Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Burning Up the Screen in Tight Jeans and T-Shirt

Burn Notice blazed back into our cold January lives last Thursday, with Fiona still in the US (now that it’s not safe for her to return to Ireland), Sam his usual unflappable self, Mama Westen stretching her own operative chops (and briefly reunited with her old Cagny & Lacey star Tyne Daly), and Michael still striving to get back in to the covert operative life he lost when he was burned.

It was great to see the whole gang, but my favorite part of the midseason premiere was Westen’s sartorial homage to Paul Newman of The Long Hot Summer, the 1958 film based on Faulkner’s collection of stories, The Hamlet. The costuming just leapt off the screen to me and I squealed with delight.

Michael takes on a good-ole boy cover to infiltrate a family insurance fraud ring that causes car accidents. I’d like to think that when Danny Santiago, the series costume designer, was given the script, he thought, ‘hmm, Southern good-ole boy, great opportunity to visually quote Paul’s Ben Quick.’ Donavan’s body type is very similar to Newman’s, and so we get the narrow jeans, the black belt, the t-shirt. Santiago stopped at the hat, because today it would seem more like an Indiana Jones quote.

It’s probably just a coincidence, but the episode featured some serious fire, and Quick was suspected as a barn-burner . . .

The Wonderful World of Costume Designers
A few years ago Deborah Landis came to see me in the day job. She was then president of the Costume Designers Guild, the union started in 1953 and included the likes of Sheila O’Brien, Burton Miller, Erte, and the venerable Edith Head (No Capes!!!!) Landis is a celebrated costume designer whose credits include The Blues Brothers, Animal House, Coming to America, Thriller and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Last year she became first David C. Copley Chair for the study of costume design at the School of Theater, Film and Television. But while still president of the CDG she put me on their magazine’s mailing list, and it is one of my favorite pieces of mail to receive. I don’t follow fashion, but after meeting her I became more aware of the role of costume design in the collective art of film and television.

Of course I’ve always appreciated the effect Alun Hughes had on The Avengers, working with Diana Rigg to throw off the leather of her predecessor Honor Blackman and find her own identity in the color and soft fabrics of the Emmapeelers. But I didn’t think about it much beyond the ur series.

I hope Santiago continues to play with Michael Westen’s cover ids. Maybe he can work in an homage to Clark Gable from Red Dust. (We can only hope.) Of course if he chooses the It Happened One Night route, it’s no t-shirt at all.


Jeremy said...

Som ething to look forward to. And you were right -- Season 2 does get better and better.

Do you think "Carla" is a nod to Le Carre, or would that be going too far?

M.A.Peel said...

Jeremy, they do play with spy genre conventions, but I don't think that's a particular allusion they were going for.