Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock, nervous and aimless college graduate
Los Angeles, Late Spring 1967
Film: The Graduate
Release Date: December 22, 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Costume Designer: Patricia Zipprodt
The myriad impacts of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic has included a halt on college graduation ceremonies, which would typically be occurring around this time; indeed, my own commencement was on April 30, nine years ago today.
The Graduate provided Dustin Hoffman with his breakout role as Benjamin Braddock, a recent graduate suffering from the ennui of balancing one’s achievements and desires with what’s expected of them. After a humiliating 21st birthday party where his parents forced him to scuba dive into the family pool in front of their friends, Benjamin asserts himself by arranging his first assignation with the seductive and unsatisfied Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) at the Taft Hotel (in fact, L.A.’s famous Ambassador Hotel), where he chain-smokes Parliaments and nurses a highball while waiting for her in the hotel lounge. At her prompting, he nervously reserves a room for them under the unconvincing alias of “Mr. Gladstone.” Continue reading
Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, CIA covert operations officer
Tehran, Iran, January 1980
Release Date: October 12, 2012
Director: Ben Affleck
Costume Designer: Jacqueline West
A month ago on my Instagram page, I posted about Ben Affleck’s tweedy look in Argo to coincide with the 40th anniversary of what became known as the “Canadian Caper”, the successful 1980 rescue of six American diplomats who had been taking refuge with Canadian diplomatic personnel after the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
The six diplomats—Bob Anders, Cora and Mark Lijek, Henry Lee Schatz, and Joe and Kathleen Stafford—had managed to escape after militants first stormed the embassy on November 4, 1979, evading the 444 days of captivity that befell more than 50 Americans who were detained in what would become known as the “Iran hostage crisis”. The escapees initially received help from the British embassy but deemed their situation too risky due to the militants’ raids of diplomatic compounds. Eventually, the sextet found a safer, longer-term solution sheltered at the homes of Canadian immigration officer John Sheardown and Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor.
Taylor first contacted the Canadian government, who expressed support for the sanctuary and instigated a plan to create six Canadian passports for the Americans to safely fly out of Iran. The joint Canadian-American operation also required the participation of the CIA, particularly the efforts of Antonio “Tony” Mendez, a decorated agent and expert in disguises and exfiltration. Continue reading
Tom Selleck as Nick Lassiter, debonair jewel thief
London, June 1939
Release Date: February 17, 1984
Director: Roger Young
Costume Designer: Barbara Lane
While we’re still in the midst of tweed-friendly weather, I’d like to respond to a few requests I’ve had to focus on Tom Selleck’s gentlemanly style in Lassiter as an American thief in England, a far cry from the Aloha shirts he was famously wearing on Magnum, P.I. at the same time.
Released today in 1984, Lassiter starred Selleck as the titular jewel thief—Nick Lassiter—crafted in the daring and debonair tradition of cinematic cat burglars like Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief and David Niven’s “Phantom” in The Pink Panther. Much like his previous film, High Road to China, this movie compensated for the fact that Selleck had to pass on the role of Indiana Jones by giving him the role of a charismatic, resourceful, and risk-averse rogue facing danger from under the brim of a fedora in the years leading up to World War II.
John Dall as Bart Tare, armed robber on the run
San Lorenzo Valley, California, Fall 1949, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Spring 1950
Film: Gun Crazy
(also released as Deadly is the Female)
Release Date: January 20, 1950
Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Costume Designer: Norma Koch (credited with Peggy Cummins’ costumes only)
Fifteen years after armed robbers Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were ambushed and killed on a rural Louisiana road, one of the first attempts to adapt their story for the silver screen arrived in theaters. Sure, there had been Fritz Lang’s sympathetic melodrama You Only Live Once (1937) and the FBI-endorsed propaganda Persons in Hiding (1939), but Gun Crazy—released exactly 70 years ago today—most effectively latched onto the intrigue of a gun-toting couple on the run, and, “more than any other, emphasizes the powerful attraction of weaponry in the growing legend of Bonnie and Clyde,” according to John Treherne, author of The Strange History of Bonnie and Clyde.
Gun Crazy‘s telling original title of Deadly is the Female reflects the narrative leaning into the noir-esque premise of a dominating femme fatale, an expert in firearms who seduces her lovestruck fella into a life of crime… an inverse of the generally accepted reality of the relationship between violent manipulator Clyde Barrow and the vulnerable and troubled Bonnie Parker.
A year after his chilling turn as the calculating, Loeb-like murderer in Hitchcock’s Rope, John Dall stars as the malleable Bart Tare, who finds himself fatefully—and fatally—drawn to the voluptuous carnival sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummins), “the darling of London, England,” though it’s a toss-up whether it’s her tight pants, knowing wink, or dueling pistols that sink the hook into the already doomed Bart. Continue reading
Sean Connery as Jim Malone, tough and honest Chicago beat cop
Canadian border, September 1930
Film: The Untouchables
Release Date: June 3, 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Recently recruited off the streets of Chicago, aging beat cop Jim Malone is more than happy to bring his grizzled brand of tough justice to the Canadian border to assist federal agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and their small but effective band of “untouchable” lawmen in stopping an illegal shipment of liquor from making its way into the United States.
Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff, slick insurance salesman
Los Angeles, May through July 1938
Film: Double Indemnity
Release Date: July 3, 1944
Director: Billy Wilder
Costume Designer: Edith Head
What’d you think I was, anyway? A guy that walks into a good-lookin’ dame’s front parlor and says, “Good afternoon, I sell accident insurance on husbands. You got one that’s been around too long, one you’d like to turn into a little hard cash? Just give me a smile and I’ll help you collect?”
Let’s finally kick off Noir-vember with the quintessential film noir, Double Indemnity, the quotable masterpiece from the pen of James M. Cain, adapted for Billy Wilder’s screen direction by pulp writer Raymond Chandler and photographed by inventive cinematographer John F. Seitz. Double Indemnity is the one that has it all: the seductive femme fatale (Barbara Stanwyck), the wisecracking protagonist willing to murder for her (Fred MacMurray), and the intrepid investigator, though in this case it’s not a trench coated private detective but an energetic, experienced, and irascible insurance claims manager played by Edward G. Robinson at his best.
Donald Pleasence as Dr. Sam Loomis, determined psychiatrist
Illinois, Halloween 1978
Release Date: October 25, 1978
Director: John Carpenter
Wardrobe Credit: Beth Rodgers
Based on a timely recommendation that I received from my friend @agentlemansarmour leading up to Halloween last year, I’d like to commemorate October 31 this year with a look at John Carpenter’s Halloween, the influential 1978 horror flick cited as kicking off the “Golden Age” of slasher movies and one of the most successful and profitable independent films of all time, grossing more than $70 million with a budget of less than $325,000. The suggestion particularly requested a look at the fall-friendly tweed jacket and raincoat worn by the movie’s ostensible protagonist, knowledgable psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis as portrayed by Donald Pleasence, who would reprise the role four more times before Malcolm McDowell took over for Rob Zombie’s 2007 reboot.
Colin Farrell as Ray Velcoro, troubled and crooked Vinci PD detective
Ventura County, California, October 2014
Series: True Detective
– “Night Finds You” (Episode 2.02, dir. Justin Lin, aired 6/28/2015)
– “Maybe Tomorrow” (Episode 2.03, dir. Janus Metz, aired 7/5/2015)
Creator: Nic Pizzolatto
Costume Designer: Alix Friedberg
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As we get deeper into autumn, let’s crib a fall-friendly look from the second episode of True Detective‘s divisive second season. Even if you weren’t a fan of the neo-noir sophomore season of Nic Pizzolatto’s HBO series, there’s still something undoubtedly fun about Ray Velcoro’s cowboy-inspired take on a detective’s daily attire. Continue reading
James Stewart as John “Scottie” Ferguson, former San Francisco detective
San Juan Bautista, California, Fall 1957
Release Date: May 9, 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Let’s wrap up this week’s commemoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s 120th birthday with another exploration of the style in Vertigo, now considered one of the Master of Suspense’s masterpieces though it may have been overlooked during his lifetime and resulted in the end of his successful collaborations with James Stewart.
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
Monmouth Park, Oceanport, NJ, Fall 2001
Series: The Sopranos
– “Pie-o-My” (Episode 4.05, dir. Henry J. Bronchtein, aired 10/13/2002)
– “Eloise” (Episode 4.12, dir. James Hayman, aired 12/1/2002)
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
In the spirit of the upcoming Kentucky Derby, today’s #MafiaMonday post features a day at the races for Jersey wiseguys Tony Soprano, Silvio Dante, Carlo Gervasi, Hesh Rabkin, and Ralph Cifaretto, whose recent purchase—a racehorse named Pie-O-My—delights the guys by coming from behind to win.