Pedro Armendáriz as Ali Kerim Bey, gregarious MI6 station chief
Istanbul, Turkey, Spring 1963
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Kerim Bey, the gregarious head of MI6’s Station T (T for Turkey), is one of the more memorable characters from the early films of the James Bond franchise. A proudly streetwise counter to the taciturn and sophisticated agent 007, the two got on like gangbusters. It’s tragic that Kerim was designated by Ian Fleming as the story’s “sacrificial lamb” as it would have been satisfying to follow his interactions with Bond across multiple adventures à la Felix Leiter or even René Mathis, who actually returned in Fleming’s novel version of From Russia With Love, though Armendáriz’s death would have prevented this anyway. Today’s 00-7th of May post is a tribute to this charismatic character. Continue reading
Richard Gere as Julian Kaye, high-price L.A. escort
Los Angeles, 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
Strut into spring like Richard Gere’s confident Julian Kaye, the titular American gigolo of Paul Schrader’s 1980 thriller.
Gig Young as Roger, neurotic financial advisor
New York City, Spring 1962
Film: That Touch of Mink
Release Date: June 14, 1962
Director: Delbert Mann
Though not regarded among the best of either Cary Grant or Doris Day’s filmographies, That Touch of Mink will always have a special place for me as one of the movies I used to watch with my grandma, who introduced me to many classic stars from the era through her collection of VHS tapes that we watched nearly to oblivion.
In this romantic comedy, it’s the leads’ best friends who are the most fun to watch, both Audrey Meadows (who Grant—a fan of her work on The Honeymooners—campaigned to have added to the cast) and Gig Young as Grant’s right-hand man.
Richard Burton as Dr. Edward Hewitt, self-righteous Episcopal boarding school headmaster
Big Sur, California, Spring 1965
Film: The Sandpiper
Release Date: June 23, 1965
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff
Seventy years ago today, more than 500 gathered on a picturesque terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean for the grand opening of Nepenthe, a restaurant named for the medicine of ancient Greek mythology that helped one forget their sorrows.
Development on the land began in 1925 with the construction of a log cabin. Two decades later, Hollywood royalty Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth purchased the cabin on a whim but never did anything further, selling it in 1947 to Bill and Madelaine “Lolly” Fassett. The Fassetts hired Frank Lloyd Wright protégé Rowan Maiden to expand the area into a large terrace with room for dancing, dining, built-in bleachers, and a fire pit.
After the restaurant opened on April 24, 1949, Nepenthe became renowned for its stunning panoramic views of 50 miles of Big Sur’s south coast as well as Graves Canyon and the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Artists, writers, and celebrities flocked to the iconic restaurant in the decades to follow, with newlyweds Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton a frequent presence during the production of their Big Sur-set melodrama, The Sandpiper. Continue reading
Clifton Webb as Richard Ward Sturges, millionaire, estranged family man, and fastidious dresser
RMS Titanic, April 1912
Release Date: April 16, 1953
Director: Jean Negulesco
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Julia: You’re up early.
Richard: I had to scratch around for something to wear. Not a bad shop, they have everything.
Julia: Dinner jackets, I trust.
Richard: Naturally. It will be ready tonight. So… life can go on.
This exchange summarizes the 1953 melodrama Titanic, one of the first attempts to tell the now-infamous story of the real-life sinking of the White Star Line’s premiere ocean liner during its maiden voyage in April 1912, sending more than 1,500 passengers and crew to their deaths as a few more than 700 spend a chilly night in uncovered lifeboats, waiting for help to arrive.
Released 66 years ago tomorrow, 20th Century Fox’s Titanic focuses more on the personal drama of the fictional Sturges family: pretentious and aloof patriarch Richard (Clifton Webb) and his strong-willed, responsible wife Julia (Barbara Stanwyck) who tries to protect their children from taking after their profligate father. Cut from the same cloth as his wickedly snobbish Waldo Lydecker character in Laura, Richard Ward Sturges delights in his children’s obvious preference for him as he showers them with a decadent lifestyle that would no doubt spoil them as adults if not for their more practical mother’s interventions. Continue reading
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
Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, eager baseball prodigy
Chicago, Spring 1923
Film: The Natural
Release Date: May 11, 1984
Director: Barry Levinson
Costume Design: Gloria Gresham & Bernie Pollack
Tomorrow is MLB Opening Day, meaning baseball season is back and in full swing (forgive the pun), so let’s take a look at a look from one of the most classic of baseball movies, The Natural.
“I guess some mistakes you never stop paying for,” are the words that must echo through Roy Hobbs’ brain every day for the 16 years after he was shot by a self-destructive—or just generally destructive—baseball groupie, Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey).
When Bernard Malamud was working on his debut novel, The Natural, he took inspiration from the story of Eddie Waitkus, the former first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies who was shot and nearly killed by an obsessive female stalker who, as she later told an assistant state attorney, wanted “to do something exciting in my life.”