Telly Savalas as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, aka Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp, megalomaniac terrorist
Piz Gloria, Switzerland, December 1969
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Release Date: December 18, 1969
Director: Peter R. Hunt
Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius
‘Twas Christmastime at Piz Gloria, when all through the clinic
Not a creature was stirring, not even the agent from MI6.
The Angels of Death were snuggled in bed with care
in hopes that Sir Hilary’s bezants soon would be there.
As of 2020, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service remains the only James Bond movie prominently set during yuletide, as 007 (George Lazenby) disguises himself as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray in order to get close to SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), under the pretense of investigating Blofeld’s claim to the title of Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp.
On the 00-7th of December, let’s see how one of Bond’s most iconic nemeses dresses for the holidays.
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne/David Webb, amnesiac ex-CIA assassin
Athens, Berlin, London, and Las Vegas, Fall 2015
Film: Jason Bourne
Release Date: July 11, 2016
Director: Paul Greengrass
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy 50th birthday, Matt Damon! Nearly 15 years after the actor first kicked cinematic ass as the amnesiac assassin, Damon again stepped into Jason Bourne’s globe-trotting boots for one more installment of the spy franchise extolled for its relative realism, intriguing narrative, and expertly choreographed fight scenes.
I remember… I remember everything.
David Niven as Raymond, bon vivant widowed father
French Riviera, Summer 1957
Film: Bonjour Tristesse
Release Date: January 15, 1958
Director: Otto Preminger
Costume Coordinator: Hope Bryce
Secluded for the summer at their villa in the Côte d’Azur, libertine Raymond and his equally free-spirited daughter Cécile (Jean Seberg) enjoy a comfortable and carefree season living la belle vie by the sea. In fact, Raymond and Cécile would have fared quite well had they needed to spend their summer in quarantine, as few outsiders enter their lives aside from whichever mistress (or two) Raymond is entertaining at the moment. These young women are typically no more than a few years older than Cécile, who grows particularly attached to his latest paramour, Elsa (Mylène Demongeot), to the extent that she joins Raymond in waking the vivacious blonde from her nude slumber and helps her apply sunscreen during one of their typical days spent on the beach.
While all may be cordial and close, there’s no getting between the fiercely intimate bond between Cécile and her father, of which Elsa comments: “You do not even need words… the perfect marriage!”
Jude Law as Dickie Greenleaf, narcissistic profligate playboy
Italy, October 1958
Film: The Talented Mr. Ripley
Release Date: December 25, 1999
Director: Anthony Minghella
Costume Design: Ann Roth & Gary Jones
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
After exploring some of Alain Delon’s sharply tailored style in Plein soleil (Purple Noon) earlier this week, today’s post shifts attention to the 1999 adaptation of the same source material, Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley set on the sunny Italian coast.
Alain Delon as Tom Ripley, charming American con artist and sophisticated sociopath
Italy, August 1959
Film: Purple Noon
(French title: Plein soleil)
Release Date: March 10, 1960
Director: René Clément
Costume Designer: Bella Clément
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Few movies so stylishly capture the intriguing possibilities of summer as Plein soleil, balancing a sun-drenched travelogue of beautiful coastal Italy with the provocative thrills and deception to be expected from the dangerous mind of Patricia Highsmith, whose 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley formed the basis for this lush and haunting adaptation.
James Garner as Pete Aron, determined Formula One driver
Monaco, Spring 1966
Film: Grand Prix
Release Date: December 21, 1966
Director: John Frankenheimer
Costume Supervisor: Sydney Guilaroff
The 2020 Monaco Grand Prix was to begin today, which also commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Monaco Grand Prix’s first inclusion in the inaugural FIA World Championship. Unfortunately, the spread of the dangerous coronavirus pandemic resulted in the race being cancelled for the first time since the 1954 Formula One season.
“In my opinion, still the best picture ever made about auto racing,” wrote James Garner in his memoir, The Garner Files, an opinion into which I put a lot of stock given the actor’s real-life passion for racing and his characteristic modest regarding his own cinematic career. Continue reading
Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, Polish resistance leader
Belarus, August 1941 through April 1942
Release Date: December 31, 2008
Director: Edward Zwick
Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan
Daniel Craig’s fifth and final movie as James Bond, No Time to Die, was originally scheduled for release in the U.K. today. Last month, MGM and Eon Productions announced that they were pushing the release to November in response to concerns related to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. While the postponement may have defied the wishes of Bond fans (see where I’m going with this?), there’s still plenty of Craig’s filmography out there to stream, including the 2008 war film Defiance.
Timothy Dalton as James Bond, British government agent
Bratislava, Fall 1986
Film: The Living Daylights
Release Date: June 27, 1987
Director: John Glen
Costume Designer: Emma Porteous
Costume Supervisor: Tiny Nicholls
Happy birthday to Timothy Dalton, born 74 years ago today on March 21, 1946! To celebrate the Welsh actor’s birthday, I want to revisit Dalton’s debut as James Bond, bringing a serious, Ian Fleming-influenced approach two decades before Daniel Craig would approach the role in a similar manner.
Dalton had long been a contender for the role, turning it down twice due to his youth when the filmmakers sought a replacement for Sean Connery and then for George Lazenby. When it was unclear if Roger Moore would return for his trio of 007 films in the ’80s, Dalton’s name came up each time, but it wasn’t until Pierce Brosnan was contractually obligated to turn down the role to return to Remington Steele in 1986 that a pathway was finally opened for Dalton, then 40 years old and seasoned enough to play the agent, to slip into Bond’s finely tailored dinner jacket for The Living Daylights. Continue reading
Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, obsessive-compulsive Belgian detective
Orient Express, Winter 1934
Film: Murder on the Orient Express
Release Date: November 10, 2017
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Costume Designer: Alexandra Byrne
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Readers who have seen my posts focused on adaptations of And Then There Were None, Death on the Nile, and Evil Under the Sun are likely aware that I’ve been a fan of Agatha Christie’s mystery fiction since I was 10 years old. Thus, it’s a continued thrill to find her works thriving as studios on both sides of the pond continue to churn out lavish adaptations of her work a full century after she introduced the world to Hercule Poirot with the publication of her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920. In particular, David Suchet has been performing yeoman’s work as the quintessential Poirot across 70 episodes of an ITV-produced drama series that successfully—and relatively faithfully—adapted every novel and story that prominently featured Christie’s master detective.
In the spirit of contemporary BBC adaptations like The ABC Murders, And Then There Were None, Ordeal by Innocence, and The Pale Horse, Kenneth Branagh helmed what’s now the fourth adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, arguably Christie’s best-known novel famous for its then-groundbreaking solution. Continue reading
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