William Hurt as Ned Racine, unscrupulous attorney
Palm Beach, Florida, Summer 1981
Film: Body Heat
Release Date: August 28, 1981
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Costume Designer: Renié
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
I couldn’t let the hottest summer of my lifetime end without talking about Body Heat, especially as Lawrence Kasdan’s sweaty directorial debut will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its release in two days.
The term “neo-noir” has often been used—and, indeed, overused—to describe stylish, shadowy, and sexy crime dramas with elements recalling film noir’s golden era in the ’40s and ’50s, though Body Heat struck me as one of the prized handful of movies most deserving of the description, perfectly balancing the spirit of classic noir with contemporary cinematic expectations without falling too far in either direction. Continue reading
Richard Benjamin as Neil Klugman, listless library employee and Army veteran
Westchester, New York, Summer 1968
Film: Goodbye, Columbus
Release Date: April 3, 1969
Director: Larry Peerce
Costume Designer: Gene Coffin
In addition to today being the birthday of star Richard Benjamin—born on this day in 1938—today also marks three years since the death of Philip Roth, who died of congestive heart failure on May 22, 2018. Roth’s novella Goodbye, Columbus provided the source material for Ali MacGraw’s major screen debut acting opposite Benjamin.
Goodbye, Columbus has been favorably compared to The Graduate, inviting parallels with its similar-looking leads: a somewhat awkward, naive, and listless young man romancing a dark-haired “princess” against her parents’ wishes (though for a dramatically different reason than the Robinsons had), scored against the backdrop of a hip band from the late ’60s, in this case The Association as opposed to Simon & Garfunkel’s famous soundtrack for The Graduate.
Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, nervous and aimless college graduate
Los Angeles, Summer 1967
Film: The Graduate
Release Date: December 22, 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Costume Designer: Patricia Zipprodt
Dustin Hoffman may be turning 83 today, but for many he’ll always be the young Benjamin Braddock, freshly home from college with his entire adult life—with all of its expectations and inevitable disappointments—to follow.
Benjamin’s first summer as a college graduate is spent with lazy days by the pool and covert nights with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the domineering yet vulnerable wife of his father’s law partner. The Braddocks, obviously unaware of their son’s ongoing assignations with her mother, pressure him into taking Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross). A Berkeley student, Elaine would be a more suitable partner for Benjamin due to age, temperament, and several other factors, but the formidable Mrs. Robinson—we never do learn her first name—won’t have it.
Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, levelheaded Mafia lawyer
Lake Tahoe, Fall 1958
Film: The Godfather Part II
Release Date: December 12, 1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The second Thursday in June is recognized as National Seersucker Day in the United States, an observance that began in Congress during the late 1990s to celebrate the traditional congressional summer dress in the days of the early 20th century before air conditioning reached the Capitol.
Apropos his quiet persona, Tom Hagen makes his inconspicuous return in The Godfather, Part II, seen almost in silhouette against the window as he greets the smarmy, crooked, and proudly blunt Senator Pat Geary (G.D. Spradlin) in the Don’s Lake Tahoe estate on the day of his son’s first communion. Continue reading
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, principled Southern lawyer
Maycomb, Alabama, Summer 1932 and 1933
Film: To Kill a Mockingbird
Release Date: December 25, 1962
Director: Robert Mulligan
Costume Designer: Rosemary Odell
Tailor: H. Huntsman & Sons, London
Today marks the birthday of Gregory Peck, born April 5, 1916. Peck’s arguably most iconic role was that of the patient, humble, and earnest defense attorney Atticus Finch, a portrayal that earned Peck the Academy Award and was voted the #1 screen hero of all time in a 2003 AFI poll, outranking cinematic badasses like James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Ellen Ripley and illustrating that the most heroic strength is strength of moral character.