James Stewart as Frank Towns, experienced cargo pilot and war veteran
Libyan desert, Spring 1965
Film: The Flight of the Phoenix
Release Date: December 15, 1965
Director: Robert Aldrich
Costume Designer: Norma Koch
James Maitland Stewart had to fly. His earliest memories of flight involved colorful covers of Literary Digest depicting the Great War, then in progress, and the incredible use of air power by both sides. Jim tacked up each magazine cover on the wall in his bedroom. “Airplanes were the last thing I thought of every night and the first thing I thought of every morning,” he would say as an adult.
— Robert Matzen, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, Chapter 1
Born 115 years ago today on May 20, 1908, Jimmy Stewart had a lifelong passion for flight that followed him through his career, from the model airplane he lovingly constructed with Henry Fonda during their salad days on Broadway through his celebrated service flying dangerous combat missions as a U.S. Army Air Forces officer during World War II. Reticent to discuss his service after the war, Stewart flew B-24 Liberators on 20 combat missions over Europe and, by war’s end, was one of only a handful of Americans to rise from the rank of private to colonel in only four years.
Aviation continued to be a theme of Stewart’s life during his postwar film career, often starring in flight-themed dramas like No Highway in the Sky (1951), The Glenn Miller Story (1954), Strategic Air Command (1955), and The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), playing famed aviator Charles Lindbergh.
One of the last—and perhaps best—of Stewart’s aviation-centered films is The Flight of the Phoenix, Robert Aldrich’s 1965 survival drama based on Elleston Trevor’s novel of the same name. Stewart plays civilian cargo pilot Frank Towns, described by his navigator Lew Moran (Richard Attenborough) as “one of the few really great pilots left in this push-button world of yours.” Continue reading
Cary Grant as Walter Eckland, crude and reluctant wartime coast-watcher
Pacific Islands, Spring 1942
Film: Father Goose
Release Date: December 10, 1964
Director: Ralph Nelson
Costume Designer: Ray Aghayan (uncredited)
Last month, I reflected on the elegant white suit that Cary Grant wore at the start of his stylish career in the pre-Code drama Hot Saturday. More than 30 years later, Grant was firmly established as one of the most charming—and enduringly best-dressed—stars of the era, subverting his screen reputation for his penultimate movie, the World War II-set comedy Father Goose opposite Leslie Caron. Continue reading
Anthony Quinn as Colonel Andrea Stavros, tough Greek officer
Middle East, Fall 1943
Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann
Seersucker Thursday may be one of the few remaining bipartisan aspects of American politics. Inspired by the practice of early 20th century congressmen donning their tailored seersucker suits, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott reinstated the tradition in 1996, to be observed by men and women of the Senate on the second or third Thursday in June to coincide with National Seersucker Day, a standing celebration of the cool-wearing cloth.
There have certainly been more elegant showcases of seersucker suits in cinematic history, but one of the toughest examples can be seen with The Guns of Navarone‘s introduction of Colonel Andrea Stavros, the pipe-smoking officer of the Hellenic Army’s 19th Motorized Division. Continue reading
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Ferdinand Griffon, runaway husband
French Riviera, Summer 1965
Film: Pierrot le Fou
Release Date: November 5, 1965
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
He may spend most of Pierrot le Fou insisting his name is Ferdinand, but we all know he’s actually Jean-Paul Belmondo—also known as Bébel—the French star born 88 years ago today on April 9, 1933!
Pierrot le Fou was the third and final feature-length collaboration between Belmondo and Jean-Luc Godard, who had directed him to worldwide fame as the criminal protagonist in A bout de souffle (Breathless), considered a seminal work in establishing the French New Wave cinematic movement.
While both of these stylish films shared themes of criminality, philosophy, and doomed love, Pierrot le Fou pops from the screen with its colorful and surreal pop art-inspired presentation of the increasingly desperate Ferdinand Griffon abandoning his family life to join his dangerously free-spirited ex-girlfriend Marianne (Anna Karina) in a life of crime and seaside seclusion. Continue reading
Approaching the weekend, someone as popular as yourself probably has plenty of invitations to parties and dinners. Put off the typical “Autumn Man” look of a sweater and plaid shirt until next weekend and wow everyone with your white tie, much like…
Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, birth name Shlomo Rosenblum, a Russian-born adventurer, war profiteer, and rumored British secret agent
St. Petersburg, Spring 1910
Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episodes: “Dreadnoughts and Crosses” (Episode 5) & “Dreadnoughts and Doublecrosses” (Episode 6)
Air Dates: September 28, 1983 & October 5, 1983
Director: Jim Goddard
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller
Ian Fleming, known worldwide for his creation of the literary James Bond, is quoted as once saying:
James Bond is just a piece of nonsense I dreamed up. He’s not a Sidney Reilly, you know!