Steve McQueen as LT Ferguson “Fergie” Howard, enterprising U.S. Navy officer
Venice, Summer 1961
Film: The Honeymoon Machine
Release Date: August 23, 1961
Director: Richard Thorpe
Costume Designer: Helen Rose
To commemorate Steve McQueen’s birthday 91 years ago today, let’s take a look at how the King of Cool incorporated some of his personal style into one of his earliest—and least popular—movies.
Based on Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s 1959 play The Golden Fleecing, The Honeymoon Machine belongs to that unique sub-genre of ’60s farce that made light of Cold War paranoia and seemed to end up with everyone throwing punches (executed suitably in The Glass Bottom Boat, poorly in the 1967 Casino Royale.)
The role of the mischievously ambitious, Nietzsche-quoting naval lieutenant Fergie Howard was originally intended for Cary Grant, however the middle-aged actor was nearing his retirement and turned the job down. Rather than casting another screen vet of Grant’s age and standing, the production went in the opposite direction and brought on Steve McQueen for what would be his third top-billed movie after The Blob (1958) and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).
The Honeymoon Machine turned a profit but McQueen considered it a dark mark on his career, reportedly walking out of the first public screening and vowing never to work for MGM again. Don’t worry, Steve… The Great Escape is only two years away! Continue reading
Lee Marvin as Jack Osborne, American fur importer
Stockholm, April 1983
Film: Gorky Park
Release Date: December 15, 1983
Director: Michael Apted
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As winter rages on, you’d think I would be looking for escape via light movies set in tropical locations… but instead, I recently rewatched Gorky Park, adapted from Martin Cruz Smith’s 1981 novel that begins with three disfigured corpses found in the snow outside a Moscow ice rink. (And I wonder why I get depressed!)
Our ostensible hero is Militsiya officer Arkady Renko (William Hurt), whose investigation of the grisly murders leads him to the sophisticated yet sinister sable importer Jack Osborne (Lee Marvin). Continue reading
Ryan O’Neal as Oliver Barrett IV, preppy Harvard student
New England, Winter 1966, and New York City, Winter 1970
Film: Love Story
Release Date: December 16, 1970
Director: Arthur Hiller
Costume Design: Alice Manougian Martin & Pearl Somner
Happy Valentine’s Day! In the spirit of the season of romance, it felt appropriate to explore the preppy style in one of the most famous cinematic love stories of all time… the perhaps uncleverly titled Love Story.
I went into my inaugural Love Story viewing this year familiar only with Larry Siegel and Mort Drucker’s Mad magazine parody and the movie’s reviled thesis that “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” so I was a little surprised to find myself non-ironically enjoying it more than I expected. Sure, my friend @berkeley_breathes had primed me to expect some standout Ivy-inspired style worn by Ryan O’Neal as our romantic hero Oliver, but I guess the half-century since Love Story has yielded considerably cornier products with the odd effect that this aged… relatively well? Or maybe I’m just speaking from behind the blinders of my enduring crush on early ’70s Ali MacGraw. Continue reading
Chris Evans as Hugh “Ransom” Drysdale, arrogant “trust fund prick”
Massachusetts, November 2018
Film: Knives Out
Release Date: November 27, 2019
Director: Rian Johnson
Costume Designer: Jenny Eagan
Released a year ago this week, Knives Out offered a fresh spin on the classic “whodunit” genre, complete with an idiosyncratic detective—in this case, Daniel Craig as the observant Benoit Blanc—and a dysfunctional family plunged into a murder mystery at their palatial country estate. It’s that dysfunctional family element that inspired me to write about Knives Out today, on the eve of a Thanksgiving that’s sure to look different than usual for most households.
The last member of the Thrombey household to be introduced on screen is Ransom Drysdale—or Hugh to “the help”—the spoiled grandson of the late mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Even before Knives Out reached theaters, the internet was ablaze with preview images of Chris Evans lounging in Ransom’s moth-eaten fisherman’s sweater, reintroducing the classic Aran knitting technique to a new generation.
Clark Gable as Peter Warne, recently fired newspaper reporter
Miami to New York, Spring 1933
Film: It Happened One Night
Release Date: February 22, 1934
Director: Frank Capra
Costume Designer: Robert Kalloch
Tailor: Eddie Schmidt
Today marks the birthday of Clark Gable, born 118 years ago on February 1, 1901, as William Clark Gable, though he would shave off his first name to assume the stage name of Clark Gable by 1924. Within a decade, the young actor from Cadiz, Ohio, had turned Clark Gable into a household name.
Released 85 years ago this month, It Happened One Night earned Clark Gable his only Academy Award while also racking up wins in the category of Best Picture, Best Director (for Frank Capra), Best Actress (for Claudette Colbert), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Robert Riskin). In the decades since, only two other movies have won this “big five” quinfecta of Oscar categories: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs. Esteemed company, indeed.
With Gable’s birthday today and the 91st Academy Awards just four weeks from now, let’s take a look at the dapper actor’s style in this trailblazing pre-Code comedy that’s still charming, witty, and ageless the better part of a century later. Continue reading
David Niven as Sir Charles Lytton, urbane master jewel thief
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, Winter 1963
Film: The Pink Panther
Release Date: December 19, 1963
Director: Blake Edwards
Wardrobe Supervisor: Annalisa Nasalli-Rocca
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Going skiing this weekend? A surprisingly stylish look at elegant mid-century ski culture comes from The Pink Panther, the 1963 comedy crime caper starring David Niven that would spur a series of sequels focused on the bumbling Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers). Continue reading
Robert Redford as Dave Chappellet, U.S. Olympic ski team star
Wengen, Switzerland, Winter 1967
Film: Downhill Racer
Release Date: November 6, 1969
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Designer: Edith Head (uncredited!)
Wardrobe Credit: Cynthia May
I hope the new year has been off to a fine start for all BAMF Style readers! The first post of 2019 looks back to Robert Redford’s timeless winter style as the titular ski champion in Michael Ritchie’s Downhill Racer. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, former United Nations investigator
Philadelphia, Fall 2012
Film: World War Z
Release Date: June 21, 2013
Director: Marc Forster
Costume Designer: Mayes C. Rubeo
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As Halloween approaches and witches, vampires, and zombies prepare their annual big screen takeover, there’s still talk in the air of a sequel to World War Z, the 2013 thriller starring Brad Pitt as a former U.N. investigator tasked with saving his family – oh, and the world – during a viral outbreak that spawns a zombie apocalypse.
The film is loosely adapted from Max Brooks’ innovative novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, that employed a docudrama-style narrative as “collected” by a U.N. commissioner, measuring the geopolitical impact of the plague and its subsequent conflicts. In fact, it was the geopolitical themes that drew Brad Pitt to the idea of a film adaptation, though they were dropped during the transition to the big screen in favor of more traditional “zombie film” elements.
Humphrey Bogart as Harry Dawes, Hollywood director and screenwriter
Portofino, Italy, Fall 1953
Film: The Barefoot Contessa
Release Date: September 29, 1954
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Costume Designer: Rosi Gori (uncredited)
Humphrey Bogart’s role in United Artists’ 1954 Technicolor triumph The Barefoot Contessa was not dissimilar to the film’s director, writer, and uncredited producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who had been writing in Hollywood for a quarter century. Continue reading
Rod Taylor as Mitchell “Mitch” Brenner, smooth defense lawyer
Bodega Bay, California, Summer 1963
Film: The Birds
Release Date: March 28, 1963
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Wardrobe Supervisor: Rita Riggs
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
After the massive success of Psycho in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock knew his next thriller had to go above and beyond to meet the public’s expectations from the Master of Suspense. Inspiration fell from the skies the following summer when the California town of Capitola was besieged one August day by hundreds of sooty shearwaters slamming into their rooftops and littering the streets with bird corpses. Hitch, who vacationed in nearby Santa Cruz, saw the storytelling potential in this unique type of fear and immediately set to work developing a story with screenwriter Evan Hunter, adapting Daphne du Maurier’s novella The Birds from its postwar English setting to contemporary coastal California.