Richard Benjamin as Neil Klugman, listless library employee and Army veteran
Westchester, New York, Summer 1968
Film: Goodbye, Columbus
Release Date: April 3, 1969
Director: Larry Peerce
Costume Designer: Gene Coffin
In addition to today being the birthday of star Richard Benjamin—born on this day in 1938—today also marks three years since the death of Philip Roth, who died of congestive heart failure on May 22, 2018. Roth’s novella Goodbye, Columbus provided the source material for Ali MacGraw’s major screen debut acting opposite Benjamin.
Goodbye, Columbus has been favorably compared to The Graduate, inviting parallels with its similar-looking leads: a somewhat awkward, naive, and listless young man romancing a dark-haired “princess” against her parents’ wishes (though for a dramatically different reason than the Robinsons had), scored against the backdrop of a hip band from the late ’60s, in this case The Association as opposed to Simon & Garfunkel’s famous soundtrack for The Graduate.
Telly Savalas as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, aka Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp, megalomaniac terrorist
Piz Gloria, Switzerland, December 1969
Film: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Release Date: December 18, 1969
Director: Peter R. Hunt
Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius
‘Twas Christmastime at Piz Gloria, when all through the clinic
Not a creature was stirring, not even the agent from MI6.
The Angels of Death were snuggled in bed with care
in hopes that Sir Hilary’s bezants soon would be there.
As of 2020, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service remains the only James Bond movie prominently set during yuletide, as 007 (George Lazenby) disguises himself as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray in order to get close to SPECTRE chief Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), under the pretense of investigating Blofeld’s claim to the title of Count Balthazar de Bleuchamp.
On the 00-7th of December, let’s see how one of Bond’s most iconic nemeses dresses for the holidays.
Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini, playboy gossip journalist
Rome, Spring 1959
Film: La Dolce Vita
Release Date: February 5, 1960
Director: Federico Fellini
Costume Designer: Piero Gherardi
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The two headlining stars of Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita would have celebrated their birthdays this week—Marcello Mastroianni tomorrow (September 28, 1924) and Anita Ekberg the following day (September 29, 1931)—and watching these two Libras glide together through the Trevi Fountain at daybreak has become one of the most enduring images of Italian cinema.
Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, nervous and aimless college graduate
Los Angeles, Summer 1967
Film: The Graduate
Release Date: December 22, 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Costume Designer: Patricia Zipprodt
Dustin Hoffman may be turning 83 today, but for many he’ll always be the young Benjamin Braddock, freshly home from college with his entire adult life—with all of its expectations and inevitable disappointments—to follow.
Benjamin’s first summer as a college graduate is spent with lazy days by the pool and covert nights with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the domineering yet vulnerable wife of his father’s law partner. The Braddocks, obviously unaware of their son’s ongoing assignations with her mother, pressure him into taking Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross). A Berkeley student, Elaine would be a more suitable partner for Benjamin due to age, temperament, and several other factors, but the formidable Mrs. Robinson—we never do learn her first name—won’t have it.
Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent
en route Washington, D.C., Fall 1964
Release Date: September 18, 1964
Director: Guy Hamilton
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Following up on Saturday’s post about Frank Sinatra’s jet-setting style in the early ’60s, let’s see how a contemporary style icon dressed for a private flight of his own. As it’s the first 00-7th of the month in 2020, it seems only appropriate to check in with the first James Bond—Sean Connery! (Barry Nelson notwithstanding.)
Gig Young as Roger, neurotic financial advisor
New York City, Spring 1962
Film: That Touch of Mink
Release Date: June 14, 1962
Director: Delbert Mann
Though not regarded among the best of either Cary Grant or Doris Day’s filmographies, That Touch of Mink will always have a special place for me as one of the movies I used to watch with my grandma, who introduced me to many classic stars from the era through her collection of VHS tapes that we watched nearly to oblivion.
In this romantic comedy, it’s the leads’ best friends who are the most fun to watch, both Audrey Meadows (who Grant—a fan of her work on The Honeymooners—campaigned to have added to the cast) and Gig Young as Grant’s right-hand man.
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard, small-time car thief
Marseille, France, August 1959
(French title: À bout de souffle)
Release Date: March 16, 1960
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Happy birthday, Bébel! Jean-Paul Belmondo was born 86 years ago today in Neuilly-sur-Seine, west of Paris. Following a brief career as an amateur boxer and his compulsory military service, Belmondo began acting in the mid-1950s and found international stardom after his performance in Jean-Luc Godard’s À bout de souffle (Breathless to English-speaking audiences), a seminal example of the burgeoning French New Wave cinematic movement.
James Coburn as Tex Panthollow, larcenous former OSS commando
Paris, April 1963
Release Date: December 5, 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As portrayed by the brilliant and versatile James Coburn, Tex Panthollow makes his dramatic introduction in the beginning of Charade as the second of three mysterious men who show up to “pay respects” at the funeral of their one-time brother-in-arms Charles Lampert, each one increasingly perplexing his widow Reggie (Audrey Hepburn) with their behavior. Par examplum: Tex draws a hand-sized mirror from his inside breast pocket and holds it directly under the deceased’s nose to ensure that he’s really passed from this world before sneering: “Arrive-derci, Charlie.”
Robert Redford as Bob Woodward, investigative journalist for The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., Summer 1972
Film: All the President’s Men
Release Date: April 9, 1976
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Costume Supervisor: Bernie Pollack
In the spirit of the U.S. midterm elections tomorrow, I’m exploring one of my favorite political-themed movies, the 1976 thriller All the President’s Men based on the real-life investigative reporting of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation as U.S. President.
June 18, 1972: Woodward had only been at The Washington Post for nine months when he was assigned to cover the arrest of five burglars who had been caught breaking into the DNC office at the Watergate hotel complex the previous evening. As Woodward continued to investigate with fellow Post reporter Carl Bernstein, the once-minor story connects the break-in to campaign contributions for Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President (aptly nicknamed “CREEP”), revealing then-unprecedented levels of political corruption. Continue reading
James Cagney as Tom Powers, petty criminal
Chicago, Fall 1915
Film: The Public Enemy
Release Date: April 23, 1931
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson
Wardrobe Credit: Earl Luick
In the waning years of Prohibition, Warner Brothers met the public demand for bringing the violent daily headlines to the screen with a succession of films that firmly established the genre of American gangster cinema. One of the most enduring of these pre-Code hits is The Public Enemy, the 1931 movie that made an instant star out of James Cagney.