Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, Philadelphia homicide detective
Sparta, Mississippi, September 1966
Film: In the Heat of the Night
Release Date: August 2, 1967
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
Happy birthday to the great Sidney Poitier, born 92 years ago today on February 20, 1927. The actor’s personal favorite among his prolific filmography is In the Heat of the Night, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1967, a year that found him pulling off a peerless hat trick that included that film as well as Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and To Sir, with Love. Continue reading
Clint Ritchie as “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, born Vincenzo Gabaldi, Chicago mob enforcer
Chicago, Winter 1928
Film: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Release Date: June 30, 1967
Director: Roger Corman
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is one of the few true incidents from mob lore to have expanded into mainstream pop culture. The killing of seven men affiliated with Chicago’s North Side Gang on February 14, 1929, startled and intrigued the public with its brutality, and the event became symbolic of the ugly violence that permeated through Prohibition-era America. Continue reading
Clark Gable as Peter Warne, recently fired newspaper reporter
Miami to New York, Spring 1933
Film: It Happened One Night
Release Date: February 22, 1934
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Robert Kalloch
Tailor: Eddie Schmidt
Today marks the birthday of Clark Gable, born 118 years ago on February 1, 1901, as William Clark Gable, though he would shave off his first name to assume the stage name of Clark Gable by 1924. Within a decade, the young actor from Cadiz, Ohio, had turned Clark Gable into a household name.
Released 85 years ago this month, It Happened One Night earned Clark Gable his only Academy Award while also racking up wins in the category of Best Picture, Best Director (for Frank Capra), Best Actress (for Claudette Colbert), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Robert Riskin). In the decades since, only two other movies have won this “big five” quinfecta of Oscar categories: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs. Esteemed company, indeed.
With Gable’s birthday today and the 91st Academy Awards just four weeks from now, let’s take a look at the dapper actor’s style in this trailblazing pre-Code comedy that’s still charming, witty, and ageless the better part of a century later. Continue reading
Tom Selleck as Nick Lassiter, debonair jewel thief
London, June 1939
Release Date: February 17, 1984
Director: Roger Young
Costume Designer: Barbara Lane
Happy birthday, Tom Selleck!
On the actor’s 74th birthday, I’m responding to a frequent request from a fellow Tom who kindly brought my attention to Selleck’s pre-World War II style in the little-known 1984 caper film Lassiter, made during the actor’s Magnum P.I. heyday. Selleck starred as the title character, Nick Lassiter, a daring and debonair jewel thief in the tradition of David Niven’s “Phantom” from the Pink Panther series with a twist of Indiana Jones… perhaps to make up for the fact that Selleck had turned down Raiders of the Lost Ark before Harrison Ford made the iconic role his own.
Gregory Peck as Harry Street, adventurous American expatriate writer and former newspaper reporter
Paris, Spring 1925
Film: The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Release Date: September 17, 1952
Director: Henry King
Wardrobe Supervisor: Charles Le Maire
The snowy month of January—and my shared half-birthday with Ernest Hemingway on the 21st—makes today a perfect time to look at Gregory Peck’s style in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the first of Henry King’s two adaptations of Papa’s work that would star Ava Gardner and Peck’s second go at playing a Hemingway protagonist.
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, cold and calculating Mafia boss
Havana, New Year’s Eve 1958
Film: The Godfather Part II
Release Date: December 12, 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle
Happy New Year’s Eve!
On this transitional #MafiaMonday, we transport back 60 years to New Year’s Eve 1958, a tumultuous night in world history as armed rebels connected to the vanguard 26th of July Movement overthrew Cuba’s incumbent president Fulgencio Batista, ending the five-year Cuban Revolution and establishing a communist government under the movement’s leader Fidel Castro.
“Gentlemen, to a night in Havana! Happy New Year… Feliz Año Nuevo!” toasts a gregarious Fredo Corleone (John Cazale) as he holds court in the Cuban capital with a bevy of politicians and his brother, taciturn and thoughtful mob boss Michael (Al Pacino). Continue reading
Sammy Davis Jr. as Josh Howard, sanitation worker and World War II veteran
Beverly Hills, December 1959
Film: Ocean’s Eleven
Release Date: August 10, 1960
Director: Lewis Milestone
Costume Designer: Howard Shoup
Tailor: Sy Devore
The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are an ideal week for reunions. In the Rat Pack’s arguably most famous film, Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) organizes a reunion of eleven men from his 82nd Airborne unit for a heist to ring in the new year.
After deciding not to attempt the life of “a one-eyed third baseman in Mobile,” former paratrooper Josh Howard (Sammy Davis Jr.) took a job in sanitation. “Trash is where you find it,” Josh explains. “You gotta follow the fleet!” Continue reading