Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent
French Riviera, Summer 1966
Film: Murderers’ Row
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Henry Levin
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Tailor: Sy Devore
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday to Dean Martin, born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio! After a successful singing and acting career that included partnerships with Jerry Lewis and the Rat Pack as well as his own TV show, Dino was tapped for the role of Matt Helm, the American counter-agent at the center of author Donald Hamilton’s espionage novels.
While Hamilton wrote his Matt Helm novels with a serious tone, Dino’s characterization parodied the character as more of a playboy lounge lizard, the American satirical answer to his contemporary womanizer James Bond. Thus, the four Matt Helm movies produced in the late ’60s often starred the popular singer opposite many of the most attractive leading ladies of the decade. Continue reading
Clifton Webb as Richard Ward Sturges, millionaire, estranged family man, and fastidious dresser
RMS Titanic, April 1912
Release Date: April 16, 1953
Director: Jean Negulesco
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Julia: You’re up early.
Richard: I had to scratch around for something to wear. Not a bad shop, they have everything.
Julia: Dinner jackets, I trust.
Richard: Naturally. It will be ready tonight. So… life can go on.
This exchange summarizes the 1953 melodrama Titanic, one of the first attempts to tell the now-infamous story of the real-life sinking of the White Star Line’s premiere ocean liner during its maiden voyage in April 1912, sending more than 1,500 passengers and crew to their deaths as a few more than 700 spend a chilly night in uncovered lifeboats, waiting for help to arrive.
Released 66 years ago tomorrow, 20th Century Fox’s Titanic focuses more on the personal drama of the fictional Sturges family: pretentious and aloof patriarch Richard (Clifton Webb) and his strong-willed, responsible wife Julia (Barbara Stanwyck) who tries to protect their children from taking after their profligate father. Cut from the same cloth as his wickedly snobbish Waldo Lydecker character in Laura, Richard Ward Sturges delights in his children’s obvious preference for him as he showers them with a decadent lifestyle that would no doubt spoil them as adults if not for their more practical mother’s interventions. Continue reading
John Slattery as Roger Sterling, hedonistic Madison Avenue ad executive
New York City, spring 1969 and spring 1970
Series: Mad Men
– “The Monolith” (Episode 7.04), dir. Scott Hornbacher, aired 5/4/2014
– “Severance” (Episode 7.08), dir.Scott Hornbacher, aired 4/5/2015
– “Person to Person” (Episode 7.14), dir.Matthew Weiner, aired 5/17/2015
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Though we in the Northern Hemisphere welcomed spring yesterday, some cities (I can speak personally for Pittsburgh) were greeted by the new season with a fresh onslaught of snowfall.
Bitterness aside… spring often finds well-dressed gents pushing their heavy flannel suits to the back of the closet and bringing forth items perfect for greeting sunnier days ahead. The double-breasted navy blazer remains a stalwart menswear staple for transitioning into the warm and wonderful days of spring, whether sporting it for an evening in the Riviera, greeting the morning on your yacht… or spending the afternoon in your Midtown Manhattan office, counting down the days to retirement.
Naturally, the latter situation brings to mind one Roger Sterling, the increasingly redundant but effortlessly witty Madison Avenue executive on AMC’s Mad Men. Continue reading
David Niven as Colonel Johnny Race, dignified lawyer and war veteran
Egypt, September 1937
Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As we in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy the first full day of summer, BAMF Style is focusing on a classic warm weather look from the quintessential gentleman, David Niven. Niven’s character, Colonel Johnny Race, was written as an MI5 agent in Christie’s novels but appears here to be more of a lawyer who is tasked with a murder investigation due to his long friendship with Poirot and his dignified upper class standing.
David Niven was one of many stars featured in the trio of lavish Agatha Christie murder mystery adaptations in the ’70s and ’80s that were often studded with a cavalcade of international acting talent. 1978’s Death on the Nile alone featured Niven, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, and Maggie Smith plus the decade’s Shakespearean newcomers Jon Finch and Olivia Hussey as well as Jack “that’s what I call fuckin'” Warden. Peter Ustinov took over the role of the eccentric, brilliant, and pompous Hercule Poirot – a role he would play five more times – in a perfect example of marketing a famously mustached character without overdoing it.
Although the “series” was sumptuously costumed with period attire for all, Anthony Powell’s costume design talent won him both the Academy Award and the BAFTA for Death on the Nile. (It’s worth mentioning that Tony Walton’s costume design for Murder on the Orient Express had been nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA, and Powell’s work on Evil Under the Sun has been thrice featured on BAMF Style already.)
What’d He Wear?
Colonel Race exudes British military elegance in his double-breasted navy blazer, white trousers and shoes, and regimental striped tie. Continue reading
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, British government secret agent
Monte Carlo, April 1995
Release Date: November 13, 1995
Director: Martin Campbell
Costume Designer: Lindy Hemming
In London, April’s a spring month. The same is true in Monte Carlo, the “international byword for the extravagant display and reckless dispersal of wealth” (according to The New Encyclopædia Britannica‘s 15th Edition), where April temperatures remain steady in the mid-50s°F range. Already sophisticated, Bond fits in nicely with this world of the elite as he tracks Xenia Onatopp, the Georgia-born (country, not state) femme fatale with connections to the Janus crime syndicate.
After Xenia’s night of passion gives new meaning to the term “thunder thighs”, Bond sneaks aboard the yacht where Xenia hosted her deadly tryst. Once he discovers the dead Royal Canadian Navy admiral (named “Chuck” rather than Charles?), Bond realizes Janus’s plan to steal the prototype Tiger helicopter. He takes off across the harbor, but it’s too late; Xenia has already escaped with the stolen helicopter. Foiled again! Continue reading
George Lazenby as James Bond, intrepid British secret agent
London, October 1969
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Release Date: December 18, 1969
Director: Peter R. Hunt
Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius
For the 007th of December, I’ll be focusing on a very holiday appropriate look from one of best-dressed (if not best-acted) Bonds, George Lazenby.
While this scene doesn’t exactly take place at Christmas, later scenes establish this film as “the Christmas Bond” and Lazenby’s attire when visiting M at Quarterdeck would be fine for a fashionable holiday outfit. Plus, the book On Her Majesty’s Secret Service features Bond sharing a Christmas dinner with M at the latter’s home.
(Since Bond receives two weeks leave sometime around September 15 and he’s still “on leave” when visiting M, this scene is likely set in late September or early October.) Continue reading