Just in time for Casual Friday and also keeping with the theme of the last post (North by Northwest) about an innocent man who unwillingly finds himself in dangerous circumstances…
Robert Redford as Joe Turner, alias “Condor”, CIA researcher
New York City, December 1975
Film: Three Days of the Condor
Release Date: September 24, 1975
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Joseph G. Aulisi
In a July 2012 article of GQ, Sydney Pollack’s masterpiece paranoia government thriller Three Days of the Condor was named one of “The 25 Most Stylish Films of All Time.” Pollack apparently was shocked by questions about the wardrobe worn by Robert Redford, saying “He wore one outfit through the whole picture!”
True as that may be, Redford’s versatile costume throughout fits the character of a desk-bound ex-military bookworm who finds himself in dangerous circumstances despite a relatively non-dangerous job with the CIA.
Redford pulls off a great classic fall look and, despite lapels and collars dangerously close to disco-style widths, manages to not look overly dated – not an easy task given that the film was made in 1975, and no era dated itself as much as the 1970s.
What’d He Wear?
One of the more notable aspects of Redford’s simple attire throughout the film is its evolution. At the beginning, he looks like a boring college professor who probably eeks his way though a small East Coast liberal arts college droning on about English or history to bored bio majors. By the end, he is a man in black – an elusive spy who ducks and gets the best of the world’s most powerful government agency right under their noses. All he really does is steal another guy’s coat.
When we first meet Joe, he is riding his motorized bicycle down a crowded New York City street. I suppose the squareness is countered by his decision not to wear a helmet, but the scarf, hat, and snail-like pace of traffic that still manages to pass him keeps him from reaching any sort of James Bond status. Good character development, though.
His general outfit throughout the first act consists of a gray herringbone sport coat with swelled edges (a 1970s essential!) over a midnight blue crew neck sweater, blue Western-style snap-down chambray shirt, and a pair of medium wash jeans that actually look as though Joe probably throws them on every Friday to be more comfortable at the office. On his feet are brown hiking boots and dark gray calf socks.
First, let’s dissect the jacket. It is both timeless and perfect for its era. How can this be? It has ’70s details such as wide notch lapels, wide pocket flaps, swelled edges, and a very long rear vent. However, a herringbone sport coat is a classic look, especially in the traditional 2-button single-breasted style. Herringbone is a V-shaped weave pattern that got its name due to its resemblance of a herring fish’s skeleton. Herringbone, usually found in twill fabric, is best suited with wool or tweed cloth, as in Condor’s example.
Condor’s sport coat has a welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and a vibrant burgundy silk inner lining. The black and white woven herringbone pattern blends to create a semi-solid gray when seen from a distance.
The Western styling of the shirt is very typical for chambray snap-downs, with pointed yokes on the front and back, two-snap cuffs, and a white button on the collar. The chest pockets have distinctive double-pointed flaps with a snap on each point; the Levi Strauss & Co. name for this type of pocket flap is “sawtooth”.
For the first half of the film, Joe sports a midnight blue sweater with a loose “boat neck” that hangs down under the collar of his shirt. This is not a typical crew neck sweater that would up to the neckline, thus making it moore necktie-friendly. The same general tie-and-sweater purpose can be achieved with a v-neck sweater, but Joe’s crew neck gives him more of a “Oh, I guess I wore a sweater today” nonchalant cool.
Peeping out above the sweater is a light brown and gray striped wool tie – another college professor staple. Condor’s tie is tied in a thick knot, which he loosens upon getting to work and eventually discards.
Joe rounds this out with some basic accessories, a thick brown leather belt with a squared silver double clasp and a unique watch – a Doxa SUB300T Sharkhunter on a leather strap – according to watchesinmovies.info/tag/doxa. He also unashamedly wears a pair of gold-framed aviator eyeglasses, just like your dad wore. These raise the realism factor for me as the filmmakers weren’t afraid to nerd up Redford with a pair of glasses befitting his character. Underneath his shirt is a turquoise pendant on a silver chain.
Finally, Redford’s usual silver ring is on the third finger of his right hand. As he’s worn this in pretty much every film I’ve seen him in, I doubt that this was a character mark.
After discovering the massacre at work, Joe is forced to go on the run. He grabs a standard semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol from his secretary’s desk and stuffs it into his waistband under his coat, Dutch Schultz-style.
Slowly, Joe’s costume begins to reflect the change in his character. The spy is revealed as his coat lapels are turned up against the cold Christmas air and he dons a pair of sinister black leather gloves. No scarf and hat for this Joe. These scenes are some of my favorite in the film, with cheerful classic Christmas carols playing in the park as Joe tries to act normal, buying a pretzel from a street vendor with eyes in the back of his head, paranoia setting in as he realizes he has no one he can trust.
Sure enough, after a fatal gunfight in a back alley and kidnapping an innocent woman, Joe ditches the tweed sport coat for the last time and steals a dark navy pea coat from the woman’s boyfriend. Condor’s pea coat is a standard example of this practical, useful cold weather jacket with eight large buttons on the front and one under each collar, with an anchor engraved onto each plastic button. The pea coat also has deep hip pockets, which come in handy with Condor’s “huge gun”.
The peacoat is a great fall/winter staple – a naval-inspired design made for warmth and mobility, something that a marked man such as Joe would need. It is made in a heavy wool to protect the wearer against extreme cold temperatures. He also loses the tie in possibly the least characteristic way, using it to tie up his reluctant hostage.
With the coat, Joe’s demeanor shifts. No longer is he the reluctant researcher on the run; he is now the elusive spy holding government officials at gunpoint and setting their corruption up for embarrassment.
I worry that my description has already given away enough spoilers. In case you haven’t seen the flick yet, forget what you’ve read about the story and just take a few pointers about how to put together a versatile fall or winter outfit. Chicks’ll dig you because you’ll look like Robert Redford and you’ll be able to pretend that you have a .45 in your coat pocket too.
Go Big or Go Home
If you’re big on details and want to feel like Condor, immerse yourself in city crowds where carolers and Salvation Army bands are playing old Christmas songs like “Silver Bells” or “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” If you’re really into details (and hopefully have a concealed carry permit), get your hands on a classic Army .45 and keep it concealed as you look over your shoulder for assassins.
How to Get the Look
- Grey herringbone tweed 2-button sport coat with notch lapels, swelled edges, welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, red lining, and a single rear vent
- Black classic naval 10-button pea coat
- Blue chambray snap-down shirt with double snap-flapped chest pockets and double-snapped cuffs
- Light brown & gray striped wool necktie
- Midnight blue crew neck lightweight wool sweater
- Medium wash Levi’s 517 blue jeans
- Thick brown leather belt with a squared steel two-prong buckle
- Brown 8-eyelet hiking boots, possibly Raichles
- Dark gray calf socks
- Doxa SUB300T Sharkhunter wristwatch, worn on dark leather cuff strap on his right wrist
- Gold-framed aviator-style eyeglasses (like these)
- Plain silver ring
- Plain light brown scarf with frilled edges
- Plain blue winter hat
There are some production stills of Redford wearing a pair of steel-framed aviator sunglasses with dark lenses, but I don’t believe he actually wears them at any point during the actual movie.
Not sure if anyone else is as into firearms as I am, but I’m also an administrator for IMFDb, a Wiki that explores firearms used in films and TV. In fact, I created their page for Three Days of the Condor.
In the flick, Joe takes a Colt M1911 chambered in .45 ACP from his secretary’s desk. In real life, the gun used was a balsa wood prop. Like many other movies ranging from The Wild Bunch and The Getaway to The Untouchables, unreliable .45-caliber blanks were avoided by using 9×19 mm Star Model B pistols. This film is no exception. However, as they intended Joe to have a “.45 automatic” that becomes a plot point, I will feature the Colt M1911.
The particular gun Joe has is supposed to be an M1911 rather than the more modern M1911A1 that replaced it during the 1920s and was seen in World War II. The differences between the pistols are mostly cosmetic as both carry 7 rounds of .45 ACP ammunition in the magazine and are single action semi-automatic pistols with a short recoil operation. The M1911 was developed by firearms master John Browning in, believe it or not, 1911 and found a lasting place as a venerable sidearm for the United States military until it began to be replaced by the Italian-designed Beretta 92F during the 1980s.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
You can also take the Condor walking tour of New York City!
Turner first shows up to work in the morning at the “American Literary Historical Society” at 55 East 77th Street. He heads out for lunch, heading to 1226 Lexington Avenue where Lexington meets with East 83rd Street. For Turner, walking on foot, the most practical choice would be to head southeast on 77th and north up Park Avenue until reaching 83rd. Take a right and head southwest to 1226 Lexington, which is now the Lexington Candy Shop.
After he returns to the office and discovers the massacre, he heads out again on foot. He heads south one block, walking down Madison Avenue, to a phone booth at East 76th Street, where he first calls The Major. After The Major tells him to go somewhere neutral and wait, he heads to the Guggenheim Museum at 1071 Fifth Avenue. For Condor, this means walking back up north, either up Madison Avenue or over to “Museum Mile” on Fifth Avenue. He goes next to Central Park, which is literally right there, and enjoys a pretzel before realizing… hey, the fat old drunk wasn’t in the office!
Condor sprints over to Heidigger’s apartment and discovers him dead. Okay, he says, why don’t I try my place? He tries to go home, but the CIA guys waiting inside scare him and he takes off running. I don’t know where either residence is and Internet was no help. Evidently, Condor lives somewhere near Harlem or Morningside Heights, the stomping grounds for Columbia University, since we next see him at a phone booth in the area at Riverside Drive and West 122nd Street. He makes the call and is told to go to the Ansonia Hotel at Broadway and West 73rd Street (not 71st as Condor believes).
Condor enters the alley from the 73rd Street side and immediately gets into a shooting scrape. Since you never want to hang around after killing a corrupt CIA station chief, Condor takes it on the heel. He runs up Broadway, past the Hotel Beacon at 2130 Broadway at 75th Street, and ducks into a ski apparel shop one block north of the hotel at Broadway and West 76th Street.
After picking up/kidnapping Katherine Hale (Faye Dunaway) at the store, they drive across the Brooklyn Bridge in her shitty orange 1970 Ford Bronco. They park outside her apartment in Columbia Heights and enter 13 Cranberry Street, where she lives with her unseen boyfriend (played on the phone by director Sydney Pollack, if you’re curious). That night, Condor ventures out to his old friend Sam Barber’s apartment, but – again – I fail to provide the address for this.
The next day, Condor and Katherine team up to pull the wool over the CIA’s eyes, first going to their offices in the old 1 World Trade Center building before some wiretapping fun at the New York Telephone Building (240 East 38th Street) and hitman trolling at the Holiday Inn (440 West 57th Street and 9th Avenue). Finally, her task complete, Katherine is dropped off at the Hoboken train station for Condor to complete his night’s work.
Condor supposedly confronts Atwood at his home in Chevy Chase, Maryland (at the fictional “365 Mackenzie Place”), but it is actually the de Seversky Mansion at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, New York, which is now a popular wedding venue. This would be a long walk for you from Manhattan, so just chalk it up to interesting knowledge. Joubert returns Condor to his beloved Manhattan later that day, where he confronts Cliff Robertson outside the New York Times building at 229 West 43rd Street. Double points for you if there’s a Salvation Army band playing while you’re there.
Listen. I work for the CIA. I am not a spy. I just read books! We read everything that’s published in the world. And we… we feed the plots – dirty tricks, codes – into a computer, and the computer checks against actual CIA plans and operations. I look for leaks, I look for new ideas… We read adventures and novels and journals. I… I… Who’d invent a job like that?