Faye Dunaway, The Fairest One of All

2012 TCM Classic Film Festival

Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood

Essentially a stylish travelogue set to a Michel Legrand soundtrack, Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) showcases Faye Dunaway in all her opulent, late 60s glory. With her 29 separate costume changes, it’s a high fashion primer of the era. Theadora Van Runkle, who began her career creating the look for Bonnie and Clyde (1967), was the designer. Dunaway plays Vicki Anderson, an insurance investigator involved in a cat and mouse game with Thomas Crown (Steve McQueen), an already wealthy investment banker who steals for the thrill of it.

Interviewed at the Egyptian by Ben Mankiewicz, Jewison [In the Heat of the Night (1967)] said that Sam Peckinpah was originally set to direct. He was surprised to get the call since his biggest success up to then had been the Doris Day/Rock Hudson comedy Send Me No Flowers(1964), a far cry from Peckinpah. And it was Sean Connery, said Jewison, not Steve McQueen, who was his first choice to play Thomas Crown.

Ben Mankiewicz with Norman Jewison. Photo by Edward M. Pio Roda courtesy of TCM

Ben Mankiewicz with Norman Jewison. Photo by Edward M. Pio Roda courtesy of TCM

Later in the 60s than the current season of Mad Men, this was still the era when a woman, at least a wealthy woman, was expected to look “put together,” as we see in Vicki’s wide brim hats and elaborate, upswept hairdos. The no bra natural look would be a few years off. The first thing Thomas asks Vicki when they meet at a party is, “Who are you with, Vogue?” He also keeps to classic styles. No Nehru jacket and beads for Thomas Crown. 

Since their lives move at jet speed, the question must have arisen how to cram the maximum number of locations and costumes into 102 minutes. The answer was cinematographer Haskell Wexler’s innovative use of the split screen. Their lives are shown to be a whirl of dune buggys, polo matches and speeds boats while somewhere the big caper is going down.