James Dean, enigmatic young actor and rebellious emblem
Los Angeles, Summer 1955
Photographs by Sanford Roth
Part of BAMF Style’s Iconic Photo Series, focusing on style featured in famous photography of classic stars rather than from specific productions.
Today would have been the 90th birthday of James Dean, born in central Indiana on February 8, 1931. Considering his cultural impact, it’s remarkable that Dean condensed his entire career into less than a half decade in the early 1950s, acting in a series of commercials, TV anthology programs, and uncredited bit parts in movies until delivering a trio of enduring performances in East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant that would be released within a year and a half of each other.
Chadwick Boseman as Levee Green, ambitious blues cornetist
Chicago, Summer 1927
Film: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Release Date: November 25, 2020
Director: George C. Wolfe
Costume Designer: Ann Roth
The late Chadwick Boseman was being named as an Oscar contender for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, based on the August Wilson play of the same name, even before it came out. We’re still two months away from the Academy Award nominations being announced, but Boseman has already received posthumous Best Actor wins from the Chicago Film Critics Association, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and Music City Film Critics’ Association for what turned out to be his final screen role.
The praise is well-deserved as the actor delivered a powerhouse performance as the hotheaded horn-blower Levee Green, an ambitious (and fictional) member of a four-piece band backing Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), the Mother of the Blues herself. The North Side neighborhood in my hometown of Pittsburgh was transformed to resemble roaring ’20s Chicago when production came to the Steel City two summers ago; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the only one of the ten plays in the Hill District-born Wilson’s “Century Cycle” not actually set in Pittsburgh.
Chadwick Boseman had been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, never speaking publicly about his illness all the while delivering some of his most iconic performances in Marshall, Black Panther, and the two Avengers films to follow. Indeed, Boseman’s vigorous performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom belies his health at the time, and his fellow cast members remained unaware of his ongoing treatment for the cancer that would progress to stage IV before it ended his life at the age of 42 on August 28, 2020. Continue reading
William Powell as Nick Charles, retired private detective
San Francisco, New Year’s Eve 1936
Film: After the Thin Man
Release Date: December 25, 1936
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Wardrobe Credit: Dolly Tree
Happy New Year! Dashiell Hammett and “One-Take Woody” Van Dyke continued the runaway success of The Thin Man by reuniting William Powell and Myrna Loy as crime-solving power couple Nick and Nora Charles, coming home to San Francisco after solving the famous “Thin Man” case during their holiday in New York. The three-day train ride returns Nick and Nora to the City by the Bay just in time for New Year’s Eve, where they find their home commandeered by revelers that have already kicked off their celebrations.
Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini, playboy gossip journalist
Rome, Spring 1959
Film: La Dolce Vita
Release Date: February 5, 1960
Director: Federico Fellini
Costume Designer: Piero Gherardi
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The two headlining stars of Fellini’s classic La Dolce Vita would have celebrated their birthdays this week—Marcello Mastroianni tomorrow (September 28, 1924) and Anita Ekberg the following day (September 29, 1931)—and watching these two Libras glide together through the Trevi Fountain at daybreak has become one of the most enduring images of Italian cinema.
Pierce Brosnan as Julian Noble, tired hedonistic hitman and “magnificent cold moron”
Mexico City, Spring 2004
Film: The Matador
Release Date: December 30, 2005
Director: Richard Shepard
Costume Designer: Catherine Marie Thomas
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
After this week’s 00-7th of the month post featured the reigning James Bond wearing a light brown suede zip-up jacket, I wanted to address a different way of approaching that look from Daniel Craig’s predecessor. The Matador starred Pierce Brosnan in one of his first post-Bond roles, inverting his own suave screen image by portraying a chain-smoking, nail-painting assassin “soiling” his way through life. (And thank you to BAMF Style readers Ryan and R.M. for long ago suggesting this film for a post!)
Indeed, the porn-stached and ill-mannered killer Julian Noble shares little in common with 007 aside from his dangerous profession and a penchant for drinking. There seemed to be an ongoing campaign after Brosnan found success as Bond where filmmakers asked themselves “how debauched and despicable can we make Pierce Brosnan’s character while still making it impossible to root against him?” leading to his welcome turns in movies like The Tailor of Panama (2001), After the Sunset (2004), and The Matador (2005), playing crude, cheeky criminals drinking, smoking, and womanizing their way through the tropics.
Don Johnson as Harry Madox, drifter and used car salesman
Texas, Summer 1990
Film: The Hot Spot
Release Date: October 12, 1990
Director: Dennis Hopper
Costume Designer: Mary Kay Stolz
One of the benefits of writing BAMF Style the last eight years has been learning about movies from readers that may have otherwise never crossed by path. Thanks to suggestions from two readers, Peter and Cecil, I discovered The Hot Spot, a neo-noir in the pulp tradition with shades of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Jim Thompson’s hardboiled fiction. Continue reading
Although this summer has been markedly different from years past, I still found myself relying on the familiar comforts of retail therapy, specifically building my unnecessarily vast wardrobe of short-sleeve printed shirts and discovering the wares of great warm-weather outfitters like Aloha FunWear, Busbee McQuade, Dandy Del Mar, and Scott Fraser Collection.
I’m always on the lookout for budget-friendly alternatives to favorite items I’ve spotted in movies and TV, and this was a particularly fruitful year for finding three fine alternatives to shirts I’d long wanted from the tropical worlds of James Bond and Thomas Magnum. While I’ve already explored two of these looks in depth on BAMF Style, I wanted to break from my usual format on what I believe to be my 1,000th post to express my excitement for these finds.
I had plenty of fun putting together this brief guide to share some of this season’s finds that I’ve been picking up, comparing budget versions against some of the higher investment pieces and—for the sake of transparency—being sure to mention whether or not I personally owned the shirts in question.
Please feel free to add your own observations or summer favorites in the comments! Continue reading
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.
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
North Caldwell, New Jersey, Christmas 2006
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Kaisha” (Episode 6.12)
Air Date: June 4, 2006
Director: Alan Taylor
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
On #SopranosSunday with Christmas just a few days away, let’s check in with everyone’s favorite mob family for the second and final holiday-set episode of The Sopranos‘ epic run.
I’m a sucker for Christmas scenes, and I always appreciate “holiday adjacent” movies like The Thin Man, Three Days of the Condor, The Godfather, Goodfellas, and—of course—Die Hard that add a certain mysticism by setting some or all of the action at Christmas, a time of wonderment and hope but often not without melancholy. Although we only spend the last five minutes of the episode in the midst of true yule celebrations, “Kaisha” is framed by family holidays, beginning with the bombing of Phil Leotardo’s New York restaurant just before Thanksgiving and continuing over the weeks to follow throughout the holiday season as the all-too-human characters of Soprano-world navigate the stressful spectrum that ranges from loveliness to an abundance of loved ones.
Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1927
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
Today’s #MafiaMonday post goes back to the Prohibition era, the age that gave rise to the modern American gangster… and the American gangster movie.
After Warner Brothers scored back-to-back hits with Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931), effectively establishing the subgenre of the gangster film, Howard Hughes entered the fray with Scarface, an explosive, influential, and fast-paced criminal epic adapted from Armitage Trail’s novel that had been based on the life of Al Capone. Hughes had been warned against taking on Warner’s dominance in the genre, so he packed his production with talent including screenwriter Ben Hecht, director Howard Hawks, and lead actor Paul Muni, who was born 124 years ago yesterday on September 22, 1895.
In the wake of movies like Little Caesar and The Public Enemy, the Hays Office had been increasing its efforts to censor what it deemed to be glamorization of criminal lifestyles in cinema, but its notoriously restrictive production code had yet to be put into place, giving Scarface full reign to arm its vaguely incestuous central character with a Thompson submachine gun, once dubbed “the gun that made the twenties roar,” as he rose the ranks of the criminal underworld in a series of violent vignettes paralleling the life and crimes of the infamous Capone.