Burt Lancaster as Ole “Swede” Anderson, ex-boxer
Philadelphia, Spring 1938
Film: The Killers
Release Date: August 30, 1946
Director: Robert Siodmak
Let’s kick off #NoirVember with a memorable scene featuring birthday boy Burt Lancaster. Born November 2, 1913 in Manhattan, Lancaster remains an icon of American film noir, having made his debut in The Killers, which also marked most of the screen-going world’s introduction to the alluring Ava Gardner.
The Killers‘ straight-outta-Hemingway opening introduces us in finem res to Lancaster as “The Swede”, an ex-boxer with a sketchy past who has been tracked down by the two eponymous killers to a small town in New Jersey. Despite having spent the last six years in hiding, the Swede makes no attempt to flee his assassins, who efficiently complete their gruesome task and leave insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) to reconstruct the decade of mistakes that led from Anderson’s career as a boxer to that of a marked man by the mob.
As with all great film noir, the Swede’s undoing begins with a dame… Continue reading
Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, enigmatic millionaire and defender of Gotham
Gotham City, Fall 1989
Release Date: June 23, 1989
Director: Tim Burton
Costume Designer: Bob Ringwood
Clothes By: Giorgio Armani
Happy 70th birthday, Michael Keaton! Born September 5, 1951 just outside of Pittsburgh, Keaton rose to fame throughout the ’80s in comedies like Night Shift, Mr. Mom, and Beetlejuice before he was tapped for the titular role in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Bob Kane’s famous comics. The casting decision initially soured fans, who mailed thousands of letters to Warner Bros. in protest, but his unassuming performance quickly won over audiences and Batman became one of the top-grossing movies of 1989.
Gene Barry as Dr. Ray Flemming, smarmy psychiatrist
Los Angeles, Spring 1967
Film: Prescription: Murder
Original Air Date: February 20, 1968
Director: Richard Irving
Costume Designer: Burton Miller
This week in 1968, TV audiences were introduced to an unassuming yet indefatigable homicide detective in a wrinkled raincoat whose humble mannerisms and appearance belied an uncanny ability to bring murderers to justice. Oh, and just one more thing… that detective was named Columbo.
Peter Falk wasn’t the first to play the detective, nor was he even the first choice when Richard Levinson and William Link’s stage play was adapted for TV as Prescription: Murder, the first episode of what would become the long-running series Columbo. Bert Freed had originated the role in a 1960 episode of The Chevy Mystery Show, to be followed by Thomas Mitchell when Levinson and Link debuted the play Prescription: Murder two years later in San Francisco.
Prescription: Murder establishes many trademark elements of Columbo, including the delayed introduction of the shrewd but shabbily dressed lieutenant himself until after we watch the murderer of the week commit his—or her—crime.
Gene Barry set a standard in Prescription: Murder that the killers foiled by Columbo would follow for decades to come: arrogant, well-dressed, and clever enough to pull together a murder scheme that keeps them above suspicion… from all but Lieutenant Columbo, of course. Continue reading
Clark Gable as Michael Hamilton, Philadelphia lawyer and World War II veteran
Naples to Capri, Italy, Late Summer 1959
Film: It Started in Naples
Release Date: August 7, 1960
Director: Melville Shavelson
Costume Designer: Orietta Nasalli-Rocca
Screen legend Clark Gable was born 119 years ago today on February 1, 1901, the start of a storied life that included an Academy Award for It Happened One Night (1934), acclaimed performances in iconic movies like Gone with the Wind (1939) and Mogambo (1953), and decorated service with the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. While The Misfits (1961) co-starring Marilyn Monroe was Gable’s final film to be theatrically released, It Started in Naples was his final performance released during his lifetime. Continue reading
Gregory Peck as Jim McKay, “neat, clean, and polite” former sea captain and aspiring rancher
West Texas, Summer 1886
Film: The Big Country
Release Date: August 13, 1958
Director: William Wyler
Costume Design: Emile Santiago & Yvonne Wood
A couple years ago, I had received a request via Twitter from venerated BAMF Style reader Ryan to explore Gregory Peck’s “taupe city slicker suit” in The Big Country, which also happened to be the favorite movie of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, born 129 years ago today on October 14, 1890. In fact, Ike was such a fan of William Wyler’s Technicolor Western that he screened the 166-minute epic on four separate occasions during his administration’s second term in the White House.
Gene Hackman as Mary Ann, brutal “meat mobster”
Kansas City, summer 1972
Film: Prime Cut
Release Date: June 28, 1972
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Designer: Patricia Norris
Today, March 10, is officially National Ranch Dressing Day. What could possibly be the relevance to menswear, you ask? Well, I managed to find a connection for National Potato Day so let’s use today’s observance to explore and celebrate that oft-tragic American phenomenon, the ranch suit.
- Ray Milland as Tony Wendice, conniving former tennis pro
- Robert Cummings as Mark Halliday, romantic American crime writer
- Anthony Dawson as C.A. Swann, opportunistic con man
- John Williams as Chief Inspector Hubbard, clever Scotland Yard detective
London, Fall 1953 and Spring 1954
Film: Dial M for Murder
Release Date: May 29, 1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Wardrobe Credits: Moss Mabry & Jack Delaney
WARNING! Spoilers ahead! Continue reading
David Niven as Colonel Johnny Race, lawyer and war veteran
Egypt, September 1937
Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Following the grand success of 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express, one of the few adaptations of her work actually endorsed by Agatha Christie herself, producers rushed to find the next of her books to be adapted into a lavish, star-studded affair.
Death on the Nile was published in 1937, three years but ten books after Murder on the Orient Express, and included all of the necessary ingredients for success: the return of eccentric detective Hercule Poirot, an exotic location, and a glamorous victim among an international cast of characters… all of whom had the motive and means to commit the crime.
Poirot’s “boy Friday” to help him solve the case came in the form of Colonel Race, a steadfast Brit who first appeared in Christie’s earlier novel The Man in the Brown Suit. David Niven affably portrays the capable colonel with dignified charm and deadpan wit, often serving as the straightforward foil to Peter Ustinov’s more bombastic Poirot. Continue reading
Michael Douglas as Nick Curran, homicide detective with a troubled past
San Francisco, April 1991
Film: Basic Instinct
Release Date: March 20, 1992
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
There have been a few persistent requests to analyze Michael Douglas’ tailored suits and sport jackets in the controversial thriller Basic Instinct, best known for what Sharon Stone wasn’t wearing on screen as opposed to what Michael Douglas was wearing.
Described in his book The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood as an exercise to create the lowest common denominator screenplay possible, writer Joe Eszterhas completed his script within two weeks all while reportedly listening to The Rolling Stones non-stop. Eszterhas sold the script three days later for the astronomical sum of $3 million, cynically reattaining his mantle as the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood.
SPOILER ALERT! Do not continue reading if you haven’t yet watched The Sopranos. Although, granted, I’m pretty terrible about avoiding spoilers so… sorry in advance.
Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti, up-and-coming Mafia associate
Kearny, NJ, Fall 2000
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Full Leather Jacket” (Episode 2.08)
Air Date: March 5, 2000
Director: Allen Coulter
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
Some big spoilers here. Don’t read ahead if you haven’t seen the show. Although, honestly, it’ll be pretty tough to avoid since I titled this “Christopher’s bloody suit”. Maybe people just think I’m embracing British culture? Continue reading