Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent
New Mexico, Summer 1966
Film: Murderers’ Row
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Henry Levin
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday, Dean Martin! The charismatic entertainer known for his laidback charm and boozy, breezy persona was born June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio. Having established himself as a singer and actor, first in his partnership with Jerry Lewis and then among the swingers of the Rat Pack, Dino set out on his own direction in the mid-1960s, first with his variety series The Dean Martin Show on NBC and then his starring role as easygoing counter-agent Matt Helm in a multi-film franchise based on Donald Hamilton’s espionage novels. Unlike their more straightforward and serious source material, Martin’s Matt Helm movies followed the decade’s zeitgeist for spy parodies in the spirit of Carry On Spying and Our Man Flint. If you thought James Bond was a womanizer, lounge lizard Matt Helm proves that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, Lucchese family Mafia associate
New York City, Summer 1963
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
The popularity of Nicholas Pileggi’s mob expose Wiseguy in 1985 and the subsequent film version, Goodfellas, five years later changed the pop culture view of Mafioso. For thirty years, they were a crew of fedora-wearing guys in loud suits and pinkie rings who would shove a .38 under your chin and hope the coppers weren’t onto them, get me? In 1972, The Godfather paved the way for mob films about honor and family. Great movies but still hardly closer to depicting the truth about the mob.
Finally, in 1990, a realistic depiction of the American Mafia was released in theaters. Made with the help of “advisors” such as mob associates Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke and even starring ex-mob associates such as Tony Sirico (later to become famous as Paulie on The Sopranos), people were seeing the mob for what it was: a business made up of criminally-inclined lowlifes who saw themselves as much more important than they were.
Many terrific suits (and many awful ones) are worn throughout the film. Although it takes place from 1955 to 1980, some of the most stylish attire, as one would expect, is seen during the sequences set in the early ’60s. Continue reading