Humphrey Bogart as Dixon “Dix” Steele, frustrated screenwriter
Los Angeles, Fall 1949
Film: In a Lonely Place
Release Date: May 17, 1950
Director: Nicholas Ray
Costume Designer: Jean Louis (credited for gowns only)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today’s post wraps up #Noirvember on what would have been the 100th birthday of silver screen icon Gloria Grahame. Born November 28, 1923, Grahame’s film noir credits include Crossfire (1947) and The Big Heat (1953), though my favorite is In a Lonely Place (1950), directed by her then-husband Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart.
Some of Bogie’s friends and acquaintances have described the character of cynical screenwriter Dixon Steele to be the closest that the actor ever came to projecting his true charismatic yet insecure persona onto the screen. Continue reading
James Stewart as Shepherd “Shep” Henderson, bewitched publisher
New York City, Spring 1958
Film: Bell, Book and Candle
Release Date: November 11, 1958
Director: Richard Quine
Wardrobe Credit: Ed Ware
Not every Halloween-season movie has to be scary! In time for October 29 being National Cat Day, dig your claws into Bell, Book and Candle, Richard Quine’s lighthearted supernatural romance that reunited Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak just months after their iconic screen pairing in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Vertigo.
I’ll admit that Bell, Book and Candle may not be my favorite from Stewart, Novak, Quine, or screenwriter Daniel Taradash, but this bewitching comedy still offers plenty of atmospheric fun and camp between the two stars… and Novak’s magical Siamese cat Pyewacket. Continue reading
Chazz Palminteri as Sonny LoSpecchio, local mob capo
The Bronx, New York, Fall 1960
Film: A Bronx Tale
Release Date: September 29, 1993
Director: Robert De Niro
Costume Designer: Rita Ryack
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Thirty years ago this week, A Bronx Tale was released in theaters across the United States, two weeks after it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. This mobbed-up coming-of-age story was adapted from Chazz Palminteri’s autobiographical one-man show of the same name, recalling Palminteri’s own childhood experiences growing up in the Bronx during the 1960s. Continue reading
Peter Falk as Charlie Adamo, ambitious gangster
San Francisco and Las Vegas, Summer 1968
Film: Machine Gun McCain
(Italian title: Gli intoccabili)
Release Date: April 1, 1969
Director: Giuliano Montaldo
Costume Designer: Enrico Sabbatini
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Born 96 years ago today on September 16, 1927, Peter Falk may be best remembered as the rumpled but indefatigable Lieutenant Columbo (to the extent that his September 16th is also observed as “Wrinkled Raincoat Day”), but Falk spending most of his screen time wearing a handsomely tailored tuxedo in the 1969 Italian crime film Machine Gun McCain illustrates how the Bronx-born actor could clean up well. (And yes, I do plan on writing about Falk’s iconic wardrobe in Columbo someday!)
Released in Italy as Gli intoccabili (translated to “The Untouchables”) and based on the Ovid Demaris novel Candyleg, Machine Gun McCain joins the subject of my prior post as a prime example of poliziottesco, an Italian crime subgenre that emerged during the nation’s violent “Years of Lead” era and typified by corruption, violence, cynicism… and American lead actors. In this case, Falk was joined by his pal and frequent collaborator John Cassavetes, who portrays the eponymous ex-bank robber opposite Falk as gangster Charlie Adamo. Continue reading
Klaus Maria Brandauer as Maximillian Largo, billionaire businessman and SPECTRE terrorist
Monte Carlo, Spring 1983
Film: Never Say Never Again
Release Date: October 7, 1983
Director: Irvin Kershner
Costume Designer: Charles Knode
1983 was the year of the dueling James Bonds. Roger Moore continued as the canonical 007 in Eon Productions’ Octopussy, while Bond emeritus Sean Connery surprised audiences by starring in Never Say Never Again, an “unofficial” reimagining of Thunderball released 40 years ago next month by Jack Schwartzman’s Taliafilm.
Never Say Never Again resulted from a two-decade effort by producer Kevin McClory, who had collaborated with Ian Fleming and screenwriter Jack Whittingham on an original Bond screenplay in the late 1950s. When Fleming published a novelization of their unproduced screenplay as Thunderball in 1961, McClory and Whittingham sued and settled out of court, albeit with a string of conditions that ultimately maintained Eon’s rights to the story for up to ten years after the release of their own cinematic adaptation of Thunderball, released in 1965.
By the mid-1970s when McClory announced his plans to produce his own version of the story, both Whittingham and Fleming had died, and Connery had hung up 007’s shoulder holster—presumably for good—after reluctantly returning to the iconic role in Diamonds are Forever. After more legal and production hurdles, the end result released in October 1983 was Never Say Never Again, titled in reference to Connery reprising his role after twice saying he would never play Bond again. (While Moore turned 55 during the production of Octopussy, it’s Never Say Never Again that focuses more on Bond’s advancing age… despite Connery actually being three years younger than Moore and looking considerably more fit than the last time Connery starred as the “official” Bond in Diamonds are Forever a dozen years earlier.)
Not being produced by Eon meant many signature elements were missing, like the James Bond theme, the opening gunbarrel, and a familiar cast portraying 007’s allies at MI6. However, Bond still received his briefing from M (Edward Fox), flirted with Miss Moneypenny (Pamela Salem), and received his equipment from an uncharacteristically jolly Q (Alec McCowen) before jetting off to the Bahamas to investigate a missing nuclear warhead… just as he had in Thunderball.
Never Say Never Again globe-hops with more ferocity than Thunderball, and it’s not long before Bond arrives in southern France, tracking the enigmatic billionaire Maximilian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) and his girlfriend Domino Petachi (Kim Basinger). Bond literally gets his hands on Domino at a Villefranche-sur-Mer massage parlor, where he learns that Largo is hosting a charity ball that night across the border in Monte Carlo. Good thing Bond packed his tuxedo!
Largo: Do you enjoy games, Mr. Bond?
Bond: Depends with whom I’m playing.
An oft-criticized scene from Never Say Never Again pits Bond against Largo during a duel for world domination… in the form of a pixilated video game that Largo invented. Titled “Domination”, the Atari-style game was clearly an attempt to make the story seem fashionable for the 1980s—though it likely seemed dated by the time its first audiences were already out of the theater. A beaming Largo explains that “unlike armchair generals, we will share the pain of our soldiers in the form of electric shocks.” Even after almost passing out from the pain, Bond keeps the game going—is it because he wants to prove a point to Largo, or does he just not want to give $58,000 to a children’s charity?
As September 12 is National Video Games Day (not to be confused with plain old “Video Games Day” observed on July 8), BAMF Style’s inaugural Never Say Never Again post will explore Largo’s creative black tie for the event. Continue reading
Warren Beatty as John Silas “Jack” Reed, radical journalist and activist
Provincetown, Massachusetts, Summer 1916
Release Date: December 4, 1981
Director: Warren Beatty
Costume Designer: Shirley Ann Russell
Whether it’s because Labor Day is considered by some sartorial purists to be the last acceptable day for wearing summer whites or because the holiday originated to recognize the American labor movement, it feels appropriate for today’s post to explore Warren Beatty’s off-white summer suit as labor activist Jack Reed in his 1981 historical epic Reds.
Reds won three of the 12 Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including Beatty for Best Director, Maureen Stapleton for Best Supporting Actress, and Vittorio Storaro for Best Cinematography, though it had also been nominated for Best Picture and—of significant interest for this blog’s focus—Best Costume Design. Continue reading
For this holiday treat, I again welcome BAMF Style contributor Ken Stauffer (@oceansographer on Instagram), here sharing his thoughtful analysis of a screen icon in a holiday classic.
Cary Grant as Dudley, debonair angel
New York City, December 1947
Film: The Bishop’s Wife
Release Date: December 9, 1947
Director: Henry Koster
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff
Happy holidays, BAMF Style readers! To celebrate the season, we’re looking back at the Christmas classic The Bishop’s Wife, which premiered at the Astor Theater in Times Square exactly 75 years ago today. Interestingly, general audiences would not have a chance to see the movie until the following February, an odd marketing decision that shows how much the film industry has evolved over the years.
The film stars Cary Grant as Dudley, a literal angel on Earth, assigned to help Manhattan-based Episcopalian Bishop Henry Brougham, drolly performed by David Niven. While acting as the bishop’s assistant, Dudley finds himself drawn to his eponymous wife Julia, played by Loretta Young in an enchanting turn. Continue reading
Fred MacMurray as John “Jack” Sargent, smooth-talking New York prosecutor
New York to Indiana, Christmas 1938
Film: Remember the Night
Release Date: January 19, 1940
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Costume Designer: Edith Head
This year’s winter #CarWeek installment kicks off with a holly jolly hoosier holiday in Remember the Night, a 1940 romcom released at the outset of a decade that included many classics of Christmas cinema like The Shop Around the Corner (1940), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), Holiday Inn (1942), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), 3 Godfathers (1948), and Holiday Affair (1949). Yet before all those classics came Remember the Night, arguably one of the earliest major movies to recognize how compellingly Christmas, both at its loneliest and most celebratory, could be effectively woven into a story.
“While it has remained for decades mysteriously under the radar, its tender romance and comedy are so skillfully blended—and its use of Christmas so poignant—that it stands among the very best holiday movies,” describes Jeremy Arnold in the TCM volume Christmas in the Movies. Continue reading
James Caan as Walter Hobbs, workaholic children’s book publisher
New York City, December 2003
Release Date: November 7, 2003
Director: Jon Favreau
Costume Designer: Laura Jean Shannon
The late James Caan effectively subverted his screen image when he starred in Elf, a family-friendly comedy that’s already established as a modern holiday classic. Of course, as one of the big screen’s most famous tough guys, Caan’s Walter Hobbs begins the story on Santa Claus’ notorious “naughty list” as a children’s book publisher too focused on his bottom line to care about his family or even the minutae of his job, overlooking the last two pages of his latest book that leave the fate of a beloved puppy and pigeon too ambiguous for its young readers. Continue reading
Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1929
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Several years ago, I published a high-level overview of the various black tie ensembles across the male cast of the original 1932 version of Scarface, adapted from Armitage Trail’s pulp novel of the same name, which had been inspired by the then-contemporary exploits of the infamous Al Capone.
Now, after eight more years of learning, I want to focus specifically on the evening-wear worn by the eponymous Tony Camonte, portrayed by Paul Muni—who was born on this day in 1895—as Tony’s tuxedo had long been one of the driving sartorial influences in my choice to have a double-breasted dinner jacket made for my wedding, which will be one month from today. Continue reading