Tagged: Fedora

Carol: Jake Lacy’s Plaid Coat

Jake Lacy as Richard Semco in Carol (2015)

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Jake Lacy as Richard Semco, affable painter and Navy veteran

New York City, December 1952

Film: Carol
Release Date: November 20, 2015
Director: Todd Haynes
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell

Background

It takes a lot for new movies to break through the cinematic ice to enter people’s Christmas viewing rotations. For decades, there were the classics like It’s a Wonderful LifeMiracle on 34th Street, and White Christmas, then a boom through the late ’80s and ’90s with newer entries like National Lampoon’s Christmas VacationHome Alone, and—yes—Die Hard. After Elf and Love Actually were released in 2003, it seemed like the proliferation of Hallmark holiday movies so saturated the market that it would be nearly impossible for a modern movie to make its yuletide impression… let alone an adaptation of a book published more than a half-century earlier about a fictional lesbian romance. Enter Carol.

Seventy years ago, suspense writer Patricia Highsmith followed up her debut novel—the smash-hit Strangers on a Train that had already been adapted for the screen by Alfred Hitchcock—with The Price of Salt, chronicling the relationship between aspiring set designer Therese Belivet and housewife Carol Aird, whom Therese meets working at a Manhattan toy store in the days leading up to Christmas, inspired by a brief encounter that Highsmith experienced while working in Bloomingdale’s toy department during the 1948 holiday season. Due to the impact that the novel’s sapphic content may have had on her career, Highsmith was credited under the alias “Claire Morgan” when The Price of Salt was first published in 1952.

Surprisingly, there was an attempt to adapt The Price of Salt for the screen not long after it was published, but the tight restrictions of the Production Code immediately enervated the script, which was renamed Winter Journey and centered around Therese’s romance with a man named… Carl. Luckily, wiser minds evidently prevailed and allowed for the first major screen adaptation to be Todd Haynes’ thoughtful Carol in 2015 starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as Carol and Therese, respectively.

We meet Therese while she’s working at the fictional Frankenberg’s department store in Manhattan, casually dating her cordial co-worker Richard Semco (Jake Lacy). A Navy veteran with artistic aspirations, Richard has grand plans for his future with Therese, even if she doesn’t outwardly share his enthusiasm. Unfortunately for Richard, his dreams of marriage, shared holidays, and European travels with “Terry” are increasingly dashed after she meets the elegant and enigmatic Carol while working at the toy counter.

After a pair of misplaced gloves and some creamed spinach over poached eggs, Therese makes a plan to visit Carol at her home in the country, scheduling it in her calendar for Sunday, December 21, 1952, seventy years ago today, and—in the years since the movie’s release—December 21 has become an unofficial celebration for fans celebrating “Carol Day”. Continue reading

Remember the Night: Fred MacMurray’s Christmas Road Trip

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in Remember the Night (1940)

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Fred MacMurray as John “Jack” Sargent, smooth-talking New York prosecutor

New York to Indiana, Christmas 1938

Film: Remember the Night
Release Date: January 19, 1940
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

This year’s winter #CarWeek installment kicks off with a holly jolly hoosier holiday in Remember the Night, a 1940 romcom released at the outset of a decade that included many classics of Christmas cinema like The Shop Around the Corner (1940), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), Holiday Inn (1942), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), 3 Godfathers (1948), and Holiday Affair (1949). Yet before all those classics came Remember the Night, arguably one of the earliest major movies to recognize how compellingly Christmas, both at its loneliest and most celebratory, could be effectively woven into a story.

“While it has remained for decades mysteriously under the radar, its tender romance and comedy are so skillfully blended—and its use of Christmas so poignant—that it stands among the very best holiday movies,” describes Jeremy Arnold in the TCM volume Christmas in the Movies. Continue reading

Steve Martin in Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Steve Martin as Neal Page in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

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Steve Martin as Neal Page, advertising executive and family man

New York City to Chicago… via Kansas and Missouri, Fall 1987

Film: Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Release Date: November 25, 1987
Director: John Hughes
Costume Designer: April Ferry
Steve Martin’s Costumer: Dennis Schoonderwoerd

Background

It’s two days to Thanksgiving! If you’re an ad man in New York for a creative presentation with an indecisive client, that should give you just enough time to unsuccessfully race Kevin Bacon for a taxi and join up with a talkative shower curtain ring salesman—excuse me, shower curtain ring sales director—for a series of transportation-related hijinks to make it home to Chicago just as that stuffed bird is ready to come out of the oven on Thursday.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles remains one of the few bona fide classic Thanksgiving comedies, released 35 years ago this week as commemorated today with an all-new 4K home video release that includes more than an hour of deleted and extended footage. The movie arguably succeeds best thanks to the comedic chemistry between Steve Martin and John Candy, balancing humor and heart as both the banal Neal and garrulous Del are humanized beyond initial stereotypes in what both actors described as a career-favorite film. Continue reading

Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire

Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in This Gun for Hire (1942)

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Alan Ladd as Philip Raven, cold-blooded, cat-loving contract killer

San Francisco to Los Angeles, Spring 1942

Film: This Gun for Hire
Release Date: April 24, 1942
Director: Frank Tuttle
Costume Designer: Edith Head

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

I had already been planning to write about This Gun for Hire this month when I realized that today would have been the 100th birthday of Veronica Lake, who was born in Brooklyn on November 14, 1922 with the decidedly less glamorous name of Constance Ockelman. Lake was still in her teens when cast in her first starring role in Sullivan’s Travels (1941), the success of which convinced Paramount to cast her in their upcoming thriller, which would also be a vehicle to launch their next up-and-comer, Alan Ladd. Continue reading

Nightmare Alley: Comparing Carlisle’s Cardigans in 1947 vs. 2021

Left: Tyrone Power as Stan Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (1947)
Right: Bradley Cooper as Stan Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (2021)

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Tyrone Power (1947) and Bradley Cooper (2021) as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, opportunistic drifter-turned-carny

Rural Kentucky, Summer into fall 1939

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: October 9, 1947
Director: Edmund Goulding
Costume Designer: Bonnie Cashin

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Costume Designer: Luis Sequeira

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Almost immediately after William Lindsay Gresham published his 1946 novel Nightmare Alley chronicling the grifters, geeks, and gals populating a second-rate sideshow, Tyrone Power asked 20th Century Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck to purchase the film rights.

Power had built his swashbuckling screen image in movies like The Mask of Zorro (1940), Blood and Sand (1941), and The Black Swan (1942), but—as so many had—returned from his World War II service as a changed man. The decorated Lieutenant Power was released from Marine Corps active duty in January 1946 and, after flying dangerous transport missions during the war, sought roles that would expand his image beyond the romantic hero he had established.

Director Edmund Goulding helmed the production that brought Gresham’s creepy carnival world to life via a working carnival constructed on ten acres of the Fox back lot, even employing actual carnies and more than 100 sideshow attractions to add verisimilitude. The talented cast also included Joan Blondell, appropriately appearing about fifteen years beyond her Warner Brothers heyday as she deliciously dives into the role of the washed-up tarot reader “Mademoiselle Zeena” whom the unscrupulous Stanton Carlisle manipulates into revealing the trick to her successful mentalist act. The married Zeena allows herself to fall for Carlisle’s romantic advances despite being married to her alcoholic stage partner Pete (Ian Keith) and Carlisle’s own obvious interest in the ingenue Molly (Coleen Gray).

Nightmare Alley premiered 75 years ago today on October 9, 1947, with Power’s performance lauded by critics like James Agee, who noted for Time that he “steps into a new class as an actor,” playing against type as Carlisle.

The Nightmare Alley story was recently revived for Guillermo del Toro’s re-adaptation of the novel, reinstating some of the darker components to blend Gothic horror with the noir-ish elements that were also present in Goulding’s film. Released in December 2021, del Toro’s Oscar-nominated Nightmare Alley featured a star-studded cast led by Bradley Cooper as Carlisle, Toni Collette as Zeena, Rooney Mara as Molly, David Strathairn as Pete, and Cate Blanchett as Dr. Lilith Ritter, the mysterious femme fatale who Carlisle meets after escaping the carnival world and re-establishing himself as the debonair mentalist “The Great Stanton”. Continue reading

Paul Muni’s 1932 Tuxedo in Scarface

Paul Muni in Scarface (1932)

Paul Muni as Tony Camonte in Scarface (1932)

Vitals

Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer

Chicago, Summer 1929

Film: Scarface
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Several years ago, I published a high-level overview of the various black tie ensembles across the male cast of the original 1932 version of Scarface, adapted from Armitage Trail’s pulp novel of the same name, which had been inspired by the then-contemporary exploits of the infamous Al Capone.

Now, after eight more years of learning, I want to focus specifically on the evening-wear worn by the eponymous Tony Camonte, portrayed by Paul Muni—who was born on this day in 1895—as Tony’s tuxedo had long been one of the driving sartorial influences in my choice to have a double-breasted dinner jacket made for my wedding, which will be one month from today. Continue reading

Hot Saturday: Cary Grant’s White Suit

Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday (1932)

Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday (1932)

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Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield, smooth playboy

Ohio, Summer 1932

Film: Hot Saturday
Release Date: October 28, 1932
Director: William A. Seiter

Background

Today being a hot Saturday in late summer reminded me of the early Cary Grant movie called, well, Hot Saturday. 1932 had been a breakout year for the Bristol-born star, as the erstwhile Archie Leach had worked his way in six months from his screen debut (This is the Night) to his first leading role, as the dapper playboy Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday. (Curiously, this marks the second time both this month and in the decade-long history of this blog that I’m writing about a character named Romer!)

Romer provides a prototype of what would become Grant’s signature screen persona: charming, debonair, and romantic yet wickedly self-deprecating. We meet him on a warm afternoon in the fictional Ohio berg of Marysville, where he strolls into the local bank and makes a date with the young clerk, Ruth Brock (Nancy Carroll), despite his already scandalous living arrangement with a woman named Camille Renault (Rita La Roy). As Ruth already has a date set that weekend with co-worker Connie Billop (Edward Woods), Romer invites both to his lakeside estate for what promises to be a hot Saturday indeed. Continue reading

My Favorite Year: Peter O’Toole’s Cream Suit

Peter O'Toole as Alan Swann in My Favorite Year (1982)

Peter O’Toole as Alan Swann in My Favorite Year (1982)

Vitals

Peter O’Toole as Alan Swann, self-destructive screen swashbuckler

New York City, Fall 1954

Film: My Favorite Year
Release Date: October 8, 1982
Director: Richard Benjamin
Costume Designer: May Routh

Background

Today would have been the 90th birthday of Peter O’Toole, legend of stage and screen. Though he was ultimately presented with an Academy Honorary Award, O’Toole holds the dubious distinction of having received the most Academy Award nominations without a win. One of his eight nominations was for the 1982 comedy My Favorite Year, Richard Benjamin’s directorial debut written by Norman Steinberg and Dennis Palumbo, set behind the scenes at NBC’s famous studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza during the Golden Age of live television.

“1954. You don’t get years like that anymore… it was my favorite year,” begins the narration by Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker), a junior comedy writer reportedly based on Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, who had both written for  Your Show of Shows in the early ’50s. The story was inspired by Errol Flynn’s real-life guest appearance on Your Show of Shows, with Flynn reimagined as the erratic Alan Swann. Benjy describes Swann as the greatest screen idol of all time, despite his boss dismissing Swann’s performances as no more than “kissing and jumping and drinking and humping.”

Richard Benjamin explained in an interview with Donald Leibenson that “in the original script, there’s a scene which I shot that would have played after what’s in the movie. It took place in a Hollywood cemetery, and Benjy is walking past the gravestones. He says in voiceover that Alan Swann made him promise he would do something on his birthday every year. Alan has passed away, and Benjy comes to his grave, kneels down and pours a bottle of Courvoisier over the tombstone. That’s what’s on the last page. Peter asked me to read the date that was on the tombstone. It was Aug. 2. He said, ‘Aug. 2 is my birthday; did you know that?’ I asked Norman if he knew that, and Norman said no, he had made it up. And Peter says, ‘Therefore, I must do the film.'” Continue reading

Brando’s “Night Sky” Navy Suit in Guys and Dolls

Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls

Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (1955)

Vitals

Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson, smooth gambler

Havana to New York, Spring 1955

Film: Guys and Dolls
Release Date: November 3, 1955
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff

Background

On the traditionally unlucky day of Friday the 13th, we could all use a dash of lady luck, the concept popularized in the standard “Luck Be a Lady” that Frank Loesser had composed for the musical Guys and Dolls. Five years after Robert Alda had originated the song on stage in 1950, Marlon Brando overcame his own insecurities about his singing voice resembling “the mating call of a yak” to perform the song in Mank’s cinematic adaptation… much to the likely chagrin of his co-star Frank Sinatra, who would record it twice for his own Reprise Records label in the ’60s.

But before Sky Masterson asked lady luck to show him just how nice a dame she can be, he sets his sights on another doll, specifically the prim and pretty Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) of the Save-a-Soul Mission, whose organizational goals could not be more antithetical to all Sky holds dear. To win a bet with fellow gambler Nathan Detroit (Sinatra), Sky invites her to dinner in Havana, where Sister Sarah’s uncharacteristic Thursday night results in plenty of Bacardi and barfighting. Continue reading

Nightmare Alley: Bradley Cooper’s Plaid Mackinaw Jacket

Bradley Cooper as Stanton Carlisle in Nightmare Alley

Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (2021)

Vitals

Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, opportunistic drifter-turned-carny

Rural Kentucky, Summer into fall 1939

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Costume Designer: Luis Sequeira

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

William Lindsay Gresham’s novel Nightmare Alley was first adapted to the screen in 1947, just a year after its initial publication, via Edmund Goulding’s classic noir starring Tyrone Power. Guillermo del Toro’s newly released version is a less a remake of Goulding’s movie and more a reimagining of the source material from a screenplay he co-wrote with Kim Morgan, presented as a vividly stylish Gothic quasi-horror that landed a quartet of worthy Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.

Continue reading