Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, groundbreaking R&B musician
Houston, Summer 1953
Release Date: October 29, 2004
Director: Taylor Hackford
Costume Designer: Sharen Davis
Jamie Foxx became only the second actor in history to receive a Academy Award for Best Actor, BAFTA, Critics’ Choice award, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild award for a single performance when he played Ray Charles. Though it was released five months after the real Ray Charles died of liver disease at age 73, Ray had the blessing of the real Ray Charles who had received – and approved – a braille version of the original shooting script.
Fresh off the success of his first hit for Atlantic Records, the exciting “Mess Around”, we see Ray Charles’ career shooting skyward. He endorses a group called the Cecil Shaw Singers while on-air at a Houston radio station, resulting in a lunch date with the group’s tenor, Della Bea (Kerry Washington), who is amazed that he was able to pick out her voice. Continue reading
Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, Vegas casino executive and mob associate
Las Vegas, Summer 1980
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Rita Ryack & John A. Dunn
Last week’s Mafia Monday post examined a moody but visionary Jewish mobster in the middle of the desert outside Las Vegas, and you’ll be surprised to see that I’m doing the exact same thing today.
That scene from Bugsy showed the trailblazer Benny Siegel making his mark in the so far undeveloped Las Vegas. In Casino, more than three decades later, Vegas is now a hopping nightspot whose best years are already slipping behind it. Many guys who tried to follow Bugsy’s example are now buried out in the desert where Sam Rothstein has been summoned to meet his old friend, the volatile Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci).
Normally, my prospects of coming back alive from a meeting with Nicky were 99 out of 100. But this time, when I heard him say “a couple of hundred yards down the road”, I gave myself 50-50.
Things haven’t been so great for Sam and Nicky. They were best buds coming up together “back home” but Sam embraced the analytical aspects of their criminal ventures while Nicky was all about the violence. Having heard that Sam was potentially plotting behind his back, Nicky has now called him to meet out where the heads of their predecessors are buried. Continue reading
James Dean as Jim Stark, confused suburban high school student and loner
Los Angeles, Spring 1956
Film: Rebel Without a Cause
Release Date: October 27, 1955
Director: Nicholas Ray
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Car Week concludes with a look at one of the most iconic drivers to ever speed across the silver screen: James Dean.
In Rebel Without a Cause, the second of Dean’s three credited films as an actor, Dean played the archetypical angsty teen Jim Stark. After a drunkenly difficult Easter Sunday that landed him in some hot water with the local fuzz, Jim begins his first day at Dawson High School and finds himself also at odds with most of his fellow students – particularly a bully who is, of course, named Buzz.
During a field trip that day to the Griffith Observatory overlooking the city, Jim further antagonizes his new enemies by… uh… existing? Buzz isn’t a very understanding sort of person.
After slashing the tires of Jim’s ’49 Mercury coupe and trying to get a knife fight going, Buzz challenges him to a “chickie run” at Millertown Bluff, setting the stage for the film’s climactic stolen car race. Continue reading
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, New York mob associate and club owner
New York City, Spring 1964
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
It’s gonna be a good summer.
…as Jimmy Conway tells Henry Hill after watching him split up the take from a recent robbery at the JFK’s Air France terminal. Cargo thefts had always been a mob tradition, but the April 1967 heist of $420,000 in cash set a new high mark for the mob as the proceeds were all in “totally, totally untraceable”. No need for shady fences or risky transactions of stolen goods.
Henry dresses fashionably for the robbery, wearing a herringbone sportcoat that shows up a few times throughout the course of Goodfellas. It’s a fine primer on how one can dress for a date, a heist, or even burying a mob murder victim. Continue reading
Kevin Spacey as Sgt. Jack Vincennes, swaggering LAPD “celebrity” narcotics detective
Los Angeles, January 1953
Film: L.A. Confidential
Release Date: September 19, 1997
Director: Curtis Hanson
Costume Designer: Ruth Myers
Back at work today? It’s okay, none of us want to be, especially after losing an hour of sleep last night. However, you could disguise your Monday blues by emulating Sgt. Jack Vincennes’ on-the-job style. Continue reading