John Wayne as Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, tough Deputy U.S. Marshal
Fort Smith, Arkansas, into Indian Territory, Fall 1880
Film: True Grit
Release Date: June 12, 1969
Director: Henry Hathaway
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Wardrobe: Luster Bayless (uncredited)
To commemorate John Wayne’s birthday 113 years ago today on May 26, 1907, let’s take a look at one of Duke’s most enduring roles and the one that won him the Academy Award after more than forty years making over 200 movies.
Swiftly adapted from Charles Portis’ source novel of the same name, True Grit follows 14-year-old Mattie Ross as she seeks the help of a drunken U.S. Marshal, chosen by virtue of his reputation as the meanest marshal, to avenge the murder of her father. Continue reading
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, former ad man in search of himself
“Somewhere in California”, Fall 1970
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Person to Person” (Episode 7.14)
Air Date: May 17, 2015
Director: Matthew Weiner
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Five years ago today, Mad Men‘s final episode “Person to Person” aired on AMC, concluding a decade’s worth of storytelling as we followed advertising director Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his family and colleagues as they navigated the tumultuous 1960s.
Richard Benjamin as Neil Klugman, listless library employee and Army veteran
Radcliffe College (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Fall 1968
Film: Goodbye, Columbus
Release Date: April 3, 1969
Director: Larry Peerce
Costume Designer: Gene Coffin
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Based on a novella by Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus marked the first major screen appearances for both Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw, who would receive a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer and a Laurel Award for Female New Face.
Goodbye, Columbus was released two years after The Graduate (though Roth’s source novella was published four years before Charles Webb’s The Graduate), and the similarities invited comparison between the two, with some critics like Dennis Schwartz favoring Goodbye, Columbus though it would be far lesser-known in the decades to follow. Continue reading
Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, laidback stoner and bowler
Los Angeles, Fall 1991
Film: The Big Lebowski
Release Date: March 6, 1998
Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not “Mr. Lebowski”. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.
Having already established their appreciation for film noir and detective pulp with earlier movies like Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing, the Coen brothers spun their fandom in a new direction with The Big Lebowski, a cult classic that riffs on the likes of Raymond Chandler, particularly his complex novel The Big Sleep. Rather than a quick-witted and snarky detective chain-smoking decks of unfiltered Camels in between shots of whiskey, Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski is a simple, good-natured slacker who chooses to bowl his way through life at a glacial pace fueled by weed and White Russians.
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.
Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti, Jersey mob acting capo
New Jersey, Fall 2002
Series: The Sopranos
– “No Show” (Episode 4.02, dir. John Patterson, aired 9/22/2002)
– “Whoever Did This” (Episode 4.09, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired 11/10/2002)
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
Happy birthday, Michael Imperioli! Born 54 years ago today in Mount Vernon, New York, the actor won an Emmy Award for his role of hotheaded Christopher Moltisanti on HBO’s The Sopranos.
With Paulie Walnuts out of commission while he serves a jail sentence in Youngstown (in fact, actor Tony Sirico was out for the first half of the fourth season due to back surgery), Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) breaks the news to the Soprano family—somewhat begrudgingly—that Christopher has been chosen to temporarily take over as capo of Paulie’s crew.
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
Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, “a private investigator of great renown”
Massachusetts, November 2018
Film: Knives Out
Release Date: November 27, 2019
Director: Rian Johnson
Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan
Happy birthday to Daniel Craig, born 52 years ago today on March 2, 1968! While Craig is likely best known as the most recent actor to portray James Bond, one of his most celebrated recent roles has been his Golden Globe-nominated performance in Knives Out as Benoit Blanc, an idiosyncratic detective who describes himself as a “respectful, quiet, and passive observer of the truth.”
David Niven as Corporal Miller, British Army commando and explosives expert
Aegean Sea, Fall 1943
Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Tomorrow would have been the 110th birthday of David Niven, the Academy Award-winning English actor, author, and decorated war veteran. Instead of looking at one of the famously debonair Niven’s tailored suits or elegant dinner jackets, let’s explore his scrappier seafaring attire as a covert commando in The Guns of Navarone, the 1961 adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s World War II-set adventure novel.
Telly Savalas as Zeno, Greek resistance leader
“Somewhere in the Greek islands”, Fall 1944
Film: Escape to Athena
Release Date: June 6, 1979
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Costume Designer: Yvonne Blake
Escape to Athena assembles an incredible cast for a World War II adventure comedy in the spirit of The Dirty Dozen… or am I just saying the latter because it co-stars Telly Savalas?