Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, aka “Joker”, disturbed and disgraced ex-party clown
Gotham City, Fall 1981
Release Date: October 4, 2019
Director: Todd Phillips
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
Could there be a more appropriate character to focus on for April Fool’s Day than the Joker?
When I was growing up, the only two actors who had prominently portrayed Gotham City’s psychopathic prankster were Cesar Romero in the classic ’60s series and Jack Nicholson, who received top billing despite not playing the title role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. Since then, we’ve seen a handful of actors cycle through the iconic role, beginning with Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008), a few appearances by Ben Affleck and Jared Leto, and most recently a smaller part performed by Barry Keoghan in The Batman (2022).
Joaquin Phoenix received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the eponymous role in Joker, a reimagined origin story that pays significant homage to Martin Scorsese’s character studies like Taxi Driver (1976) and The King of Comedy (1983)—both starring Robert De Niro, who would appear in Joker—as well as twists of social commentary and themes from Death Wish (1973) and Fight Club (1999).
Many loved it and many hated it, but there’s little doubting Phoenix’s effectiveness intensity chronicling the troubled Arthur Fleck’s transformation from a desperate wannabe stand-up comedian who feels let down by society into a chaotic killer who unintentionally inspires anarchic revolution and class warfare. 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
James Shigeta as Joe Kojaku, LAPD homicide detective
Los Angeles, Summer 1959
Film: The Crimson Kimono
Release Date: October 1959
Director: Samuel Fuller
Costume Supervisor: Bernice Pontrelli
Are you among the many movie buffs who observe #Noirvember, the month-long celebration of shadowy cinema often set in worlds populated by gumshoes, gunsels, and femmes fatale. Defining film noir is often as murky as the outlines of the shadows in some of its seminal works, though even applying the infamous Potter Stewart rule yields at least dozens of crime dramas produced within and beyond the United States during the 1940s and ’50s.
Earlier this year, the Criterion Channel again showcased a collection of noir from Columbia Pictures, the erstwhile Poverty Row studio that churned out some of the most quintessential high-talent noir in including Gilda (1946), The Lady from Shanghai (1947), and In a Lonely Place (1950) as well as an array of criminally underseen B-movies that balanced their low budgets with high quality. One of my favorites from the collection was The Crimson Kimono (1959), directed by former crime reporter and World War II veteran Samuel Fuller.
Modern audiences may recognize James Shigeta as the patient and ultimately doomed Nakatomi executive in Die Hard. Here, a considerably younger Shigeta plays the charismatic Joe Kojaku, an apple-munching, piano-playing Japanese-American homicide detective called in with his partner Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) to investigate the murder of burlesque dancer Sugar Torch (Gloria Pall) on L.A.’s” Main Street” one brightly lit, jazz-filled night in August 1959. Continue reading
Peter Cushing as Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing, occult researcher and descendant of the famous vampire hunter
London, Fall 1972… A.D. 1972, that is
Film: Dracula A.D. 1972
Release Date: September 28, 1972
Director: Alan Gibson
Wardrobe Supervisor: Rosemary Burrows
Just days away from Halloween, today’s post responds to a request received earlier this year from BAMF Style reader Alan, who suggested the “extremely cheesy and, at times, ridiculous” Hammer production Dracula A.D. 1972, starring horror maestros and real-life pals Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing reprising their usual roles as Count Dracula and Van Helsing, respectively.
Ed Harris as Gene Kranz, determined, no-nonsense NASA flight director
Houston, Texas, April 1970
Film: Apollo 13
Release Date: June 30, 1995
Director: Ron Howard
Costume Designer: Rita Ryack
Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here…
Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert first transmitted this famous (and oft-misquoted) message 50 years ago today at 3:08 AM (GMT) on Tuesday, April 14, 1970, soon repeated by the mission commander Jim Lovell: “Uh, Houston, we’ve had a problem.” (At the Apollo Mission Control Center in Houston, it was still 10:08 PM on Monday, April 13.)
The craft had launched three days prior from Kennedy Space Center, manned by Swigert, Fred Haise, and mission commander Jim Lovell. The mission was intended to be the third of the American space program that would land on the Moon until the notorious “problem”—an explosion resulting from a failed oxygen tank in the service module—forced the three-man crew and their mission controllers in Houston to improvise solutions that ultimately resulted in the three astronauts safely returning to Earth, splashing down in the South Pacific on April 17 when they were swiftly met by a U.S. Navy recovery team.
While Apollo 13 was technically unsuccessful in its initial objective of a lunar landing, the mission and its outcome have been deemed “a successful failure” due to how different individuals, teams, and departments were able to work together in as tight timeframe to solve the almost-impossible task of bringing the three astronauts home safely, requiring not only the best efforts of Lovell, Haise, and Swigert, but also ingenuity and dedication from the Mission Control team centered in Houston under the “tough and competent” leadership of flight director Gene Kranz.
Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, Broadway crooner and World War II veteran
Pine Tree, Vermont, December 1954
Film: White Christmas
Release Date: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Happy December! To some, the start of December after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas season, while others (like Mariah Carey) kick off their holiday season a month earlier as soon as Halloween is over. To compromise, today’s post for December 1 explores Bing Crosby’s style in White Christmas, arguably a holiday classic, though the outfit in question is his only on-screen ensemble (aside from his army uniforms) that doesn’t include a single piece of holiday red.
Rod Taylor as Les Mangrum, gregarious Australian tractor manufacturing mogul
Heathrow Airport, London, Winter 1963
Film: The V.I.P.s
(also released as Hotel International)
Release Date: September 19, 1963
Director: Anthony Asquith
Costume Designer: Pierre Cardin (uncredited)
A generation after Grand Hotel (1932) established the subgenre of the ensemble drama with a packed cast of international stars, Anthony Asquith updated the pattern for the jet age with the genteel director’s penultimate film, The V.I.P.s, which—appropriately enough, given its spiritual predecessor—had also been released as Hotel International. Continue reading
Gregory Peck as Jim McKay, “neat, clean, and polite” former sea captain and aspiring rancher
West Texas, Summer 1886
Film: The Big Country
Release Date: August 13, 1958
Director: William Wyler
Costume Design: Emile Santiago & Yvonne Wood
A couple years ago, I had received a request via Twitter from venerated BAMF Style reader Ryan to explore Gregory Peck’s “taupe city slicker suit” in The Big Country, which also happened to be the favorite movie of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, born 129 years ago today on October 14, 1890. In fact, Ike was such a fan of William Wyler’s Technicolor Western that he screened the 166-minute epic on four separate occasions during his administration’s second term in the White House.
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.
To commemorate the 39th anniversary of the legendary John Wayne’s passing on June 11, 1979, please enjoy this submission from the estimable pen of BAMF Style reader and contributor “W.T. Hatch.”
John Wayne as John Bernard Books, aging gunfighter
Carson City, Nevada, January 1901
Film: The Shootist
Release Date: August 20, 1976
Director: Don Siegel
Wardrobe Credit: Luster Bayless
I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.
The Shootist was John Wayne’s final movie role and no actor, before or since, had a more fitting last appearance on the silver screen. Wayne plays John Bernard “J.B.” Books, the most “celebrated shootist extant,” in turn-of-the-century Carson City, Nevada. The film opens with a montage from the Duke’s earlier pictures providing Books’ background as a gunman and occasional lawman in the Old West. Now the last of his kind, Books travels to Carson City seeking assistance from his physician in what may be his final battle against cancer. This deeply compelling story is revealed as Books confronts the consequences of both his life and his own pending mortality. Continue reading