Tagged: Fedora

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)


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


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)


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!


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.

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Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)


Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs, desperate drifter-turned-treasure hunter

Mexico, Spring to Summer 1925

Film: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Release Date: January 6, 1948
Director: John Huston
Wardrobe: Robert O’Dell & Ted Schultz (uncredited)

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


On the 65th anniversary of when Humphrey Bogart died on January 14, 1957, I wanted to visit one of his most lasting—if not exactly best-dressed—roles.

“Wait until you see me in my next picture,” Bogie had proclaimed to a New York Post critic outside 21 one night. “I play the worst shit you ever saw!” Indeed, unlike his previous protagonists like Sam Spade, Rick Blaine, and Philip Marlowe, who were primarily heroes marred by a cynical streak, there are few redeeming factors to Fred C. Dobbs, the panhandling prospector whose treacherous greed leads him well past the point of no return. Continue reading

The Man Who Fell to Earth: David Bowie’s Black Suit

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie, on location in New Mexico during production of The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)


David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, ambitious humanoid alien

From New York City to Artesia, New Mexico, 1970s

Film: The Man Who Fell to Earth
Release Date: March 18, 1976
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Costume Designer: May Routh
Suits by: Ola Hudson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


Today would have been the 75th birthday of David Bowie, born in London on January 8, 1947.

Though he’d made a few screen appearances earlier in his career, The Man Who Fell to Earth was Bowie’s first prominent leading role. Adapted by Paul Mayersberg from Walter Tevis’ novel of the same name, Nicolas Roeg’s avant-garde cult classic transcends the trappings of traditional science fiction to spin the yarn of Thomas Jerome Newton, an ambitious if naïve starman who “fell to Earth” on a mission to bring water back to his home planet… only to fall even farther, seduced by the materialistic capitalism of 1970s America and all of its celebrated hedonistic indulgences of sex, television, drugs, and booze. Continue reading

Sam Neill’s Half-Norfolk Jacket as Sidney Reilly

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly in Reilly: Ace of Spies (Episode 9: "After Moscow")

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly in Reilly: Ace of Spies (Episode 9: “After Moscow”)


Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly, shrewd British agent and anti-Bolshevik

London, Fall 1918

Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “After Moscow” (Episode 9)
Air Date: October 26, 1983
Director: Martin Campbell
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller


I consider Sidney Reilly to be one of the most fascinating and mysterious figures of the 20th century. There’s little consensus on when he was born, when he died, or how he exactly spent he spent the fifty-odd years in between, though his oft-exaggerated exploits as a shadowy agent of the British secret service has established his enduring reputation as “the Ace of Spies”, aided by his own memoirs and an excellent 1983 twelve-part mini-series starring Sam Neill in the eponymous role of the Russian-born adventurer. Continue reading

It’s a Wonderful Life: Jimmy Stewart’s Barleycorn Tweed Suit

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)


James Stewart as George Bailey, reluctant banker

Bedford Falls, New York, Spring 1932

Film: It’s a Wonderful Life
Release Date: December 20, 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson


Released 75 years ago today, It’s a Wonderful Life has become an enduring Christmas classic… almost by accident! Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s self-published novella The Greatest Gift, the movie had been relatively well-received at the time of its release, even earning five Academy Award nominations including one for Best Picture, but it would be overshadowed by the epic blockbuster The Best Years of Our Lives that told the story of servicemen returning from World War II.

Despite being a personal favorite of director Frank Capra and star Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life seemed destined for obscurity as just another “old movie” when a clerical error prevented proper renewal of the copyright. Though small royalties were still owed as it was derived from Stern’s story, TV stations leapt at the chance to air high-quality, low-cost seasonal programming, launching It’s a Wonderful Life to its status as a perennial favorite for holiday viewers by the 1980s.

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Detour: Tom Neal’s Borrowed Clothes and Borrowed Lincoln

Tom Neal as Al Roberts in Detour (1945)

Tom Neal behind the wheel of a ’41 Lincoln as Al Roberts in Detour (1945)


Tom Neal as Al Roberts, hitchhiking nightclub pianist

Across the United States, especially Arizona to California, Spring 1945

Film: Detour
Release Date: November 30, 1945
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Wardrobe Designer: Mona Barry


On the last day of #Noirvember, let’s also kick off #CarWeek with a look at one of the best examples of “road noir” with Detour, the enduring B-movie that saw a limited release 76 years ago today on November 30, 1945, just over two weeks after its initial premiere in Boston.

Martin M. Goldsmith worked with an uncredited Martin Mooney to adapt his own 1939 novel of the same name into a screenplay. Known as “the King of PRC” for his reputation as an efficient director working for the Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Corporation, the Austrian-born Edgar G. Ulmer filmed Detour in less than a month in the summer of 1945, with a shoestring budget of less than $100,000; for comparison, this was less than 10% of the final budget for that year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, The Lost Weekend. (Perhaps overstating his efficiency, Ulmer would later cite that he made the movie in six days for $20,000.)

Detour was my gateway to film noir, thanks to a multi-pack DVD that I was gifted in high school that included many pulp classics like D.O.A.The HitchhikerQuicksand, and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, many of which—like Detour—were regularly available in budget-friendly home video releases as they had fallen into the public domain. Clocking in at just over an hour, the story may be simple, but it contains all the characteristic noir themes and stock characters, including the femme fatale (and how!) and the wrongly accused man whose questionable ethics and unfortunate circumstances launch him headway into increasingly dangerous circumstances.

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Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)


Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, smooth private detective and “a chap worth knowing”

San Francisco, Spring 1941

Film: The Maltese Falcon
Release Date: October 3, 1941
Director: John Huston
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly (credited for gowns)


Now considered a seminal film noir, The Maltese Falcon celebrated its 80th anniversary last month. Dashiell Hammett’s excellent 1930 detective novel had already been adapted twice for the screen—once as a “lewd” pre-Code thriller and recycled as a zanier mid-’30s vehicle for Bette Davis—before Warner Bros. finally got it right.

The Maltese Falcon was the directorial debut for John Huston, who had faithfully adapted Hammett’s source material for his sharp script and demonstrated his sense of methodical efficiency, resulting in a masterpiece that benefited from the formula of director of photography Arthur Edelson’s low-key cinematography and a perfect cast led by Humphrey Bogart as the wisecracking gumshoe who “don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” Continue reading

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981): Nicholson’s Navy Striped Murder Suit

Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)


Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers, dangerous drifter

Southern California, Spring 1934

Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: March 20, 1981
Director: Bob Rafelson
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


After posting about John Cassavetes in the 1964 remake of The Killers last week, I wanted to focus on another color remake of classic film noir: the 1981 adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, reuniting Nicholson with director Bob Rafelson following their earlier collaborations in Head (1968), Five Easy Pieces (1970), and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). Continue reading

The Killers: Burt Lancaster’s Light Flannel Double-Breasted Suit

Burt Lancaster as Ole "Swede" Anderson in The Killers (1946)

Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson in The Killers (1946)


Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson, ex-boxer

Philadelphia, Spring 1938

Film: The Killers
Release Date: August 30, 1946
Director: Robert Siodmak


Let’s kick off #NoirVember with a memorable scene featuring birthday boy Burt Lancaster. Born November 2, 1913 in Manhattan, Lancaster remains an icon of American film noir, having made his debut in The Killers, which also marked most of the screen-going world’s introduction to the alluring Ava Gardner.

The Killers‘ straight-outta-Hemingway opening introduces us in finem res to Lancaster as “The Swede”, an ex-boxer with a sketchy past who has been tracked down by the two eponymous killers to a small town in New Jersey. Despite having spent the last six years in hiding, the Swede makes no attempt to flee his assassins, who efficiently complete their gruesome task and leave insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) to reconstruct the decade of mistakes that led from Anderson’s career as a boxer to that of a marked man by the mob.

As with all great film noir, the Swede’s undoing begins with a dame… Continue reading