James Stewart as Frank Towns, experienced cargo pilot and war veteran
Libyan desert, Spring 1965
Film: The Flight of the Phoenix
Release Date: December 15, 1965
Director: Robert Aldrich
Costume Designer: Norma Koch
James Maitland Stewart had to fly. His earliest memories of flight involved colorful covers of Literary Digest depicting the Great War, then in progress, and the incredible use of air power by both sides. Jim tacked up each magazine cover on the wall in his bedroom. “Airplanes were the last thing I thought of every night and the first thing I thought of every morning,” he would say as an adult.
— Robert Matzen, Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe, Chapter 1
Born 115 years ago today on May 20, 1908, Jimmy Stewart had a lifelong passion for flight that followed him through his career, from the model airplane he lovingly constructed with Henry Fonda during their salad days on Broadway through his celebrated service flying dangerous combat missions as a U.S. Army Air Forces officer during World War II. Reticent to discuss his service after the war, Stewart flew B-24 Liberators on 20 combat missions over Europe and, by war’s end, was one of only a handful of Americans to rise from the rank of private to colonel in only four years.
Aviation continued to be a theme of Stewart’s life during his postwar film career, often starring in flight-themed dramas like No Highway in the Sky (1951), The Glenn Miller Story (1954), Strategic Air Command (1955), and The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), playing famed aviator Charles Lindbergh.
One of the last—and perhaps best—of Stewart’s aviation-centered films is The Flight of the Phoenix, Robert Aldrich’s 1965 survival drama based on Elleston Trevor’s novel of the same name. Stewart plays civilian cargo pilot Frank Towns, described by his navigator Lew Moran (Richard Attenborough) as “one of the few really great pilots left in this push-button world of yours.” Continue reading
Sylvester Stallone as John Rambo, tough and resourceful Vietnam veteran who’s more than “just another smart-ass drifter”
Hope County, Washington, December 1981
Film: First Blood
Release Date: October 22, 1982
Director: Ted Kotcheff
Costume Designer: Tom Bronson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Six years after exploding to stardom having written and starred in Rocky, Sylvester Stallone returned to a similar formula playing a tough guy with a heart of gold and unbreakable determination whose five-letter name began with an “R” in First Blood, adapted by Stallone, Michael Kozoll, and William Sackheim from David Morrell’s 1972 novel of the same name, with Morrell himself having said that he prefers the film over his own novel! Continue reading
Christian Slater as Clarence Worley, comic store clerk and rockabilly enthusiast
Detroit, Winter 1992
Film: True Romance
Release Date: September 10, 1993
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Designer: Susan Becker
Happy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of today’s love-centered holiday, it felt like the right time to start exploring the style of True Romance, specifically the slapdash quasi-rockabilly wardrobe worn by its leading character, the energetic comic enthusiast-turned-killer Clarence Worley (Christian Slater).
True Romance begins with Clarence striking out at a bar before celebrating his birthday in solitude at a local cineplex with a Sonny Chiba triple feature… instantly signaling writer Quentin Tarantino’s involvement to the informed viewer. Among the scattered audience, Clarence makes the acquaintance of the bleach-haired amateur call girl Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette). Despite Alabama’s post-coital admission that Clarence’s boss hired her to assuage Clarence’s birthday loneliness, the two almost immediately fall in love and impulsively marry, appropriately scored by Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”. Continue reading
Joaquin Phoenix as Larry “Doc” Sportello, hippie private investigator
Los Angeles County, Fall 1970
Film: Inherent Vice
Release Date: December 12, 2014
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
One of my favorite “new watches” over the last year was Inherent Vice, adapted from the Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name. Inherent Vice follows “Doc” Sportello, a stoner private eye dwelling in the fictional hippie enclave of Gordita Beach in southern California at the end of the ’60s. Like the best of P.I. pulp fiction, Doc’s case begins with a late visit from a young woman, in this case his ex-girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) seeking his help investigating land developer Mickey Wolfmann. When another client’s request also intersects with Wolfmann, Doc’s “paranoia alert” is triggered as he’s set on a path that intersects him with an aggressive detective, a plum-suited dentist, and a drug counselor who “[tries] to talk kids into sensible drug use.”
Elliott Gould as Capt. “Trapper John” McIntyre, irreverent U.S. Army chest surgeon
Korea, Summer 1951
Release Date: January 25, 1970
Director: Robert Altman
Before there was Magnum, there was M*A*S*H, in which Elliott Gould set the “Gould standard” for effectively pairing a prolific mustache with an Aloha shirt. Robert Altman’s film was based on the then-recently published MASH: A Novel of Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker, which would in turn be adapted into a long-running TV series that would last almost four times as long as the Korean War itself.
While maverick Army doctor “Hawkeye” Pierce was arguably the central figure (and increasingly the show’s moral fiber, under Alan Alda’s creative direction), I was also fond of his cinematic sidekick, Captain “Trapper John” McIntyre as portrayed by Elliott Gould, born 82 years ago today on August 29, 1938.
Alan Alda as Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce, U.S. Army doctor
Korean War, 1950-1953
Air Dates: September 17, 1972 – February 28, 1983
Creator: Larry Gelbart
NB: Almost all screencaps below are from the first season, which aired during the 1972-1973 season.
Adapted from Robert Altman’s 1970 film MASH, itself inspired by Richard Hornberger’s 1968 novel (published under the pseudonym Richard Hooker), the Korean War-set series M*A*S*H lasted four times as long as the war it portrayed and broke new ground for serialized television, blending comedy and drama.
John Wayne as Michael “Guns” Donovan, island saloon owner and U.S. Navy veteran
French Polynesia, December 1963
Film: Donovan’s Reef
Release Date: June 12, 1963
Director: John Ford
Costume Designer: Edith Head
A decade after John Wayne traveled to Hawaii to play the titular anti-communist agent in Big Jim McLain, the actor returned for the production of Donovan’s Reef, a more lighthearted and less politically motivated film and the final of Duke’s many cinematic collaborations with prolific director John Ford.
Donovan’s Reef is set during the holidays in French Polynesia where ex-Navy gunner’s mate Michael “Guns” Donovan operates a saloon on the fictional island of Haleakaloha. Continue reading
Robert Shaw was born 90 years ago today, August 9, 1927. To celebrate the birth of this iconic actor and writer, BAMF Style presents another contributor post submitted by BAMF Style reader “W.T. Hatch”. Enjoy!
Robert Shaw as Quint, grizzled and tough shark hunter and U.S. Navy veteran
Amity Island, July 1974
Release Date: June 20, 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Costume Design: Louise Clark, Robert Ellsworth, and Irwin Rose
Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy.
In 1975, director Steven Spielberg scared the bejesus out of America with the summer blockbuster hit Jaws. Based upon author Peter Benchley’s novel of the same name, Jaws is the harrowing tale of a 25′ man-eating shark which terrorizes the small beach community of Amity Island. Technical problems forced Spielberg to largely abandon the mechanical shark, dubbed “Bruce” after his attorney, instead using mood, music, and a set of yellow barrels to suggest the beast’s on-screen presence. One viewing of the film is enough to make even the bravest soul think twice before taking a swim in the ocean.
But one other persona in the movie is more frightening than the shark. I speak of the shark’s archenemy known only by the name of Quint. No doubt inspired by another single-minded sea captain, namely Ahab of Moby Dick, Quint is one of cinema’s most enigmatic, famous, and all-around badass characters. Continue reading
Lee Marvin as Maj. John Reisman, taciturn and independent U.S. Army officer
England, Spring 1944
Film: The Dirty Dozen
Release Date: June 15, 1967
Director: Robert Aldrich
Tomorrow is the 71st anniversary of the Normandy landings. On June 6, 1944 – now known as D-Day, 156,000 troops from 13 Allied nations conducted the largest seaborne invasion in history, beginning the invasion of German-occupied western Europe that led to the liberation of France, and – eventually – an Allied victory to win the war within a year. Although the Allies failed to achieve their goals on the first day, the tremendous fighting spirit of the soldiers in the face of unbelievable odds led to the foothold needed by the Allies that would catapult them to victory.
Many excellent films have focused on the Normandy landings, including The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan. The Dirty Dozen used a different approach, sending a renegade OSS officer behind the lines with twelve ex-soldier convicts to create chaos for the Nazis and distract them from the upcoming landings. The film, which WWII veteran Lee Marvin had originally dismissed as “just a dummy moneymaker”, has gone on to become a classic piece of badass cinema that even received recognition in Sleepless in Seattle during a scene where Tom Hanks and Victor Garber hilariously ad-lib about what movie could make a man cry:
Jim Brown was throwing these hand grenades down these airshafts. And Richard Jaeckel and Lee Marvin – (begins mock crying) were sitting on top of this armored personnel carrier, dressed up like Nazis… and Trini Lopez… he busted his neck while they were parachuting down behind the Nazi lines…
George Clooney as Jack (aka “Edward”), weary hitman and gunsmith
Castel del Monte, Abruzzo, Italy, April 2010
Film: The American
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Director: Anton Corbijn
Costume Designer: Suttirat Anne Larlarb Continue reading