Telly Savalas as Theo Kojak, NYPD lieutenant
New York City, Fall 1973
Episode: “Dark Sunday” (Episode 1.08)
Air Date: December 12, 1973
Director: Charles R. Rondeau
Creator: Abby Mann
Who loves ya, baby?
As today would have been the 100th birthday of Telly Savalas—born January 21, 1922—it felt like the time to take a long-overdue look at the Greek-American actor’s signature role as the tough and tenacious Theo Kojak.
Kojak’s famous lollipops were introduced in the eighth episode, “Dark Sunday”, which begins with the murder of a small-time criminal named Artie Fowler (Marc Alaimo). “He used to love to play with cars, you know,” recalls Kojak. “Strip ’em, drive ’em, steal ’em… oh well, what else?” Through his investigations of the murder, Kojak welcomes Artie’s girlfriend Maria Cranston (Lara Parker) to his office. He has a lit cigarillo in his mouth when she enters, but he swiftly tosses it away in favor of a Tootsie Pop pulled from his desk… the first of what would become one of the character’s trademarks. Continue reading
Jared Harris as Lane Pryce, advertising agency financial chief
New York City, New Year’s Day 1965
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “The Good News” (Episode 4.03)
Air Date: August 8, 2010
Director: Jennifer Getzinger
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Even with the increasing adoption of hybrid and remote workplaces, there are still many returning to offices and cubicles for the first day of the new year, a specific occupational dread that provides a “welcome distraction” for at least one lonely Brit during the final act of “The Good News”, the third episode of Mad Men‘s fourth season. Continue reading
Billy Crystal as Harry Burns, sarcastic political consultant
New York City, New Year’s Eve 1988
Film: When Harry Met Sally…
Release Date: July 14, 1989
Director: Rob Reiner
Costume Designer: Gloria Gresham
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy New Year’s Eve!
One of my favorite romantic comedies, When Harry Met Sally… follows its two eponymous leads over twelve years of off-and-on friendship from their contentious meeting during a ride home from the University of Chicago up through a climactic New Year’s Eve party. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Will Colbert, commodities broker
New York City, Thanksgiving 2001
Episode: “The One with the Rumor” (Episode 8.09)
Air Date: November 22, 2001
Director: Gary Halvorson
Creator: David Crane & Marta Kauffman
Costume Designer: Debra McGuire
Whether it’s Ross fighting his way out of a pair of shrinking leather pants or Joey layered like a snowman in his roommate Chandler’s clothing, Friends isn’t exactly the first series that comes to mind when thinking of stylish menswear. On the other hand, the show’s female cast—particularly Jennifer Aniston as the boutique-obsessed Rachel—was a major influence on fashion of the ’90s, whether that meant an enviable wardrobe or an iconic, era-defining haircut.
From the beginning, Friends was meant to depict that period in people’s lives where we build our own “family” of chosen friends, particularly when living away from home. The first season’s Thanksgiving episode found the six leads enjoying Turkey Day together, the first time for many without their family, echoing the “Friendsgiving” traditions that would emerge among real-life groups of friends shortly after the series ended.
Thanksgiving episodes became a tradition on Friends as well, with memorable moments like the impromptu men vs. women football match in the park, Chandler telling Monica he loved her… while she was dancing with a raw turkey on her head, and Rachel’s revolting trifle that also included the ingredients for shepherd’s pie thanks to a sticky cookbook.
And then there was The One with Brad Pitt. Continue reading
Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, vigilante family man
New York City, Winter 1974
Film: Death Wish
Release Date: July 24, 1974
Director: Michael Winner
Costume Designer: Joseph G. Aulisi
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Charles Bronson, one of the most legendary cinematic ass-kickers perhaps best known for his starring role as family man-turned-street vigilante Paul Kersey in the 1974 revenge thriller Death Wish.
Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, smug and successful corporate raider
New York City, Spring 1985
Film: Wall Street
Release Date: December 11, 1987
Director: Oliver Stone
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
Tailor: Alan Flusser
Happy birthday to Michael Douglas, the actor, producer, and activist born September 25, 1944, who may be most famous for his iconic Academy Award-winning performance as ruthless financier Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.
Griffin Dunne as Paul Hackett, mild-mannered data processor
New York City, Spring 1985
Film: After Hours
Release Date: September 13, 1985
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Rita Ryack
Friday the 13th is traditionally a day for bad luck, so it’s appropriate that Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, centered around one New Yorker’s evening of arguably bad luck, was released on Friday the 13th in September 1985.
A surreal black comedy with elements of neo-noir, After Hours begins just before 5:00 for Paul Hackett, a data processor ostensibly living the yuppie dream with his secure job and Manhattan apartment… but the job sucks, his apartment’s cramped despite no one to share it with, and he has no social life outside of training new employees. In search of any human connectivity into his life, Paul takes his dog-eared copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer to an all-night diner. Continue reading
Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson, smooth gambler
New York, Spring 1955
Film: Guys and Dolls
Release Date: November 3, 1955
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff
I always found it interesting to watch a method—ahem, that’s Method—actor like Marlon Brando navigating the artificially staged Broadway of Guys and Dolls, the gangland-adjacent musical by Frank Loesser, which had been based on a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows… which had itself been based on several stories by Damon Runyon.
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.
Walter Matthau as Henry Graham, self-serving profligate
New York City, Summer 1969
Film: A New Leaf
Release Date: March 11, 1971
Director: Elaine May
Costume Designer: Anthea Sylbert
Tailor: Roland Meledandri
I’d long been intrigued by Elaine May’s directorial debut A New Leaf, released 50 years ago this spring, but it was an Instagram story posted by my friend Jonathan (@berkeley_breathes) showcasing Walter Matthau’s dapper wardrobe that finally prompted me to watch this offbeat classic.
Matthau brings his characteristically cantankerous charisma to to role of Henry Graham, a wasteful heir gradually blowing his family fortune on capricious spending from his immaculately tailored wardrobe to weekly maintenance for his Ferrari. The wry family lawyer Beckett (William Redfield) is tasked with managing the unmanageable Graham, who ducks Beckett’s calls of cautions as long as he can… until his last check bounces.