Michael Douglas in “The Street of San Francisco” | Quinn Martin Productions, Warner Brothers
Seventies Michael Douglas. There’s nothing quite like The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1977) to help me transit and settle into an autumn routine, however different that may be at the moment, or especially because of that. There is the chemistry between Karl Malden and Michael Douglas. There is the character of San Francisco, its reputation as a city of misfits and double-crossers that has always attracted filmmakers, a city that lended so many noir films – through its labyrinthine architecture and singular topography and its thick with fear fog – the secret-concealing sharp camera angles and the dark atmosphere that honed such a distinctive visual language and cinematic style. I have always been drawn to this San Francisco, the one that makes you go deep into the human soul, that makes you double-think everyone or stay on the edge of your seat. There is the memory of all those great car chases in genre-defining cop movies like The Lineup (1958) and Bullitt (1968) that keep playing in the back of my mind as I see its crime riddled action. And there is the 1970s style of Michael Douglas, an incredibly elegant glimpse at an otherwise very particular aesthetic.
Michael Douglas, as inspector Steve Keller, displays his usual charisma and confidence and all the unalloyed style that he is capable of. He wears plaid shirts and knitted ties with a beige corduroy jacket to work, a great way to fit into a more formal work environment while exhibiting a certain amount of casualness, which is further emphasized when he goes for a roller neck and tweed blazer (what finer examples of fall layering is there?). It’s clear that he is part of a different generation and more forward-thinking than his older partner, detective Mike Stone, played by a very ‘50s-looking Karl Malden always dressed in a suit and fedora hat. Steve’s is classic preppy style, it’s timeless, and that’s even more impressive in the fashion hazardous years of the 1970s. One more proof that lasting styles often reinterpreted and frequently updated make up for most of men’s wardrobe, regardless of the passing of time.
Steve Keller is college-educated and his wardrobe seems to reflect his background, but it also shows him more modern than his fully suited partner. And it is this elegant dishevelment of a young, intelligent man that gives view of the uncertainties of the youth and of the social changes and of the sexual revolution that defined the decade. By the middle of the decade, women would take to wearing men’s tweed jackets for day and tuxedos for the evenings.