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Literary Voice: The George Plimpton Documentary

Thu 21 Jun 2012 - Filed under: Film,Lit — Christian
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George Plimpton certainly had pedigree. His father was “a successful corporate lawyer who became the American ambassador to the United Nations,” the New York Times noted in his obituary. “The family traced its roots in this country to the Mayflower. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard and Cambridge.”

This pedigree no doubt accounted for his Plimpton’s distinguished speaking voice, which “came from a different era,” Plimpton’s son Taylor once wrote. “Old New England, old New York, tinged with a hint of King’s College King’s English. You heard it and it could only be him.”

Now the voice, style and the rest of Plimpton’s incredibly rich and varied life are all on display in a new documentary, “Plimpton!” which premiers today in Silver Spring, MD.

The great irony — and the great gift that Plimpton gave to everyone — was that he was so willing to shed “his usual blue blazer, oxford shirt, and tie” in order to engage in the participatory journalism for which he became so well known. As the New York Times noted, Plimpton “believed that it was not enough for writers of nonfiction to simply observe; they needed to immerse themselves in whatever they were covering to understand fully what was involved.”

An avid sportsman, Plimpton variously boxed Archie Moore, quarterbacked the Detroit Lions in a scrimmage, and played goalie for the Boston Bruins. These experiences produced the books “Shadow Box,” “Paper Lion” and “Open Net,” plus at least a dozen others, along with many magazine articles and over twenty film and TV appearances, in several of which he played up his blueblood image for laughs.

Plimpton even did commercials for Oldsmobile, Pop Secret (“leaves fewer unpopped keh-nehls“), and a video-game system called Intellivision.

But the best pairing of all  — for us, at least — was in 1993 when Brooks Brothers asked him to write a six-page tribute in The Atlantic in celebration of the store’s 175th anniversary. For a visit to the Brooks flagship at 44th and Madison, Plimpton tried to outfit himself in Brooks from head to foot.

It was not too difficult, since I have been a patron for years, as was my father before me, and his father before him. I missed out only on the shoes. I have an unnaturally wide foot, a triple E, and their shoe department stops at a single E, shoes that would have caused a wince at every step if I could have squeezed into them. But the rest was all theirs – socks, underwear, tie, a white button-down shirt, and a slightly rumpled seersucker suit, which was appropriate because it was a hot summer day.

Now that’s participatory journalism at its most well-attired. — MATTHEW BENZ

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Jazz, Surfing And Poetry On A Summer’s Day

Wed 20 Jun 2012 - Filed under: 1960s,Film,Historic Images,Jazz — Christian
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Today is the first day of summer. You probably don’t need a calendar to tell you that, as the entire United States is getting scorched with its first nationwide heat wave.

But summer’s aren’t endless, so make hay — or whatever else you like to do from June to August — while the sun shines.

For about five years while living in Los Angeles, my favorite summer activity was surfing. Swimming in a natural body of water — ocean, lake, river — is one of life’s great simple pleasures. Likewise, sitting on a longboard near Santa Monica pier, with the ferris wheel in the background and dolphins zipping by while you wait for the next set to come in, was one of Southern California’s great pleasures. For six weeks of the year I could get by without any wet suit (some wear them year-round), and the alternating feeling on your torso of the sun beating down and the bracing salt water upped the experience tenfold.

Released in 1966, “Endless Summer” is still considered the greatest surf film ever made. It’s a documentary that never fails to inspire a zest for life, no matter how landlocked or water-phobic you are. Check it out if you haven’t.

Though hardly Ivy League, the film does have some cool patches of midcentury style, with suntans and Wayfarers and relaxed sportswear. You’ll see surfer Mike Hynson in penny loafers and white socks and Robert August in a salmon-colored short sleeve buttondown with third button.

But even more radical than the changes that have come to surfing since 1966, with the graceful, harmonious riding of the waves on longboards replaced by the frantic slashing against the ocean that is shortboarding, is what the young Californians behind “Endless Summer” wore on their trip around the world: suits and ties. Below are August and Hynson — who appear at several points in the film in their navy and charcoal suits — and filmmaker Bruce Brown, with sneakers and cigarette: (Continue)

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Brooks Outfitted Gatsby Cast

Thu 7 Jun 2012 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s,Film — Christian
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Today Brooks Brothers announced that it was the official clothier of Baz Luhrmann’s “Great Gatsby” adaptation, which opens December 25.

Under the direction of costume designer Catherine Martin, Brooks created more than 500 outfits for the male principals and extras.

Women’s Wear Daily has an ungated feature on the collaboration complete with slideshow.

Below is the press release in its entirely. No word yet if there will be a Gatsby clothing collection available in retail stores. — CC

(New York, NY – June 7, 2012) – Brooks Brothers, the iconic American brand founded in 1818, partners with Warner Bros. and Bazmark to be the official men’s clothier for Baz Lurhmann’s highly anticipated Warner Bros. film The Great Gatsby, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 literary classic.

Brooks Brothers, America’s oldest apparel retailer, has collaborated with two-time Academy Award-winning costume and production designer Catherine Martin to produce more than 500 evening and day ensembles as costumes for the male principal and background casts.

Catherine Martin worked closely with the brand’s archivist, designers and merchants to research Brooks Brothers’ history, studying artifacts popular during the 1920s as well as specific merchandise introduced by the brand to America. Ms. Martin has interpreted this historical research to create a look that both encapsulates the Jazz Age but also specifically addresses the storytelling needs of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

“Fitzgerald was a Brooks Brothers customer. It is this most basic and fundamental connection that has made our collaboration so authentic. Brooks Brothers is mentioned numerous times in Fitzgerald’s writings as a representation of the ultimate gentleman’s purveyor of fine clothing to the American man of distinction,” stated Catherine Martin. “Over the years, Brooks Brothers has also defined the collegiate style – the preppy look – which was so close to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton heart. The same look was described in The Great Gatsby by narrator, Nick Carraway, as his look of choice the first time he visits Gatsby’s mansion for one of his neighbor’s extraordinary parties: ‘Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn a little after seven, and wandered around rather ill-at-ease among swirls and eddies of people I didn’t know – though here and there was a face I had noticed on the commuting train.’ For all these reasons, Brooks Brothers seemed the obvious partner to work with on the creation of the men’s wardrobe for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.”

The Brooks Brothers archives from the 1920s revealed innovative designs mixing textured fabrics and patterns that were reinterpreted by Catherine Martin for the characters of Jay Gatsby (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), Nick Carraway (played by Tobey Maguire) and Tom Buchanan (played by Joel Edgerton). The Brooks Brothers costumes range from formalwear to daywear – tuxedos, tailored suits, suiting separates (sport coats, waistcoats and trousers), shirts, ties, shoes and accessories.

“Catherine Martin’s costumes bring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s world to life,” said Brooks Brothers Chairman and CEO Claudio Del Vecchio. “She truly has redefined the menswear of the Roaring Twenties with her creativity, attention to detail, and passion for the era. We are proud to be a part of this unique project and to have had the opportunity to work with such a visionary team.”

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This Is Pennsylvania, 1957

Wed 6 Jun 2012 - Filed under: 1950s,Film,Historic Images,Sport — Christian
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Recently I ran across a video for Penn that was created in 1957 and documents campus life for a full 30 minutes. There’s some really great footage in here, and you are able to see a lot of detail that’s not as noticeable with still-frame photos like you get in “Take Ivy.”

Here are some highlights:

• 1:10-1:30, 2:20-2:35, 11:20- 12:30 and 17:30-18:00 are scenes straight out of “Take Ivy,” except a decade earlier.

• Check out the classroom close-ups from 9:15 to 10:00. Great examples of three piece suits, repp ties, and tortoiseshell glasses.

• At the 14-minute mark there are several examples of midcentury women’s style.

• Check out the tennis players in all white at 21:25, track and field at 21:30, and rowers starting around 21:40.

• And for scenes of Ivy League football in its heyday, jump to 23:30. Fun fact: John Heisman, pioneer of the forward pass and namesake of the trophy, was a Penn alum and head coach. — MARK CHOU

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Great Gatsby Trailer Released

Wed 23 May 2012 - Filed under: Film — Christian
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Yesterday the trailer was released for Baz Luhrmann’s “Great Gatsby” adaptation, due out this Christmas.

And don’t forget, the theatrical version will be in 3-D. Will the glasses be shaped like the ones on Dr. Eckleburg’s billboard? — CC

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Island Getaway: Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom

Wed 9 May 2012 - Filed under: Film — Christian
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In his new film “Moonrise Kingdom,” which kicks off the Cannes film festival on May 16, writer-director Wes Anderson is stepping up the prep.

Anderson has consistently shown a keen eye for style in his films, at times incorporating prep elements, such as the uniform of blazers, blue oxfords and rep ties at the eponymous academy in “Rushmore” (filmed partly at the St. John’s School in Houston, which Anderson attended). In a recent article, the French newspaper Libération referred to Anderson as “le dandy texan.”

But more often than not, those prep elements were part of a more electic whole. In “Rushmore,” for example, the protagonist finishes off his uniform with Rod Lavers with red laces and a red beret. As one of his producers says, Anderson’s “previous movies always existed in a time that you couldn’t quite place, mixing past and present.”

By contrast, in “Moonrise Kingdom” we are very clearly in trad territory. The setting is “an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965,” according to the synopsis on the film’s website.

Helping to set the scene are the madras pants, navy cardigan and tortoise-shell P3 glasses worn by Bill Murray, who plays a lawyer and the father of a girl who runs away. In an article on the website about the costumes, Murray describes the madras pants as being “made out of separate squares of loud material sewn together.” He also laments that “they’re so short.”

Bruce Willis, playing the local sheriff, also sports P3s, of the clear-frame variety. And scoutmaster Ed Norton’s robe and tent are a riot of plaids (despite the fact that the name of the troop he leads is the “Khaki Scouts”). Even the narrator, played by Bob Balaban, gets in on the LL Bean act, wearing duck boots in the movie poster.

The film was shot in Rhode Island, and “there is definitely that certain New England feel to it,” the film’s art director says. The set decorator adds, “This movie has a bit of a different aesthetic than Wes’ other movies; it’s a little more rough around the edges, and a little more lived-in.”

Filmgoers and trad aficionados alike can judge for themselves when “Moonrise Kingdom” hits U.S. theaters on May 26. — MATTHEW BENZ

Matthew Benz is an American writer and lawyer living in Paris.

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