Tagged: Khaki Shirt

Midway: Charlton Heston’s Naval Aviation Khaki

Charlton Heston as Captain Matthew Garth in Midway

Charlton Heston as CAPT Matthew Garth in Midway (1976)

Vitals

Charlton Heston as CAPT Matthew Garth, U.S. Naval Aviator

Pearl Harbor to Midway Island, Spring 1942

Film: Midway
Release Date: June 18, 1976
Director: Jack Smight

Background

Many familiar with World War II history are familiar with the significance of Monday’s date as, on June 6, 1944, the Allies landed at Normandy in northern France as part of the “D-Day” invasion that laid the groundwork for the eventual Allied victory. Two years earlier, the Americans had been engaged in yet another decisive battle that would turn the tide of the second World War.

The Battle of Midway had commenced 80 years ago today on June 4, 1942, following intelligence gathered by the U.S. Navy that allowed it to prepare for a counterattack against the Imperial Japanese Navy. Three days of battle followed, with American forces destroying all four Japanese fleet carriers that had engaged and—in both a tactical and symbolic victory—had also been part of the six-carrier force that attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier.

Though the Americans also suffered the loss of a carrier, a destroyer, and approximately 150 aircraft, casualties were considerably higher on the Japanese side (including nearly double the amount of aircraft lost), marking an early turning point of the Pacific War in favor of the Allies and which historian John Keegan has called “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

In addition to an 18-minute color documentary directed during the battle by John Ford, the Battle of Midway has been the subject of two major movies, mostly recently in 2019. A star-studded retelling of the battle and its lead-up was produced by The Mirisch Company in 1976, starring—among many others—Henry Fonda as Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet. Having served in the Navy in real life during World War II, Fonda had actually partly narrated Ford’s 1942 documentary and also appeared as an unnamed admiral inspired by Nimitz in the 1965 epic In Harm’s Way.

The cast was rounded out by both established international stars from Robert Mitchum to Toshiro Mifune and relative newcomers like Dabney Coleman, Erik Estrada, and a non-mustached Tom Selleck. Being made just over 30 years after World War II ended meant a number of actual veterans among its cast; in addition to Fonda, Glenn Ford, Charlton Heston, Hal Holbrook, Cliff Robertson, and Robert Webber had all served.

Though most of its characters are real-life figures, Midway centers around a fictionalized hero in the form of naval aviator CAPT Matthew Garth (Heston), for whom the battle presents the culmination of his increasing personal and professional troubles. Continue reading

Jimmy Stewart’s Undercover Denim Jacket in The FBI Story

James Stewart as agent John "Chip" Hardesty in The FBI Story (1959)

James Stewart as agent John “Chip” Hardesty in The FBI Story (1959)

Vitals

James Stewart as John “Chip” Hardesty, earnest FBI agent

Oklahoma, June 1930

Film: The FBI Story
Release Date: October 1959
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Costume Designer: Adele Palmer

Background

One of the greatest stars of the 20th century, James Stewart—known to friends and fans as “Jimmy”—was born on this day in 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania, just about an hour west of Pittsburgh.

Among the less celebrated titles in the actor’s extensive filmography is The FBI Story, a J. Edgar Hoover-influenced epic exploring the early successes of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Jimmy plays our fictional all-American agent John “Chip” Hardesty, whose Forrest Gump-like decades-long career with the Bureau includes a role in nearly every major investigation from tracking down the bank-robbing “Public Enemies” of the Depression and World War II spies to the bombing of United Flight 629 in 1955.

An interesting chapter of The FBI Story sends Chip to Oklahoma in the summer of 1930 to investigate the “Reign of Terror” in Osage County, Oklahoma, represented on screen as the obsoletely named “Wade County”. These murders of dozens of Osage Native Americans throughout the ’20s were recently explored by David Grann in his fascinating book, Killers of the Flower Moon, which provided the basis for a Martin Scorsese film of the same name currently in production starring Jesse Plemons, Robert De Niro, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Continue reading

Robert De Niro in Midnight Run

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh in Midnight Run (1988)

Vitals

Robert De Niro as Jack Walsh, tough bounty hunter

New York to Los Angeles, Fall 1987

Film: Midnight Run
Release Date: July 20, 1988
Director: Martin Brest
Costume Designer: Gloria Gresham

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

“This is an easy gig, it’s a midnight run for chrissakes!”

Bounty hunter Jack Walsh has withstood plenty of action and abuse tracking down fugitives for bail bondsman Eddie Moscone (Joe Pantoliano), but the inherent danger of bringing in Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), an accountant in the crosshairs of the Mafia, has Jack demanding $100,000 for the job. A pro, Jack has an easy enough time finding the Duke in New York, but bringing him back to L.A. and his hundred-grand payday brings a fresh set of challenges between the Duke’s reluctance to fly, the interference of the FBI, a rival bounty hunter sabotaging him at each step, and—oh!—a couple of deadly doofuses sent by the mob to whack the Duke… and anyone who gets in their way.

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The Guns of Navarone: David Niven’s Commando Coats

David Niven as Corporal Miller in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

David Niven as Corporal Miller in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Vitals

David Niven as Corporal Miller, British Army commando and explosives expert

Aegean Sea, Fall 1943

Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Tomorrow would have been the 110th birthday of David Niven, the Academy Award-winning English actor, author, and decorated war veteran. Instead of looking at one of the famously debonair Niven’s tailored suits or elegant dinner jackets, let’s explore his scrappier seafaring attire as a covert commando in The Guns of Navarone, the 1961 adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s World War II-set adventure novel.

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri: William Holden’s Naval Flight Jacket

William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

Vitals

William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker, bitter U.S. Navy Reserve aviator

Off the Korean coast, November 1952

Film: The Bridges at Toko-Ri
Release Date: December 1954
Director: Mark Robson
Costume Designer: Edith Head

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Mid-century flight must be my subconscious theme heading into the new year given my last few posts about Frank Sinatra’s jet-setting style and then Sean Connery’s charcoal traveling suit in Goldfinger. Let’s at least move forward from the fuselage to the cockpit where William Holden sits at the controls of his Grumman F9F-2 Panther in The Bridges at Toko-Ri as military aviator LT Harry Brubaker, flying for the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.

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Gregory Peck’s Duffel Coat in The Guns of Navarone

Gregory Peck as Captain Keith Mallory in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Gregory Peck as Captain Keith Mallory in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Vitals

Gregory Peck as Captain Keith Mallory, experienced Allied spy and mountain climber

“Navarone Island”, Greece, Fall 1943

Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

After leading his scrappy team of British Army commandos through Greece, Captain Keith Mallory finds himself at the crucial point of his mission, the infiltration of an enemy fortress on the fictional Navarone Island. Mallory and his team had been briefly detained in Mandrakos, where they turned the table on their Nazi captors and stole the German military uniforms to provide them ideal cover as they sneak into the fortress and disable the guns and, ideally, escape with their lives.

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Henry Fonda as Mister Roberts

Henry Fonda as the titular Lt.(j.g.) Doug Roberts in Mister Roberts (1955)

Henry Fonda as the titular Lt.(j.g.) Doug Roberts in Mister Roberts (1955)

Vitals

Henry Fonda as Lt.(j.g.) Doug Roberts, U.S. Navy cargo ship executive officer

The Pacific Theater, Spring 1945

Film: Mister Roberts
Release Date: July 30, 1955
Director: John Ford, Mervyn Leroy, and Joshua Logan
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry

Background

On Henry Fonda’s birthday, I want to celebrate one of the actor’s most famous roles among a talented cast of some of my favorite actors: Jack Lemmon, James Cagney, and William Powell.

Lieutenant (junior grade) Doug Roberts is a pragmatic executive officer on USS Reluctant, a cargo ship far from the action in “the waning days of World War II,” as we learn during the film’s opening credits. Despite his popularity on “the bucket”, Lt. Roberts is itching to see some combat… and to get away from useless martinets like the ship’s strict captain (Cagney).

Fonda had originated the role on stage. The play Mister Roberts had opened on Broadway in February 1948, a few years after Fonda and his pal James Stewart returned from their own service in the war.

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