Tagged: The Desert

Desert Fury: Wendell Corey’s Herringbone Tweed Suit

Wendell Corey as Johnny Ryan in Desert Fury (1947)

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Wendell Corey as Johnny Ryan, stone-cold mob enforcer

Nevada, Spring 1947

Film: Desert Fury
Release Date: August 15, 1947
Director: Lewis Allen
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

In the spirit of #Noirvember, I want to celebrate an entry in the relatively rare “color noir” category as well as the career of Wendell Corey, the Massachusetts-born actor and one-time AMPAS President who died on this day in 1968.

Corey was a familiar face in classic film noir like I Walk Alone (1948), Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), and The File on Thelma Jordon (1950) before his perhaps most recognized performance as the skeptical Detective Tom Doyle assisting Jimmy Stewart‘s peeping amateur crime-solver in Rear Window (1954). It had been an impressive rise for an actor whose feature film debut had only been a few years earlier, appearing in Desert Fury (1947) as the gay-coded mob killer Johnny Ryan, right-hand man to smooth racketeer Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak).

Also starring Lizabeth Scott and Burt Lancaster, with whom Corey would again co-star in I Walk AloneDesert Fury joins contemporaries like Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and Niagara (1953) as the rare examples of full-color movies that maintain enough of the themes, style, and sinister story elements of traditional film noir to still qualify for this classification. Continue reading

The Electric Horseman: Robert Redford’s Denim Western Style

Robert Redford in The Electric Horseman (1979)

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Robert Redford as Norman “Sonny” Steele, championship rodeo rider-turned-cowboy cereal spokesman

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, Fall 1978

Film: The Electric Horseman
Release Date: December 21, 1979
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Bernie Pollack

Background

I’ve been feeling romantic leading up to my wedding this weekend, so today’s fall-inspired fashions come by way of The Electric Horseman, Robert Redford’s fifth collaboration with director Sydney Pollack.

Redford plays Sonny Steele, the eponymous equestrian and former rodeo champion turned cynical after selling out to hock cereal touted as “a champ’s way to start a better day!” Continue reading

The Right Stuff: Sam Shepard’s Flight Jacket as Chuck Yeager

Sam Shepard with Brig Gen Chuck Yeager during production of The Right Stuff (1983)

Sam Shepard with Brig Gen Chuck Yeager during production of The Right Stuff (1983)

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Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, record-setting U.S. Air Force test pilot

Murac Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base), Kern County, California, from fall 1947 to summer 1961

Film: The Right Stuff
Release Date: October 21, 1983
Director: Philip Kaufman
Costume Supervisor: James W. Tyson

Background

Today marks the 75th anniversary of when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, piloting a rocket-propelled Bell X-1 aircraft—named Glamorous Glennis, after his wife—over the Mojave Desert at a speed greater than Mach 1. The event is depicted at the start of The Right Stuff, Philip Kaufman’s 1983 flight epic based on Tom Wolfe’s nonfiction book of the same name, chronicling the pivotal early years of American aeronautics between Yeager’s supersonic achievement and the conclusion of the successful Project Mercury manned space missions.

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The Misfits: Marilyn Monroe’s Denim Western Wear

Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Tabor in The Misfits (1961)

Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Tabor in The Misfits (1961). Photo by Eve Arnold.

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Marilyn Monroe as Roslyn Tabor, recent divorcée

Nevada desert, Summer 1960

Film: The Misfits
Release Date: February 1, 1961
Director: John Huston

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Sixty years after her fatal overdose on August 4, 1962, Marilyn Monroe remains a major figure in pop culture, the subject of countless books, art, music, and movies, including Blonde, scheduled to release next month starring Ana de Armas as the actress. Monroe’s final completed film was John Huston’s The Misfits, an elegiac contemporary Western written by her then-husband Arthur Miller that afforded the actress with the opportunity to provide her arguably best performance, which earned her the 1961 Golden Globe Award for “World Film Favorite” despite her own reported contempt for her performance. Continue reading

Death on the Nile: Simon MacCorkindale’s White Mess Jacket

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile (1978)

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on the Nile (1978)

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Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle, newlywed honeymooner

Egypt, September 1937

Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today would have been the 70th birthday of Simon MacCorkindale, the English actor whose breakthrough role was in Death on the Nile, the 1978 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery of the same name.

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Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky

Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky (2017)

Harry Dean Stanton in Lucky (2017)

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Harry Dean Stanton as “Lucky”, grizzled desert-dwelling nonagenarian

Piru, California, Summer 2016

Film: Lucky
Release Date: March 11, 2017
Director: John Carroll Lynch
Costume Designer: Lisa Norcia

Background

Today’s post celebrates the great Harry Dean Stanton, the craggy and unapologetically authentic character actor born 95 years ago on July 14, 1926. Stanton’s prolific filmography included few leading roles, aside from a memorable turn in Wim Wenders’ 1984 masterpiece Paris, Texas, and his final movie, Lucky.

Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja collaborated on the screenplay that would result in a cinematic love letter to Harry Dean Stanton, for whom Sparks had served as personal assistant for more than 16 years. Described by Movie Talk as “a poignant meditation on mortality”, Lucky provides a fitting swan song for the actor’s career, incorporating biographical details like Stanton’s Kentucky birthplace and service in the U.S. Navy, reuniting him with previous collaborators like David Lynch and Tom Skeritt, and even scored by harmonica riffs on “Red River Valley”, a song associated with his roles in Dillinger (1973) and Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), not to exclude the overall motif of roaming the southwestern desert that echoes his starring role in Paris, Texas.

The man at the heart of it all is “Lucky”, a cantankerous but not unkind 90-year-old who loves cigarettes, crossword puzzles, and coffee with plenty of cream and sugar. A man of routine, Lucky begins each day with a Natural American Spirit cigarette, his calisthenics (“five yoga exercises every day, 21 repetitions each”), and a glass of cold milk, before he slips into one of his identical shirts, jackets, and jeans to greet another day in the small desert town of Piru, California.

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Dean Martin in Kiss Me, Stupid

Dean Martin in Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

Dean Martin in Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

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Dean Martin as Dino, smooth crooner with a passion for booze, golf, and women

Between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Fall 1964

Film: Kiss Me, Stupid
Release Date: December 22, 1964
Director: Billy Wilder
Wardrobe Credit: Irene Caine & Wesley Jeffries
Tailor: Sy Devore

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

To celebrate the legendary Dean Martin, born on this day in 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio, today’s post explores when the chsaismatic Italian-American entertainer played… himself! Continue reading

Death on the Nile: Peter Ustinov’s Dinner Suit as Poirot

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978)

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978)

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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

Background

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

Vanishing Point: Cleavon Little as Super Soul

Cleavon Little as "Super Soul" in Vanishing Point (1971)

Cleavon Little as “Super Soul” in Vanishing Point (1971)

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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!

Background

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

Humphrey Bogart in The Petrified Forest

Humphrey Bogart as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest (1936)

Humphrey Bogart as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest (1936)

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Humphrey Bogart as “Duke” Mantee, violent desperado and “the last great apostle of rugged individualism”

Black Mesa, Arizona, January 1936

Film: The Petrified Forest
Release Date: February 6, 1936
Director: Archie Mayo
Costume Designer: Orry-Kelly (uncredited)

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

This is Duke Mantee, the world-famous killer, and he’s hungry…

Indeed, Humphrey Bogart was hungry. The 36-year-old actor had spent more than a dozen years honing his craft on the stage and had spent the last five going nowhere as a $750-a-week bit player for the Fox Film Corporation.

It wasn’t until a decade after his debut that Hollywood would start opening the front door for the New York-born actor, starring in Raoul Walsh’s crime flick High Sierra as a tough bank robber clearly modeled after real-life outlaw John Dillinger. It’s only fitting that this character be Bogie’s shot at the big time that he should have earned years earlier as yet another Dillinger surrogate, Duke Mantee.

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