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
The Yakuza was the first screenplay credited to either Paul Schrader or Leonard Schrader, whose experiences in Japan inspired his brother to write the story. Leonard returned to the United States, where he spend the holiday season in Venice co-writing the screenplay’s first draft with Paul, who would later famously collaborate with Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver and Raging Bull among others. While the brothers watched many yakuza films for inspiration, what impressed them the most was the stoic screen presence of Ken Takakura, the Nakama-born actor who’d made his screen debut two decades earlier.
Steve McQueen as Eric “the Kid” Stoner, hotshot poker player
New Orleans, Fall 1936
Film: The Cincinnati Kid
Release Date: October 15, 1965
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Donfeld (Donald Lee Feld)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
BAMF Style has received a few requests recently to explore the black jacket worn by Steve McQueen as Eric “The Kid” Stoner, a young up-and-coming poker player looking to establish his reputation in Depression-era New Orleans.
When he first meet The Kid, he is holding a hair in the sort of back-alley poker parlor where every guy’s nickname is Buck and there’s enough rusty razor blades in the bathroom that one won’t be missed if there’s trouble. Continue reading
Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, archetypal hard-boiled private detective
Los Angeles, Fall 1945
Film: The Big Sleep
Release Date: August 23, 1946
Director: Howard Hawks
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Big Sleep is often considered the apex of American film noir. Plot becomes secondary (and often disregarded) in favor of colorful characters made of private eyes, floozy femme fatales, and pornographers spitting snappy dialogue at each other against the backdrop of both the glamorous and seamy sides of the city. The same plot and characters from Raymond Chandler’s 1939 source novel are here, with the anti-Code elements like pornography and homosexuality all but removed. Continue reading
Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine, cynical “gin joint” manager
Casablanca, Morocco, December 1941
Release Date: November 26, 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Before Casablanca was released in 1942, Humphrey Bogart had spent the majority of his career in secondary roles as sniveling bastards. His first major role in The Petrified Forest saw him as a Dillinger-esque armed robber far more interested in his six-shooter than romance. He was the foil to Jimmy Cagney’s criminal “hero” in Warner Brothers gangster flicks like Angels With Dirty Faces and The Roaring Twenties, and it wasn’t until 1941 when he finally received star billing in both High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon. The latter film is often considered his breakout role as the cynical P.I. Sam Spade, but it wasn’t until a year later with Casablanca that he would finally be a romantic lead.
The role of Rick Blaine was perfect for Bogie, finally allowing him to develop a romantic depth to his character’s cynicism. Casablanca was never intended to be anything out of the ordinary, despite the cavalcade of stars and writers involved in its production. Many, including those at Warner Brothers, considered it to be a mere copy of the now-forgotten 1938 film Algiers. The film exceeded all expectations and is considered to be one of the few true masterpieces in cinema. It took home the three major production Oscars in 1943 for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard E. Koch, and an uncredited Casey Robinson), and shines a contemporary look at World War II. Continue reading
Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown, millionaire busienssman and criminal mastermind
Boston, Summer 1968
Film: The Thomas Crown Affair
Release Date: June 19, 1968
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
Tailor: Douglas Hayward
The Thomas Crown Affair is one film where I would feel comfortable ruling that the style outweighs the substance. In some ways, the plot reads like a harlequin novel – a dashing millionaire is investigated by an impossibly stunning insurance investigator and the two play a cat-and-mouse game, culminating in some symbolism-driven sex and his eventual escape. It is a simple plot in a film best remembered for its lavish touches across the board from cinematography to costuming.
In fact, Crown himself is far more sophisticated than the plot. Watching for plot can be more than mildly frustrating as the film really electrifies when McQueen and Dunaway are onscreen and – not the fault of the other actors – stumbles when neither are there to save it. The film is still a fun and very ’60s caper, but it’s important to keep in mind that the focus is totally on style. Continue reading
Viggo Mortensen as Nikolai Luzhin, Russian Mafiya “undertaker” and chauffeur with a few secrets of his own
London, Christmas 2006
Film: Eastern Promises
Release Date: September 8, 2007
Director: David Cronenberg
Costume Designer: Denise Cronenberg
WARNING! Spoilers possible!
Eastern Promises is a great film, but there is a noteworthy twist that is hard to ignore when discussing the main character. If you haven’t seen it, please watch it before reading the post! Continue reading
Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, honest and intrepid federal agent
Chicago, September 1930
Film: The Untouchables
Release Date: June 3, 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
This blog has been focusing on a lot of bad guys lately, so let’s take a look at a good guy… at least according to the film about him.
Despite what Robert Stack and Kevin Costner’s portrayals may have you believe, Eliot Ness didn’t single-handedly stop Al Capone’s reign of terror over the city of Chicago. Even Ness’ own account paints himself as a crime-fighting pariah who overcame the odds with a tight-knit group of rogue lawmen and brought down a monster. Continue reading