Steve McQueen as Ralph “Papa” Thorson, real-life bounty hunter
Los Angeles (among other locales), Fall 1979
Film: The Hunter
Release Date: August 1, 1980
Director: Buzz Kulik
Costume Designer: Thomas Welsh
On the anniversary of Steve McQueen’s passing, I’d like to explore his style in the final film he made before his untimely death at the age of 50 on November 7, 1980.
The Hunter starred McQueen as Ralph “Papa” Thorson, a colorful real-life bounty hunter who had reportedly logged more than 5,000 cases throughout his career including the capture of would-be presidential assassin and Manson family follower Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme.
The concept of a bounty hunter conjures the image of a deadly serious and dangerous enforcer. The real Ralph Thorson certainly looked the part at 310 pounds and 6’2″ though Christopher Keane’s 1976 biography counters this image by describing Thorson’s many roles and talents as “a church bishop, Master bridge champion, renowed astrology, criminology alumnus of the University of California Berkeley, child nutritionist, [and] aficionado of classical music.” Continue reading
Brad Pitt as Max Vatan, Royal Canadian Air Force intelligence officer
London, April 1944
Release Date: November 23, 2016
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Costume Designer: Joanna Johnston
Following their adventures in Morocco, glamorous spy couple Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard) “settle down” for their shared life in World War II-era London, spending their time picking mushrooms when not in service to their respective governments.
For these [not so] innocent outings, Max shows off his stylish approach to “smart casual” civilian attire anchored by a brown suede vintage-inspired jacket custom made for Brad Pitt by costume designer Joanna Johnston’s team. Continue reading
James Stewart as John “Scottie” Ferguson, former San Francisco detective
San Francisco, Fall 1957
Release Date: May 9, 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
San Francisco has always been a popular setting for detective movies. From 1940s film noir like The Maltese Falcon through the gritty ’60s and ’70s era with movies like Bullitt, Dirty Harry, and McQ, Hollywood has made the most of its picturesque neighbor to the distant north.
Though Alfred Hitchcock had filmed in the Bay area before, Vertigo was his first cinematic effort actually set in San Francisco and he makes the most of his setting. Continue reading
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious ad exec and suburban dad
Ossining, New York, July 1963
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “Seven Twenty Three” (Episode 3.07)
Air Date: September 27, 2009
Director: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
“Why can’t you stare into the eclipse? I mean, what’s it gonna do, really? I stare at the sun every day,” wonders Carlton Hanson (Kristoffer Polaha), the philandering husband in Don and Betty Draper’s suburban social set.
After a few dismissive seconds staring through his sunglasses, Don merely responds by asking “You stare at the sun every day?”
Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown, millionaire playboy and heist mastermind
Salem, New Hampshire, Summer 1968
Film: The Thomas Crown Affair
Release Date: June 19, 1968
Director: Norman Jewison
Costume Designer: Alan Levine
In 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair, the titular millionaire is every bit the sportsman that you’d expect a Steve McQueen character to be. A brief scene shows Crown spending his weekend recreationally gliding a Schweizer SGS 1-23H through the skies over Salem… although it was actually local pilot Roy McMaster who rode in the cockpit during the actual scenes in flight.
This vignette also featured Steve McQueen sporting casual outerwear that was also a real-life favorite of his: a classic Harrington jacket. Continue reading
Daniel Craig as James Bond, rogue British government agent
Scotland, Spring 2012
Release Date: November 9, 2012
Director: Sam Mendes
Costume Designer: Jany Temime
After a relentless cross-continental game of cat and mouse (or, more accurately, rat and rat), James Bond and Raoul Silva finally come to a head at Bond’s childhood home of Skyfall Manor in the Scottish Highlands. The stakes have been raised by the appearance of M, a rare sight in a Bond action scene and here a gun-toting queen in Bond and Silva’s chess game.
Bond, M, and the estate’s old gamekeeper Kincaide (Albert Finney) prepare for the inevitable assault with a charmingly dark twist on Kevin McCallister’s booby-trapping exploits, with an armor-plated Aston Martin DB5 replacing a train-hopping Michael Jordan cutout. With the stage set, all the three armed stalwarts can do is wait. Continue reading
Jon Hamm as Don Draper, Madison Avenue ad man with a crumbling personal life
Ossining, NY, November 1963
Series: Mad Men
Episode: “The Grown-Ups” (Episode 3.12)
Air Date: November 1, 2009
Director: Barbet Schroeder
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
Best known for his snazzy – and typically gray – business suits at the office, Don Draper has a very clear weekend relaxation style that emerges during the series. In the cooler months of spring and fall, Don often pairs a white dress shirt with a dark sweater and trousers. This was first notably seen in the second season’s “Three Sundays” when he and the Sterling Cooper gang bustled around the office on a weekend to prepare the perfect pitch for American Airlines.
A year and a half later, the country is reeling from the recent tragedy of the JFK assassination. The sixties had yet to become the turbulent and violent decade it is now remembered as, and American life was still viewed as the idyllic Norman Rockwell painting or Father Knows Best episode. This all began to change in 1963 as the white picket fence of Leave It to Beaver gave way to presidential assassinations, city-wide riots, and unthinkable racial violence. Continue reading