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 Joe Turner, a desk-bound ex-military bookworm who finds himself in dangerous circumstances despite a relatively non-dangerous job with the CIA. Codenamed “Condor” by his CIA supervisors, Turner is “literally out to lunch” when a professional hit squad wipes out all of his co-workers, sending Turner on the run with no one to trust but a complete stranger, a troubled photographer that he takes hostage named Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway), and presses into service to help him.
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 over a navy blue raglan-sleeve sweater with a wide boat neck, 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 sports 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. Each chest pocket closes with a distinctive double-pointed, double-snap flap that Levi Strauss & Co. has coined the “sawtooth” pocket flap.
For the first half of the film, Joe sports a dark navy blue raglan-sleeved 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 more 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 wool knitted tie striped in gold and gray. 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 large, thin gold-finished single-prong buckle and a unique watch – a Doxa SUB300T Sharkhunter on a dark brown leather bund-style rally strap – according to watchesinmovies.info. He also unashamedly wears a pair of gold semi-rimmed 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. Redford has explained in interviews that this ring was a gift from a Hopi tribe in 1966, and he’s worn it in most films since then up through his final film, The Old Man and the Gun, released in September 2018.
After discovering the massacre at work, Joe is forced to go on the run. He grabs a semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol from the office 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 Melton wool pea coat from her boyfriend’s closet. 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.
When Joe Turner returns from picking up lunch to find his office massacred, he comes to the inescapable conclusion that he too is in danger and picks up the pistol that Mrs. Russell, the office’s brusque receptionist, kept in her desk drawer. “Identify the armament,” the Major demands of Joe after the latter calls the CIA panic line. “It’s a .45 automatic, will you guys bring me in? Please.” While the Major was just being thorough, Condor’s corrupt section chief S.W. Wicks (Michael Kane) uses that knowledge against him, also requesting a .45 when he goes out into the field to meet—and double-cross—Condor.
As a veteran of the U.S. Army (“Signal Corps,” notes Higgins), Joe would have already been somewhat familiar with the M1911 series of handguns that the American military had adopted as its standard service pistol since before World War I, making it a lucky break for him that Mrs. Russell had chosen to keep that particular weapon in her desk. (James Grady’s source novel Six Days of the Condor mentions Mrs. Russell’s handgun to be a .357 Magnum revolver.)
There appear to be at least two different prop weapons used throughout Three Days of the Condor to represent Joe’s sidearm: one, a balsa wood prop extensively detailed to resemble the Colt M1911 (rather than the post-1920s evolution, the M1911A1) and a Star Model B, a Spanish copy of the venerated service pistol. Chambered in 9x19mm Parabellum, the Star Model B was frequently used in productions from the 1960s through 1980s (such as The Wild Bunch, The Getaway, and The Untouchables) as the .45-caliber blank was notably unreliable. Three Days of the Condor is no exception, swapping out the .45 prop with the 9mm Star Model B in scenes that call for Joe to fire his weapon as well as when Wicks requests a “.45” and is actually handed a Model B, visually differentiated by the brass extractor on the right side of the slide serrations.
Legendary firearms designer John Browning developed the M1911 in the early years of the 20th century when the United States government was seeking a new semi-automatic pistol for the military. After several test versions, Browning perfected the pistol that would be formally adopted by the U.S. Army on March 29, 1911, followed by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps two years later. The single-action, recoil-operated pistol carried seven rounds of powerful .45 ACP ammunition in the magazine, with an extra to be carried in the chamber. The M1911 and its 1920s evolution, the M1911A1, served as the standard service pistol for the American military until the 1980s when it was replaced by the M9, a military version of the Italian-made Beretta 92FS.
How to Get the Look
Robert Redford’s classic fall look is one of the most celebrated men’s outfits in the movies, transcending some of its trendy 1970s style details by coordinating interestingly textured fall staples like a herringbone tweed sports jacket, pullover sweater, knit tie, and chambray shirt that never go out style.
- Black-and-white large-scaled herringbone tweed single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with wide notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, scarlet red lining, and single vent
- Blue chambray snap-front shirt with “sawtooth” double snap-flapped chest pockets and double-snap cuffs
- Gold-and-gray striped wool tie
- Navy blue boat-neck sweater with raglan sleeves
- Dark navy melton wool 10-button pea coat
- Levi’s 517 light-medium blue wash denim bootcut jeans
- Wide brown leather belt with large, thin gold-finished single-prong buckle
- Brown hiking boots
- Dark gray tube socks
- Doxa SUB300T Sharkhunter dive watch, worn on dark leather bund-style rally strap on his right wrist
- Gold-framed aviator-style eyeglasses
- Silver tribal ring
- Tan soft woolen scarf with frilled edges
- Royal blue ribbed knit “beanie” cap
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.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie and read James Grady’s source novel, Six Days of the Condor!
You can also take the Condor walking tour of New York City! The novel’s Washington, D.C., setting was changed to New York to accommodate Robert Redford’s schedule as he was living in New York but already shooting All the President’s Men in Washington. As the D.C. setting for Condor was deemed less essential to that particular plot, most of the action was transported to the Big Apple, recording for posterity some wonderful footage of the city at Christmastime in the mid-1970s.
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 is serenaded by a brass band playing “Good King Wenceslas” works his way through 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 (where “Silver Bells” is playing) 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 classic 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?