Paul Newman as Michael Gallagher, wholesale liquor distributor
Miami, Fall 1980
Film: Absence of Malice
Release Date: December 18, 1981
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Bernie Pollack
Ethan Hawke’s recently released HBO Max docuseries The Last Movie Stars chronicling Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s iconic marriage inspired me to respond to a few earlier requests analyzing the blue-eyed actor’s warm-weather everyman style in Absence of Malice, Sydney Pollack’s 1981 exploration of journalistic integrity.
Newman stars as Michael Gallagher, a Miami liquor wholesaler surprised to find himself the subject of a front-page Miami Standard newspaper story written by reporter Megan Carter (Sally Field), suggesting his potential involvement in the presumed murder of a local union official. He directly confronts Megan and her bosses to understand the basis for their claims, beginning a relationship with the reporter that ranges from contentious to flirtatious. Finally, Michael takes Megan up on her offer to listen to his side of the story, thus ostensibly ensuring that her reporting is as accurate and comprehensive a possible.
Michael: How long you got for lunch?
Megan: Long as I want!
Michael: Good job…
Megan slyly invites a photographer—the “weird” and conspicuous Walker (William Kerwin)—to follow them, but this part of the plan is foiled when Michael surprises her by inviting her to lunch on his yacht, the 1934-built “Rum Runner” so named in tribute to his bootlegger father. Continue reading
John Wayne as Lon “McQ” McHugh, taciturn Seattle PD lieutenant
Seattle, Fall 1973
Release Date: February 6, 1974
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Luster Bayless
It’s no Hollywood secret that McQ was originally developed as a vehicle for Steve McQueen. Five years after McQueen sat behind the wheel of a hunter green Mustang GT390 careening through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt, the role of gruff Seattle police lieutenant Lon McHugh was retooled for screen legend John Wayne, who took on his first detective role at the age of 66.
Wayne, whose entire left lung had been surgically removed after a bout with cancer a decade earlier, could only walk short distances without needing oxygen – much to the chagrin of director John Sturges – but still turned in a surprisingly energetic performance as a cop who combines Dirty Harry’s stubborn grit with Bullitt’s propensity toward speeding around the city in a sporty dark green American muscle car. Continue reading