Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson, larcenous armored car driver
Los Angeles, Summer 1948
Film: Criss Cross
Release Date: January 19, 1949
Director: Robert Siodmak
After directing the actor’s debut screen performance in quintessential film noir The Killers (1946), Robert Siodmak reteamed with Burt Lancaster three years later for Criss Cross, a quick, moody thriller that begins in media res with Steve Thompson (Lancaster) in the evening shadows of a nightclub parking lot, embracing his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo).
As De Carlo makes her plea to the camera that Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller called “noir’s defining moment”, we learn that the former spouses are forced into secrecy to avoid detection from Anna’s slick gangster boyfriend Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), with whom Steve is planning a six-figure “chance of a lifetime” heist the following day.
Michael Douglas as Nick Conklin, loose cannon NYPD detective
Osaka, Japan, Winter 1988
Film: Black Rain
Release Date: September 22, 1989
Director: Ridley Scott
Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy birthday, Michael Douglas! To commemorate the 76th birthday of this acclaimed actor and producer, I’m addressing a request I received from BAMF Style reader Ryan to take a look at Douglas’ wardrobe in Black Rain as loose cannon cop Nick Conklin.
Robert Shaw as “Skipper”, RAF Squadron Leader
England, Summer to Fall 1940
Film: Battle of Britain
Release Date: September 15, 1969
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson
Although the battle was waged for more than three months in 1940 over British airspace, September 15 has been established as Battle of Britain Day in recognition of the No. 11 Group RAF repelling two waves of German attacks on London. The Germans had instigated their air and sea blockade earlier that summer, followed by Luftwaffe air raids that started with ports and shipping centers, eventually moving further inland to airfields, factories, and ultimately civilian areas. Hitler had intended to gain air superiority over England prior to an invasion dubbed Operation Sea Lion, but a strong national defense from the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy successfully routed the Luftwaffe and prevented this full-scale invasion of the United Kingdom.
This British victory was considered an early turning point in favor of the Allies during World War II that inspired Winston Churchill to famously declare: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
On the 29th anniversary of this famous British defense against Germany in the skies over London, the United Artists war epic Battle of Britain with a star-studded cast including Sir Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Shaw. The latter portrays a talented and brash Squadron Leader, said to be inspired by South African fighter ace Sailor Malan, commander of No. 74 Squadron RAF during the actual Battle of Britain.
Jack Lemmon as Wendell Armbruster, Jr., bitter Baltimore businessman
Ischia, Bay of Naples, Summer 1972
Release Date: December 17, 1972
Director: Billy Wilder
Wardrobe Supervisor: Annalisa Nasalli-Rocca
“I guess there is something to what it says in the tourist guide… it says Italy is not a country, it’s an emotion,” says Pamela Piggott (Juliet Mills), laying naked on a rock surrounded by sun and sea next to an equally bare but considerably more nervous Wendell Armbruster, Jr., who exclaims in response, “Well, it’s certainly been an experience!”
Despite the context, the two aren’t yet lovers, instead brought to the romantic bay of Naples after the death of Wendell’s father and Pamela’s mother who, as they learn, had been enjoying a decade-long extramarital affair. While not among the more celebrated of Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder’s seven cinematic collaborations, Avanti! is a fitting and still entertaining work as both actor and director were maturing in their age and career. “Billy Wilder’s last great comic romance is an Italian vacation soaked in music, food, scenery and sunshine,” wrote Glenn Erickson in his excellent review for Trailers from Hell. “It’s the best movie ever about Love and Funerals.”
Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, washed-up TV actor
Los Angeles, February 1969
Film: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Release Date: July 26, 2019
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
Years after his glory days on the Western serial Bounty Law, proto-cowboy actor Rick Dalton fears that he’s “a has-been” as he’s relegated to dwindling, often villainous roles in Westerns and crime shows. Each one presents the opportunity to either impress audiences or remind them that he isn’t the star that he once was, so it’s with considerable apprehension—and a killer hangover—that he’s driven to the set of Lancer to film his walk-on role as the sinister Caleb DeCoteau opposite James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant).
“You’re Rick fuckin’ Dalton… and don’t you forget it,” encourages his stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), calling out from the cockpit of Rick’s Cadillac as the actor makes his wheezing walk onto the set. Rick is met by the gregarious Sam Wanamaker (Nicholas Hammond), the Chicago-born actor and director who had indeed directed the Lancer pilot, “The High Riders”. In yet another touch of QT’s revisionist history, this episode aired in September 1968, six months before this movie depicts it being filmed on Sunday, February 9, 1969. Continue reading
Ken Takakura as Ken Tanaka, disciplined ex-Yakuza
Tokyo, Spring 1974
Film: The Yakuza
Release Date: December 28, 1974
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Dorothy Jeakins
Fans of ’70s action would no doubt appreciate The Yakuza, Paul Schrader’s debut screenplay, co-written with his brother Leonard Schrader based on Leonard’s own experiences in Japan. A driving factor that compelled the brothers to finish their initial script was the stoic screen presence of Ken Takakura, who appeared in the film as the ex-akuza gangster who now teaches kendo.
Ken takes up his sword as part of his giri with Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum), formerly a U.S. Marine MP who had dated Ken’s sister while serving in Tokyo during the post-WWII occupation of Japan. Loosely defined as a lifelong debt that can never truly be repaid, the giri concept is central to The Yakuza, in which Ken describes it to Harry as “the burden hardest to bear” and refuses to rid himself of his obligation even when Dusty (Richard Jordan) suggests that the nature of his debt is relatively arbitrary.
Having arrived in Japan in search of his associate’s kidnapped daughter, Harry seeks out Ken’s assistance, but the blood they spill rescuing the young woman results in Yakuza contracts placed on both Harry and Ken, a threat that can only be eliminated by Ken killing the powerful gangster Tono (Eiji Okada) with a sword. While Harry arms himself with a .45 and a double-barreled shotgun, Ken takes a katana to appropriately exact his vengeance on the dangerous crime boss.
Max von Sydow as G. Joubert, French Alsatian contract assassin
New York City and Washington, D.C., Winter 1975
Film: Three Days of the Condor
Release Date: September 24, 1975
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Joseph G. Aulisi
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
You may be walking, maybe the first sunny day of the spring, and a car will slow beside you, and a door will open, and someone you know – maybe even trust – will get out of the car, and he will smile a becoming smile… but he will leave open the door of the car and offer to give you a lift.
Happy Spring to my BAMF Style readers in the Northern Hemisphere! Among the many screen credits of the late Max von Sydow, who died at the age of 90 earlier this month, was the taciturn professional assassin known as G. Joubert in the ’70s espionage thriller Three Days of the Condor.
Johnny Depp as George Jung, ambitious pot dealer
Chicago, Winter 1972
Release Date: April 6, 2001
Director: Ted Demme
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
In the centuries since pea jackets were first established by military mariners battling the cold, these short and warm coats have emerged as a winter staple for men and women around the world. While many maintain the original template, such as the 1940s Schott in 32-ounce melton wool that was handed down to me from my grandfather, the pea coat’s ubiquity has also inspired more fashion-forward variations like the leather-trimmed, peak-lapel Billy Reid coat that Daniel Craig wore in his third 007 outing Skyfall or this Disco-era jacket briefly worn by Johnny Depp in Blow.
Telly Savalas as Zeno, Greek resistance leader
“Somewhere in the Greek islands”, Fall 1944
Film: Escape to Athena
Release Date: June 6, 1979
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Costume Designer: Yvonne Blake
Escape to Athena assembles an incredible cast for a World War II adventure comedy in the spirit of The Dirty Dozen… or am I just saying the latter because it co-stars Telly Savalas?
Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent
New Mexico to French Riviera, Summer 1966
Film: Murderers’ Row
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Henry Levin
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Tailor: Sy Devore
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today is National Wear Red Day, observed the first Friday of February to raise awareness of the dangers of the heart disease. In recognition, I wanted to feature an example of a movie or TV character prominently wearing red beyond just the usual red shirts, sweaters, or ties. Enter Matt Helm.