Alain Delon as Eddie Pedak, reformed thief
San Francisco, Spring 1965
Film: Once a Thief
Release Date: September 8, 1965
Director: Ralph Nelson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
On the last day of #Noirvember (and Alain Delon’s birthday month) and the first day of this winter’s #CarWeek series, it felt like the perfect time to explore Once a Thief, Ralph Nelson’s moody black-and-white crime drama starring Delon as a reformed criminal-turned-family man.
The jazzy opening credits depict a night at Big Al’s, a smoky den laden with drug pushers and beatniks, including author Zekial Marko, whose novel Scratch a Thief provided the movie’s source material. We follow a young man swaddled in sheepskin as he leaves the club and takes the wheel of a vintage “Model A Ford” roadster, which then becomes his getaway car after a swift but deadly closing-time stickup at a liquor store in Chinatown.
We then learn that the car and coat are a trademark of Eddie Pedak, a reformed armed robber making an honest living as a truck driver with his wife Kristine (Ann-Margret) and their daughter. The arrival of Eddie’s criminal brother Walter (Jack Palance), a syndicate hotshot, brings complications in the form of a proposition for one night’s criminal work—the proverbial “one last job”—which Eddie initially refuses, despite the $50,000 payout.
Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm, “rock star” chaos theorist
“Isla Nublar”, 120 miles west of Costa Rica, Summer 1993
Film: Jurassic Park
Release Date: June 11, 1993
Director: Steven Spielburg
Costumes: Mitchell Ray Kenney, Sue Moore, Kelly Porter, and Eric H. Sandberg
International Dinosaur Day is celebrated twice a year, always on June 1st but also the third Tuesday in May, making today—May 19, 2020—the first observance of Dinosaur Day for the year. Why the chaotic timing?
The answer to questions like that may rest with a chaos theorist like Dr. Ian Malcolm, the swaggering, skeptical, and somewhat frantic mathematician portrayed by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, adapted from Michael Crichton’s novel.
“I bring the scientists, you bring a rock star,” the park’s exuberant founder John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) comments upon the first impressions that Dr. Malcolm makes on Hammond’s distinguished guests from the scientific community, Drs. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern).
“You’ll have to get used to Dr. Malcolm, he suffers from a deplorable excessive personality… especially for a mathematician,” Hammond adds. “Chaotician,” Ian corrects.
Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth, swaggering Hollywood stuntman
Los Angeles, Summer 1969
Film: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Tonight the night? Why not?
When Cliff Booth poses himself this question on the night of Friday, August 8, 1969, he was merely considering whether or not he should partake in an acid-dipped cigarette he bought from “a hippie girl” six months earlier, but the night turns out to be far more eventful than a mere drug experiment.
Brad Pitt may have asked himself the same question a month ago during the 92nd Academy Awards when he won his first Oscar for acting in recognition of his performance in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino as the auteur added his own revisionist touch to a consequential year for American pop culture.
As today is Friday the 13th, let’s take a look at one of Cliff’s less celebrated outfits on what started as a very unlucky night for the stuntman… until he turned the tables thanks to that acid-dipped cigarette, his pet pit bull Brandy, and a few decades worth of combat-honed grit.
Marlon Brando as Johnny Strabler, outlaw motorcycle club leader
Central California, Summer 1953
Film: The Wild One
Release Date: December 30, 1953
Director: László Benedek
“Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?”
This famous exchange originated among the actual biker gangs that producer Stanley Kramer had brought on set to play themselves. When Kramer asked what it was they were “rebelling” against, a member cracked back to him, “Well, whaddaya got?” The line so encapsulated the culture and attitude of bikers during the era that it was incorporated into The Wild One, though the question is posed by Mildred, the platinum blonde beauty salon operator that one of Johnny’s boys picked up in a bar.
Inspired by actual events over a rambunctious fourth of July weekend in Hollister, California, in 1947, The Wild One was based on Frank Rooney’s short story “The Cyclists’ Raid” that appeared in Harper’s magazine in January 1951. It was swiftly adapted for the screen, though the locations involved were changed to the fictional California burgs of Carbondale and Wrightsville, the latter being the “screwball town”—according to Dextro (Jerry Paris)—where most of the action takes place.
The credits are a bit misleading, introducing Marlon Brando to us as The Wild One, though his character Johnny Strabler turns out to be the most restrained of his hell-raising confederates, particularly when compared to the obnoxious pipsqueak Mouse (Gil Stratton), the larcenous, simple-minded Pigeon (Alvy Moore), or rival gang leader Chino (Lee Marvin). Continue reading
James Dean as Jim Stark, confused suburban high school student and loner
Los Angeles, Spring 1956
Film: Rebel Without a Cause
Release Date: October 27, 1955
Director: Nicholas Ray
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Sixty years ago today – September 30, 1955 – was the famous fatal car crash that ended James Dean’s life at the age of 24. At the time of his death, he had only completed acting in three films (other than uncredited bit parts), but those performances made more of an impact than anyone could have guessed.
After his breakout role in East of Eden in 1955, Dean quickly followed it up with his performance as the troubled and tortured Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, a representation of teenage angst that gave a glimmer of hope to millions of teens throughout the country who were disgusted by the falsely naive and puritanical state of 1950s society. Teens could actually relate to the frustrated Jim Stark rather than the squeaky clean Andy Hardy or mischievous doe-eyed Beaver Cleaver. Dean’s electric performance captivated young audiences that began copying his style. Continue reading