Milton Berle as J. Russell Finch, seaweed salesman and beleaguered son-in-law
Southern California, Summer 1962
Film: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Release Date: November 7, 1963
Director: Stanley Kramer
Costume Designer: Bill Thomas
Car Week continues with a look at a road movie very close to my heart, Stanley Kramer’s 1963 epic comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, released 60 years ago this November. I used to spend many weekends at my grandma’s house watching this cavalcade of comics—many of whom had died even before I was born—as they sped, flew, and chased each other through southern California in pursuit of a $350,000 payday.
The movie begins as a black two-door Ford Fairlane recklessly snakes its way along Seven Level Hill, a mountainous segment of California State Route 74 just south of Palm Desert, honking as it weaves through traffic. The Fairlane shakes its way past an Imperial Crown convertible, but the driver loses control of the car and the Fairlane goes careening—no, sailing—off a cliff. The four carloads of people behind it all pull to a stop and get out—surely no one could survive such a fatal tumble. But alas, the significantly schnozzed driver Smiler Grogan (Jimmy Durante) hasn’t kicked the bucket yet, sprawled out among the rocky hillside.
In his dying moments, Smiler tells the gathered men of a hidden fortune, the $350,000 proceeds from a 15-year-old tuna factory robbery, buried under “a big W!” in Santa Rosita Park. He indeed kicks the bucket (and how!) before he can elaborate on the admission, leaving the witnesses to debate its veracity amongst themselves and as a group. When it becomes abundantly clear that, no matter what way they figure it, “it’s every man—including the old bag—for himself”, the four groups run back to their respective automobiles and tear off for the fictional Santa Rosita.
Though they’d been leading traffic when the Fairlane went sailing right past them off the cliff, the Imperial Crown is now trailing the others. At the wheel of the Imperial is mild-mannered J. Russell Finch (Milton Berle), an edible-seaweed entrepreneur from Fresno on his way to Lake Meade with his prim wife Emeline (Dorothy Provine) and her brash mother (Ethel Merman).
On the 115th anniversary of Uncle Milty’s July 12, 1908 birthday, let’s dig into this iconic entertainer’s wardrobe from It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Continue reading
Dean Martin as Dino, smooth crooner with a passion for booze, golf, and women
Between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Fall 1964
Film: Kiss Me, Stupid
Release Date: December 22, 1964
Director: Billy Wilder
Wardrobe Credit: Irene Caine & Wesley Jeffries
Tailor: Sy Devore
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
To celebrate the legendary Dean Martin, born on this day in 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio, today’s post explores when the chsaismatic Italian-American entertainer played… himself! Continue reading
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
Newark, New Jersey, Spring 2006
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Members Only” (Episode 6.01)
Air Date: March 12, 2006
Director: Tim Van Patten
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Fans of The Sopranos are eagerly awaiting the release of David Chase’s prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, directed by Alan Taylor and set during the late 1960s. The movie was originally scheduled for release at the end of this week, but the coronavirus pandemic has delayed the release until March 2021. While it’s too soon for me to take a full look at the style of The Many Saints of Newark, @tonysopranostyle on Instagram has been comprehensively covering many of the outfits seen on set, including those worn by Jon Bernthal as Tony Soprano’s father “Johnny Boy” Soprano and by Michael Gandolfini as a teenage version of his father’s iconic TV character.
In recognition of what would have been James Gandolfini’s 59th birthday last Friday, today’s #MafiaMonday post explores a pivotal scene from the acclaimed series’ sixth season premiere. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Robert “Rusty” Ryan, hotel owner and international thief
Los Angeles and Rome, November 2004
Film: Ocean’s Twelve
Release Date: December 10, 2004
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Costume Designer: Milena Canonero
Pitt’s Costumer: Bruno de Santa
Today’s installment of “Hey, I actually kinda enjoyed that movie!” features the Euro-flavored meat in Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy sandwich, Ocean’s Twelve. This blockbuster brought the whole gang back together again, adding nemeses on both sides of the law in the form of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vincent Cassel.
After the theft of more than $160 million from his Vegas casino years earlier, ruthless mogul Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) has spent plenty of time tracking down each team member of “Ocean’s Eleven”… a moniker that several of the team dispute. The last to be tracked down is Rusty Ryan, Danny Ocean’s smooth right hand whom we learn was actually considered the de facto leader by many of the group itself. Three and a half years after abandoning his girlfriend (CZJ) in Rome, Rusty is managing his own L.A. hotel and babysitting the washed-up Hollywood stars who bed down in it: “Jeez, Topher, you didn’t have to go all Frankie Muniz on me.”
Rusty is in the middle of the hedonistic Topher Grace situation when he gets that call from Benedict: “The last time we talked, you hung up on me.” Immediately realizing the significance of this greeting, Rusty gets into Neil McCauley mode as soon as he feels the heat. “You used nasty words,” Rusty responds, reverting to his cool persona and feeling comfort in the knowledge that Benedict isn’t able to see him desperately scrambling out of the building to his car(s). Of course, Rusty starts feeling the literal heat once Benedict triggers a bomb that detonates his favorite car, a ’63 Ford Falcon Futura convertible. Point taken. Continue reading
With the close of the PGA Championship (Congrats to Jason Dufner), we focus on another style icon’s day at the golf course.
Sean Connery as James Bond, British secret agent and sportsman
Stoke Poges, England, Fall 1964
Release Date: September 18, 1964
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell
Much like all pre-You Only Live Twice Bond films, Goldfinger is a very close adaptation of the material in the book. While some parts are different – for instance, the animosity between Bond and Goldfinger is initially more toned down in the book and the two even share a meal after their day at the golf course – it generally follows the same structure. Continue reading