Tagged: Midwest

Nightmare Alley: Comparing Carlisle’s Cardigans in 1947 vs. 2021

Left: Tyrone Power as Stan Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (1947)
Right: Bradley Cooper as Stan Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (2021)

Vitals

Tyrone Power (1947) and Bradley Cooper (2021) as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, opportunistic drifter-turned-carny

Rural Kentucky, Summer into fall 1939

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: October 9, 1947
Director: Edmund Goulding
Costume Designer: Bonnie Cashin

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Costume Designer: Luis Sequeira

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Almost immediately after William Lindsay Gresham published his 1946 novel Nightmare Alley chronicling the grifters, geeks, and gals populating a second-rate sideshow, Tyrone Power asked 20th Century Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck to purchase the film rights.

Power had built his swashbuckling screen image in movies like The Mask of Zorro (1940), Blood and Sand (1941), and The Black Swan (1942), but—as so many had—returned from his World War II service as a changed man. The decorated Lieutenant Power was released from Marine Corps active duty in January 1946 and, after flying dangerous transport missions during the war, sought roles that would expand his image beyond the romantic hero he had established.

Director Edmund Goulding helmed the production that brought Gresham’s creepy carnival world to life via a working carnival constructed on ten acres of the Fox back lot, even employing actual carnies and more than 100 sideshow attractions to add verisimilitude. The talented cast also included Joan Blondell, appropriately appearing about fifteen years beyond her Warner Brothers heyday as she deliciously dives into the role of the washed-up tarot reader “Mademoiselle Zeena” whom the unscrupulous Stanton Carlisle manipulates into revealing the trick to her successful mentalist act. The married Zeena allows herself to fall for Carlisle’s romantic advances despite being married to her alcoholic stage partner Pete (Ian Keith) and Carlisle’s own obvious interest in the ingenue Molly (Coleen Gray).

Nightmare Alley premiered 75 years ago today on October 9, 1947, with Power’s performance lauded by critics like James Agee, who noted for Time that he “steps into a new class as an actor,” playing against type as Carlisle.

The Nightmare Alley story was recently revived for Guillermo del Toro’s re-adaptation of the novel, reinstating some of the darker components to blend Gothic horror with the noir-ish elements that were also present in Goulding’s film. Released in December 2021, del Toro’s Oscar-nominated Nightmare Alley featured a star-studded cast led by Bradley Cooper as Carlisle, Toni Collette as Zeena, Rooney Mara as Molly, David Strathairn as Pete, and Cate Blanchett as Dr. Lilith Ritter, the mysterious femme fatale who Carlisle meets after escaping the carnival world and re-establishing himself as the debonair mentalist “The Great Stanton”. Continue reading

Hot Saturday: Cary Grant’s White Suit

Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday (1932)

Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday (1932)

Vitals

Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield, smooth playboy

Ohio, Summer 1932

Film: Hot Saturday
Release Date: October 28, 1932
Director: William A. Seiter

Background

Today being a hot Saturday in late summer reminded me of the early Cary Grant movie called, well, Hot Saturday. 1932 had been a breakout year for the Bristol-born star, as the erstwhile Archie Leach had worked his way in six months from his screen debut (This is the Night) to his first leading role, as the dapper playboy Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday. (Curiously, this marks the second time both this month and in the decade-long history of this blog that I’m writing about a character named Romer!)

Romer provides a prototype of what would become Grant’s signature screen persona: charming, debonair, and romantic yet wickedly self-deprecating. We meet him on a warm afternoon in the fictional Ohio berg of Marysville, where he strolls into the local bank and makes a date with the young clerk, Ruth Brock (Nancy Carroll), despite his already scandalous living arrangement with a woman named Camille Renault (Rita La Roy). As Ruth already has a date set that weekend with co-worker Connie Billop (Edward Woods), Romer invites both to his lakeside estate for what promises to be a hot Saturday indeed. Continue reading

Stranger Things: Steve Harrington’s Members Only Jacket

Joe Keery as Steve Harrington on Stranger Things

Joe Keery as Steve Harrington on Stranger Things (Episode 2.05: “Dig Dug”)

Vitals

Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, popular high school senior

Indiana, Fall 1984

Series: Stranger Things
Episodes:
– “Chapter Five: Dig Dug” (Episode 2.05, dir. Andrew Stanton)
– “Chapter Six: The Spy” (Episode 2.06, dir. Andrew Stanton)
– “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer” (Episode 2.08, dir. The Duffer Brothers)
– “Chapter Nine: The Gate” (Episode 2.09, dir. The Duffer Brothers)
Streaming Date: October 27, 2017
Creator:
 The Duffer Brothers
Costume Designer: Kim Wilcox

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

This Friday, Netflix welcomes viewers back to Stranger Things with the fourth and penultimate season of the streaming phenomenon that blends elements of horror and sci-fi through a nostalgic 1980s lens.

One of my favorite character arcs on Stranger Things has followed Steve Harrington from the prototypical bullying jock he was at the start of the series into an affable ally who eagerly jumps in to assist and protect our young heroes against the series’ otherworldly antagonists. Continue reading

Brad Pitt as Jesse James

Brad Pitt as Jesse James in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Brad Pitt as Jesse James in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Vitals

Brad Pitt as Jesse James, legendary outlaw

Missouri, Fall 1881 through Spring 1882

Film: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Release Date: September 21, 2007
Director: Andrew Dominik
Costume Designer: Patricia Norris

Background

An old adage advises us to never meet our heroes, as they’re sure to disappoint. This theme permeates one of my favorite Westerns, Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, depicting the months leading up to the titular betrayal that surprised the country 140 years ago today.

All these years later, Jesse James remains a household name, wisely portrayed on screen by A-lister Brad Pitt to reinforce to audiences the presence that the bandit would have commanded during his heyday. Continue reading

Nightmare Alley: Bradley Cooper’s Plaid Mackinaw Jacket

Bradley Cooper as Stanton Carlisle in Nightmare Alley

Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle in Nightmare Alley (2021)

Vitals

Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, opportunistic drifter-turned-carny

Rural Kentucky, Summer into fall 1939

Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Costume Designer: Luis Sequeira

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

William Lindsay Gresham’s novel Nightmare Alley was first adapted to the screen in 1947, just a year after its initial publication, via Edmund Goulding’s classic noir starring Tyrone Power. Guillermo del Toro’s newly released version is a less a remake of Goulding’s movie and more a reimagining of the source material from a screenplay he co-wrote with Kim Morgan, presented as a vividly stylish Gothic quasi-horror that landed a quartet of worthy Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.

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Jingle All the Way: Schwarzenegger in Cashmere and Corduroy

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way (1996)

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way (1996)

Vitals

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Howard Langston, massive Austrian bodybuilder midwestern mattress sales executive and family man

Minneapolis, Christmas Eve 1996

Film: Jingle All the Way
Release Date: November 22, 1996
Director: Brian Levant
Costume Designer: Jay Hurley

Background

With only a few more shopping days left until Christmas, some may still be scrambling for that perfect gift to put under the tree. This family-friendly ’90s comedy satirized the lengths to which people had to go in the blessed pre-Amazon days, represented by Minneapolis mattress king Howard Langston’s increasingly desperate attempts to track down a prized Turbo-Man action figure for his son… on Christmas Eve!

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Deadwood: Keith Carradine as “Wild Bill” Hickok

Keith Carradine as "Wild Bill" Hickok on Deadwood

Keith Carradine as “Wild Bill” Hickok on Deadwood

Vitals

Keith Carradine as James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, legendary gunfighter, gambler, and erstwhile lawman

Deadwood, Summer 1876

Series: Deadwood
Episodes:
– “Deadwood” (Episode 1.01, dir. Walter Hill, aired 3/21/2004)
– “Deep Water” (Episode 1.02, dir. Davis Guggenheim, aired 3/28/2004)
– “Reconnoitering the Rim” (Episode 1.03, dir. Davis Guggenheim, aired 4/4/2004)
– “Here Was a Man” (Episode 1.04, dir. Alan Taylor, aired 4/11/2004)
Creator: David Milch
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Famously killed 145 years ago today holding the “dead man’s hand”, James Butler Hickok was a living Wild West legend by the time his caravan pulled into Deadwood, then a lawless mining camp in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory, during the summer of 1876. Continue reading

A Place in the Sun: Montgomery Clift’s Leather Jacket and Aloha Shirt

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)

Vitals

Montgomery Clift as George Eastman, dangerously ambitious factory executive

Carthage, Missouri to “Loon Lake”, Spring to Summer 1950

Film: A Place in the Sun
Release Date: August 14, 1951
Director: George Stevens
Costume Designer: Edith Head

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

April showers bring May flowers… and hopefully some floral shirts from the back of your closet!

Decades after Ellery J. Chun established his flowery-printed shirts as the signature garb of the Hawaiian islands, aloha shirts went mainstream on the mainland thanks in part to the American servicemen dazzled by the bright colors after being stationed in the Pacific. This postwar boom was felt at home in Hawaii, as Josh Sims wrote in Icons of Men’s Style that “by 1947, employees of Hawaii’s city councils were allowed to wear Hawaiian shirts to work and, in 1948, Aloha Wednesday, a precursor to dress-down Friday was introduced across the islands.”

Aloha style received an added boost from the on-screen advocacy of Montgomery Clift, first as the ambitious George Eastman in A Place in the Sun and then perhaps most famously as the conflicted rifleman at the heart of From Here to Eternity, both performances that earned Monty two of his four Academy Award nominations. Continue reading

A Bullet for Pretty Boy: Fabian’s Navy Suit

Fabian Forte as Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd in A Bullet for Pretty Boy (1970)

Fabian Forte as Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd in A Bullet for Pretty Boy (1970)

Vitals

Fabian Forte as Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Depression-era bank robber

Kansas City, Spring 1930 and 1931

Film: A Bullet for Pretty Boy
Release Date: June 1970
Director: Larry Buchanan (and Maury Dexter, uncredited)
Wardrobe Credit: Ron Scott

Background

After Warner Brothers’ success with Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, American International Pictures (AIP) leapt at the chance to capitalize on the emerging trend of Depression-era crime movies using their own brand of inexpensive, exploitative filmmaking. This wasn’t AIP’s first rodeo in the realm of ’30s public enemies, having earlier produced The Bonnie Parker Story and Machine Gun Kelly, both released in May 1958. Their B-movie output in the decade that followed Bonnie and Clyde ranged from fictional stories like Boxcar Bertha (1972) directed by Martin Scorsese to those loosely based on actual criminals like Bloody Mama (1970) starring Shelley Winters as a caricature of “Ma” Barker (alongside a young Robert De Niro as one of her sons) to Dillinger (1973).

Even before that arguably most famous ’30s bank robber would be played by a grizzled Warren Oates, former teen idol Fabian got a shot to rebrand his image by playing Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, the outlaw whose moniker alone lent itself to suit the fresh-faced Mr. Forte.

The real Charles Arthur Floyd was born 117 years ago on February 3, 1904, in Adairsville, Georgia, though his family moved to Oklahoma when Floyd was seven, and it was the Cookson Hills that he would consider home for the 30 years of his life.

A fellow Aquarius, Forte was born only three days (and 39 years) later on February 6, 1943, making him 26—the same age as Floyd was for his first bank robbery—when A Bullet for Pretty Boy was filmed from June to October 1969. A Bullet for Pretty Boy loosely follows the facts of Floyd’s life, albeit exaggerated and certainly simplified for the sake of AIP’s low-budget, short-runtime formula for success that would thrill teens at the drive-ins just before these audiences found the real thrills in their own back seats later that night. Continue reading

A Place in the Sun: Montgomery Clift’s Labor Day Glen Plaid Sports Coat

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951)

Vitals

Montgomery Clift as George Eastman, dangerously ambitious factory executive

“Loon Lake”, Missouri, Labor Day 1950

Film: A Place in the Sun
Release Date: August 14, 1951
Director: George Stevens
Costume Designer: Edith Head

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

With Labor Day weekend ahead, today’s post explores the style from one of my favorite movies set across the late summer holiday. A Place in the Sun was adapted by Michael Wilson and Harry Brown from Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy, which was itself based on Chester Gillette’s 1906 murder of his pregnant partner Grace Brown in the Adirondacks.

Continue reading