Steve McQueen as LT Ferguson “Fergie” Howard, enterprising U.S. Navy officer
Venice, Summer 1961
Film: The Honeymoon Machine
Release Date: August 23, 1961
Director: Richard Thorpe
Costume Designer: Helen Rose
To commemorate Steve McQueen’s birthday 91 years ago today, let’s take a look at how the King of Cool incorporated some of his personal style into one of his earliest—and least popular—movies.
Based on Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s 1959 play The Golden Fleecing, The Honeymoon Machine belongs to that unique sub-genre of ’60s farce that made light of Cold War paranoia and seemed to end up with everyone throwing punches (executed suitably in The Glass Bottom Boat, poorly in the 1967 Casino Royale.)
The role of the mischievously ambitious, Nietzsche-quoting naval lieutenant Fergie Howard was originally intended for Cary Grant, however the middle-aged actor was nearing his retirement and turned the job down. Rather than casting another screen vet of Grant’s age and standing, the production went in the opposite direction and brought on Steve McQueen for what would be his third top-billed movie after The Blob (1958) and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).
The Honeymoon Machine turned a profit but McQueen considered it a dark mark on his career, reportedly walking out of the first public screening and vowing never to work for MGM again. Don’t worry, Steve… The Great Escape is only two years away! Continue reading
Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent and legendary super spy
Venice, Spring 1963
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, From Russia With Love is a very polarizing film for Bond fans. It is almost a direct adaptation of the novel, a gritty and realistic espionage adventure based on the murder of a British naval attache on the Orient Express in 1950. The film too is grounded in realism, relying on genuine suspense rather than gadgets or contrived villains. It’s one of my favorites (definitely my favorite of the pre-Craig era) and Sean Connery’s personal favorite, so that should tell you something.
After a tense mission and subsequent getaway stretching from Istanbul through Eastern Europe in From Russia With Love, Bond is glad to spend a short holiday relaxing in Venice with new arm candy Tatiana before having to ship her off to London with the film’s MacGuffin, a decoding device. Continue reading
Daniel Craig as James Bond, disillusioned British secret agent
Venice, Summer 2006
Film: Casino Royale
Release Date: November 14, 2006
Director: Martin Campbell
Costume Designer: Lindy Hemming
I will make no apology for the fact that I think Daniel Craig is the best thing to happen to James Bond since a badass Scotsman first caught the eye of Cubby Broccoli and the Bond producers in 1961. Craig exemplifies what a modern Bond would be: tough but considerate while being slightly arrogant and insecure. He’s got a few quips, but he’s not winking at the camera every five minutes nor is he more focused on staying in bed with his woman-of-the-week while there’s a job to get done.
That being said, I’m a huge fan of the Bond series and will watch any of the movies (maybe not A View to a Kill) any day. I’ve read all the books, blah blah blah… Besides giving Connery his just due, I would argue that Craig IS Bond, at least from the literary standpoint. He may not be what the public wants him to be/thinks he should be, but he delivers Ian Fleming’s original vision to the screen. Continue reading