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
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
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 noteworthy aspects of Robert Redford’s layered outfit in Three Days of the Condor is how it illustrates its versatility as his character adapts it to his evolving situation. At the outset, some could compare his dress to a banal college professor eking his way through a small East Coast liberal arts college as he explains esoteric history or literature to bored bio majors. By the end, he’s an elusive spy who outwits the world’s most powerful government agency… with the only major change to his wardrobe being putting on another guy’s coat.
But before that…
When we first meet Joe Turner, he’s riding his motorized bicycle down a crowded New York City street, “bucking headwinds” in the additional layers of scarf and beanie. The khaki soft wool scarf with its long-fringed ends is evidently left in his office after the catalyzing massacre, as is the navy ribbed-knit acrylic beanie that he pulls over his face to mess with his office secretary, Mrs. Russell (Helen Stenborg), and their aging but serious security guard, Jennings (Hansford Rowe). The cap may be identified by the logo on the front, which appears to be a set of wings in sky blue and forest green.
Condor then drops his hat and scarf to settle into his office wearing the casual Friday-friendly outfit that would dress him for the following two days as he ducks CIA killers. Per the wintry weather, he wears a tweed sport jacket woven in a large-scaled black-and-light gray herringbone, so named for its resemblance to the skeleton of a herring fish.
Despite its timeless configuration with a single-breasted, two-button front, the details of Condor’s herringbone tweed sports coat date it to the height of the disco era with broad notch lapels and a long single vent. The edges of the lapels, vent, and pockets—including the welted hip pocket and flapped hip pocket—are welted for an effect some call “swelled edges”. The jacket has roped sleeveheads, each sleeve finished with four-button cuffs with the same type of mixed tan plastic sew-through buttons as on the front of the jacket. The jacket is lined in a bright scarlet.
Over the first half of the movie, Condor wears a dark navy woolen raglan-sleeved sweater with a loose boat neck that shows more of the shirt collar and tie knot than the classic crew neck. While a sweater with a more defined V-shaped neckline may deliver more neatness, Condor complements the coarser textures and more casual insouciance of his tweed jacket, chambray snap-front shirt shirt, woolen tie, and denim jeans with his choice of knitwear. The cuffs and hem are widely ribbed.
The low boat neck of the sweater shows off the thick knot of Condor’s wool knitted tie, striped in gold, gray, and tan. He immediately loosens the tie upon getting to the office and discards it later that night after he’s on the run, using it to restrain Kathy Hale after taking her hostage.
Condor wears a blue cotton shirt with Western detailing including pointed yokes on the front and back and snaps rather than buttons. The shirt snaps up the front placket with the only traditional button being a white pearlesque button to fasten at the neck. There are two snaps to fasten each cuff and each chest pocket closes with a distinctive double-pointed, double-snap flap that Levi Strauss & Co. has coined the “sawtooth” pocket flap.
Condor wears light blue denim jeans identified as Levi’s by the distinctive red tag against the inside edge of the back right pocket. He holds up his jeans with a wide brown leather belt that closes through a gold-finished single-prong buckle.
Apropos his occupation, Redford’s bookish character has been outfitted with a pair of gold semi-rimmed aviator-shaped eyeglasses with a horizontal bar straight across the top of the frame.
Redford’s usual silver ring is on the third finger of his right hand, best seen as he’s taking a bite of his pretzel here. 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.
Though Redford wears his own ring, the actor’s Rolex Submariner that appeared in movies like The Candidate and All the President’s Men has been swapped out for a steel Doxa SUB300T Sharkhunter dive watch with a black dial on a dark brown leather bund-style rally strap.
Condor also wears a pair of black leather three-point gloves.
After discovering the massacre at work, Joe is forced to go on the run. He grabs a .45 from the deceased Mrs. Russell’s desk and stuffs it into his waistband under his jacket, Dutch Schultz-style. The spy begins to take shape as he turns up the lapels of his sports coat against the cold holiday air. 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.
After a fatal gunfight in an alley, Condor kidnaps a local woman and takes refuge in her apartment. We see the last of his tweed sports coat when he leaves it behind in her home, swapping it out for a warmer dark navy wool pea coat from her boyfriend’s closet.
Since the earliest examples were first worn by mariners in the early 18th century, the pea coat has transcended its naval origins to solidify its place as a fall and winter outerwear staple for men and women. The heavy melton wool construction and short fit provide warmth and mobility, two essential assets for a man on the run during winter like Condor.
Condor’s commandeered pea coat is configured in the classic double-breasted layout with a total of ten buttons, all flat dark blue plastic with four sew-through holes and imprinted anchor designs. Aside from the two buttons across each other at the neck, the jacket has two parallel columns of four buttons running down the front, flanked by a deep “handwarmer” pocket on each side for Condor to place what Kathy calls his “huge gun”.
And how does Condor protect his feet during this constant movement? A pair of utilitarian brown napped leather with five gunmetal D-ring eyelets and three speed hooks up the short shaft for their olive laces, laced against a brown oiled leather instep. Condor wears taupe ribbed socks.
Condor’s demeanor shifts with the coat as he evolves from the reluctant researcher on the run to the elusive spy who holds corrupt government officials at gunpoint while engineering their embarrassment.
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-light gray 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 napped leather boots with D-ring eyelets, speed hooks, and brown oiled leather instep
- Taupe-gray ribbed socks
- Doxa SUB300T Sharkhunter steel dive watch with black dial on dark leather bund-style rally strap on his right wrist
- Gold-framed aviator-style eyeglasses
- Silver tribal ring
- Khaki soft woolen scarf with frilled edges
- Navy 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?