Jack Nicholson as J.J. Gittes, private investigator and ex-policeman
Los Angeles, September 1937
Release Date: June 20, 1974
Director: Roman Polanski
Costume Designer: Anthea Sylbert
J.J. Gittes begins his final day investigating the Mulwray case in Chinatown with his usual cheekiness, even when surprised by walking into a murder scene. He trades barbs with increasingly suspicious detectives, including the pugnacious Detective Loach (Richard Bakalyan) who inquires about Gittes’ sliced-up nose; Edward Norton’s character in Rounders would pay homage to Gittes’ response of “Your wife got excited. She crossed her legs a little too quick.”
But Gittes’ good humor wears off by the end, following a series of misadventures – mostly at gunpoint – involving sisters, daughters, and a shot-out eyeball. As his assistant Walsh (Joe Mantell) sagely – and now famously – advises him:
Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Robert De Niro as David “Noodles” Aaronson, mob bootlegger and violent ex-convict
New York City, December 1933
Film: Once Upon a Time in America
Release Date: May 23, 1984
Director: Sergio Leone
Costume Designer: Gabriella Pescucci
83 years ago today, the 21st amendment was ratified to officially repeal Prohibition, delighting a thirsty American public but leaving many criminals who had made their fortunes from bootlegging effectively “unemployed”. This Mafia Monday post checks in with Robert De Niro as a mobster coming to terms with what that means for his career and personal life in 1984’s Once Upon a Time in America. Continue reading
Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, archetypal hard-boiled private detective
Los Angeles, Fall 1945
Film: The Big Sleep
Release Date: August 23, 1946
Director: Howard Hawks
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today is a pretty special day for me, and I’d like to celebrate the woman who is the Bacall to my Bogie by reflecting on The Big Sleep, which was originally released in theaters 70 years ago tomorrow, eight days after its premiere on August 23, 1946.
The Big Sleep was the second of four films starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The had originally met while filming her cinematic debut, To Have and Have Not, which was released on October 11, 1944, the very day after production began on The Big Sleep. (To Have and Have Not is also the first movie that my girlfriend and I watched together!) Continue reading
James Stewart as George Bailey, bank officer and “nice guy”
Bedford Falls, NY, May 1928
Film: It’s a Wonderful Life
Release Date: December 20, 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Today would’ve been the 108th birthday of James Stewart, and BAMF Style is honoring this screen legend by looking at Stewart’s own favorite character from his filmography: George Bailey.
Rated #9 on AFI’s 100 Heroes list and #8 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time, Stewart’s portrayal of the Capra-esque “every man” still resonates with audiences 70 years later, especially around Christmas time (due to an NTA clerical error in 1974). In fact, the local Regent Square Theater near my house in Pittsburgh hosts a free screening of It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmastime, which I’ve been sure to never miss in the last four years.
One of my favorite scenes – not only in It’s a Wonderful Life but from movie history – is the Charleston contest where George and Mary reconnect and then find themselves drenched when a jealous rival for her affections (played by The Little Rascals‘ Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer) opens the dance floor to send the two flap-happy dancers into the school swimming pool. In fact, this scene was filmed at the Beverly Hills High School in Los Angeles which indeed had a gym floor that could be converted into a pool with the press of a button. Continue reading
Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber, shrewd German terrorist leader and self-described “excellent thief”
Los Angeles, Christmas 1988
Film: Die Hard
Release Date: July 15, 1988
Director: John McTiernan
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Like surprisingly many others, Die Hard is my favorite Christmas movie and no holiday season – no matter how hectic or bleak – is complete without a viewing of what is arguably the greatest action movie ever made.
For the first BAMF Style holiday season in 2012, I broke down the rugged (and eventually very sparse) style of Bruce Willis’ John McClane, but it feels like the time has come to look at what the film’s fashion-driven antagonist wore as he led his European gunslingers into Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve 1988.
Mr. Takagi, I could talk about industrialization and men’s fashion all day, but I’m afraid work must intrude…
What’d He Wear?
Nice suit. John Phillips, London. I have two myself. Rumor has it Arafat buys his there.
Obviously, Hans Gruber knows a thing about clothes as he takes the time to compliment the Nakatomi Corporation’s soon-to-be martyr’s suit. Whether or not the dark suit sported by Hans himself is one of his two from the prestigious (but ultimately fictional) John Phillips.
Hans Gruber’s dark charcoal suit is very contemporary to its 1980s setting, not surprising for a man so interested in fashion and image. The jacket is cut short with a double-breasted 4-on-2 button stance. Continue reading
Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, Russian-born British Secret Service agent and anti-Bolshevik
New York City to Berlin, Fall 1924
Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “The Trust” (Episode 10)
Air Date: November 2, 1983
Director: Martin Campbell
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller
Ninety years ago today, Sidney Reilly was executed in a forest outside Moscow by a Soviet firing squad overseen by OGPU officer Grigory Feduleev. Reilly had been earlier tried to death in absentia after a failed coup of the Bolshevik government in 1918. Seven years later, he was lured back into the Soviet Union by undercover OGPU agents who had formed The Trust, ostensibly a secret organization raising funds to remove the Bolsheviks from power. Reilly was arrested as soon as he had crossed the Finnish border in late September 1925. Although he would be questioned for more than a month before his execution on November 5, the Soviets almost immediately issued a statement that he had been killed during a border skirmish. Continue reading
Robert De Niro as Neil McCauley, professional armed robber
Los Angeles, Spring 1995
Release Date: December 15, 1995
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Deborah Lynn Scott
De Niro’s Costumer: Marsha Bozeman
My last post looked at a bank robber who relied on his wits and a team of burglars to carry out a job. Neil McCauley is far more ruthless and traditional kind of cinematic bank robber; one that you would expect a no-nonsense great like Robert De Niro to portray. After months of planning and double-crosses, McCauley’s team is ready to take down a major bank in downtown L.A. Continue reading