Johnny Depp as George Jung, burgeoning pot dealer
Manhattan Beach, California, Summer 1968
Release Date: April 6, 2001
Director: Ted Demme
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
Blow presents the story of real-life drug smuggler George Jung (1942-2021), presented not unlike Goodfellas: beginning in media res at a crucial turning point in our anti-hero protagonist’s life, reaching back into his childhood, and then following his criminal career over the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s until it descends into a cocaine-fueled nightmare of betrayals and bad hair, all set to a packed soundtrack of hits and deep cuts from the era.
After meeting the adolescent George, raised by an attentive Ray Liotta and a neglectful Rachel Griffiths, we skip ahead to young adulthood as a twentysomething George and his oversized pal Tuna (Ethan Suplee) as they relocate across the country from Massachusetts to Manhattan Beach:
I moved to California in the summer of 1968 with the Tuna. We had $300 and a black TR3. There sure was nothin’ like this back home. It was paradise… and everyone was getting stoned.
Mel Gibson as Dale “Mac” McKussic, retired drug dealer
Los Angeles, Summer 1988
Film: Tequila Sunrise
Release Date: December 2, 1988
Director: Robert Towne
Costume Designer: Julie Weiss
Following his success as a screenwriter—credited and uncredited—on some of the most memorable movies of the ’70s, Robert Towne intended for his sophomore directorial film, Tequila Sunrise, to be something of a spiritual follow-up to Chinatown, which… it isn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I did get some enjoyment out of Tequila Sunrise and there’s no denying that it’s refreshingly original—almost to a questionable degree—but I would argue it’s not even close to the same league as Chinatown, let alone Bonnie & Clyde, The Godfather, The Last Detail, Marathon Man, or the other excellent films that benefited from Towne’s contributions.
Several had recommended Tequila Sunrise to me for its style, and I’ll admit the name intrigued me, so I mentally scheduled to watch it and write about it in time for #NationalTequilaDay, celebrated annually on July 24… so happy National Tequila Day!
Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker, aka “Peter”, mysterious Mossad agent
Naxos, Greece, Spring 1979
Series: The Little Drummer Girl (Episode 1)
Air Date: October 28, 2018
Director: Park Chan-wook
Costume Design: Sheena Napier & Steven Noble
Today marks the start of my beach vacation, an annual getaway that finds me clad almost exclusively in tropical-printed or terry cloth shirts as I laze about in the sun and sand with tequila in hand, trying not to think about the hundreds of emails amassing to greet me when I open my inbox exactly one week from now.
And then there are those lucky enough who actually get to do this for a living, particularly the globe-trotting super-spies penned by the likes of Ian Fleming and John le Carré, whose 1983 novel The Little Drummer Girl was recently re-adapted for the screen via a stylish six-part miniseries starring Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård. Continue reading
John Garfield as Frank Chambers, restless drifter-turned-diner worker
Laguna Beach, California, Summer 1945
Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: May 2, 1946
Director: Tay Garnett
Costume Supervisor: Irene
As #Noirvember continues, let’s step away from the trench coats and fedoras to see how our hardboiled anti-heroes dress for a day at the beach. An ode to deviance that originated from James M. Cain’s 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice was adapted twice by European filmmakers before Hollywood dared to tackle it during the golden age of noir in the 1940s.
The lascivious source material had presented a challenge for presenting the story in a way that would satisfy the draconian Motion Picture Production Code and, even before it was published, a synopsis of Cain’s story had been deemed “definitely unsuitable for motion picture production” by the pearl-clutching Hays Office. After the two European adaptations were released, MGM was finally ready to proceed with its own version, inspired by the success of Double Indemnity, another piece from Cain’s poison pen centered around adultery and murder. By this time, nearly a dozen years into the rigid enforcement years of the Production Code, American filmmakers had mastered the art of stylized shadows and suggestive innuendo that allowed—and often enhanced—these films noir set in lurid worlds filled with unscrupulous and unsavory elements.
“It was on a side road outside of Los Angeles,” Frank Chambers begins his story, as the down-on-his-luck hitchhiker stumbles into the Twin Oaks diner boasting a $1.25 “best in the world” chicken dinner. The simple sign, “Man wanted,” echoes both the restaurant’s staffing needs as well as the sensuous needs of Cora (Lana Turner), the ambitious young platinum blonde who runs the roadside lunch room with her proud yet oblivious husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway)… and, even if you haven’t read or seen it, you probably already see where this is going.
Troy Donahue as Johnny Hunter, college student and “silly sentimentalist”
New England, Spring 1959
Film: A Summer Place
Release Date: November 18, 1959
Director: Delmer Daves
Costume Designer: Howard Shoup
Sixty years after shaking up more genteel audiences with its frank but ultimately tame depictions of adultery and sexuality, A Summer Place may be most widely remembered for its serene theme song. Originally written by Max Steiner, it was Percy Faith’s arrangement of “Theme from A Summer Place” that transformed the instrumental ballad into a #1 hit that took the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking nine consecutive weeks in early 1960.
Cary Grant as John Robie, retired cat burglar and jewel thief
French Riviera, Summer 1954
Film: To Catch a Thief
Release Date: August 5, 1955
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
In commemoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s 120th birthday on August 13, this week continues with a look at one of the Master of Suspense’s most stylish movies, the 1955 romantic caper To Catch a Thief.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Wheeler, disillusioned businessman and suburban dad
Sasco Beach, CT, Summer 1955
Film: Revolutionary Road
Release Date: December 15, 2008
Director: Sam Mendes
Costume Designer: Albert Wolsky
While my week at the beach progresses, I’m hoping to channel my sun-soaked energy to my BAMF Style friends and readers with another post featuring classic summer style for a day in the sand and sun.
The film adaptation of Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates’ 1961 tribute to suburban disillusionment, reunited Titanic stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as the semi-happily married Frank and April Wheeler who find themselves increasingly disgusted with their lives in the Connecticut suburbs.
Alain Delon as Tom Ripley, charming American con artist and sophisticated sociopath
Maronti Beach, Italy, September 1959
Film: Purple Noon
(French title: Plein soleil)
Release Date: March 10, 1960
Director: René Clément
Costume Designer: Bella Clément
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
As I’m currently out of town on my annual beach vacation, I wanted to get into the spirit of the summer holidays by looking at swimwear from the movies, beginning with Alain Delon’s classic toweling blazer and swim trunks in Plein soleil, known to English-speaking audiences as Purple Noon.
When Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley was first adapted for the big screen in 1960, the author praised the visually appealing cinematography and Alain Delon’s performance as the charismatic sociopath Tom Ripley. Continue reading
Sean Connery as James Bond, British secret agent
Nassau, Summer 1965
Release Date: December 29, 1965
Director: Terence Young
Bond: Sir, I respectfully suggest that you assign me to Nassau.
M: Is there a reason besides your enthusiasm for water sports?
You really can’t blame James Bond for eagerly volunteering to take on MI6’s post in the Bahamas. Of all of Sean Connery’s early 007 adventures, Thunderball always struck me as the most aspirational, perfectly blending adventure, danger, style, and wit with the necessary Bond elements of exotic surroundings, clever gadgets, and a bevy of international beauties. Lurking threat of nuclear disaster aside, Thunderball presents the ideal summer holiday.
To celebrate the summer solstice, I’m somewhat departing from the usual BAMF Style format for a feature that highlights the best of Bond’s warm-weather duds… and where you can find them today to pack for your own beach vacation. Continue reading
John Wayne as Michael “Guns” Donovan, island saloon owner and U.S. Navy veteran
French Polynesia, December 1963
Film: Donovan’s Reef
Release Date: June 12, 1963
Director: John Ford
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Who better than John Wayne to feature on the day before that most American of holidays, the fourth of July?
Donovan’s Reef takes John Wayne from his familiar settings of the wild west or a world war and places him in French Polynesia (though actually filmed in Hawaii) as the grizzled manager of the titular island tavern.
John Wayne is hardly a name that comes to mind when thinking of classic beachgoers, but photographs like this from Duke’s Acapulco resort in the 1940s taken by Phil Stern prove that Wayne (and fellow macho pal Gary Cooper) could be quite natty when the time came to relaxing under the sun. Continue reading