Walter Matthau as Henry Graham, self-serving profligate
New York City, Summer 1969
Film: A New Leaf
Release Date: March 11, 1971
Director: Elaine May
Costume Designer: Anthea Sylbert
Tailor: Roland Meledandri
I’d long been intrigued by Elaine May’s directorial debut A New Leaf, released 50 years ago this spring, but it was an Instagram story posted by my friend Jonathan (@berkeley_breathes) showcasing Walter Matthau’s dapper wardrobe that finally prompted me to watch this offbeat classic.
Matthau brings his characteristically cantankerous charisma to to role of Henry Graham, a wasteful heir gradually blowing his family fortune on capricious spending from his immaculately tailored wardrobe to weekly maintenance for his Ferrari. The wry family lawyer Beckett (William Redfield) is tasked with managing the unmanageable Graham, who ducks Beckett’s calls of cautions as long as he can… until his last check bounces.
On George Clooney’s 60th birthday, I’m delighted to present a guest post contributed by my new friend, Ken Stauffer, featuring one of Clooney’s most stylish roles to date.
George Clooney as Jack Foley, charismatic bank robber
Miami, Summer 1998
Film: Out of Sight
Release Date: June 26, 1998
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy Birthday, George Clooney! Today, the actor/director/writer/producer/activist/Italian villa owner/father of twins turns 60, and to celebrate we’ll be looking at his first costume in Steven Soderbergh’s underrated 1998 crime comedy, Out of Sight.
Following the success of Get Shorty, screenwriter Scott Frank and producer Danny DeVito set out to bring another recent Elmore Leonard novel to life. The resulting film sees our birthday boy as the ever-charming Jack Foley, a thrice-incarcerated bank robber who “robbed more than anyone in the computer.” Continue reading
Montgomery Clift as George Eastman, dangerously ambitious factory executive
Carthage, Missouri to “Loon Lake”, Spring to Summer 1950
Film: A Place in the Sun
Release Date: August 14, 1951
Director: George Stevens
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
April showers bring May flowers… and hopefully some floral shirts from the back of your closet!
Decades after Ellery J. Chun established his flowery-printed shirts as the signature garb of the Hawaiian islands, aloha shirts went mainstream on the mainland thanks in part to the American servicemen dazzled by the bright colors after being stationed in the Pacific. This postwar boom was felt at home in Hawaii, as Josh Sims wrote in Icons of Men’s Style that “by 1947, employees of Hawaii’s city councils were allowed to wear Hawaiian shirts to work and, in 1948, Aloha Wednesday, a precursor to dress-down Friday was introduced across the islands.”
Aloha style received an added boost from the on-screen advocacy of Montgomery Clift, first as the ambitious George Eastman in A Place in the Sun and then perhaps most famously as the conflicted rifleman at the heart of From Here to Eternity, both performances that earned Monty two of his four Academy Award nominations. Continue reading
Mike Myers as Austin Powers, swingin’ secret agent
Las Vegas, Summer 1997
Film: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Release Date: May 2, 1997
Director: Jay Roach
Costume Designer: Deena Appel
Tailor: Tommy Velasco
Several weeks ago, I delighted in the opportunity to rejoin the estimable Pete Brooker and Matt Spaiser of Bond Suits on the From Tailors with Love podcast, this time talking with Deena Appel, the prolific costume designer who created the shagadelic looks of all three Austin Powers movies. (You can find the episode split into two parts—Part 1 and Part 2—as well as Pete’s “show notes” here.)
Pete concluded our conversation by asking each participant which costume resonated most with us, and my answer—which surprised Deena at least—was the red velvet double-breasted suit that the cryogenically frozen Austin wears when re-entering the world by way of late ’90s Las Vegas in the first movie, which was released 24(!) years ago today on May 2, 1997. Continue reading
Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, eccentric Belgian detective
Egypt, September 1937
Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Peter Ustinov, the brilliant dramatist and diplomat who—among his many achievements—played Agatha Christie’s celebrated sleuth Hercule Poirot in a half-dozen productions.
Fluent in multiple languages, Ustinov was easily able to glide between the English and French required to play the fussy Belgian detective and was able to provide his own voice in the French and German versions of his movies, including several of the Poirot productions.
Death on the Nile was the first—and often considered the strongest—of Ustinov’s six films as Poirot. 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!
He may spend most of Pierrot le Fou insisting his name is Ferdinand, but we all know he’s actually Jean-Paul Belmondo—also known as Bébel—the French star born 88 years ago today on April 9, 1933!
Pierrot le Fou was the third and final feature-length collaboration between Belmondo and Jean-Luc Godard, who had directed him to worldwide fame as the criminal protagonist in A bout de souffle (Breathless), considered a seminal work in establishing the French New Wave cinematic movement.
While both of these stylish films shared themes of criminality, philosophy, and doomed love, Pierrot le Fou pops from the screen with its colorful and surreal pop art-inspired presentation of the increasingly desperate Ferdinand Griffon abandoning his family life to join his dangerously free-spirited ex-girlfriend Marianne (Anna Karina) in a life of crime and seaside seclusion. Continue reading
Steve McQueen as LT Ferguson “Fergie” Howard, enterprising U.S. Navy officer
Venice, Summer 1961
Film: The Honeymoon Machine
Release Date: August 23, 1961
Director: Richard Thorpe
Costume Designer: Helen Rose
To commemorate Steve McQueen’s birthday 91 years ago today, let’s take a look at how the King of Cool incorporated some of his personal style into one of his earliest—and least popular—movies.
Based on Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s 1959 play The Golden Fleecing, The Honeymoon Machine belongs to that unique sub-genre of ’60s farce that made light of Cold War paranoia and seemed to end up with everyone throwing punches (executed suitably in The Glass Bottom Boat, poorly in the 1967 Casino Royale.)
The role of the mischievously ambitious, Nietzsche-quoting naval lieutenant Fergie Howard was originally intended for Cary Grant, however the middle-aged actor was nearing his retirement and turned the job down. Rather than casting another screen vet of Grant’s age and standing, the production went in the opposite direction and brought on Steve McQueen for what would be his third top-billed movie after The Blob (1958) and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).
The Honeymoon Machine turned a profit but McQueen considered it a dark mark on his career, reportedly walking out of the first public screening and vowing never to work for MGM again. Don’t worry, Steve… The Great Escape is only two years away! Continue reading
To celebrate Kurt Russell’s 70th birthday, please enjoy this submission from BAMF Style reader and contributor “W.T. Hatch” featuring a frequently requested character said to be the actor’s personal favorite from his filmography.
Kurt Russell as S.D. “Snake” Plissken, “cycloptic cynic ’80s cyberpunk” as one reader eloquently described
Manhattan Island Maximum Security Prison, Summer 1997
Film: Escape from New York
Release Date: July 10, 1981
Director: John Carpenter
Costume Designer: Stephen Loomis
Call me Snake.
Set in John Carpenter’s dystopian vision of the future, Escape from New York is the story of a one-man rescue attempt to save the President of the United States from a maximum security penitentiary located on Manhattan Island. Police Commissioner Bob Hauk, played by the legendary Lee Van Cleef, offers recently captured bank robber S.D. “Snake” Plissken a deal: save the President (Donald Pleasence) in under 24 hours and receive a full pardon. Continue reading
Cleavon Little as Super Soul, blind radio DJ
Nevada Desert, Summer 1971
Film: Vanishing Point
Release Date: March 13, 1971
Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Wardrobe Master: Ed Wynigear
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Before he blazed into Rock Ridge as the controversial new sheriff, Cleavon Little was already shaking up the desert as Super Soul, the almost mystic blind radio DJ who guides our laconic hero in in his white Dodge Challenger through the blue highways of the west in Vanishing Point, released 50 years ago today on March 13, 1971.
The Oklahoma-born Little was already a stage star at the time he walked Super Soul’s dog to the KOW radio booth in Goldfield, Nevada, having won a Tony Award in Ossie Davis’ Purlie just one year after making his Broadway debut. Vanishing Point was only his third credited screen role, his charismatic energy a contrast to Barry Newman’s taciturn Kowalski, whom Super Soul dubs “the last American hero.” Continue reading
Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, rising country rock star
Texarkana, Texas, Summer 1955
Film: Walk the Line
Release Date: November 18, 2005
Director: James Mangold
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
Tailor: Pam Lisenby
Eighty-nine years ago on February 26, 1932, J.R. Cash was born in Arkansas. His childhood was dominated by music, as there was little else to encourage the family enduring the hard years of the Depression made worse by a dangerous flood and the violent death of Jack, one of the seven Cash children. It was when he joined the military that the 18-year-old Cash expanded his first name as the Air Force wouldn’t allow just initials, though it wasn’t until cutting his first recording at Sun Records that he established the name that would become legendary: Johnny Cash. Continue reading