Robert Mitchum as Harry Kilmer, tough former detective
Tokyo, Spring 1974
Film: The Yakuza
Release Date: December 28, 1974
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The unique neo-noir Japanese gangster movie The Yakuza was conceptualized by brothers Paul and Leonard Schrader based on Leonard’s letters to Paul while living in Japan, particularly about the yakuza and the screen presence of Ken Takakura. While Takakura was almost always guaranteed to play a role, the crucial positions of the director and the lead actor—who would portray an aging former detective sent to Japan in service to an old friend—were still in transition.
Early in the pre-production stages, it looked like Robert Aldrich would direct with Lee Marvin in the lead role, until Marvin’s clash with Warner Brothers led to Robert Mitchum taking the role. Continue reading
James Garner as Philip Marlowe, cynical private detective
Los Angeles, Spring 1969
Release Date: October 22, 1969
Director: Paul Bogart
Costume Design: Florence Hackett & James Taylor
Save for a single season of a loosely adapted ABC TV series, he character of Philip Marlowe had gone more than two decades without a cinematic portrayal at the time Marlowe was released in 1969. Directed by the appropriately named Paul Bogart (no relation), this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s 1949 pulp novel The Little Sister updated the setting to contemporary Los Angeles.
James Garner took some criticism for his take on the famous private eye, but I think the likable actor’s vulnerable sincerity works for his interpretation of Chandler’s anti-hero. Continue reading
John Wayne as Lon “McQ” McHugh, taciturn Seattle PD lieutenant
Seattle, Fall 1973
Release Date: February 6, 1974
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Luster Bayless
It’s no Hollywood secret that McQ was originally developed as a vehicle for Steve McQueen. Five years after McQueen sat behind the wheel of a hunter green Mustang GT390 careening through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt, the role of gruff Seattle police lieutenant Lon McHugh was retooled for screen legend John Wayne, who took on his first detective role at the age of 66.
Wayne, whose entire left lung had been surgically removed after a bout with cancer a decade earlier, could only walk short distances without needing oxygen – much to the chagrin of director John Sturges – but still turned in a surprisingly energetic performance as a cop who combines Dirty Harry’s stubborn grit with Bullitt’s propensity toward speeding around the city in a sporty dark green American muscle car. Continue reading
Sean Connery as Jim Malone, tough and honest Chicago beat cop
Chicago, September 1930
Film: The Untouchables
Release Date: June 3, 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Untouchables is a highly entertaining – yet highly fictionalized – saga of the successful legal campaign to bring down Al Capone’s criminal enterprise that terrorized Chicago through the 1920s with an all-star cast including Robert De Niro as Capone himself.
Eliot Ness had made a name for himself in the final years of Chicago’s beer wars as a relentless Prohibition agent, and he would use his fame decades later to pen The Untouchables, a memoir in which he credits himself with practically single-handedly sending Capone to prison. In real life, Ness’ raids were indeed disruptive, but it was the work of modest investigators U.S. Attorney George E.Q. Johnson and IRS agent Frank Wilson that eventually led to the charges that successfully convicted Capone. Continue reading
Mahershala Ali as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, mob boss and nightclub owner
Harlem, November 2015
Series: Luke Cage
Episodes: “Suckas Need Bodyguards” (Episode 1.06) & “Manifest” (Episode 1.07)
Streaming Date: September 30, 2016
Directors: Sam Miller (Episode 1.06) & Andy Goddard (Episode 1.07)
Costume Designer: Stephanie Maslansky
Key Tailor: Cherie Cunningham
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The chilly weather here in the Northern Hemisphere as we look toward the official start of winter this week is a fine time to explore options for layering against the cold. Continue reading
Warren Beatty as Clyde Barrow, Depression-era bank robber and gang leader
Pilot Point, TX, Summer 1933
Film: Bonnie & Clyde
Release Date: August 13, 1967
Director: Arthur Penn
Costume Designer: Theadora Van Runkle
It was around this time in late November 1932 that an awkward and maladjusted Texas hoodlum decided he wanted to make the jump from armed robber and spree killer to big-time bank-robbing gang leader. Now 23 years old, Clyde Barrow already had numerous arrests dating back to an aborted attempt to steal a rental car and impress a girlfriend (not Bonnie, in case you’re curious.) He’d spent two years in prison, having endured sexual and physical abuse for most of it, and now graced headlines of small Texas newspapers with the notoriety of a gutless killer with the blood of two shopkeepers and a deputy sheriff attributed to him (not to mention that of the most abusive inmate from his prison stretch).
With the support of his vulnerable girlfriend, Bonnie Parker, and two Texas nobodies who shared his dreams of taking a major bank score, Clyde set out for the Farmers and Miners Bank in Oronago, Missouri on November 30, 1932. Bonnie had already visited the bank the previous day to case it, but the inexperienced girl drew only suspicious stares from its employees rather than a master plan for robbery. Undeterred by her lack of success, Clyde loaded his Browning Automatic Rifle – stolen from a Texas National Guard armory three months earlier – and charged into the bank around 11:30 a.m. with accomplice Frank Hardy. Things didn’t quite go according to plan. Continue reading
Paul Newman as Henry Gondorff, Chicago con artist posing as a betting parlor operator
Chicago, September 1936
Film: The Sting
Release Date: December 25, 1973
Director: George Roy Hill
Costume Designer: Edith Head
It’s been almost a year since I’ve covered the classy Henry Gondorff, played by Paul Newman in 1973’s The Sting, so what would be more appropriate for New Year’s Eve than to break down Gondorff in black tie. Continue reading