Gary Cooper as Cadet White, U.S. Army Aviation Section, Signal Corps aviator
Camp Kelly (San Antonio, Texas), Spring 1917
Release Date: August 12, 1927
Director: William A. Wellman
Costume Design: Travis Banton & Edith Head (uncredited)
Ninety years ago today, Wings won the first Academy Award for Best Picture—more accurately, the award read “Academy Award for Outstanding Picture.” Though silent movies were still the norm at the time of Wings’ release in August 1927, The Jazz Singer introduced recorded sound to film upon its release two months later, and Wings remains the only true silent film (unless you include The Artist) to take home the Best Picture prize.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, eccentric and ambitious aviation and movie mogul
Hollywood, Fall 1927 through Summer 1928
Film: The Aviator
Release Date: December 25, 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell
The Aviator wastes no time in establishing why the film is titled as such, providing the first look at the adult Howard Hughes as he’s beginning production on his World War I epic Hell’s Angels (1930). Hughes hires Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) to run his business enterprises—”and do a damn good job,” he adds—so he can focus his obsessive Capricorn energy on Hell’s Angels, a production combining the ambitious young mogul’s passions for aviation and movie-making. After beginning production on October 31, 1927, the film would take nearly three years to complete.
Today marks the 75th anniversary of “the great escape”, the mass breakout of allied airmen from the Luftwaffe-operated Stalag Luft III in Sagan-Silesia—now Zagan—in Poland on March 24, 1944. Of the 76 men who escaped, only three made it to freedom and 50 of the group were murdered by the Nazis in retaliation.
Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson
Paul Brickhill, one of the Allied officers who had worked on the various tunnels used for the escape, wrote the definitive account of prison camp life, the famous March 1944 breakout, and the subsequent fallout in The Great Escape, published in 1950.
Thirteen years later, a star-studded cast reenacted the incident in The Great Escape, a now-classic war movie that dramatized this real-life story of heroism, humor, and tragedy.
Today’s post—coinciding both with the 75th anniversary of the escape and the 89th birthday of the film’s star Steve McQueen—examines the uniforms of the Allied airmen, sorted by each major character’s surname. Continue reading
Tom Cruise as LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, hotshot United States Naval Aviator
NAS Miramar near San Diego, Summer 1985
Film: Top Gun
Release Date: May 16, 1986
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Design: Wingate Jones, John Napolitano, Bobbie Read, and James W. Tyson
On March 3, 1969 the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art of aerial combat and to insure[sic] that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots in the world.
Today, the Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School. The flyers call it: TOP GUN.
In 1922, the same year that the U.S. Navy commissioned its first aircraft carrier, Navy Day was established to commemorate the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt, whose vast accomplishments included serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy before the ascended to the presidency. On Navy Day, it’s hard to think of a movie more associated with the United States’ naval warfare branch than Top Gun, which celebrated the talents and competition among U.S. Naval Aviators.
Jean-Pierre Cassel as Jean-François Jardie, dashing French pilot and resistance operative
France, Winter 1942
Film: Army of Shadows
(French title: L’armée des ombres)
Release Date: September 12, 1969
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Costume Designer: Colette Baudot
Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 French Resistance epic, released at a volatile time for France and the world at large, was barely seen by the rest of the world until decades later. Army of Shadows officially debuted in the United States in 2006 and quickly shot to the top of many critics’ “best of the year” lists.
Need a costume this weekend for Halloween that’s identifiable but still looks good? James Bond and Don Draper are good go-tos, but those “costumes” can also be worn on a day to day basis. For an original and sharp 60s-style Halloween costume, consider a Pan Am uniform reminiscent of Frank Abagnale’s co-pilot outfit in Catch Me If You Can.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, Jr., international teenage con man posing as Pan Am pilot Frank Black, aka Frank Taylor, aka Frank Roberts
Pretty much anywhere in the world, notably New York, Miami, and France, 1960s
Film: Catch Me If You Can
Release Date: December 25, 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres
By the time he was 19, Frank Abagnale, Jr., had amassed millions of dollars posing as a college teaching assistant, a lawyer, a doctor, and – most notably – a Pan Am co-pilot.
Choosing to imitate a pilot in order to fly around the world for free, Abagnale called Pan Am to ask for a “replacement” uniform, decorated it with a forced FAA pilot’s license, and flew over 1,000,000 miles on over 250 flights in 2 years. After flying to 26 countries with travel, lodging, and food all expensed to Pan Am, Abagnale was captured in Europe. Continue reading