Wendell Corey as Johnny Ryan, stone-cold mob enforcer
Nevada, Spring 1947
Film: Desert Fury
Release Date: August 15, 1947
Director: Lewis Allen
Costume Designer: Edith Head
In the spirit of #Noirvember, I want to celebrate an entry in the relatively rare “color noir” category as well as the career of Wendell Corey, the Massachusetts-born actor and one-time AMPAS President who died on this day in 1968.
Corey was a familiar face in classic film noir like I Walk Alone (1948), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), and The File on Thelma Jordon (1950) before his perhaps most recognized performance as the skeptical Detective Tom Doyle assisting Jimmy Stewart‘s peeping amateur crime-solver in Rear Window (1954). It had been an impressive rise for an actor whose feature film debut had only been a few years earlier, appearing in Desert Fury (1947) as the gay-coded mob killer Johnny Ryan, right-hand man to smooth racketeer Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak).
Also starring Lizabeth Scott and Burt Lancaster, with whom Corey would again co-star in I Walk Alone, Desert Fury joins contemporaries like Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and Niagara (1953) as the rare examples of full-color movies that maintain enough of the themes, style, and sinister story elements of traditional film noir to still qualify for this classification. Continue reading
Sean Connery as James Bond, sophisticated and resourceful British government agent
Morgan’s Harbour, Jamaica, Spring 1962
Film: Dr. No
Release Date: October 5, 1962
Director: Terence Young
Wardrobe Master: John Brady
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
With the release of Dr. No sixty years ago today, October 5 has since been immortalized as Global James Bond Day in commemoration of when Sean Connery first uttered that now-iconic character introduction:
Bond. James Bond.
Dr. No had actually been Ian Fleming’s sixth novel featuring the worldly secret agent, set primarily in Jamaica as he penned the novel from his Jamaican estate Goldeneye. The author had tired of the character and left Bond’s fate somewhat ambiguous at the end of his previous novel From Russia With Love, though ultimately choosing that the agent would live to die another day and beginning Dr. No with 007’s recovery from the poison inflicted by the sharp-shoed Rosa Klebb.
Back to relatively full health, Bond finds his punishment in the form of a simple assignment meant to ease him back into duty (and possibly penalize him for letting his guard down), investigating the disappearance of a station chief and his secretary in Jamaica. There, Bond learns that the late chief had been investigating an eccentric recluse with the equally eccentric name of Doctor Julius No (Joseph Wiseman). With the help of his CIA buddy Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) and local contact Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), Bond ultimately determines that he and his newly issued Walther owe the
good bad doctor a long-overdue visit. Continue reading
Sid Caesar as Melville Crump, honeymooning dentist
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
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Sid Caesar, the pioneering comic actor whose influential variety series Your Show of Shows set a new standard during what some call the first “Golden Age of Television”, though I first knew Caesar for his part among the ensemble cast of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
On “just another Thursday,” I’m pleased to present another guest post contributed by my friend Ken Stauffer, who has written several pieces for BAMF Style previously and chronicles the style of the Ocean’s film series on his excellent Instagram account, @oceansographer.
Ryan Gosling as Courtland “Court” Gentry, a.k.a. Sierra Six, off-the-books CIA operative
London and Hong Kong, 2019
Film: The Gray Man
Release Date: July 22, 2022
Director: Joe and Anthony Russo
Costume Designer: Judianna Makovsky
Mr. Gosling’s Costumer: Mark Avery
If you haven’t checked out The Gray Man yet, it seems you’re in the minority. Released last month directly on Netflix, the film has consistently stayed on the streamer’s top watched list around the globe. Based on Mark Greaney’s popular book series, it’s a bit of a throwback to ’90s action movies, chock full of offhand quips and casual explosions, but modernized with drone shots and a popular, A-list cast. Continue reading
Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito, volatile and violent Mafia associate
New York, Spring 1970
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy Mother’s Day! One of my favorite cinematic sequences depicting the relationship between a son and his mother comes by way of my favorite movie, in which master auteur Martin Scorsese cast his own mother Catherine as the charming Mrs. DeVito, mother to the psychotic gangster Tommy (Joe Pesci) who brings his cohorts Henry (Ray Liotta) and Jimmy (Robert De Niro) seeking a shovel in a covert night-time stop to fetch a shovel… only to be sweet-talked into an early breakfast.
Catherine Scorsese endearingly embodies the familiar archetype of the aging Italian-American matriarch with her plastic-covered furniture, the gift to effortlessly slip between American English and Italian dialects, and the fierce desire to feed her children and their friends… regardless of whether they’re hungry or not. Continue reading
Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, ambitious film actor, singer, and dancer
Hollywood, Spring 1927
Film: Singin’ in the Rain
Release Date: April 11, 1952
Directed by: Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen
Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett
What better way to welcome April showers than by celebrating the 70th anniversary of Singin’ in the Rain, which was widely released on this day in 1952, just two weeks after it premiered at Radio City Music Hall.
Now considered not just one of the best musical films but one of the best movies of all time, Singin’ in the Rain centers around Hollywood during the waning months of the silent era as studios made the shift to “talkies” following the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927. The transition is no problem for the multi-talented Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), who shares his portrayer’s finely honed abilities to sing, act, and dance, but previews for Don’s latest feature—the period drama The Dueling Cavalier—illustrate that Don’s brassy, vain co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) is woefully underprepared for the new phase of their career, her shrill accent eliciting laughter and frustration from the test audiences.
Brainstorming over late-night sandwiches and milk with his professional partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) and his new love interest Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), Don’s brain trust determines that The Dueling Cavalier could potentially be retooled as a musical, with Kathy dubbing Lina’s grating voice behind the scenes. This being a musical, the trio celebrates their breakthrough with a rousing rendition of “Good Mornin'” as the rain falls outside, followed by a gleeful Don kissing Kathy goodnight and—delighted with the prospects of his professional and romantic futures—singing the titular ditty as he dances home in the downpour. Continue reading
Telly Savalas as Theo Kojak, NYPD lieutenant
New York City, Fall 1973
Episode: “Dark Sunday” (Episode 1.08)
Air Date: December 12, 1973
Director: Charles R. Rondeau
Creator: Abby Mann
Who loves ya, baby?
As today would have been the 100th birthday of Telly Savalas—born January 21, 1922—it felt like the time to take a long-overdue look at the Greek-American actor’s signature role as the tough and tenacious Theo Kojak.
Kojak’s famous lollipops were introduced in the eighth episode, “Dark Sunday”, which begins with the murder of a small-time criminal named Artie Fowler (Marc Alaimo). “He used to love to play with cars, you know,” recalls Kojak. “Strip ’em, drive ’em, steal ’em… oh well, what else?” Through his investigations of the murder, Kojak welcomes Artie’s girlfriend Maria Cranston (Lara Parker) to his office. He has a lit cigarillo in his mouth when she enters, but he swiftly tosses it away in favor of a Tootsie Pop pulled from his desk… the first of what would become one of the character’s trademarks. Continue reading
Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray, novice high school teacher
London, June 1966
Film: To Sir, with Love
Release Date: June 14, 1967
Director: James Clavell
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson
The death of Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE, was announced last Friday, prompting countless fans to recall memories of the great actor’s lasting legacy. Born February 20, 1927 in Miami to a Bahamian family, Poitier’s screen acting career took off during the 1950s, following his breakthrough performance in Blackboard Jungle (1955) with a charismatic turn in Edge of the City (1957). His Academy Award nomination for The Defiant Ones (1958) marked the first time a Black actor was nominated for Best Actor, and his ultimate win for Lillies of the Field (1963) established Poitier as the first Black recipient of the Best Actor Oscar.
Poitier’s career continued through the decade, with 1967 a particular banner year as he delivered three of his most iconic performances in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, In the Heat of the Night, and To Sir, with Love. Continue reading
Robert De Niro as David “Noodles” Aaronson, mob bootlegger and ex-convict
Detroit, Fall 1932
Film: Once Upon a Time in America
Release Date: May 23, 1984
Director: Sergio Leone
Costume Designer: Gabriella Pescucci
After premiering at Cannes in May and undergoing a truncated release stateside that summer, Sergio Leone’s controversial mob saga Once Upon a Time in America was finally released in the Italian-born director’s home country on this day in 1984. Leone’s final film, and the first he had directed in 13 years, Once Upon a Time in America marked the conclusion to his unofficial “Once Upon a Time…” trilogy.
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, smug and successful corporate raider
New York City, Spring 1985
Film: Wall Street
Release Date: December 11, 1987
Director: Oliver Stone
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
Tailor: Martin Greenfield
Happy birthday to Michael Douglas, the actor, producer, and activist born September 25, 1944, who may be most famous for his iconic Academy Award-winning performance as ruthless financier Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.