The problem with translating The Great Gatsby from print to screen is that they always get the casting wrong. You don’t select a genetically overindulged golden god-Adonis like Robert Redford to play Gatsby. He should have played Tom Buchanan — rich, privileged and, like DJ Khaled, always on the side that wins. But if you read Fitzgerald’s description, Gatsby should be dark, possibly even Semitic, at once haunted, at once hopeful, at once corrupt, at once idealistic — a devotee of the great orgiastic light eternally burning across the shore. So when, in 1966, Mike Nichols was casting The Graduate, from a script written by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham from the 1963 novel by Charles Webb, his stroke of genius was to eschew Robert Redford (who was the original choice for the role of Benjamin Braddock) and cast a largely unknown Lilliputian, a method actor named Dustin Hoffman, for his intense “underdog quality”. Hoffman knocked the role out of the park, combining late-sixties California insouciance with a frenetic Holden Caulfield-like bipolarism, as well as genuine comedic genius that helped introduce American cinema to both the sexual revolution and a new screen icon, the anti-hero.
His uniform in the movie poster, in all its dressed-down Ivy League cool, is his corduroy jacket. This sports coat managed to evoke the rarefied lock-jawed climes of an East Coast education while still flying the 1967 pre-Woodstock anti-establishment flag. Corduroy is, after all, the material of choice for gunslinging train robber Robert Redford (this time perfectly cast) as the Sundance Kid, and it has its roots in proletariat wear and was the material of choice for the 19th century working-class uniform. It was used to make mountain climbing outfits, race-car driving suits, and soldiers’ trousers during WWI. In 1918, when Ford launched the Model T, it was upholstered in corduroy. Search the cinematic horizon for another screen hero whose corduroy suit perfectly expresses his unflagging resilience — analogous with the material’s indestructibility — and you’ll land on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (inspired by the book by Roald Dahl). The character of Mr. Fox is as cool a customer as they come. He is a skilled motorcycle rider, a criminal mastermind, an unfailingly enthusiastic father, a pillar of his community, and a seducer of foxy lady foxes, or one in particular: Mrs. Fox. And through his myriad adventures, his corduroy suit remains as unflappable as he does.