One Classic Look: Karen Allen in “Starman”

Karen Allen in John Carpenter’s “Starman”, 1984. Columbia Pictures

 

In John Carpenter’s 1984 sci-fi Starman, Jeff Bridges is a space being trying to make contact with humans, after answering a NASA message intended for aliens. Upon arrival on Earth, he takes the physical appearance of a late person, the young husband of Jenny Hayden, who still can not come to terms with her tragic loss. Unsurprisingly, the humans who have brought him to Earth become hostile and the extraterrestrial becomes a national security target.

John Carpenter considers himself a child of Hollywood who never lost his love for old Hollywood films. He also considers himself a student of Hitchcock in cinema, and he was indeed hailed as the new Hitchcock when Halloween came out in 1978. But he wanted to forge his own path and style in cinema and he just kept onward, always succeeding in breaking away a little from what was expected of him. Halloween, The Thing, Christine are all films acclaimed for raising the bar on cinematic horror, but it is truly the suspense and thriller elements that pervade them and make them classics. About Starman, Carpenter said in an interview for The Flashback Files that “I just realised at some point that they were never going to let me do a romantic comedy. I was just going to be in horror and stay there, which is fine. But I wanted to get my shot at it. And that was a perfect chance to do it. I’m very happy with how that film turned out.”

In the same interview, he also articulated the most accurate and beautiful thing about the humans’ fascination with the outer space: “Well, look, we have no idea if there are any alien life forms out there and, if there are any, how they would look like and be like. We have no idea. We’re making movies about ourselves. They’re about the dark side and good side in all of us.” And I believe this is why this science fiction story is special: the personal element, and the way the character of Jenny Hayden addresses this, the way she finds hope amidst that great pain. That says a lot not only about her character, but about human behaviour and the human species as well, the way we raise above our grief, or above hardships, or a world in crisis. There is actually a line in the film that corroborates this thought, and it’s when Jeff Bridges’ character tells Charlie Martin-Smith: “You know, what I like most about you people is that when things are at their worst, you are at your best.”

Both Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges deliver wonderful performances (and have great chemistry), a spectrum of emotions at opposite sides, beautifully, and sometimes funnily, complimenting each other. About her role, she told The Hollywood Reporter: “My preparation for the role for the most part had to do with filling in Jenny’s history with her husband. So I knew how profound it was for her to see him again in the flesh even under the strange circumstances of the story. I felt that was the element that overcame Jenny’s fear and drove the story forward for her.”

Jeff Bridges is very natural at being strange, a stranger in a strange world, and, together with Karen Allen, he managed to establish this reality we watch on screen. Of course this Starman taking the form of Jenny’s late husband (doesn’t this make perfect sense, aliens taking the physical appearance of humans, were they do land on Earth?) would wear what he wore in the film that she obsessively watches at night right before the extraterrestrial lands in her living room. Khakis, red plaid shirt with a brown leather bomber jacket on top, and a red baseball cap – that’s the ol’ American look alright. Because another great thing about the film is how well it captures the times and the place, all that vast American landscape, the cross-country ride, with its patina and texture and those roadside stops and diners. Keep off the main attractions, out of chain hotels, and an ear to the ground for local knowledge, the film seems to say, and that’s just the right way for the Starman to get acquainted with the human American race. I like the fact that this film couldn’t be reproduced today, in all its authenticity and minimalist sci-fi visual effects.

Except maybe for the costumes. Just like Jeff Bridges’ look would easily translate today, Karen Allen’s remains a classic. Blue jeans tucked in cowboy boots and her husband’s bomber jacket which the Starman leaves her after hers is stained with blood when she is shot by the policemen hunting him. Almost four decades on, this look is still very much of the times.
 

Karen Allen in John Carpenter’s “Starman”, 1984. Columbia Pictures

 
 

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A Sight to Behold: Katharine Hepburn in “The Philadelphia Story”

The Philadelphia Story, 1940. MGM

 

“It’s so fun to do a really good comedy,” Katharine Hepburn would recall about filming The Philadelphia Story in her autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life. And it’s so fun to watch a high class, good comedy this time of year that has nothing to do with Christmas.

George Cukor was one of Hepburn’s favourite directors and her “best friend in California”. “We made many pictures together – always happily. Must have had the same set of standards. We both adored the business – we loved to work – we admired each other. The same liberal point of view – the same sense of right and wrong”.

The Philadelphia Story was based on the 1939 Broadway play by the same name, by Philip Barry. Howard Hughes bought the movie rights for Katharine as a present. She had also starred in the play, having returned to the stage after her recent setbacks at RKO. She sold the movie rights to MGM, in return of complete creative control. She wanted George Cukor. She also wanted Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, but they wouldn’t do it. L.B. Mayer, the head of MGM, said they could give her James Stewart and she agreed. She brought along Cary Grant. And they did a great screwball comedy, and an effortlessly classy film, together. “The script by Don Stewart retained all the delirious humour and quality of the play” and George Cukor “was a wonderful director and this was his ideal material”, Hepburn said.
 

The Philadelphia Story, 1940. MGM

 
Hepburn plays Tracy Lord, a tempestuous, hot-blooded heiress whose imminent marriage to her upper-class fiancé is disrupted by her former husband, Cary Grant, who pays her family estate a visit accompanied by two society reporters, James Stewart and Ruth Hussey. The film was the first time Katharine and costume designer Adrian worked together. He was one of the few American designers of the era capable of making an individual statement, and he had the incredible talent of letting an actor’s true personality and natural beauty shine through even behind the most extravagant gowns, especially when it came to the greatest nonconformist stars of the times, Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo.

In The Philadelphia Story, which would revive her career, Katharine’s goddess gowns, transcending the magnetism of her personality, highlight her beauty, vulnerability and her human and feminine side too little perceivable in her previous movies, and much of the merit goes to Adrian. The designer’s “challenge was to counter the perceived haughtiness that was sinking her personality,” Christian Esquevin writes in the book Adrian: From Silver Screen to Custom Label. “He did this with costumes that struck a balance between flair and elegant simplicity. Hepburn’s physique was the type Adrian liked – tall, broad-shouldered, athletic, similar to Garbo’s but with even thinner hips. She had a long neck that Adrian alternately encased in high collars and showed off simply in open necklines. He often used white in her costumes, reinforcing a flowing and classical line of purity and strength echoing Greek statuary.”

The Philadelphia Story, 1940. MGM

 

In an early scene, Katharine appears in a black pantsuit worn over a white blouse. The jacket is short and tight, with a high collar and without lapels, and has a large white breast pocket and oversized white buttons. Christian Esquevin writes that Adrian’s sketch for this trouser suit has producer Joe Mankiewicz’s penciled note to Hepburn. “Are you sure these too should be slacks? Fine by me if fine by you.” Katharine always used the word slacks to refer to trousers. And they certainly were fine with her. She is wearing another trouser look further on in the story, a sign that Adrian always tried to let her real personality seep into the character. The character in classic Hollywood movies was not just a character, it was an image, a star-making vehicle, a representation of both the character and the actor playing it. And Adrian was the kind of costume designer that let the real Katharine Hepburn, with all her presence and self-confidence, in on the screen. It’s easy to understand why the two of them stroke a beautiful collaboration. About The Philadelphia Story, Life magazine wrote: “When Katharine Hepburn sets out to play Katharine Hepburn, she is a sight to behold. Nobody is her equal.”
 

The Philadelphia Story, 1940. MGM

 

Adrian called the creation above a dance frock – here are more images of the costumes in the film. It’s the look Katharine wears when she meets the two reporters, and, before she makes her entrance, Macaulay Connor (James Stewart) says: “I can fill them in right now: the rich, rapacious, American female. There’s no other country where she exists.” And then Katharine enters the room wearing this very pastoral American look. “It is composed of a red and white gingham skirt, flounced with four layers of ruffles stylishly placed on the bias, and a blouse of mousseline de soie, edged at the sleeve, collar and string tie in the same gingham.”
 

The Philadelphia Story, 1940. MGM

 

The most talked about gown in the movie is the Greek goddess white chiffon gown with stepped gold sequin belting and bodice decoration, emphasizing Katharine’s lean figure. The dress is one of Adrian’s Hellenic motif costumes he designed for the actress, emphasizing her patrician character in the movie. Cary Grant’s character, Tracy’s former husband C.K. Dexter Haven, comments in one scene that she “has the withering look of the goddess”. And her new fiancé calls her “beautiful purity like a statue”.
 

The Philadelphia Story, 1940. MGM

 

But the dress that best reflects her character and her transformation (a journey of self-discovery for everyone involved unfolds as the film seamlessly, wittily progresses) is the wedding dress, orchid-white, accessorized with a white-brimmed picture hat and chin strap streamers. Her midriff is protected with a smaller fabric “buckle” fastened by string ties. The weightless fabric, transparent silk organza, is beautifully fitting Katharine’s svelte silhouette and character. There is the real Katharine somewhere in that character. “Who is Katharine Hepburn? It took me a long time to create that creature.” But Katharine Hepburn always remained a tomboy and non-conformist in real life: “I just had good timing: the pants came in, the low heels came in, the terrible woman came in, who spoke her mind.” She had more than good timing. Katharine Hepburn was simply ahead of her times.
 


 

The Philadelphia Story, 1940. MGM

 
 

MORE STORIES

Illustrator Tony Stella talks Columbo

Emotionally caged and extravagantly clad: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

When the man dresses the character: Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief

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December Books (from Patti Smith to Tarantino)


 

This December, there are quite a few great new books worth giving and receiving, and I couldn’t possibly start but with one: A Book of Days, by Patti Smith. Patti Smith is one of my favourite writers and singers/songwriters, so every book of hers is a celebration. A Book of Days is aesthetically unique, the artist book I always want to have nearby, the rare artist book that truly offers you a rare view into the mind, soul and inspirations and aspirations of an artist, a rare coherent story of a life devoted to art, “charting the passions, devotions, obsessions and whims”. Patti Smith appends Polaroid photographs from her life on and off the road with snapshots from her daily life, as posted on Instagram. “Within a calendar year, A Book of Days presents 366 miniature windows into the world of the visionary writer, poet and performer. An inspirational map of a life devoted to art, a timeless offering, day by day, for deeply uncertain times.” Each photo is accompanied by a text that is kept short but carries on that signature Patti Smith quality that resides at this crossroad between reality and realm. It’s beautiful. This is the entry for 18 September, under the photo of a phone booth: “With heaven’s dime I would call time past.”

Quentin Tarantino gave us Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, the book, but the book I have been truly waiting for is Cinema Speculation. Organised around key American films from the 1970s, all of which Tarantino first saw as a young moviegoer at the time at the Tiffany Theater in Los Angeles (“if the Tiffany had a year, it was 1970”, the year when Quentin, aged seven, first attended a show at the Tiffany with his mother and stepfather), his book is “at once film criticism, film theory, a feat of reporting, and wonderful personal history”. Quentin Tarantino talking about the movies of the 1970s in his singular, gutsy voice – that’s pretty damn cool, entertaining and perspective-changing.

There are few Hollywood stars whose story I would like to read, and they are all from the time when the expression “Hollywood Star” had value to it. Robert Redford and Clint Eastwood are two of them, and we are still waiting for their autobiographies. Another star was Paul Newman and his is the memoir recently published, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, which comes 14 years after his passing. In 1986, Paul Newman tasked his best friend, Stewart Stern, with interviewing the people who had shaped his life in order to create an oral history of it. A task that took years. After hearing and reading what they had to say, Newman dictated his own version. I am saving this one for Christmas, but what I can say is that I am interested in the story because I am interested in the story of the man, the actor, the family man, but mostly because I was interested in his movies – that’s how he first came into our lives, through the movies, this one-of-a-kind medium that makes actors seem larger than life, who fill the screens with their hearts and presence and activate our souls and lives, and makes us even more fascinated with them when we discover that their humanity is above their stardom. I believe Paul Newman was one of them and I am curious to find out from his own words.

A tribute to Satyajit Ray on his centenary birth anniversary, Satyajit Ray Miscellany: On Life, Cinema, People & Many More: On Life, Cinema, People & Much More brings to light more than seventy essays on film making, screenplay writing, autobiographical pieces and rare photographs and manuscripts. Satyajit Ray believed in the craft of film making and made films according to his unique vision. He wrote, directed and scored his films and often designed their publicity materials as well. Matt Zoller Seitz called him “an auteur before the word became commonplace,” and Akira Kurosawa said of Ray’s films that “to have not seen the films of Ray is to have lived in the world without ever having seen the moon and the sun”. This may very well be one of the best books on making movies.

 
*Note: It’s always been my intention to support artists and small businesses of any kind, especially bookstores, but even more so in these trying times and especially this time of year. Therefore, I am leaving you to make the choice of helping your favourite independent bookshop and paying them a visit in person to purchase your own copy of the book you are interested in. If you don’t have a favourite indie bookstore, here is how to find one you can support.

Posted by classiq in Books | | Comments Off on December Books (from Patti Smith to Tarantino)

December Newsletter: Stories Are for All Ages


 
 

Photos: Classiq Journal

 
 

“There are so many unknowns and possibilities out there,”
said Tiny Dragon.
“Well then,” said Big Panda, “let’s see how many we can try.”

Big Panda and Tiny Dragon: The Journey

 
 

 
Viewing

Triangle of Sadness (2022)
Ruben Östlund

Ruben östlund is one of the most original European cineasts. He likes to provoke his public, to make them discomfortable. Either in a subtle (Force Majeure – still my favourite) or a more brutal, biting, even grotesque way (The Square and now The Triangle of Sadness), he likes to make fun of class order, bourgeoise pretentiousness and the fragile structure of our modern society. Watching Triangle of Sadness with my husband, he remarked that it reminded him of Buñuel, namely The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. About Buñuel’s films, Roger Ebert said: “All movies toy with us, but the best ones have the nerve to admit it. Most movies pretend their stories are real and that we must take them seriously. Comedies are allowed to break the rules. Most of the films of Luis Buñuel are comedies in one way or another, but he doesn’t go for gags and punch lines; his comedy is more like a dig in the ribs, sly and painful.”

That’s certainly what you feel watching Östlund’s satire. In Triangle of Sadness, a couple of fashion model influencers, Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), are invited to a luxury cruise for the rich, whose captain, Woody Harrelson, is an alcoholic Marxist. What starts as a totally Instagramable trip ends up catastrophically, casting the survivors away on a desert island. Social hierarchy is turned upside down, appearances are destroyed, registering with a caustic humour the fake power of beauty, money and class. It’s absolutely thrilling to watch what happens to the rich and famous characters when disaster hits. Image proves to be so much more impactful than words, that’s what Östlund wants and that’s what he masterfully does. It’s incredibly amusing and liberating to watch the change in human behavior, and how he deconstructs a character’s self-image, testing the ideological limits of the western society.
 

Athena (2022)
Romain Gavras

Chaos erupts in the banlieue community of Athena, France, after the tragic death of a young boy under suspect circumstances. His three older brothers seek out justice, come what may. Combining political themes and electrifying action scenes, Romain Gavras delivers an uncompromising piece of cinema – the opening single take single-handedly wins your undivided attention. And, what’s more, you can feel, in a very pronounced way, the inequality, racism and rage that come across in this film. Because it is about what people will do for their families, for their clans, in order to protect them. But what I want to stress out is that we talk so much about what a film is about when in fact I believe we should pay more attention to the way it is filmed. And I just love how Romain Gavras leads his story through the moving camera.
 

Official Competition (2021)
Gastón Duprat, Mariano Cohn

I watched this film without even seeing the trailer first, and simply because I wanted to see Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas together on screen again. It is such a good film! It’s a film within a film, where a billionaire business man wants to make the greatest film ever made to be reminded by and hires the best to make it happen: director Lola Cuevas (Cruz) and two famous actors, Hollywood star Félix Rivero (Banderas) and legendary theater actor Iván Torres (Oscar Martinez). This film reminded me of how it used to be going to the cinema, without knowing much what to expect and being surprised. Both Penelope and Antonio have some brilliant moments in the film – such as the scene of them together in front of the mirror, when Penelope attends to a scratch on his face after Iván had hit him with a chair – it’s so hilarious and natural that you just marvel at it. And the best thing is that the film gets better and better by the end. And the festival press conference is the best I have seen on and off screen.
 

3 Faces (2018)
Jafar Panahi

The Iranian cinema has something of its own. Abbas Kiarostami’s films have always marked me. Then there are the films of Asghar Farhadi. I have recently watched 3 Faces and the same simplicity and realism, humour and universal truths found in the most ordinary things and people that we usually encounter in Kiarostami’s films permeate the story. Actress Behnaz Jafari (playing herself) receives by phone a young girl’s video plea for help after her family prevents her from taking up her studies at the Tehran drama conservatory and threatens to marry her off. Distressed, Behnaz abandons her shoot and travels with a colleague filmmaker (director Jafar Panahi himself) to find the girl and make sure she is alright. I am so glad that world cinema films are so different from American movies. They still have the power to surprise you and reveal a whole new world within each one of them.
 

Kalifat (2020)

One of the best thriller series of the last… many years, maybe since my favourite of them all, “24”, season 1. Agent Fatima receives a tip that a terrorist attack is planned on Sweden and her only lead comes from a young mother and the wife of an ISIS member in Raqqa. With a great ensemble cast and void of the kind of nationalist stuff that affected Homeland, this Swedish series surprises you with unexpected turns all the way until the very end and is reportedly very authentic to the tiniest detail. But what impressed me the most was the portrayal of the radicalisation of young minds, and so much of it is done with the help of social media.

 

 

Reading

Cinema du Look magazine, where I am very happy to be a contributor writer to the launch issue, hot off the press! Cinema du Look, founded by Dorit Oren, is a new publication that exists as a magazine, a reference book and a keepsake, and was conceived out of a desire to create something tangible that was dedicated to stylish cinema and all its accompanying splendour. With a curatorial approach to storytelling, it draws on the rich history of the moving image to explore the widespread impact of cinema’s visual language and use of aesthetics. In the same breath, it spotlights film’s symbiotic relationship with other visual arts, all of which have collectively shaped our cultural landscape. You can order your copy here or you can also pick up a copy at the ICA bookstore and at the BFI shop very soon. More stockists will be announced shortly.
 

The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon
James Norbury

I guess this is one of those illustrated books that we can place in the category of illustrated children’s books that are not written and illustrated for children, as publisher Ileana Achim remarked in our interview. And this is actually I bought for myself, but which is also a great gift to give. Because I do agree with Sendak, that there is no children literature – just literature. The Journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon made me think of Winnie the Pooh, but it also reveals the kind of wisdom that one hopes to acquire as we advance in age. Some children have that from early on.
 

Just One More Thing: Stories from My Life
Peter Falk

I am savouring this book at the moment after illustrator Tony Stella and I talked about our mutual fascination with Columbo a little while ago. Just One More Thing “is pure Peter Falk, and reads as if he’s sitting next to you, chuckling as he recalls his remarkable past”.
 

Pettson and Findus
Sven Nordqvist

We read. A lot. The shelves in our favourite bookshops are the limit. But Sven Nordqvist’s Pettson and Findus remains, hands down, our favourite family reading. The mother of a two-year-old recently asked me for recommendations while we were both exploring the isles of one of the aforementioned bookshops, after confessing she found too many children’s books for a young age too odd, pretentious, serious and politically correct. I agree to all that. For picture books, I recommended Eric Carle’s. Then, of course, Pettson and Findus. It always makes us laugh and feel good. That’s all it takes to make a child enjoy reading from early on.
 

Listening

The album: Bloor Street, Kiefer Sutherland


 

The talk: Cate Blanchett and Todd Field’s pick their favourite films. There are some great titles in there! I haven’t yet seen Tár (starring Cate Blanchett and directed by Todd Field), but it is one of the film’s I’ve been waiting for all year long.
 

The podcast: The Adventure Podcast. There are only two podcasts I listen to religiously and they are both monthly mentioned in the newsletter as part of The regulars section. But every once in a while I want to highlight them, because they deserve it. The Adventure podcast is one of them. An ongoing series of long-form conversations with pioneers of exploration and discovery, filmmaker Matt Pycroft speaks to the most knowledgeable, accomplished and respected voices in the field. From mountaineers to Arctic scientists, tree climbers and polar explorers, The Adventure Podcast is a unique podcast that allows you to get up close with those who live extraordinary lives.

 
Making

Our own magical set of postcards available in the shop. The idea for these illustrations came to me precisely from the desire of celebrating and encouraging play and imagination, and were brought to life by an illustrator who is a craftsman, a dreamer and a visual poet, and I know that the story she envisioned is bound to fascinate children and grown-ups alike.

 

Exploring

I am fascinated with and live vicariously through the covers of Yolo Journal magazine and this latest cover is my favourite of theirs so far. I love how this travel magazine feels like journaling the world, one great stop at a time. An act of class.
 

On an end note

Planeta Tangerina is a highly innovative publishing house in Portugal. Their readers are children, parents and every adult who likes picturebooks and their unique way of telling a story. Their motto is “not falling for formulas and challenging our readers (they deserve it!).” One of the books they published is Draw Whatever You Want, by Madalena Matoso. “In this book you can draw whatever you want. For example, if the house is already there, draw the landscape, if the landscape is already there, draw the house… Seen from the outside or the inside? Tidy or messy? Full of real things or inhabited by imaginary beings? Do you prefer to draw things in all their detail or just a quick sketch? Using various colours or just one? In pencil or felt-tips? We’ll give you some ideas, but in this book, from now on, it’s all up to you. Draw whatever – anything and everything – you want.”

And that, I believe, is the most important lesson in drawing and the door to creativity. Let’s ask more questions, and aim for everything you dream of. Children and grown-ups alike.

 

The regulars: The interviews, newsletters and podcasts I turn to every week and/or every month because they are that good. Craig Mod’s newsletters: Roden and Ridgeline. Soundtracking, with Edith Bowman. Alicia Kennedy’s newsletter. The Adventure Podcast: Terra Incognita. Sirene magazine.
 

Cinema du Look magazine is out now and you can order a copy here

Posted by classiq in Books, Culture, Film, Newsletter | | Comments Off on December Newsletter: Stories Are for All Ages

Illustrator Tony Stella Talks Columbo

”Columbo – Étude in Black” at its 50th anniversary, illustrated by Tony Stella

 
 
Who wears a raincoat in sunny LA all the time? Columbo, that’s who. Why? Just instinct.

His crumpled raincoat, his cheap cigar, his rusty car, his humble manner. Elements that shaped up the image of one of the most distinctive, recognisable and beloved film characters of all time. Peter Falk’s disheveled and disarming, enormously engaging and quirky lieutenant Columbo lives on popular culture in a way that few television and movie characters ever manage. I sometimes find myself opening the Columbo cigar case-resembling box set and rewatching an episode. I never tire of it, I still find it incredibly interesting, unexpected, ingenious and believable. But it mostly has to do with the character, of course, played by Peter Falk, an ordinary guy… and a great actor. Columbo is just a regular guy… with a brilliant mind. He is likable, polite. He has got his mannerisms, absentmindedness, a sense of humour and no change of clothes. But behind his coat and nonthreatening face, he has an obsessive streak. His mind never rests until he gets the answer. These opposite traits residing within the same man, that’s what fuels my never-ending fascination with Columbo.

This Christmas I am treating myself to a Columbo Étude in Black illustration by Tony Stella – the pairing of these two, Peter Falk and John Cassavetes, in a classic Columbo under the brilliant brush stroke of Tony Stella is simply unmissable. It is a great pleasure to have one of my absolute favourite illustrators as my guest today, sharing his wonderful work and his own fascination with Columbo.
 

”Columbo” illustration by Tony Stella

 

More than 50 years on since the air of the first episode and we are still talking about (and still watching) Columbo. What made it so special, what is the secret to its endurance? And what is it that fascinates you personally about it?

As 80s kids, we grew up with the TV culture of the 60s and 70s in endless reruns. Besides its brilliant structure and perfect match in Peter Falk – Columbo does not only satisfy the nostalgia we have for the times as a healing “comfort food”, but it also connects us to our loved ones – since Columbo was always mandatory family viewing. In the age of social media and streaming, we lost many of those connections – nevertheless a whole new generation seems to have now caught on during the pandemic… I definitely noticed it in the reception to my old illustrations…

Maybe a need for a kind of wholesome justice is the ingredient that makes it connect in recent years…

The character of Columbo was the heart of the show. How would you describe Columbo? Why did people identify with him to such extent?

Columbo was first played by Bert Freed and Thomas Mitchell and has quite a number of predecessors who more or less display his characteristics, but it was only in Falk’s brilliant take that the character came into its full form. He provided his own wardrobe and went off script to expand the Lieutenant’s eccentricities. Although Jewish, Falk translated his NY/Bronx upbringing seamlessly into a warm Italian nature that made him a role-model in the community. And, in my case, a grandfather role-model.

How many times have you watched it? Do you have a favourite episode? How about particular scenes?

Many, many times over the years – especially before streaming, it was hard to catch them all, still not sure I’ve seen all the modern ones. I love all the classics of course: “Any Old Port in a Storm”, “Murder by the Book”, “A Friend in Deed”, “Double Exposure”, “Prescription: Murder”, “Ransom for a Dead Man”…

I particularly love when Columbo comes up against “modern art” as in “Playback” or “Suitable for Framing” – as Falk was a talented but very conservative draftsman himself, it’s so much fun to see him take jabs laced with a lot of his own opinions.

Looking at your “Étude in Black” illustration makes me rewatch the entire episode in my head. Tell us a few words about it.

I had planned a whole Columbo art-book maybe 10 years back – it had all the villains, LA locations… episode posters, imagined book covers etc… a whole world of Columbo collected in paint. It didn’t go anywhere, but I’ve got an entire archive of work and so far I’ve released a few as art-prints and two 50th anniversary episode posters: “Murder by the Book”, which was given to Spielberg as a gift from his staff at Amblin, and “Étude in Black”, which of course, pairs the irresistible friends and introduces everyone’s favourite DOG.
 

”Any Old Port in Storm” and “Murder by the Book” illustrations by Tony Stella

 

You can order your own Tony Stella Columbo poster art here.

 
 

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The art of film posters: Interview with Tony Stella

Editorial: Every day is opening night

Read instead…in print #14: Cassavetes on Cassavetes

Posted by classiq in Film, Interviews | | Comments Off on Illustrator Tony Stella Talks Columbo