Alec Baldwin as Frederick J. Frenger Jr., sociopathic ex-con
Miami, Fall 1989
Film: Miami Blues
Release Date: April 20, 1990
Director: George Armitage
Costume Designer: Eugenie Bafaloukos
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
I wanted to write about some pastels leading up to Easter and stumbled upon this chaotic look from Miami Blues, an adaptation of Charles Willeford’s 1984 novel that was the first in his Hoke Moseley series. “Nobody writes a better crime novel,” Elmore Leonard had once said of Willeford, who died in March 1988, two years before the novel made it to the screen. Miami Blues was only the second cinematic adaptation of a Willeford novel, following the 1974 release of Cockfighter starring Warren Oates.
Fred Ward—who also served as executive producer—starred as Moseley while Alec Baldwin (who celebrates his 63rd birthday today) played the sociopathic Frederick J. Frenger Jr., wreaking havoc through the Magic City with a badge stolen from Moseley. Continue reading
Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent and photographer
New Mexico to Phoenix, August 1965
Film: The Silencers
Release Date: February 18, 1966
Director: Phil Karlson
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Tailor: Sy Devore
Dean Martin infused his lounge lizard persona into a James Bond-like spy for his four-film portrayal of Matt Helm, a playboy whose love for turtlenecks, womanizing, and drinking above actual spying may make him more of an antecedent for the character of Sterling Archer than of 007 himself.
With a bossa nova score by Elmer Bernstein and a hip mid-sixties sartorialism styled by costume designer Moss Mabry and the Rat Pack’s go-to tailor Sy Devore, the Matt Helm series serves as a swingin’ time capsule to the waning heyday of hi-fis and hedonism. Though it may be dated, the series—particularly this first film, The Silencers—seems perfectly content with that and, in fact, it may be an intentional way for the 1966 zeitgeist to remain intact for modern audiences. Never taking itself too seriously, packed with decent talent, and sticking to a tight, quick-paced plot, The Silencers differentiates itself from its contemporary spy spoofs like Casino Royale in that it can still entertain 50 years later.
Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, Vegas casino manager and mob associate
Las Vegas, October 1982
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Rita Ryack & John A. Dunn
Anyone standing outside Tony Roma’s restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip 31 years ago today would be in for years of ringing ears. On the morning of October 4, 1982, ousted casino manager, fringe mob associate, and gambler extraordinaire Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal left the restaurant and headed for his car, a silver 1981 Cadillac Eldorado coupe with the distinctive V8-6-4 engine, the failed experiment that only last one year. In this case, the failed experiment saved Rosenthal’s life as an extra metal sheet placed under the driver’s seat to offset the weight of this engine protected him from the initial blast of a devastating car bomb placed on his Cadillac. Continue reading