Harry Dean Stanton as “Lucky”, grizzled desert-dwelling nonagenarian
Piru, California, Summer 2016
Release Date: March 11, 2017
Director: John Carroll Lynch
Costume Designer: Lisa Norcia
Today’s post celebrates the great Harry Dean Stanton, the craggy and unapologetically authentic character actor born 95 years ago on July 14, 1926. Stanton’s prolific filmography included few leading roles, aside from a memorable turn in Wim Wenders’ 1984 masterpiece Paris, Texas, and his final movie, Lucky.
Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja collaborated on the screenplay that would result in a cinematic love letter to Harry Dean Stanton, for whom Sparks had served as personal assistant for more than 16 years. Described by Movie Talk as “a poignant meditation on mortality”, Lucky provides a fitting swan song for the actor’s career, incorporating biographical details like Stanton’s Kentucky birthplace and service in the U.S. Navy, reuniting him with previous collaborators like David Lynch and Tom Skeritt, and even scored by harmonica riffs on “Red River Valley”, a song associated with his roles in Dillinger (1973) and Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), not to exclude the overall motif of roaming the southwestern desert that echoes his starring role in Paris, Texas.
The man at the heart of it all is “Lucky”, a cantankerous but not unkind 90-year-old who loves cigarettes, crossword puzzles, and coffee with plenty of cream and sugar. A man of routine, Lucky begins each day with a Natural American Spirit cigarette, his calisthenics (“five yoga exercises every day, 21 repetitions each”), and a glass of cold milk, before he slips into one of his identical shirts, jackets, and jeans to greet another day in the small desert town of Piru, California.
After I shared some of my favorite budget-friendly movie and TV-inspired summer shirts this year, I also received some interest in a similar post for the autumn so my thoughts immediately went to rounding up some fall-friendly flannel shirts, jackets, and shackets based on my favorite types of movies to watch around this time of year.
My taste in fall movies runs from the rough to the refined. Having grown up watching The Dukes of Hazzard, I always had a soft spot for the low-budget “hick flicks” (and I use the term endearingly) often rolled out during the ’70s by groups like American International Pictures or New World Pictures. The latter distributed Moonshine County Express, one of many movies I saw for the first time while under quarantine this year, and a clear bridge between Burt Reynolds’ early fare like White Lightning and the more formulaic world of the Duke boys in Hazzard County.
Of course, it also wouldn’t be fall without the melodramatic sophistication of Douglas Sirk or his romantic heroes with a taste for flannel as modeled by Rock Hudson in All That Heaven Allows or by his spiritual successor Dennis Haysbert in the autumnal drama Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes’ 2002 ode to Sirk.
Finally, the holidays means we’re in Die Hard season with both the 1988 original film and its 1990 sequel each set during an action-packed Christmas Eve. Bruce Willis’ cynical hero may be tragically underdressed for his adventure in Nakatomi Tower, but he makes up for it two years later by keeping his shirt and shoes while battling baddies in the snow.
Please feel free to add your own observations or flannel favorites in the comments! Continue reading
Walter Matthau as Zachary Garber, New York City Transit Authority police lieutenant
New York City, December 1973
Film: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Release Date: October 2, 1974
Director: Joseph Sargent
Costume Designer: Anna Hill Johnstone
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Walter Matthau, perhaps best known to today’s audiences for his roles opposite Jack Lemmon such as The Odd Couple and the Grumpy Old Men movies, though the New York-born actor’s rich filmography expands a range of genres from westerns and war movies to comedies and crime capers. One of my favorites falls into the latter category, the action thriller The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Continue reading
Desi Arnaz as Nicky Collini, civil engineer
Northern California, Late Summer 1953
Film: The Long, Long Trailer
Release Date: February 18, 1954
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Costume Designer: Helen Rose
As this year’s summer travel season in the U.S. looks to be more centered around road trips in response to the coronavirus pandemic, RV rentals and purchases have been surging at an unprecedented rate that recalls the heyday of “the great American road trip” as depicted in The Long, Long Trailer. Adapted from Clinton Twiss’ novel of the same name, this Lucy and Desi vehicle zaps into the wanderlust zeitgeist that captured the imagination of Americans during the fabulous fifties as everyone from Harry Truman to Jack Kerouac hit the newly expanded network of highways and byways as they explored the continental United States.
Were I transported back to the 1950s with the mission of taking in the country from the road, I’d likely be piloting a ’57 Chevy Nomad with a Super Turbo Fire V8 across Route 66 from Missouri to California, though it’s solely this latter state that hosts newlyweds Nicky and Tacy Collini as they plot their new nomadic life in a homey silver-and-yellow Redman New Moon hauled up the coast by a cream-colored Mercury convertible.
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, former ad man in search of himself
“Somewhere in California”, Fall 1970
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Person to Person” (Episode 7.14)
Air Date: May 17, 2015
Director: Matthew Weiner
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Five years ago today, Mad Men‘s final episode “Person to Person” aired on AMC, concluding a decade’s worth of storytelling as we followed advertising director Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his family and colleagues as they navigated the tumultuous 1960s.
Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough truck driver-turned-Mafia enforcer
Philadelphia, winter 1956 through spring 1961
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
Martin Scorsese’s latest crime epic, The Irishman, has been the subject of several requests since it was released on Netflix at the beginning of November. With one of my favorite directors helming some of my favorite actors in a subject and setting that held personal interest for me, The Irishman had been eagerly anticipated by me since the project was first announced… though I admit that I did have some hesitations about the running time and the advanced ages of all involved. As it turns out, the very factors I was most concerned about are what arguably contributed to the film being a modern masterpiece.
David Harbour as Jim Hopper, small-town police chief
Indiana, Fall 1983
Series: Stranger Things
– “Chapter Four: The Body” (Episode 1.04, dir. Shawn Levy)
– “Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat” (Episode 1.05, dir. The Duffer Brothers)
– “Chapter Six: The Monster” (Episode 1.06, dir. The Duffer Brothers)
– “Chapter Seven: The Bathtub” (Episode 1.07, dir. The Duffer Brothers)
– “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down” (Episode 1.08, dir. The Duffer Brothers)
Streaming Date: July 15, 2016
Creator: The Duffer Brothers
Costume Design: Kimberly Adams-Galligan (Episodes 1.01-1.04) & Malgosia Turzanska (Episodes 1.03-1.08)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
With Halloween just around the corner, let’s check in on the strange occurrences—er, stranger things—happening around the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the days following Halloween 1983. Continue reading
Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro, troubled and crooked Vinci PD detective
Ventura County, California, October 2014
Series: True Detective
– “Night Finds You” (Episode 2.02, dir. Justin Lin, aired 6/28/2015)
– “Maybe Tomorrow” (Episode 2.03, dir. Janus Metz, aired 7/5/2015)
Creator: Nic Pizzolatto
Costume Designer: Alix Friedberg
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As we get deeper into autumn, let’s crib a fall-friendly look from the second episode of True Detective‘s divisive second season. Even if you weren’t a fan of the neo-noir sophomore season of Nic Pizzolatto’s HBO series, there’s still something undoubtedly fun about Ray Velcoro’s cowboy-inspired take on a detective’s daily attire. Continue reading
Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, top paleontologist
“Isla Nublar”, 120 miles west of Costa Rica, Summer 1993
Film: Jurassic Park
Release Date: June 11, 1993
Director: Steven Spielburg
Costumes: Mitchell Ray Kenney, Sue Moore, Kelly Porter, and Eric H. Sandberg
Happy birthday, Sam Neill! The actor—born 72 years ago today on September 14, 1947—racked up plenty of BAMF Style points early in his career for his depiction of real-life spy Sidney Reilly in Reilly: Ace of Spies, a stylish mini-series that established Neill as a strong contender to succeed Roger Moore as James Bond. Neill’s greatest commercial success as a star was arguably his role of esteemed paleontologist Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, the 1993 blockbuster that needs no introduction.
Elvis Presley as Danny Fisher, swaggering nightclub singer and high school dropout
New Orleans, Summer 1958
Film: King Creole
Release Date: July 2, 1958
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Happy birthday to Elvis Presley, born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
The King of Rock & Roll considered Danny Fisher in 1958’s King Creole to be his favorite role in the dozens of movies he made over the course of his 13-year film career. Continue reading