Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1927
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
Today’s #MafiaMonday post goes back to the Prohibition era, the age that gave rise to the modern American gangster… and the American gangster movie.
After Warner Brothers scored back-to-back hits with Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931), effectively establishing the subgenre of the gangster film, Howard Hughes entered the fray with Scarface, an explosive, influential, and fast-paced criminal epic adapted from Armitage Trail’s novel that had been based on the life of Al Capone. Hughes had been warned against taking on Warner’s dominance in the genre, so he packed his production with talent including screenwriter Ben Hecht, director Howard Hawks, and lead actor Paul Muni, who was born 124 years ago yesterday on September 22, 1895.
In the wake of movies like Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, the Hays Office had been increasing its efforts to censor what it deemed to be glamorization of criminal lifestyles in cinema, but its notoriously restrictive production code had yet to be put into place, giving Scarface full reign to arm its vaguely incestuous central character with a Thompson submachine gun, once dubbed “the gun that made the twenties roar,” as he rose the ranks of the criminal underworld in a series of violent vignettes paralleling the life and crimes of the infamous Capone.
Robert Walker as Bruno Antony, obsessive psychopath who “never seemed to do anything”
On the train from Washington, D.C., to New York, Late Summer 1950
Film: Strangers on a Train
Release Date: June 30, 1951
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Leah Rhodes
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This week, BAMF Style commemorates the birthday of Alfred Hitchcock, showcasing some notable men’s style across the oeuvre of the “Master of Suspense” who was born 120 years ago today on August 13, 1899. Continue reading
William Powell as Jim Wade, crusading assistant district attorney
New York City, Spring 1934
Film: Manhattan Melodrama
Release Date: May 4, 1934
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Costume Designer: Dolly Tree
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday, William Powell! The suave actor was born July 29, 1892, in my hometown of Pittsburgh, though he moved to Kansas City as a teenager. He only stayed there three years before moving to New York at the age of 18 to pursue a career as an actor, eventually becoming one of the best known actors of Hollywood’s “golden era” with three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor recognizing his performances in The Thin Man (1934), My Man Godfrey (1936), and Life with Father (1947).
Powell’s chemistry with Myrna Loy, most famously showcased as detective couple Nick and Nora Charles in the “Thin Man” series, made them one of the most iconic on-screen duos, though their first of 14 cinematic collaborations was Manhattan Melodrama in 1934. Continue reading
Clint Ritchie as “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, born Vincenzo Gabaldi, Chicago mob enforcer
Chicago, Winter 1928
Film: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Release Date: June 30, 1967
Director: Roger Corman
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is one of the few true incidents from mob lore to have expanded into mainstream pop culture. The killing of seven men affiliated with Chicago’s North Side Gang on February 14, 1929, startled and intrigued the public with its brutality, and the event became symbolic of the ugly violence that permeated through Prohibition-era America. Continue reading
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.
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, suave British government agent
London, Winter 2002
Film: Die Another Day
Release Date: November 20, 2002
Director: Lee Tamahori
Costume Designer: Lindy Hemming
I received a request for this outfit from Die Another Day which, for all of its shortcomings as a James Bond adventure, featured Pierce Brosnan’s 007 in elegant tailored clothing that is always worthy of discussion. Given the extreme chill in the air for the 00-7th of January today, it felt appropriate to explore his luxurious and layered businesswear upon arriving in London and reconnecting with his MI6 allies at the agency’s secret satellite station in an abandoned Underground tube station at Vauxhall Cross. Continue reading
Cary Grant as Nicolò “Nickie” Ferrante, socialite playboy
French Riviera, December 1956
Film: An Affair to Remember
Release Date: July 2, 1957
Director: Leo McCarey
Executive Wardrobe Designer: Charles Le Maire
As many folks across the United States are wrapping up Thanksgiving travel arrangements home to be with family, I wanted to take a look at some classic films where characters are making the own familial visitations.
An Affair to Remember finds Cary Grant on a transatlantic journey with Deborah Kerr. When the SS Constitution anchors in the French Riviera, Grant takes the opportunity to introduce his new traveling companion to his aging Italian grandmother at her villa in the picturesque seaside commune of Villefranche-sur-Mer. Continue reading
Warren Oates as John Dillinger, Depression-era bank robber
Indiana, Fall 1933
Release Date: July 20, 1973
Director: John Milius
Costume Designer: James M. George
Eighty four years ago tonight – November 15, 1933. Four police cars converge on a small office building on Irving Park Boulevard in the Chicago Loop. In an upstairs doctor’s office, one of the most wanted men in the tri-state area is being treated for either a ringworm infection or “barber’s itch,” an inflammation of hair follicles, depending on which account you read. On the floor below, a cagey informant named Art McGinnis is signaling desperately to police that their quarry is upstairs. Fate, however, is on the side of the outlaw, a thirty-year-old bank robber named John Dillinger. Continue reading
Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, maverick Depression-era bank robber
Chicago, Spring 1934
Film: Public Enemies
Release Date: July 1, 2009
Director: Michael Mann
Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
It’s been quite some time since I’ve visited Public Enemies, the Michael Mann-directed action thriller depicting the life and crimes of Depression-era desperado John Dillinger. The film received mixed to positive reviews upon its release with much of the praise going to Michael Mann’s usual attention to detail as well as Johnny Depp’s performance as the Indiana-born outlaw.
Colleen Atwood’s period costumes are also worthy of attention and praise. High fashion was the signifier of success for Depression-era gangsters, and Dillinger rarely led his gun-toting cronies into a bank without being dressed to the nines.
Even when on the run, such as this scene set not long after Dillinger’s narrow escape from an FBI ambush at the Little Bohemia lodge in Wisconsin, John Dillinger made a consistent effort to dress well. (The film plays with historical accuracy to present its own narrative, pushing Billie Frechette’s arrest to after the Little Bohemia raid; in real life, Billie was arrested on April 9, 1934, two weeks before Melvin Purvis’ federal agents attempted to trap the Dillinger gang at Little Bohemia.) Continue reading
Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, corrupt Atlantic City politician and bootlegger
Atlantic City, January 1920
Series: Boardwalk Empire
– “Boardwalk Empire” (Episode 1.01, dir. Martin Scorsese, aired September 19, 2010)
– “The Ivory Tower” (Episode 1.02, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired September 26, 2010)
– “Broadway Limited” (Episode 1.03, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired October 3, 2010)
– “Hold Me in Paradise” (Episode 1.08, dir. Brian Kirk, aired November 7, 2010)
– “A Return to Normalcy” (Episode 1.12, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired December 5, 2010)
– “What Does the Bee Do?” (Episode 2.04, dir. Tim Van Patten, aired October 16, 2011)
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
Tailor: Martin Greenfield
This week, I’m taking a look at outfits worn by BAMFs in the first episodes of some of my favorite TV shows. #MafiaMonday is a great excuse to start with Boardwalk Empire, particularly the suit worn by Steve Buscemi as Atlantic County treasurer Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in the opening credits of the series’ five-season run… as well as a few early episodes. Continue reading