James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
New Jersey, Fall 2001
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “The Weight” (Episode 4.04)
Air Date: October 6, 2002
Director: Jack Bender
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
I know it’s only been a week since my last post about the style of The Sopranos, but I have a great reason for returning to my favorite show as today happens to be the birthday of my friend Gabe, the hardworking curator of @tonysopranostyle on Instagram. Having attained more than 30,000 followers in less than a year on the platform, @tonysopranostyle remains an authoritative and entertaining source of information for everything James Gandolfini wore during his iconic tenure portraying the boss of the New Jersey Mafia, from his boldly printed shirts and velvet tracksuits to his gold jewelry and cigars.
Not just an expert, Gabe also puts his money where his mouth is, tracking down and purchasing many shirts in the original designs from the manufacturers who were sourced by costume designer Juliet Polcsa for the series. Gabe started his collection in late 2016 when, having read Christopher Hooton’s interview with Polcsa for The Independent, he used the brands cited by Polcsa to find a black Alan Stuart shirt with the same scattered abstract pattern that Gandolfini wore for a few scenes in the fourth season episode “The Weight”. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane, former United Nations investigator-turned-zombie fighter
Cardiff, Wales, Fall 2012
Film: World War Z
Release Date: June 21, 2013
Director: Marc Forster
Costume Designer: Mayes C. Rubeo
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
With the world under siege by a rapidly spreading virus, the need for a vaccine grows more desperate each day… and only Brad Pitt can save us.
Until that last line, you may have thought I was beginning an essay on life in 2020 (and who knows, maybe the star somehow will become a crucial figure in discovering a vaccine!) World War Z may be the perfect movie to watch during the Halloween season this year, tapping into this year’s zeitgiest of viruses and vaccines dominating headlines.
Richard Gere as Julian Kaye, high-price L.A. escort
Malibu, California, Spring 1980
Film: American Gigolo
Release Date: February 8, 1980
Director: Paul Schrader
Costumer: Bernadene C. Mann
Costume Coordinator: Alice Rush
Richard Gere’s Costumes: Giorgio Armani
American Gigolo, which provided Richard Gere with his breakout role as a leading man, numbers among the many movies that felt appropriate to this year’s surreal summer. Set against the backdrop of high fashions and low tides in sun-drenched southern California, the noir-influenced circumstances that follow our hustler protagonist Julian Kaye add an increasingly eerie mood to the proceedings. Of course, being framed for murder and living through a global pandemic are two different sets of circumstances, but both make it hard to enjoy the high life no matter how beautiful one’s surroundings or wardrobe may be.
Elvis Presley as Mike Windgren, expat singer, part-time lifeguard, and former circus performer
Acapulco, Summer 1963
Film: Fun in Acapulco
Release Date: November 22, 1961
Director: Norman Taurog
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Tailor: Sy Devore
On the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death on August 16, 1977, I wanted to celebrate the entertainer’s legacy with a look at one of the singer’s under-celebrated summer films.
I imagine the debate about what to call the movie lasted no more than ten seconds (“What’s Elvis doing in this one?” “Having fun in Acapulco.” “There it is.”) Continue reading
David Niven as Raymond, bon vivant widowed father
French Riviera, Summer 1957
Film: Bonjour Tristesse
Release Date: January 15, 1958
Director: Otto Preminger
Costume Coordinator: Hope Bryce
Secluded for the summer at their villa in the Côte d’Azur, libertine Raymond and his equally free-spirited daughter Cécile (Jean Seberg) enjoy a comfortable and carefree season living la belle vie by the sea. In fact, Raymond and Cécile would have fared quite well had they needed to spend their summer in quarantine, as few outsiders enter their lives aside from whichever mistress (or two) Raymond is entertaining at the moment. These young women are typically no more than a few years older than Cécile, who grows particularly attached to his latest paramour, Elsa (Mylène Demongeot), to the extent that she joins Raymond in waking the vivacious blonde from her nude slumber and helps her apply sunscreen during one of their typical days spent on the beach.
While all may be cordial and close, there’s no getting between the fiercely intimate bond between Cécile and her father, of which Elsa comments: “You do not even need words… the perfect marriage!”
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Madison Avenue ad man
Anaheim, California, October 1965
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Tomorrowland” (Episode 4.13)
Air Date: October 17, 2010
Director: Matthew Weiner
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
During my latest Mad Men rewatch while on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, I found myself so intrigued by the fourth season finale that I watched the episode back-to-back. For a show set so far into the past, it’s amazing how effective Mad Men can be at stirring a viewer’s enthusiasm for the future.
Gregory Peck as Harry Street, expatriate writer and former newspaper reporter
French Riviera (Côte d’Azur), Summer 1936
Film: The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Release Date: September 17, 1952
Director: Henry King
Wardrobe Supervisor: Charles Le Maire
Despite its wintry title, The Snows of Kilimanjaro was expanded significantly from Ernest Hemingway’s original short story for Henry King’s lush 1952 cinematic adaptation, featuring plenty of summertime fun in Côte d’Azur during its prewar heyday.
The rest of the world may have been suffering from the Great Depression, but Papa surrogate Harry Street has risen to literary stardom and is now living la belle vie, adrift in the Mediterranean while his latest paramour “Frigid Liz, the semi-iceburg of the semi-tropics” frolics in the warm sea around him. Though lovely, Countess Elizabeth (Hildegard Knef) is hardly the treasured Cynthia (Ava Gardner), and Harry admits he’s only attracted to Liz for her elusive qualities, describing in Papa-esque prose that “she was something to hunt down and trap and capture.”
In addition to today being the birthday of Ernest Hemingway, who entered the world July 21, 1899, today is also my 31st birthday!
Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke, “doctor of journalism” and alter ego of Hunter S. Thompson
Las Vegas, Spring 1971
Film: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Release Date: May 22, 1998
Director: Terry Gilliam
Costume Designer: Julie Weiss
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold…
…and, with the scream of a bright fireapple red Chevy convertible speeding through the desert scored by Big Brother and the Holding Company’s manic “Combination of the Two”, we’re off and running with Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo on their way to a hallucinogenic weekend romp in Sin City. Johnny Depp’s opening narration as the notorious Dr. Duke transcribes verbatim the opening lines of Hunter S. Thompson’s landmark roman à clef Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Humphrey Bogart as Frank McCloud, taciturn war veteran and former newspaperman
Key Largo, Florida, Summer 1948
Film: Key Largo
Release Date: July 16, 1948
Director: John Huston
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Released today in 1948, John Huston’s moody noir Key Largo marked the fourth and final of Bogie and Bacall’s on-screen collaborations, closing out their celluloid romance the way it began in To Have and Have Not (1944) with a talent-packed cast (including Dan Seymour as a heavy heavy) in a tropical locale shrouded in shadows, storms, and gunplay. The claustrophobia of our characters’ forced isolation against the looming summer storm outside and the raging tension inside made it particularly impactful viewing during months in lockdown.
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Ferdinand Griffon, runaway husband
French Riviera, Summer 1965
Film: Pierrot le Fou
Release Date: November 5, 1965
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Five years after their collaboration in À bout de souffle that established many of the unconventional conventions that would define French New Wave, director Jean-Luc Godard reteamed with charismatic star Jean-Paul Belmondo for a surreal and colorful classic with its scenes and themes of seclusion that make it feel all the more relevant during this strange summer that still finds many in self-isolation.
Life may always be sad, but it’s always beautiful.