Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, shrewd anti-Bolshevik and former British agent
Long Island, Fall 1924
Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “The Trust” (Episode 10)
Air Date: November 2, 1983
Director: Martin Campbell
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller
Following his trial in absentia for plotting against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution, British agent Sidney Reilly (Sam Neill) has been living in exile in New York, feverishly plotting an anti-Bolshevik invasion of Russia to be led by his comrade Boris Savinkov. Continue reading
Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1927
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
I’m wrapping up what turned out to be a week focused on classic gangster style with a look at one of my favorite mob movies, the original Scarface released in 1932. Both the film and its source novel of the same name by Armitage Trail (Maurice R. Coons) were undoubtedly inspired by the rise and fall of Chicago kingpin Al Capone, who reportedly grew to love the film so much that the owned his own print of it.
Tony Camonte’s rise through the underworld is depicted by a Thompson submachine gun blowing through the pages of a calendar, stopping somewhere around Friday, August 26, for the action to begin. (August 26 fell on a Friday in 1927 and 1932; as the events that inspired the film occurred throughout the 1920s and production wrapped in mid-1931, it’s safe to assume that this scene picks up the action around the late summer of 1927. Anyway…)
Spectacularly attired in a bold new suit, Tony runs into Poppy (Karen Morley), his boss’s platinum blonde moll, who is getting a little warmer to Tony’s form after his repeated attempts at seduction. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Max Vatan, Royal Canadian Air Force intelligence officer
London, April 1944
Release Date: November 23, 2016
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Costume Designer: Joanna Johnston
Following their adventures in Morocco, glamorous spy couple Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) “settle down” for their shared life in World War II-era London, spending their time picking mushrooms when not in service to their respective governments.
For these [not so] innocent outings, Max shows off his stylish approach to “smart casual” civilian attire anchored by a brown suede vintage-inspired jacket custom made for Brad Pitt by costume designer Joanna Johnston’s team. Continue reading
Burt Lancaster as J.J. Hunsecker, powerful and domineering newspaper columnist
New York City, Fall 1956
Film: Sweet Smell of Success
Release Date: June 27, 1957
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Costume Designer: Mary Grant
In commemoration of Burt Lancaster’s birthday today, I’m exploring my favorite of his films, the atmospheric 1957 noir Sweet Smell of Success that starred Lancaster as acerbic columnist J.J. Hunsecker to Tony Curtis’ unscrupulous PR flack Sidney Falco.
J.J. Hunsecker is a man whose legendary power and mercurial temper is meant to intimidate nearly all in his orbit. Continue reading
Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, honest and intrepid federal agent
Canadian border, September 1930
Film: The Untouchables
Release Date: June 3, 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Wardrobe: Giorgio Armani
Eliot Ness joins the other “untouchables” on an action-packed mission to the Canadian border following a tip that Al Capone would be importing a shipment of booze. With the help of the Mounties who aren’t yet versed in “the Chicago way”, Ness and his band of three are able to successfully halt the shipment and get their hands on a nervous informant who’s willing to talk… once he stops “muckin’ with the G here,” of course.
The mission comes at the expense of Ness having to take a life in the line of duty. Following some counseling from his cop buddy Jim Malone (“He’s as dead as Julius Caesar… would you rather it was you?”), Ness is able to absolve himself of his guilt and returns home to discover that his wife has given birth to their son. Continue reading
Emile Hirsch as Clyde Barrow, amateur armed robber
Texas, Spring 1932
Series Title: Bonnie and Clyde
Air Date: December 8, 2013
Director: Bruce Beresford
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Earlier this week, I posted about the (possibly brown) single-breasted, peak-lapel suit worn by Derrick De Marney in Hitchcock’s 1930s thriller Young and Innocent. Today’s post expands on that theme, exploring a similar suit worn by another desperate young man on the run during the 1930s.
Jack Nicholson as J.J. Gittes, private investigator and ex-policeman
Los Angeles, September 1937
Release Date: June 20, 1974
Director: Roman Polanski
Costume Designer: Anthea Sylbert
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Now that summer is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s high time to make sure that you’ve got some duds in your closet that are as appropriate for a day at the office as they are for the sunniest season.
A self-employed gumshoe like J.J. Gittes calls his own shots. As Chinatown is set in 1937, suits were de rigeur for men, but Gittes is hardly the type to rely on the gray flannel suit trope, especially in the sunny southern California locales. Continue reading