Clifton Webb as Richard Ward Sturges, millionaire, estranged family man, and fastidious dresser
RMS Titanic, April 1912
Release Date: April 16, 1953
Director: Jean Negulesco
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Julia: You’re up early.
Richard: I had to scratch around for something to wear. Not a bad shop, they have everything.
Julia: Dinner jackets, I trust.
Richard: Naturally. It will be ready tonight. So… life can go on.
This exchange summarizes the 1953 melodrama Titanic, one of the first attempts to tell the now-infamous story of the real-life sinking of the White Star Line’s premiere ocean liner during its maiden voyage in April 1912, sending more than 1,500 passengers and crew to their deaths as a few more than 700 spend a chilly night in uncovered lifeboats, waiting for help to arrive.
Released 66 years ago tomorrow, 20th Century Fox’s Titanic focuses more on the personal drama of the fictional Sturges family: pretentious and aloof patriarch Richard (Clifton Webb) and his strong-willed, responsible wife Julia (Barbara Stanwyck) who tries to protect their children from taking after their profligate father. Cut from the same cloth as his wickedly snobbish Waldo Lydecker character in Laura, Richard Ward Sturges delights in his children’s obvious preference for him as he showers them with a decadent lifestyle that would no doubt spoil them as adults if not for their more practical mother’s interventions. Continue reading
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, advertising creative director and whiskey aficionado
All around the United States, Summer 1968 through Summer 1969
Series: Mad Men
– “For Immediate Release” (Episode 6.06), dir. Jennifer Getzinger, aired 5/5/2013
– “The Better Half” (Episode 6.09), dir. Phil Abraham, aired 5/26/2013
– “Time Zones” (Episode 7.01), dir. Scott Hornbacher, aired 4/13/2014
– “The Strategy” (Episode 7.06), dir. Phil Abraham, aired 5/18/2014
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead! Continue reading
Lee Marvin as Nick Devlin, mob enforcer
Kansas City, summer 1972
Film: Prime Cut
Release Date: June 28, 1972
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Designer: Patricia Norris
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Lee Marvin’s submachine gun-packing mob enforcer Nick Devlin gets plenty of opportunities for badass action in Michael Ritchie’s sophomore film, Prime Cut, but the smooth gangster also takes the chance to show a more genteel side, such as when escorting Poppy (Sissy Spacek) to a fancy dinner in a hotel restaurant.
Frank Sinatra as Joey Evans, womanizing nightclub singer
San Francisco, Spring 1957
Film: Pal Joey
Release Date: October 25, 1957
Director: George Sidney
Costume Designer: Jean Louis
Joey Evans’s first night with the band finds him already complicating his romantic life, balancing his attraction to the demure singer Linda English (Kim Novak) with the vivacious ex-stripper Vera Prentice-Simpson (Rita Hayworth) when the band is hired to play a gig at Vera’s place as a fundraise for the local children’s hospital.
Clint Ritchie as “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, born Vincenzo Gabaldi, Chicago mob enforcer
Chicago, Winter 1928
Film: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Release Date: June 30, 1967
Director: Roger Corman
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is one of the few true incidents from mob lore to have expanded into mainstream pop culture. The killing of seven men affiliated with Chicago’s North Side Gang on February 14, 1929, startled and intrigued the public with its brutality, and the event became symbolic of the ugly violence that permeated through Prohibition-era America. Continue reading
Cary Grant as Philip Adams, sophisticated playboy economist
London, Fall 1957 to Spring 1958
Release Date: June 26, 1958
Director: Stanley Donen
Happy birthday to the great Cary Grant, born 115 years ago today on January 18, 1904, in Bristol, England. Born Archibald Leach before he assumed his catchier stage name, Grant’s signature screen presence blended his self-deprecating sense of humor with peerless suavity in both attitude and style. Grant’s popularity during the mid-20th century and the height of the dinner suit’s ubiquity meant the debonair actor would don a tuxedo almost as frequently as James Bond… and it’s not surprising to hear that Grant was an early contender for the role of 007, at least in the mind of the character’s creator Ian Fleming.
Between 1955 and 1962, Grant starred in seven contemporary-set films that didn’t require him to be in military uniform; of these, he sported a tuxedo in all but one (the lone exception, North by Northwest, featured the actor wearing arguably the most famous suit in movie history so there was little need for black tie.) In the middle of this impressive and stylish run of movies is Indiscreet, a Stanley Donen-directed romantic comedy that earned Grant his first of five Golden Globe nominations. Continue reading
Frank Sinatra, multi-talented entertainer
Hollywood, December 1957
Series: The Frank Sinatra Show
Episode: “Happy Holidays with Bing & Frank” (Episode 1.10)
Air Date: December 20, 1957
Director: Frank Sinatra
Wardrobe Credit: Morris Brown
Tailor: Sy Devore
Happy birthday, Frank Sinatra! To celebrate the 103rd anniversary of Ol’ Blue Eyes entering the world in a Hoboken tenement, let’s look back at a time when Frankie was sittin’ on top of the world: the late 1950s.
After the low point of his life and the prospect of his career in ruins, Sinatra bounced back with an Academy Award-winning performance in From Here to Eternity (1953) and a seven-year recording contract with Capitol Records that yielded an impressive string of concept albums that remain among the best popular music ever recorded.
Sinatra was one of the biggest stars of the world in 1957 when ABC signed him to a $3 million contract for The Frank Sinatra Show, a variety and drama series for which Sinatra would have almost total artistic freedom.
As the Chairman of the Board was a lifelong Christmas fanatic, it was unquestioned that the series would feature a special holiday episode, which Sinatra himself stepped up to direct, though he knew the show would need a guest worthy of the season he loved. Continue reading
Louis Jourdan as Marc Champselle, “a gigolo… a buffoon… a professional diner-outer… a notorious sponger!”
Heathrow Airport, London, Winter 1963
Film: The V.I.P.s
(also released as Hotel International)
Release Date: September 19, 1963
Director: Anthony Asquith
Costume Designer: Pierre Cardin (uncredited)
Happy December! For the first month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, we look to the stylish 1963 film The V.I.P.s, a cinematic celebration of jet-age luxury starring an impressive international cast as a group of travelers stranded at London’s Heathrow Airport and the neighboring Hotel International for a cold but passionate January night.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious advertising creative director
New York City, Spring to Fall 1960
Series: Mad Men
– “Ladies Room” (Episode 1.02), dir. Alan Taylor, aired 7/26/2007
– “New Amsterdam” (Episode 1.04), dir. Tim Hunter, aired 8/9/2007
– “Shoot” (Episode 1.09), dir. Paul Feig, aired 9/13/2007
– “The Wheel” (Episode 1.13), dir. Matthew Weiner, aired 10/18/2007
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
This particular suit makes sporadic appearances across the masterful debut season of Mad Men, AMC’s much-acclaimed drama set in the world of American advertising in the 1960s.
Robert Shaw as Donald “Red” Grant, lethal SPECTRE assassin
The Orient Express, Spring 1963
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Two years ago on the 00-7th of October, I wrote about the gray wool suit that Sean Connery’s James Bond wore in From Russia With Love during his brutal fight with SPECTRE assassin Red Grant (Robert Shaw) aboard the Orient Express. Today’s post features Grant’s suit – also gray wool but in a heavier suiting mixed with brown yarns for a warm, fall-friendly outfit – in addition to the watch and weapons that are the tools of Grant’s unsavory trade. Continue reading