Tagged: World War II

The Guns of Navarone: Anthony Quinn’s Seersucker Suit

Anthony Quinn as Andrea Stavros in The Guns of Navarone

Anthony Quinn as Andrea Stavros in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Vitals

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

Background

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

Midway: Charlton Heston’s Naval Aviation Khaki

Charlton Heston as Captain Matthew Garth in Midway

Charlton Heston as CAPT Matthew Garth in Midway (1976)

Vitals

Charlton Heston as CAPT Matthew Garth, U.S. Naval Aviator

Pearl Harbor to Midway Island, Spring 1942

Film: Midway
Release Date: June 18, 1976
Director: Jack Smight

Background

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

Tom Hanks in Greyhound

Tom Hanks as Commander Ernest Krause in Greyhound

Tom Hanks as CDR Ernest Krause in Greyhound (2020)

Vitals

Tom Hanks as CDR Ernest Krause, USN, commanding officer of USS Keeling

North Atlantic Ocean, February 1942

Film: Greyhound
Release Date: July 10, 2020
Director: Aaron Schneider
Costume Designer: Julie Weiss
Military Costume Consultant: Steve McColgan

Background

…the goods will be delivered by this nation, whose Navy believes in the tradition of “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt, October 27, 1941

Greyhound begins just over three months after the United States entered World War II and nearly five months after FDR’s address for Navy and Total Defense Day, in which he reinforced with the above words the protection that the U.S. Navy would offer merchant ships carrying supplies to support the Allied war effort. The eponymous “Greyhound” is the codename for USS Keeling, one of the American destroyers assigned to protect a 37-ship convoy on its way to Liverpool.

We join up with the multi-national convoy HX-25 as it enters its first of two days traveling through the “Black Pit”, the area of the North Atlantic considered most vulnerable as it was beyond the range of air cover. Leading the convoy’s military escort from the bridge of USS Keeling is straight-laced Commander Ernest Krause, played by Tom Hanks. Continue reading

Battle of Britain: Robert Shaw as Squadron Leader Skipper

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader "Skipper" in Battle of Britain (1969)

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader “Skipper” in Battle of Britain (1969)

Vitals

Robert Shaw as “Skipper”, RAF Squadron Leader

England, Summer to Fall 1940

Film: Battle of Britain
Release Date: September 15, 1969
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

Although the battle was waged for more than three months in 1940 over British airspace, September 15 has been established as Battle of Britain Day in recognition of the No. 11 Group RAF repelling two waves of German attacks on London. The Germans had instigated their air and sea blockade earlier that summer, followed by Luftwaffe air raids that started with ports and shipping centers, eventually moving further inland to airfields, factories, and ultimately civilian areas. Hitler had intended to gain air superiority over England prior to an invasion dubbed Operation Sea Lion, but a strong national defense from the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy successfully routed the Luftwaffe and prevented this full-scale invasion of the United Kingdom.

This British victory was considered an early turning point in favor of the Allies during World War II that inspired Winston Churchill to famously declare: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

On the 29th anniversary of this famous British defense against Germany in the skies over London, the United Artists war epic Battle of Britain with a star-studded cast including Sir Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Shaw. The latter portrays a talented and brash Squadron Leader, said to be inspired by South African fighter ace Sailor Malan, commander of No. 74 Squadron RAF during the actual Battle of Britain.

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From Here to Eternity: Montgomery Clift’s Aloha Shirts

Montgomery Clift as Private Prewitt in From Here to Eternity (1953)

Montgomery Clift as Private Prewitt in From Here to Eternity (1953)

Vitals

Montgomery Clift as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, U.S. Army bugler and “thirty-year man”

Honolulu, Hawaii, Summer through Fall 1941

Film: From Here to Eternity
Release Date: August 5, 1953
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Costume Designer: Jean Louis

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

April showers are said to bring May flowers, so let’s get into the spirit of the season with the classic floral shirts in From Here to Eternity, an adaptation of James Jones’ novel set on a U.S. Army infantry base in Hawaii during the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Daniel Craig in Defiance

Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski in Defiance (2008)

Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski in Defiance (2008)

Vitals

Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, Polish resistance leader

Belarus, August 1941 through April 1942

Film: Defiance
Release Date: December 31, 2008
Director: Edward Zwick
Costume Designer: Jenny Beavan

Background

Daniel Craig’s fifth and final movie as James Bond, No Time to Die, was originally scheduled for release in the U.K. today. Last month, MGM and Eon Productions announced that they were pushing the release to November in response to concerns related to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. While the postponement may have defied the wishes of Bond fans (see where I’m going with this?), there’s still plenty of Craig’s filmography out there to stream, including the 2008 war film Defiance.

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The Guns of Navarone: David Niven’s Commando Coats

David Niven as Corporal Miller in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

David Niven as Corporal Miller in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Vitals

David Niven as Corporal Miller, British Army commando and explosives expert

Aegean Sea, Fall 1943

Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Tomorrow would have been the 110th birthday of David Niven, the Academy Award-winning English actor, author, and decorated war veteran. Instead of looking at one of the famously debonair Niven’s tailored suits or elegant dinner jackets, let’s explore his scrappier seafaring attire as a covert commando in The Guns of Navarone, the 1961 adaptation of Alistair MacLean’s World War II-set adventure novel.

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Escape to Athena: Telly Savalas’ Leather Jacket

Telly Savalas as Zeno in Escape to Athena (1979)

Telly Savalas as Zeno in Escape to Athena (1979)

Vitals

Telly Savalas as Zeno, Greek resistance leader

“Somewhere in the Greek islands”, Fall 1944

Film: Escape to Athena
Release Date: June 6, 1979
Director: George P. Cosmatos
Costume Designer: Yvonne Blake

Background

Escape to Athena assembles an incredible cast for a World War II adventure comedy in the spirit of The Dirty Dozen… or am I just saying the latter because it co-stars Telly Savalas?

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White Christmas: Captain Wallace on Christmas Eve 1944

Bing Crosby is joined by an exuberant Danny Kaye in White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby is joined by an exuberant Danny Kaye in White Christmas (1954)

Vitals

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, U.S. Army captain and popular entertainer

European Theater, Christmas Eve 1944

Film: White Christmas
Release Date: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

Merry Christmas Eve! The prologue of perennial holiday cinema classic White Christmas begins exactly 75 years ago today, Christmas Eve 1944, as the title card tells us…

Private First Class Phil Davis is proudly assisting Captain Bob Wallace, evidently a known entertainer on par with Al Jolson, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, or—um—Bing Crosby, as they host a “yuletide clambake” for the men of the fictitious 151st Division, providing the type of entertainment that Davis boasts would cost $6.60 or even $8.80 stateside. Continue reading

Gregory Peck’s Duffel Coat in The Guns of Navarone

Gregory Peck as Captain Keith Mallory in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Gregory Peck as Captain Keith Mallory in The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Vitals

Gregory Peck as Captain Keith Mallory, experienced Allied spy and mountain climber

“Navarone Island”, Greece, Fall 1943

Film: The Guns of Navarone
Release Date: April 27, 1961
Director: J. Lee Thompson
Wardrobe Credit: Monty M. Berman & Olga Lehmann

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

After leading his scrappy team of British Army commandos through Greece, Captain Keith Mallory finds himself at the crucial point of his mission, the infiltration of an enemy fortress on the fictional Navarone Island. Mallory and his team had been briefly detained in Mandrakos, where they turned the table on their Nazi captors and stole the German military uniforms to provide them ideal cover as they sneak into the fortress and disable the guns and, ideally, escape with their lives.

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