Tom Cruise as LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, hotshot United States Naval Aviator
NAS Miramar near San Diego, Summer 1985
Film: Top Gun
Release Date: May 16, 1986
Director: Tony Scott
Costume Design: Wingate Jones, John Napolitano, Bobbie Read, and James W. Tyson
On March 3, 1969 the United States Navy established an elite school for the top one percent of its pilots. Its purpose was to teach the lost art of aerial combat and to insure[sic] that the handful of men who graduated were the best fighter pilots in the world.
Today, the Navy calls it Fighter Weapons School. The flyers call it: TOP GUN.
In 1922, the same year that the U.S. Navy commissioned its first aircraft carrier, Navy Day was established to commemorate the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt, whose vast accomplishments included serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy before the ascended to the presidency. On Navy Day, it’s hard to think of a movie more associated with the United States’ naval warfare branch than Top Gun, which celebrated the talents and competition among U.S. Naval Aviators.
Steve McQueen, iconic American actor
Fall 1964, Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Photographs by William Claxton
Happy birthday to Steve McQueen, born March 24, 1930, in Beach Grove, Indiana, then a small town of barely more than 3,500 people. By the age of eight, he had already received his first bike (well, a tricycle) and his first watch (a gold pocket watch from his uncle), two items that would become very important to his life and legacy. By the time McQueen died of cardiac arrest in November 1980, the “King of Cool” had cemented a place among the greatest American icons of screen and style through his performances in films like The Great Escape, Bullitt, and The Thomas Crown Affair, and his lifelong passion for racing and rebellion.
Steve McQueen as Ralph “Papa” Thorson, real-life bounty hunter
Los Angeles (among other locales), Fall 1979
Film: The Hunter
Release Date: August 1, 1980
Director: Buzz Kulik
Costume Designer: Thomas Welsh
On the anniversary of Steve McQueen’s passing, I’d like to explore his style in the final film he made before his untimely death at the age of 50 on November 7, 1980.
The Hunter starred McQueen as Ralph “Papa” Thorson, a colorful real-life bounty hunter who had reportedly logged more than 5,000 cases throughout his career including the capture of would-be presidential assassin and Manson family follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme.
The concept of a bounty hunter conjures the image of a deadly serious and dangerous enforcer. The real Ralph Thorson certainly looked the part at 310 pounds and 6’2″ though Christopher Keane’s 1976 biography counters this image by describing Thorson’s many roles and talents as “a church bishop, Master bridge champion, renowed astrology, criminology alumnus of the University of California Berkeley, child nutritionist, [and] aficionado of classical music.” Continue reading
Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge, tough, taciturn boxer
Los Angeles, Summer 1992
Film: Pulp Fiction
Release Date: October 14, 1994
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
There have been several requests to see Butch Coolidge’s bomber jacket ensemble from Pulp Fiction get a proper BAMF Style analysis, so what better occasion would there be than Bruce Willis’ birthday? Happy 62nd, Bruce!
Like many classic fictional boxing stories before him, Butch Coolidge finds himself in a hard place between his pride and the mob…and ultimately decides that it’s the latter that should suffer. Continue reading
Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown, millionaire playboy and heist mastermind
Salem, New Hampshire, Summer 1968
Film: The Thomas Crown Affair
Release Date: June 19, 1968
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
In 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair, the titular millionaire is every bit the sportsman that you’d expect a Steve McQueen character to be. A brief scene shows Crown spending his weekend recreationally gliding a Schweizer SGS 1-23H through the skies over Salem… although it was actually local pilot Roy McMaster who rode in the cockpit during the actual scenes in flight.
This vignette also featured Steve McQueen sporting casual outerwear that was also a real-life favorite of his: a classic Harrington jacket. Continue reading
David Duchovny as Hank Moody, womanizing novelist and screenwriter
Santa Monica, Spring 2012
Episode: “The Ride-Along” (Episode 5.05)
Air Date: February 5, 2012
Director: Millicent Shelton
Costume Designer: Peggy A. Schnitzer
Two years before Ice Cube and Kevin Hart took their seats in a police car, Hank Moody joined unstable rapper Samurai Apocalypse (RZA) for an Santa Monica PD ride-along to prep for Sam’s new movie, Santa Monica Cop.
Writing a movie called Santa Monica Cop (no, it’s not supposed to be a very original concept) is an unexpected scenario for Californication‘s cynical, hard-drinking protagonist, but even more unexpected is the setting for the episode’s cold open: an L.A. gun range. Continue reading
Keanu Reeves as John Wick, retired assassin and devoted puppy owner
New Jersey to New York City, Spring 2014
Film: John Wick
Release Date: October 24, 2014
Director: Chad Stehelski
Costume Designer: Luca Mosca
In honor of tomorrow’s über-American holiday of Flag Day (which also happens to be my mom’s birthday), this installment of Car Week will begin with an examination of John Wick’s casual leather jacketed outfit and – of course – his ’69 Ford Mustang Mach 1, which is mistaken for a Boss 429 during Wick’s fateful gas station fill-up. Continue reading