Paul Muni as Tony Camonte, ruthless Italian-born bootlegger and mob enforcer
Chicago, Summer 1927
Release Date: April 9, 1932
Director: Howard Hawks
Tomorrow would have been the 120th birthday of Al Capone, had the infamous gangster not rotted to his syphilic demise in 1947.
Capone’s story remains one of the most frequently adapted for movies and TV, beginning with Rod Steiger in the cleverly titled 1959 film Al Capone through Neville Brand (twice), Ben Gazzara, Jason Robards, Ray Sharkey, and F. Murray Abraham, up through Robert de Niro’s iconic performance in The Untouchables (1987). The gangster was most recently—and most prolifically—portrayed by Stephen Graham in all five seasons of Boardwalk Empire, though Tom Hardy is set to play Capone in the upcoming feature film Fonzo.
Of course, a larger-than-life character like Al Capone didn’t have to wait until after he was dead to see his story unfold on the screen. While his name was never used in movies released during his lifetime, Capone provided the obvious inspiration for a number of gangsters in pre-Code crime cinema, most famously the ambitious, smooth, and lethal Tony Camonte, played by Paul Muni in Scarface. Continue reading
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob chief
New Jersey, Summer 1998
Series: The Sopranos
– “The Sopranos” (Episode 1.01, dir. David Chase, aired 1/10/1999)
– “46 Long” (Episode 1.02, dir. Dan Attias, aired 1/17/1999)
– “Pax Soprana” (Episode 1.06, dir. Alan Taylor, aired 2/14/1999)
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the first episode of The Sopranos, the first time that the HBO logo fizzed away to the thumping sound of A3’s “Woke Up This Morning” as we follow Tony Soprano from the Holland Tunnel along the New Jersey Turnpike to his north Jersey home.
We are introduced to Tony himself in the first shot of the show as he sits, bemused by a nude statue in his new doctor’s waiting room. We soon learn that the doctor is Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), a psychiatrist, and that this ain’t the kind of mob entertainment you’re used to watching. Continue reading
Elvis Presley as Danny Fisher, swaggering nightclub singer and high school dropout
New Orleans, Summer 1958
Film: King Creole
Release Date: July 2, 1958
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Happy birthday to Elvis Presley, born January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
The King of Rock & Roll considered Danny Fisher in 1958’s King Creole to be his favorite role in the dozens of movies he made over the course of his 13-year film career. Continue reading
Al Pacino as Tony Montana, impulsive and hotheaded cocaine dealer
Miami, Summer 1981
Release Date: December 9, 1983
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Patricia Norris
Tailor: Tommy Velasco
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Brian de Palma’s 1983 drug epic Scarface celebrated its 35th anniversary yesterday. A remake of a 1932 gangster film that itself took inspiration from the life of Al Capone, Scarface met with negative critical reception at the time of its release though it was a box office hit and racked up Golden Globe nods for lead actors Al Pacino and Steven Bauer.
As in the 1932 version, one scene finds the rising gangster returning home to flaunt his wealth in front of his concerned mother (Míriam Colón) and his devoted sister (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Waiting out by the car is the gangster’s flashy young pal, who catches sight of the gangster’s younger sister and is immediately smitten. Continue reading
Clark Gable as Victor Marswell, big game hunter
Kenya, Summer 1952
Release Date: October 9, 1953
Director: John Ford
Costume Designer: Helen Rose
Tailor: H. Huntsman & Sons, London
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
In my home state of Pennsylvania, the Monday after Thanksgiving is considered an unofficial holiday among hunters as the opening day of the state’s firearms deer season, a day when hunters are expected to bag approximately 25% of the season’s harvest, according to the Tribune-Review.
The 1953 adventure Mogambo stars Clark Gable as a hunter on safari in Africa with his eyes on even bigger game than deer: the hearts of Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly.
Alain Delon as Tom Ripley, charming American con artist and sophisticated sociopath
Rome, Italy, August 1959
Film: Purple Noon
(French title: Plein soleil)
Release Date: March 10, 1960
Director: René Clément
Costume Designer: Bella Clément
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today is the 83rd birthday of French actor and worldwide style icon Alain Delon. Born November 8, 1935, in Sceaux, a commune south of Paris, Delon entered the film world during a trip to the Cannes Film Festival shortly after his dishonorable discharge from the French Navy. Attending Cannes with his friend, actress Brigitte Auber, Delon caught the eye of one of David O. Selznick’s talent scouts. A contract was offered, but Delon would later choose to cancel the contract in favor of remaining in France to begin his film career there.
After a few leading roles in France, it was Plein soleil in 1960 that boosted Delon to international stardom. Released as Purple Noon in the English-speaking world, this adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 thriller novel The Talented Mr. Ripley starred Delon as the cunning sociopath Tom Ripley, a portrayal that Highsmith herself highly approved of. Continue reading
Robert Redford as Bob Woodward, investigative journalist for The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., Summer 1972
Film: All the President’s Men
Release Date: April 9, 1976
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Costume Supervisor: Bernie Pollack
In the spirit of the U.S. midterm elections tomorrow, I’m exploring one of my favorite political-themed movies, the 1976 thriller All the President’s Men based on the real-life investigative reporting of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation as U.S. President.
June 18, 1972: Woodward had only been at The Washington Post for nine months when he was assigned to cover the arrest of five burglars who had been caught breaking into the DNC office at the Watergate hotel complex the previous evening. As Woodward continued to investigate with fellow Post reporter Carl Bernstein, the once-minor story connects the break-in to campaign contributions for Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President (aptly nicknamed “CREEP”), revealing then-unprecedented levels of political corruption. Continue reading