Tagged: Oxford Shoes

East of Eden: James Dean’s 1917 Sport Jacket

James Dean and Julie Harris in East of Eden

James Dean and Julie Harris in East of Eden (1955)

Vitals

James Dean as Caleb “Cal” Trask, angsty and entrepreneurial farmer’s son

Salinas, California, Fall 1917

Film: East of Eden
Release Date: March 9, 1955
Director: Elia Kazan
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone

Background

James Dean’s first of only three major credited screen roles also resulted in his first of two posthumous Academy Award nominations, starring as the moody Cal Trask in Elia Kazan’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden, itself a loose retelling of the story of Cain and Abel set in California’s Salinas Valley around the time of America’s entry into World War I.

Cal and his brother Aron (Richard Davalos) vie for the affections of their father Adam (Raymond Massey), a prominent farmer and draft board chairman, whom Cal hopes to impress by growing beans to raise funds that would support the family and supplant some of Adam’s own financial losses. As Cal’s success in the bean-fields grows, his competition with his brother extends to Aron’s girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris), growing closer to her after they meet up at a county fair. Continue reading

Roscoe Lee Browne in Topaz

Roscoe Lee Browne as Philippe Dubois in Topaz

Roscoe Lee Browne as Philippe Dubois in Topaz (1969)

Vitals

Roscoe Lee Browne as Philippe Dubois, smooth-talking Martinican-American sleeper agent

New York City, Fall 1962

Film: Topaz
Release Date: December 19, 1969
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

Following last month’s look at a “hero costume” from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1942 thriller Saboteur, I want to continue exploring style from the lesser-known entries in the Master of Suspense’s oeuvre. Loosely based on the “Martel affair” and events leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis, Topaz was Hitch’s final movie centered around espionage, though I consider it to lack much of the spark that fueled his earlier successes like North by Northwest.

The single exception in Topaz may be a brief scene made more memorable by the appearance of Martinican agent Philippe Dubois, portrayed by Roscoe Lee Browne, the multi-talented star of stage and screen born 100 years ago today on May 2, 1922. Continue reading

Saboteur: Bob Cummings’ Heroic Leather Flight Jacket

Robert Cummings as Barry Kane in Saboteur

Robert Cummings as Barry Kane in Saboteur (1942)

Vitals

Robert Cummings as Barry Kane, civilian aircraft mechanic

From Glendale, California, into the High Desert, Spring 1942

Film: Saboteur
Release Date: April 22, 1942
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Background

Alfred Hitchcock’s wartime thriller Saboteur—not to be confused with his earlier movie Sabotage—was released 80 years ago this month. Though production began just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the idea had actually been months in the making after Hitch’s original pitch to David O. Selznick. “We were in 1941 and there were pro-German elements who called themselves America Firsters and who were, in fact, American Fascists. This was the group I had in mind while writing the scenario,” Hitchcock later explained to François Truffaut.

Despite his traditional elements of the wronged man, the beautiful blonde, and the “MacGuffin,” Hitch identified several disappointments with Saboteur, most notably in the casting of his two heroes and the villain. Of leading male star Robert Cummings, who portrayed the accused saboteur, Hitch commented to Truffaut that “he’s a competent performer, but he belongs to the light-comedy class of actors,” though this wouldn’t stop him from casting him a decade later in a strong supporting role in Dial M for Murder. Continue reading

Singin’ in the Rain: Gene Kelly’s Tweed Norfolk Suit

Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood in Singin' in the Rain

Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood in Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Vitals

Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, ambitious film actor, singer, and dancer

Hollywood, Spring 1927

Film: Singin’ in the Rain
Release Date: April 11, 1952
Directed by: Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen
Costume Designer: Walter Plunkett

Background

What better way to welcome April showers than by celebrating the 70th anniversary of Singin’ in the Rain, which was widely released on this day in 1952, just two weeks after it premiered at Radio City Music Hall.

Now considered not just one of the best musical films but one of the best movies of all time, Singin’ in the Rain centers around Hollywood during the waning months of the silent era as studios made the shift to “talkies” following the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927. The transition is no problem for the multi-talented Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), who shares his portrayer’s finely honed abilities to sing, act, and dance, but previews for Don’s latest feature—the period drama The Dueling Cavalier—illustrate that Don’s brassy, vain co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) is woefully underprepared for the new phase of their career, her shrill accent eliciting laughter and frustration from the test audiences.

Brainstorming over late-night sandwiches and milk with his professional partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) and his new love interest Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), Don’s brain trust determines that The Dueling Cavalier could potentially be retooled as a musical, with Kathy dubbing Lina’s grating voice behind the scenes. This being a musical, the trio celebrates their breakthrough with a rousing rendition of “Good Mornin'” as the rain falls outside, followed by a gleeful Don kissing Kathy goodnight and—delighted with the prospects of his professional and romantic futures—singing the titular ditty as he dances home in the downpour. Continue reading

Nightmare Alley: Bradley Cooper’s White Tie and Tails

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 carny-turned-nightclub mentalist

Buffalo, New York, Winter 1941

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

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

On the eve of the 94th Academy Awards, I wanted to revisit the “golden era” style of quadruple-nominee Nightmare Alley, Guillermo del Toro’s evocatively photographed adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel of the same name. Continue reading

Being the Ricardos: Desi Arnaz’s Real vs. Reel Blue Suit

Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos

Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos (2021)

Vitals

Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz, Cuban-born bandleader, actor, and TV producer

Los Angeles, September 1952

Film: Being the Ricardos
Release Date: December 7, 2021
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Costume Designer: Susan Lyall

Background

I grew up watching I Love Lucy, my childhood punctuated by many memories of me channeling inordinate levels of anxiety at Lucy’s antics into pacing around my grandmother’s kitchen while the decades-old drama unfolded in black-and-white from the small TV tucked on a corner countertop. Almost thirty years later, I still can recollect Lucy pitching Vitameatavegamin or stomping grapes with better clarity than anything I may have binged on Netflix over the last year.

As the real Desi Arnaz was born 105 years ago today on March 2, 1917, let’s take a look at Javier Bardem’s Academy Award-nominated performance as Desi in Being the Ricardos. Continue reading

Death on the Nile: Simon MacCorkindale’s White Mess Jacket

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile (1978)

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile (1978)

Vitals

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle, newlywed honeymooner

Egypt, September 1937

Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today would have been the 70th birthday of Simon MacCorkindale, the English actor whose breakthrough role was in Death on the Nile, the 1978 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery of the same name.

Continue reading

It’s a Wonderful Life: Jimmy Stewart’s Barleycorn Tweed Suit

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Vitals

James Stewart as George Bailey, reluctant banker

Bedford Falls, New York, Spring 1932

Film: It’s a Wonderful Life
Release Date: December 20, 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Edward Stevenson

Background

Released 75 years ago today, It’s a Wonderful Life has become an enduring Christmas classic… almost by accident! Based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s self-published novella The Greatest Gift, the movie had been relatively well-received at the time of its release, even earning five Academy Award nominations including one for Best Picture, but it would be overshadowed by the epic blockbuster The Best Years of Our Lives that told the story of servicemen returning from World War II.

Despite being a personal favorite of director Frank Capra and star Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life seemed destined for obscurity as just another “old movie” when a clerical error prevented proper renewal of the copyright. Though small royalties were still owed as it was derived from Stern’s story, TV stations leapt at the chance to air high-quality, low-cost seasonal programming, launching It’s a Wonderful Life to its status as a perennial favorite for holiday viewers by the 1980s.

Continue reading

Detour: Tom Neal’s Borrowed Clothes and Borrowed Lincoln

Tom Neal as Al Roberts in Detour (1945)

Tom Neal behind the wheel of a ’41 Lincoln as Al Roberts in Detour (1945)

Vitals

Tom Neal as Al Roberts, hitchhiking nightclub pianist

Across the United States, especially Arizona to California, Spring 1945

Film: Detour
Release Date: November 30, 1945
Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Wardrobe Designer: Mona Barry

Background

On the last day of #Noirvember, let’s also kick off #CarWeek with a look at one of the best examples of “road noir” with Detour, the enduring B-movie that saw a limited release 76 years ago today on November 30, 1945, just over two weeks after its initial premiere in Boston.

Martin M. Goldsmith worked with an uncredited Martin Mooney to adapt his own 1939 novel of the same name into a screenplay. Known as “the King of PRC” for his reputation as an efficient director working for the Poverty Row studio Producers Releasing Corporation, the Austrian-born Edgar G. Ulmer filmed Detour in less than a month in the summer of 1945, with a shoestring budget of less than $100,000; for comparison, this was less than 10% of the final budget for that year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, The Lost Weekend. (Perhaps overstating his efficiency, Ulmer would later cite that he made the movie in six days for $20,000.)

Detour was my gateway to film noir, thanks to a multi-pack DVD that I was gifted in high school that included many pulp classics like D.O.A.The HitchhikerQuicksand, and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, many of which—like Detour—were regularly available in budget-friendly home video releases as they had fallen into the public domain. Clocking in at just over an hour, the story may be simple, but it contains all the characteristic noir themes and stock characters, including the femme fatale (and how!) and the wrongly accused man whose questionable ethics and unfortunate circumstances launch him headway into increasingly dangerous circumstances.

Continue reading

Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Vitals

Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, smooth private detective and “a chap worth knowing”

San Francisco, Spring 1941

Film: The Maltese Falcon
Release Date: October 3, 1941
Director: John Huston
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly (credited for gowns)

Background

Now considered a seminal film noir, The Maltese Falcon celebrated its 80th anniversary last month. Dashiell Hammett’s excellent 1930 detective novel had already been adapted twice for the screen—once as a “lewd” pre-Code thriller and recycled as a zanier mid-’30s vehicle for Bette Davis—before Warner Bros. finally got it right.

The Maltese Falcon was the directorial debut for John Huston, who had faithfully adapted Hammett’s source material for his sharp script and demonstrated his sense of methodical efficiency, resulting in a masterpiece that benefited from the formula of director of photography Arthur Edelson’s low-key cinematography and a perfect cast led by Humphrey Bogart as the wisecracking gumshoe who “don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.” Continue reading