Fred Astaire as Tony Hunter, musical comedy star
New York, Spring 1953
Film: The Band Wagon
Release Date: August 7, 1953
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Costume Designer: Mary Ann Nyberg
Today marks what would have been the 120th birthday of Fred Astaire, the renowned Nebraska-born dancer and singer whose prolific career on stage and screen extended more than three quarters of a century.
The Band Wagon (1953) is considered a highlight of the entertainer’s career, starring Astaire as a once-famous musical star who hopes to revive his career with a major Broadway production. Even if you’re not into musicals, it’s hard not to appreciate Astaire’s elegant footwork as he masterfully dances through the film’s culminating number, “Girl Hunt”, based on the novels of Mickey Spillane. Continue reading
Cary Grant as Philip Adams, sophisticated playboy economist
London, Fall 1957 to Spring 1958
Release Date: June 26, 1958
Director: Stanley Donen
Happy birthday to the great Cary Grant, born 115 years ago today on January 18, 1904, in Bristol, England. Born Archibald Leach before he assumed his catchier stage name, Grant’s signature screen presence blended his self-deprecating sense of humor with peerless suavity in both attitude and style. Grant’s popularity during the mid-20th century and the height of the dinner suit’s ubiquity meant the debonair actor would don a tuxedo almost as frequently as James Bond… and it’s not surprising to hear that Grant was an early contender for the role of 007, at least in the mind of the character’s creator Ian Fleming.
Between 1955 and 1962, Grant starred in seven contemporary-set films that didn’t require him to be in military uniform; of these, he sported a tuxedo in all but one (the lone exception, North by Northwest, featured the actor wearing arguably the most famous suit in movie history so there was little need for black tie.) In the middle of this impressive and stylish run of movies is Indiscreet, a Stanley Donen-directed romantic comedy that earned Grant his first of five Golden Globe nominations. Continue reading
Toshirô Mifune as Matsunaga, tubercular Japanese gangster
Japan, Summer 1947
Film: Drunken Angel
(Japanese title: 醉いどれ天使 Yoidore Tenshi)
Release Date: April 27, 1948
Director: Akira Kurosawa
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Based on the intensity of his performance, it’s hard to believe that Drunken Angel was one of Toshirô Mifune’s first movies. His portrayal of the cocky, conflicted, and ultimately doomed yakuza gangster Matsunaga remains a highlight of crime cinema 70 years after the film was released. Continue reading
Elvis Presley as “Lucky” Jackson, mechanic and aspiring race car driver
Las Vegas, Summer 1964
Film: Viva Las Vegas
Release Date: May 20, 1964
Director: George Sidney
Costume Designer: Donfeld (Donald Lee Feld)
Regarded as one of the better movies of Elvis Presley’s acting career, Viva Las Vegas stars the singer opposite Ann-Margret, and it’s reported that the very real chemistry between the two was indicative of their off-screen friendship that briefly grew into romance.
On screen, however, Elvis played “Lucky” Jackson, a mechanic who wins – then literally loses – the money he had hoped to use to finance his own race car. To raise the money back, he takes a part-time gig in the Fabulous Flamingo casino in Las Vegas, where he meets sultry swimming instructor Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret, of course).
John Travolta as Tony Manero, aimless paint store clerk and disco god
Brooklyn, Spring 1977
Film: Saturday Night Fever
Release Date: December 14, 1977
Director: John Badham
Costume Designer: Patrizia Von Brandenstein
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the premiere of Saturday Night Fever, the definitive film of the disco era. Often remembered for its soundtrack and street style, a closer look reveals an uncompromising film that wasn’t afraid to explore the dark themes that lurked beneath the era’s glittery polyester veneer, all propelled by an equally uncompromising star turn from a 23-year-old John Travolta. Continue reading
Brad Pitt as John Smith, suburban assassin
New York City, Fall 2004
Film: Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Release Date: June 10, 2005
Director: Doug Liman
Costume Designer: Michael Kaplan
Pitt’s Costumer: Myron Baker
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
There have been quite a few requests from readers hoping to see some of Brad Pitt’s sharp attire from Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and I think enough time has passed since his notorious divorce from Angelina Jolie last fall that a post featuring the very movie that brought them together won’t look too opportunistic… although being posted a week after Valentine’s Day may look suspicious!
Mr. & Mrs. Smith stars Pitt and Jolie as the titular couple, a seemingly banal set of suburbanites shielding their secret side careers as professional contract killers from each other. Continue reading
John Travolta as Vincent Vega, laidback mob hitman and self-described “Elvis man”
Los Angeles, Summer 1992
Film: Pulp Fiction
Release Date: October 14, 1994
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Costume Designer: Betsy Heimann
With Halloween around the corner, I’m revisiting one of my favorite Halloween costumes: Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction. It’s a great chance for a couple’s costume, whether your significant other is a Mia or a Jules.
Pulp Fiction‘s colorful, sprawling cast of characters and famously non-linear timeline makes Vincent an even more interesting character when you realize that he is the only one to appear in each segment of the film. The role marked a rejuvenation for John Travolta, whose career had gone stagnant during the ’80s with the only real commercial success coming from Look Who’s Talking. Established and rising actors including Alec Baldwin, Daniel Day-Lewis, James Gandolfini, Andy Garcia, Michael Keaton (aw!), Gary Oldman, Jason Patric, Sean Penn, Tim Roth, and Denzel Washington had all been either interested in or considered for the role, and even Michael Madsen would go on to regret not reprising his Vega brother role when offered.
Vincent Vega was the laidback yin to Jules Winnfield’s fired-up yang. While Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) would intimidate a target with his fire-and-brimstone brand of furious anger, Vincent would merely slump against a wall, puffing one of his hand-rolled cigarettes and debating whether or not to voice a situational complaint of his own. It might have been his easy temperament that led Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) to tap Vincent as the henchman-of-choice to entertain his wife Mia (Uma Thurman) when Marsellus was called out of town. Continue reading