriarch, refusing to see him as a benevolent “Uncle Russell” despite his Christmas gift of skates lined with a C-note.
On #MafiaMonday with just a week until Christmas, let’s look a little deeper at Frank Sheeran’s seasonal style during this brief holiday scene. Continue reading
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
New Jersey, Fall 2001
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “The Weight” (Episode 4.04)
Air Date: October 6, 2002
Director: Jack Bender
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
I know it’s only been a week since my last post about the style of The Sopranos, but I have a great reason for returning to my favorite show as today happens to be the birthday of my friend Gabe, the hardworking curator of @tonysopranostyle on Instagram. Having attained more than 30,000 followers in less than a year on the platform, @tonysopranostyle remains an authoritative and entertaining source of information for everything James Gandolfini wore during his iconic tenure portraying the boss of the New Jersey Mafia, from his boldly printed shirts and velvet tracksuits to his gold jewelry and cigars.
Not just an expert, Gabe also puts his money where his mouth is, tracking down and purchasing many shirts in the original designs from the manufacturers who were sourced by costume designer Juliet Polcsa for the series. Gabe started his collection in late 2016 when, having read Christopher Hooton’s interview with Polcsa for The Independent, he used the brands cited by Polcsa to find a black Alan Stuart shirt with the same scattered abstract pattern that Gandolfini wore for a few scenes in the fourth season episode “The Weight”. Continue reading
Richard Burton as Dr. Edward Hewitt, boarding school headmaster
Big Sur, California, Spring 1965
Film: The Sandpiper
Release Date: June 23, 1965
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff
Today would have been the 95th birthday of Richard Burton, the Welsh actor born November 10, 1925 perhaps best known for his Shakespearean talent and his back-to-back marriages with frequent co-star Elizabeth Taylor.
After engaging in an affair during the course of their first two films, Cleopatra (1963) and The V.I.P.s (1963), Liz and Dick finally tyed the knot—for the first time—on March 15, 1964, shortly before production commenced on their third film together, The Sandpiper. Continue reading
Montgomery Clift as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, U.S. Army bugler and “thirty-year man”
Honolulu, Hawaii, Summer through Fall 1941
Film: From Here to Eternity
Release Date: August 5, 1953
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Costume Designer: Jean Louis
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
April showers are said to bring May flowers, so let’s get into the spirit of the season with the classic floral shirts in From Here to Eternity, an adaptation of James Jones’ novel set on a U.S. Army infantry base in Hawaii during the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious advertising creative director
New York City, Spring 1960 and 1962
Series: Mad Men
– “5G” (Episode 1.05), dir. Lesli Linka Glatter, aired 8/16/2007
– “Red in the Face” (Episode 1.07), dir. Tim Hunter, aired 8/30/2007
– “The New Girl” (Episode 2.05), dir. Jennifer Getzinger, aired 8/24/2008
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Happy birthday to Jon Hamm, born March 10, 1971, and arguably most famous for his Emmy-winning performance on AMC’s Mad Men as suave 1960s ad man Don Draper.
Donald Draper? What kinda name is that?
Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, U.S. Army captain and popular entertainer
European Theater, Christmas Eve 1944
Film: White Christmas
Release Date: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Merry Christmas Eve! The prologue of perennial holiday cinema classic White Christmas begins exactly 75 years ago today, Christmas Eve 1944, as the title card tells us…
Private First Class Phil Davis is proudly assisting Captain Bob Wallace, evidently a known entertainer on par with Al Jolson, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, or—um—Bing Crosby, as they host a “yuletide clambake” for the men of the fictitious 151st Division, providing the type of entertainment that Davis boasts would cost $6.60 or even $8.80 stateside. Continue reading
Richard Burton as Paul Andros, millionaire industrialist
Heathrow Airport, London, Winter 1963
Film: The V.I.P.s
(also released as Hotel International)
Release Date: September 19, 1963
Director: Anthony Asquith
Costume Designer: Pierre Cardin (uncredited)
As December continues and plans are being made to travel home for the holidays, we’d be well-served to recall Anthony Asquith’s paean to the Jet Age, The V.I.P.s, a lavish and star-studded drama released five years after more passengers were making their transatlantic crossings by air than by sea.
Also known as Hotel International, The V.I.P.s was released in September 1963, just three months after Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton scandalized the silver screen in Cleopatra. Though Cleopatra met with polarizing reviews, the buzz around Taylor and Burton’s illicit affair generated enough buzz about their subsequent cinematic collaboration, though The V.I.P.s was a relatively tame effort when compared to the Egyptian epic that had been the most expensive movie ever made at the time of its release.
Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, determined psychiatrist
Illinois, Halloween 1978
Release Date: October 25, 1978
Director: John Carpenter
Wardrobe Credit: Beth Rodgers
Based on a timely recommendation that I received from my friend @agentlemansarmour leading up to Halloween last year, I’d like to commemorate October 31 this year with a look at John Carpenter’s Halloween, the influential 1978 horror flick cited as kicking off the “Golden Age” of slasher movies and one of the most successful and profitable independent films of all time, grossing more than $70 million with a budget of less than $325,000. The suggestion particularly requested a look at the fall-friendly tweed jacket and raincoat worn by the movie’s ostensible protagonist, knowledgable psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis as portrayed by Donald Pleasence, who would reprise the role four more times before Malcolm McDowell took over for Rob Zombie’s 2007 reboot.