Warren Beatty as John Silas “Jack” Reed, radical journalist and activist
Provincetown, Massachusetts, Summer 1916
Release Date: December 4, 1981
Director: Warren Beatty
Costume Designer: Shirley Ann Russell
Whether it’s because Labor Day is considered by some sartorial purists to be the last acceptable day for wearing summer whites or because the holiday originated to recognize the American labor movement, it feels appropriate for today’s post to explore Warren Beatty’s off-white summer suit as labor activist Jack Reed in his 1981 historical epic Reds.
Reds won three of the 12 Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including Beatty for Best Director, Maureen Stapleton for Best Supporting Actress, and Vittorio Storaro for Best Cinematography, though it had also been nominated for Best Picture and—of significant interest for this blog’s focus—Best Costume Design. Continue reading
Stephen Graham as Al Capone, infamous mob boss
Chicago, Spring 1931
Series: Boardwalk Empire
Episode: “Eldorado” (Episode 5.08)
Air Date: October 26, 2014
Director: Tim Van Patten
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Happy 50th birthday to Stephen Graham, whose memorable performance as Al Capone on Boardwalk Empire counts among the best cinematic depictions of the real-life Chicago crime lord, who was also been portrayed on screen by Robert De Niro, Ben Gazzara, Tom Hardy, Rod Steiger, Neville Brand, and—curiously, given Al’s stout physique—F. Murray Abraham and Jason Robards.
To the appropriately funereal tune of Vince Giordano and his Nighthawks Orchestra adapting Duke Ellington’s 1930 classic “Mood Indigo”, the Boardwalk Empire series finale spends one last moment with Graham’s Capone as he surrenders himself at a Chicago federal court to face trials for tax evasion and Volstead Act violations. Though the wily Capone had managed to evade consequences for building his criminal empire over the decade, the roaring ’20s are now over and Capone seems aware that it’s all over for him. Continue reading
Larry David as himself, a neurotic comedy writer
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Summer 2019
Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm
Episode: “You’re Not Going to Get Me to Say Anything Bad About Mickey” (Episode 10.04)
Air Date: February 9, 2020
Director: Jeff Schaffer
Creator: Larry David
Costume Designer: Leslie Schilling
Happy birthday to Larry David! Born 76 years ago today on July 2, 1947, LD grew successful as a co-creator of Seinfeld in the 1990s before becoming more visibly famous as an exaggeratedly neurotic version of himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is currently producing its twelfth (and possibly final) season.
The tenth-season episode “You’re Not Going to Get Me to Say Anything Bad About Mickey” begins with Larry consulting with the ubiquitous Leon (J.B. Smoove) amidst construction of Latte Larry’s, the “spite store” he’s building to steal business from his rival Mocha Joe (Saverio Guerra), who stops in to remind him that “good coffee is all about the beans.”
At the same time, Larry’s coterie is planning a plane trip to Cabo San Lucas for their friend Mickey’s wedding, despite Larry grumbling about having to travel two hours for a wedding, prompting his manager Jeff (Jeff Garlin) to utter the episode’s title in the unseen Mickey’s defense… and who could portray such a widely revered friend but the absurdly charismatic Timothy Olyphant? Continue reading
Billy Drago as Frank Nitti, ruthless Chicago Outfit enforcer
Chicago, Fall 1930 to Spring 1931
Film: The Untouchables
Release Date: June 3, 1987
Director: Brian De Palma
Costume Designer: Marilyn Vance
Wardrobe: Giorgio Armani
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Eighty years ago today on the morning of March 19, 1943, 57-year-old Chicago resident Frank Nitti enjoyed breakfast with Toni, his third wife whom he had married the previous May. He began drinking heavily and, after Toni left for church, Nitti walked five blocks to a local railroad yard in North Riverside, where he attempted to shoot himself in the head. The first shot merely perforated his hat and the second wounded him in the jaw, but the third shot hit its mark as the inebriated mob boss slumped to his death.
Loosely based on the end of Al Capone’s infamous reign of the Chicago underworld (and more directly based on the 1950s TV show of the same name), Brian De Palma’s 1987 film The Untouchables retains a few basic details of Capone’s fall from power, including real figures on both sides of the law like self-aggrandizing Prohibition agent Eliot Ness and the vicious mobster who would ultimately succeed Capone as leader of the Chicago Outfit: Frank Nitti, chillingly portrayed by the late, great Billy Drago. Continue reading
Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield, smooth playboy
Ohio, Summer 1932
Film: Hot Saturday
Release Date: October 28, 1932
Director: William A. Seiter
Today being a hot Saturday in late summer reminded me of the early Cary Grant movie called, well, Hot Saturday. 1932 had been a breakout year for the Bristol-born star, as the erstwhile Archie Leach had worked his way in six months from his screen debut (This is the Night) to his first leading role, as the dapper playboy Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday. (Curiously, this marks the second time both this month and in the decade-long history of this blog that I’m writing about a character named Romer!)
Romer provides a prototype of what would become Grant’s signature screen persona: charming, debonair, and romantic yet wickedly self-deprecating. We meet him on a warm afternoon in the fictional Ohio berg of Marysville, where he strolls into the local bank and makes a date with the young clerk, Ruth Brock (Nancy Carroll), despite his already scandalous living arrangement with a woman named Camille Renault (Rita La Roy). As Ruth already has a date set that weekend with co-worker Connie Billop (Edward Woods), Romer invites both to his lakeside estate for what promises to be a hot Saturday indeed. Continue reading
Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini, playboy gossip journalist-turned-publicity agent
Fregene, Italy, Summer 1959
Film: La Dolce Vita
Release Date: February 5, 1960
Director: Federico Fellini
Costume Designer: Piero Gherardi
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
No, no one’s leaving. It’s a long way ’til dawn.
The seventh and final “episode” of Fellini’s divine comedy La Dolce Vita catches up with our sleek protagonist Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), erstwhile chronicler of Roman nightlife, as he and a group of friends descend upon his friend Riccardo’s beach house in Fregene, about 25 miles west of Rome on the Tyrrhenian coast. Continue reading
Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway, impressionable bachelor and bond salesman
Long Island, New York, Summer 1925
Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: March 29, 1974
Director: Jack Clayton
Costume Designer: Theoni V. Aldredge
Clothes by: Ralph Lauren
“Do you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it,” laments Daisy Buchanan—somewhat redundantly—to her cousin Nick Carraway over a visit that kicks off the romantic drama of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. (The summer solstice today makes this the longest day of the year, so take note, Daisy!)
Set 100 years ago across the summer of 1922, The Great Gatsby begins with Nick joining the Buchanans, Daisy being his second cousin once removed and Tom one of his former classmates at Yale. The wealth disparity is represented in the fictionalized areas of Long Island where they live, Nick describing his home “at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the two” when compared to their elaborate mansion located among “the white palaces of fashionable East Egg… across the courtesy bay.”
The novel merely has Nick driving around the sound to arrive for dinner, while the movie follows Sam Waterston’s Nick across the bay in a small boat, fumbling for his nearly-drowned hat while his narration relays his father’s time-tested advice to check one’s privilege prior to criticizing anyone. 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.
Danny McBride as Jesse Gemstone, crude megachurch pastor
Charleston, South Carolina, Easter 2019
Series: The Righteous Gemstones
Episode: “And Yet One of You Is a Devil” (Episode 1.07)
Air Date: September 29, 2019
Director: Jody Hill
Creator: Danny McBride
Costume Designer: Sarah Trost
Now when I say “Easter”, a lot of images come to mind. The bunny. Easter egg hunts. Them marshmallow Peeps that taste better when they’re stale.
Created by Danny McBride, who wrote or co-wrote every episode in addition to starring, The Righteous Gemstones sends up American televangelism and megachurch culture through McBride’s usual comedic style that characterized his previous shows Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals.
A twisted take on if King Lear had been written about Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, The Righteous Gemstones centers around the fictional titular family led by patriarch Eli Gemstone (John Goodman), a sincere if overly prideful pastor who seemingly failed to pass his altruism on to his three children: the insecure youth pastor Kelvin (Adam Devine), the chaotic Judy (Edi Patterson), and the crude Jesse (McBride) who, by virtue of being the eldest, seems poised to succeed his aging father despite his debauched lifestyle. Continue reading
Don Cheadle as Buck Swope, adult film star-turned-stereo entrepreneur
Los Angeles, Winter 1983
Film: Boogie Nights
Release Date: October 10, 1997
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
WARNING! Spoilers and gore ahead!
Approaching the new year and the prospect of fresh starts, I wanted to revisit the modern masterpiece Boogie Nights and in particular one of its ensemble cast that I have always found most compelling: Don Cheadle’s performance as the well-meaning but oft-hindered Buck Swope, a former porn actor looking to build a new life with his wife and fellow ex-porn star Jessie (Melora Walters).
After his employment history interferes with his prospects to fund his entrepreneurial endeavor to open his own stereo shop, Buck encounters a reversal of fortune just two weeks before Christmas. Continue reading