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
I’m wrapping up this summer’s #CarWeek with the under-discussed neo-noir The Hot Spot, made among the wave of sweaty erotic crime dramas of the ’80s and ’90s exemplified by movies like Body Heat through Basic Instinct.
Don Johnson was nearing the end of his star-making tenure on Miami Vice when he was tapped for The Hot Spot‘s leading role as Harry Madox, an enigmatic drifter whose arrival in the quiet Texas berg of Landers sets forth a series of events straight out of James M. Cain or Jim Thompson’s poison pen.
The Hot Spot comes by its pulp credentials honestly, adapted from Charles Williams’ 1952 novel Hell Hath No Fury and originally intended to be adapted as a Robert Mitchum vehicle in the early ’60s. Though set in the present, The Hot Spot retains much of this retro style inspired by the era of its original conception, as seen in many of the costumes and cars, most specifically Harry’s black ’59 Studebaker Silver Hawk that he drives into town. Continue reading
Robert De Niro as Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, tough Mafia enforcer
New Castle, Delaware, Summer 1962
Film: The Irishman
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Sandy Powell & Christopher Peterson
Tailor: Leonard Logsdail
I recently had the pleasure to rejoin my friends Pete Brooker and Ken Stauffer (@oceansographer) on Pete’s podcast From Tailors With Love, discussing The Irishman with master tailor Leonard Logsdail, who crafted many suits for the movie’s principals.
While recording the episode—released today and available to download via iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify—I had the opportunity to ask Leonard firsthand about one of my favorite sartorial moments from the film, the gold-suited reveal of a newly elevated Frank Sheeran as president of his local union, Teamsters #326, headquartered about 40 miles southwest of Philadelphia in New Castle, Delaware.
The Irishman dramatizes the decades-long association between Sheeran, labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and the mob, uniting cinematic tough guys Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel with director Martin Scorsese in a movie that’s less a flashy chronicle of mob history (like Goodfellas and Casino) and more a meditation on age and loyalty in a violent world. Continue reading
Gary Busey as Angelo Pappas, beleaguered FBI agent
Los Angeles, Summer 1991
Film: Point Break
Release Date: July 12, 1991
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Costume Supervisors: Colby P. Bart & Louis Infante
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
“When are you gonna write about Gary Busey?”
“Where are your posts about Busey’s style in Point Break?”
“Show us the Busey, you coward!”
These are the kinds of questions and comments I never get, and yet, on the 78th birthday on this most idiosyncratic of actors, I want to take a deep dive—or surf—into the wardrobe of one of Gary Busey’s best-known roles. Continue reading
Elvis Presley as Mike Windgren, expat singer, part-time lifeguard, and former circus performer
Acapulco, Summer 1963
Film: Fun in Acapulco
Release Date: November 27, 1963
Director: Richard Thorpe
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Tailor: Sy Devore
This weekend, I saw Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis chronicling the life of the King of Rock and Roll with Baz’s characteristic splendor. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, most likely due to Austin Butler’s revelatory performance. (I’d need some more dedicated Elvis experts to confirm for me whether or not Colonel Tom Parker actually sounded as much like Goldmember as Tom Hanks’ performance portrayed.)
Elvis addressed the King’s cinematic ambitions, hoping to follow in James Dean’s footsteps but arguably ill-treated by his frequently banal material, as illustrated by the 1963 vehicle Fun in Acapulco. Continue reading
Tim Roth as “Pumpkin”, aka “Ringo”, an otherwise unnamed small-time crook
Los Angeles, Summer 1992
Film: Pulp Fiction
Release Date: October 14, 1994
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Now that it’s summer—and already a hot one!—I’ve started rotating my favorite aloha shirts and tropical prints into my wardrobe. Luckily for me, bright Hawaiian-style resort shirts have been undergoing a wave of revival each summer, perhaps encouraged by Brad Pitt’s now-famous yellow aloha shirt in Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Style in QT’s early movies typically conjures the well-armed professional criminals in their uniforms of black suits, white shirts, and black ties, but outside of this lethal look, characters in the Tarantino-verse often pulled from the Hawaiian shirts in their closet. The first example would be Harvey Keitel’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it palm-print shirt before taking Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange for tacos in Reservoir Dogs. Two years later, it was Roth himself that would be tropically attired for the next of Tarantino’s defining cinematic works. Continue reading
Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway, impressionable bachelor and bond salesman
Long Island, New York, Summer 1925
Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: March 29, 1974
Director: Jack Clayton
Costume Designer: Theoni V. Aldredge
Clothes by: Ralph Lauren
“Do you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it,” laments Daisy Buchanan—somewhat redundantly—to her cousin Nick Carraway over a visit that kicks off the romantic drama of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. (The summer solstice today makes this the longest day of the year, so take note, Daisy!)
Set 100 years ago across the summer of 1922, The Great Gatsby begins with Nick joining the Buchanans, Daisy being his second cousin once removed and Tom one of his former classmates at Yale. The wealth disparity is represented in the fictionalized areas of Long Island where they live, Nick describing his home “at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two” when compared to their elaborate mansion located among “the white palaces of fashionable East Egg… across the courtesy bay.”
The novel merely has Nick driving around the sound to arrive for dinner, while the movie follows Sam Waterston’s Nick across the bay in a small boat, fumbling for his nearly-drowned hat while his narration relays his father’s time-tested advice to check one’s privilege prior to criticizing anyone. Continue reading
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob chief
North Caldwell, New Jersey, Summer 1998
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “The Sopranos” (Episode 1.01)
Air Date: January 10, 1999
Director: David Chase
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Father’s Day today often means cookouts and looking ahead to the start of summer. From its first episode, The Sopranos centered around the two “families” beleaguering Tony Soprano: the network of gangsters comprising the DeMeo crime family and as the suburban dad at the head of his biological family.
On a day celebrating dads and to honor James Gandolfini on the ninth anniversary of his death, let’s revisit the final scenes from the pilot episode as the actor ably balanced both of Tony’s “family” roles during a backyard cookout ostensibly for his son Anthony Jr.’s birthday. Continue reading
The Beach Boys: Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and David Marks
Malibu, California, Summer 1962
Photographs by Ken Veeder
Part of BAMF Style’s Iconic Photo Series, focusing on style featured in famous photography of classic stars and style icons rather than from specific productions.
Sixty years ago this month, The Beach Boys debuted their first arguable hit single, “Surfin’ Safari” (with “409” on the B side) for Capitol Records in June 1962. The group of southern California youngsters had released their first single (“Surfin'”) with the short-lived Candix Records the previous fall… and the resulting regional success essentially bankrupted the fledgling record company, who could barely afford to pay the group a thousand dollars in royalties for a single that had charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
After signing with Capitol Records, the teens realized they were now in the big leagues. When Brian Wilson turned 20 in June 1962, “Surfin’ Safari”—the simple song he’d written years earlier with his cousin Mike Love—was now rising up the Billboard charts to peak at #14. The lineup now consisted of Wilson and Love with Wilson’s younger brothers Dennis and Carl as well as the 13-year-old David Marks, who had replaced their friend Al Jardine in February, though Jardine—who had left the group to attend dental school—would be back to replace Marks within the year.
On October 1, 1962, Capitol released the first full-length Beach Boys album, named Surfin’ Safari after the hit single that led the album. As their song titles implied, the Beach Boys were heavily influenced by surf music pioneers like Dick Dale, adding harmonies that provided more mainstream pop appeal and popularized what came to be known as the “California sound”.
To visually communicate this West Coast spirit, Capitol photographer joined the Wilsons, Love, and Marks on the seaside sands of Paradise Cove in Malibu for an album cover shoot that would visually communicate the spirit of California with the boys, complete with Dennis’ nine-foot Hermosa surfboard and a palm frond-decorated yellow 1929 Ford Model A pickup truck that Capitol art director Ed Thrasher rented for $50 from a local “beach contractor” known as “Calypso Joe”. In the tradition of all the rising young bands of the day, the Beach Boys dressed identically for that overcast August afternoon in the surf, all clad in woolen board shirts that evoked the band’s original name: the Pendletones. Continue reading
Anthony Quinn as Colonel Andrea Stavros, tough Greek officer
Middle East, Fall 1943
Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann
Seersucker Thursday may be one of the few remaining bipartisan aspects of American politics. Inspired by the practice of early 20th century congressmen donning their tailored seersucker suits, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott reinstated the tradition in 1996, to be observed by men and women of the Senate on the second or third Thursday in June to coincide with National Seersucker Day, a standing celebration of the cool-wearing cloth.
There have certainly been more elegant showcases of seersucker suits in cinematic history, but one of the toughest examples can be seen with The Guns of Navarone‘s introduction of Colonel Andrea Stavros, the pipe-smoking officer of the Hellenic Army’s 19th Motorized Division. Continue reading
Daniel Craig as James Bond, retired British secret agent
Jamaica to Cuba, Spring 2020
Film: No Time to Die
Release Date: September 30, 2021
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Costume Designer: Suttirat Anne Larlarb
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy 00-7th of June! The weather continues warming up as we approach summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and I’m sure I won’t be alone in turning to James Bond for inspiration as I begin rotating summer style staples back to the front of my closet.
To dissect the phrasing of his literary creator, you could say James Bond had lived enough for two lifetimes by the time we find the globetrotting secret agent now retired toward the start of No Time to Die. Continue reading