Anthony Quinn as Colonel Andrea Stavros, tough Greek officer
Middle East, Fall 1943
Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann
Seersucker Thursday may be one of the few remaining bipartisan aspects of American politics. Inspired by the practice of early 20th century congressmen donning their tailored seersucker suits, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott reinstated the tradition in 1996, to be observed by men and women of the Senate on the second or third Thursday in June to coincide with National Seersucker Day, a standing celebration of the cool-wearing cloth.
There have certainly been more elegant showcases of seersucker suits in cinematic history, but one of the toughest examples can be seen with The Guns of Navarone‘s introduction of Colonel Andrea Stavros, the pipe-smoking officer of the Hellenic Army’s 19th Motorized Division. Continue reading
Charlton Heston as CAPT Matthew Garth, U.S. Naval Aviator
Pearl Harbor to Midway Island, Spring 1942
Release Date: June 18, 1976
Director: Jack Smight
Many familiar with World War II history are familiar with the significance of Monday’s date as, on June 6, 1944, the Allies landed at Normandy in northern France as part of the “D-Day” invasion that laid the groundwork for the eventual Allied victory. Two years earlier, the Americans had been engaged in yet another decisive battle that would turn the tide of the second World War.
The Battle of Midway had commenced 80 years ago today on June 4, 1942, following intelligence gathered by the U.S. Navy that allowed it to prepare for a counterattack against the Imperial Japanese Navy. Three days of battle followed, with American forces destroying all four Japanese fleet carriers that had engaged and—in both a tactical and symbolic victory—had also been part of the six-carrier force that attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier.
Though the Americans also suffered the loss of a carrier, a destroyer, and approximately 150 aircraft, casualties were considerably higher on the Japanese side (including nearly double the amount of aircraft lost), marking an early turning point of the Pacific War in favor of the Allies and which historian John Keegan has called “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”
In addition to an 18-minute color documentary directed during the battle by John Ford, the Battle of Midway has been the subject of two major movies, mostly recently in 2019. A star-studded retelling of the battle and its lead-up was produced by The Mirisch Company in 1976, starring—among many others—Henry Fonda as Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet. Having served in the Navy in real life during World War II, Fonda had actually partly narrated Ford’s 1942 documentary and also appeared as an unnamed admiral inspired by Nimitz in the 1965 epic In Harm’s Way.
The cast was rounded out by both established international stars from Robert Mitchum to Toshiro Mifune and relative newcomers like Dabney Coleman, Erik Estrada, and a non-mustached Tom Selleck. Being made just over 30 years after World War II ended meant a number of actual veterans among its cast; in addition to Fonda, Glenn Ford, Charlton Heston, Hal Holbrook, Cliff Robertson, and Robert Webber had all served.
Though most of its characters are real-life figures, Midway centers around a fictionalized hero in the form of naval aviator CAPT Matthew Garth (Heston), for whom the battle presents the culmination of his increasing personal and professional troubles. Continue reading
Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga, sophisticated freelance assassin
Bangkok, Thailand, Spring 1974
Film: The Man with the Golden Gun
Release Date: December 20, 1974
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Sir Christopher Lee, the imposing yet debonair screen icon known to many for portraying Count Dracula a total of nine times while Bond fans may know him best as Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous villain who faced off against Roger Moore’s James Bond in Moore’s sophomore 007 outing, The Man with the Golden Gun.
James Mason as Maxwell Fleury, short-tempered plantation owner
On the fictional Caribbean island of Santa Marta, Spring 1955
Film: Island in the Sun
Release Date: June 12, 1957
Director: Robert Rossen
Costume Design: Phyllis Dalton & David Ffolkes
Today’s post celebrates the great James Mason, who was born 113 years ago today on May 15, 1909. Whether playing a hero or villain or navigating a moral gray area in between, the velvet-voiced Mason brought a dignified presence to his performances.
Opposing the shining talents of Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge, Mason stars in this vividly photographed but dark-hearted drama as Maxwell Fleury, a privileged aristocrat dwelling on one of his family’s estates on the eponymous island.
Upon returning home in his sleek new Jaguar roadster one afternoon, he finds Egyptian cigarettes in his ashtray that fuel his baseless paranoia regarding his wife’s marital fidelity, a suspicion that dangerously spirals as the summery Santa Marta heat intensifies. Continue reading
Robert Cummings as Barry Kane, civilian aircraft mechanic
From Glendale, California, into the High Desert, Spring 1942
Release Date: April 22, 1942
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock’s wartime thriller Saboteur—not to be confused with his earlier movie Sabotage—was released 80 years ago this month. Though production began just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the idea had actually been months in the making after Hitch’s original pitch to David O. Selznick. “We were in 1941 and there were pro-German elements who called themselves America Firsters and who were, in fact, American Fascists. This was the group I had in mind while writing the scenario,” Hitchcock later explained to François Truffaut.
Despite his traditional elements of the wronged man, the beautiful blonde, and the “MacGuffin,” Hitch identified several disappointments with Saboteur, most notably in the casting of his two heroes and the villain. Of leading male star Robert Cummings, who portrayed the accused saboteur, Hitch commented to Truffaut that “he’s a competent performer, but he belongs to the light-comedy class of actors,” though this wouldn’t stop him from casting him a decade later in a strong supporting role in Dial M for Murder. Continue reading
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, New Jersey mob boss
Miami Beach, Fall 2007
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “Remember When” (Episode 6.15)
Air Date: April 22, 2007
Director: Phil Abraham
Creator: David Chase
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
Even gangsters get to go on spring break! Of course, being gangsters, Tony Soprano’s trip to Florida with Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) is less about tequila shots on the beach and more about laying low to avoid the heat after an old murder resurfaces from 1982… but the two wiseguys still get plenty of time to relax in the sun while the remaining arm of the DeMeo crime family scrambles to control any potential damage. Continue reading
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!
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.
Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs, desperate drifter-turned-treasure hunter
Mexico, Spring to Summer 1925
Film: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Release Date: January 6, 1948
Director: John Huston
Wardrobe: Robert O’Dell & Ted Schultz (uncredited)
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
On the 65th anniversary of when Humphrey Bogart died on January 14, 1957, I wanted to visit one of his most lasting—if not exactly best-dressed—roles.
“Wait until you see me in my next picture,” Bogie had proclaimed to a New York Post critic outside 21 one night. “I play the worst shit you ever saw!” Indeed, unlike his previous protagonists like Sam Spade, Rick Blaine, and Philip Marlowe, who were primarily heroes marred by a cynical streak, there are few redeeming factors to Fred C. Dobbs, the panhandling prospector whose treacherous greed leads him well past the point of no return. Continue reading
Daniel Craig as James Bond, tough British government agent
Lahore, Pakistan, Summer 2005
Film: Casino Royale
Release Date: November 14, 2006
Director: Martin Campbell
Costume Designer: Lindy Hemming
On the 00-7th of August, with just two months until Daniel Craig’s final Bond movie will [likely] be released, I wanted to reflect on the start of his tenure and also include some insights from my friend Caleb Daniels, who many in the Bond fan-iverse know as the creator of the @CommandoBond Instagram and blog, discussing the then-significant return of 007’s trademark Walther PPK! Continue reading
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Madison Avenue ad man
Anaheim, California, October 1965
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Tomorrowland” (Episode 4.13)
Air Date: October 17, 2010
Director: Matthew Weiner
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Sixty-six years ago today, Walt Disney introduced the world to “the happiest place on Earth” during a televised press event on July 17, 1955. Disneyland Park opened just one year and a day after construction began in Anaheim, California, and the sprawling theme park remains the only one completed under Disney’s direct supervision.
“Tomorrow can be a wonderful age,” Disney began when unveiling Tomorrowland, one of the nine themed “lands” that Disneyland is comprised of. “The Tomorrowland attractions have been designed to give you an opportunity to participate in adventures that are a living blueprint of our future.”
While we never actually get to see the Draper family visiting the park during their vacation in Mad Men‘s fourth-season finale, the episode’s title that we’re seeing Don forming the living blueprint for his own future, most significantly by rejecting the smart and nurturing Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono) to propose marriage to his bright-eyed young secretary Megan (Jessica Paré). After all, this is the man who prides himself on the fact that his life only moves in one direction: forward. Continue reading