Bond Style – Black Tie in Dr. No

Today is the day all good Americans have been waiting for four years! No, not the Presidential election – that was Tuesday and is far less important than…

Skyfall, the 23rd and latest installment of the official James Bond series, is released in U.S. theaters! In honor of this latest appearance, here is the rundown on Bond’s first appearance to audiences.

Sean Connery as James Bond in Dr. No (1962).

Vitals

Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent and legendary super spy

London, Spring 1962

Film: Dr. No
Release Date: October 5, 1962
Director: Terence Young
Wardrobe Master: John Brady
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair

Background

In 2012, James Bond needs no introduction. However, fifty years ago, he was introduced to major film audiences throughout the world as Sean Connery first uttered the immortal words:

Bond. James Bond.

Now, the words are just as iconic as the man himself, as well as his gun (Walther PPK), his drink (a vodka martini, shaken not stirred), and his car (a silver Aston Martin).

In 1962, the producers of Dr. No knew they had to make a quick impression. The new film audiences weren’t as patient as the book readers who had been reading about Bond for almost ten years. They had to establish immediately that this was a suave but tough British spy who liked fine things and knew it.

As an additional challenge, Sean Connery was an unpolished man. Terence Young, the film’s cosmopolitan director, can be given much of the credit for establishing Bond’s identity. Young modeled Connery’s Bond after his own image, even using the same tailor, Anthony Sinclair. Additionally, Young wanted Connery to feel so comfortable in his suits that he reportedly suggested that Connery sleep in them.

So, for James Bond’s first appearance on the big screen, here is…

What’d He Wear?

A sharp dark tuxedo, a casino, a gorgeous woman, and a gun under his arm. Besides the martini, this first look at Bond does a damn good job at reflecting the image that would stick for at least fifty years to come. Well done, Terence Young and Sean Connery.

Who’s gonna forget this moment?

We first meet Bond sitting at a Chemin de Fer table in Le Cercle, a London casino. He wears a midnight blue tuxedo that is so dark it almost looks black… as midnight blue is intended to do. Like the rest of Connery’s Bond suits, this was tailored by Anthony Sinclair. As was most common in the early 60s, the jacket has shawl lapels with black facings. There are three outer pockets: a jetted breast pocket and two flapped hip pockets. After the casino scenes, the flaps are evidently tucked inside the pockets, making them appear to be jetted.

In the rear of the jacket are two relatively short vents. Double vents are considered to be less formal than no vents on a dinner jacket. However, a single vent is the least formal at all. Since Bond is carrying his pistol under the jacket, it could be explained that he must always be ready for action and thus would need the mobility that double vents provide. Or perhaps Bond is just a less formal guy and goes with what he likes, evident by his choice of ditching both the cummerbund and waistcoat.

How many of you wear the same thing to the casino, the office, and a late night date? If it’s not black tie, you’re doing it wrong.

The final details of the jacket are the silk-covered buttons. Like most traditional single-breasted dinner jackets, it closes with one button in the front. The cuffs are more interesting. In addition to the four silk-covered buttons, there is also a silk gauntlet cuff that is about an inch or so long. This is a more Edwardian detail and makes the jacket stand out against the others.

Connery looks cool throughout each Bond movie (except maybe Diamonds are Forever), so I think it’s okay to comment on the fact that it looks like a gerbil just crawled into an uninviting place where the sun don’t shine.

The trousers do not overcompensate for the lack of a waist covering and are a traditional rise, something that only someone with Connery’s height and physique could pull off. Also like the rest of Connery’s suit pants, they have double forward pleats and button side-tab adjusters in lieu of suspenders or a belt. The bottom is plain-hemmed, with no cuffs. The usual for formal pants, they also have a black silk stripe down each leg.

Much of this outfit, especially the dinner suit itself, was analyzed in the inaugural post of Matt Spaiser’s informative blog, The Suits of James Bond.

The shirt, made by Lanvin, is white with a pleated front and double (“French”) cuffs. Dr. No sets the early example of Bond’s formal shirts – always turndown collars, never wingtip. These collars also have a moderate spread. Finally, a button placket holds the mother-of-pearl buttons, rather than studs. On the shirt cuffs, Connery wears his signature early Bond cuff links – a set of plain gold squares with rounded edges.

His bowtie is thin black satin with diamond-pointed ends.

Keep this in mind the next time you go to a casino in your “nice” T-shirt.

Underneath his shirt, the outline of a white sleeveless A-style undershirt is seen.

On his feet, Bond wears black patent leather plain-toe Oxfords with black socks. This is interesting as, in the books, Ian Fleming takes care to stress that most of Bond’s footwear are slip-ons as Bond eschewed shoelaces. However, Connery slips them off when he arrives in his flat anyway. This is certainly because he needs to quickly be soft-footed, but it’s nice to think in my head that this is Connery’s own personal tribute to the tastes of Fleming’s literary Bond.

In his head, Connery is thinking, “Ian Fleming is gonna appreciate the shit out of me taking my shoes off without untying them.”

When traveling between the club, his office, and his flat, Bond wears traditional black tie outerwear: a Chesterfield overcoat and a black homburg. The homburg is the hat popularized in The Godfather, a formal felt hat with a gutter crown, a stiff curled brim, and a grosgrain band and brim trim. The homburg worn (or carried, as we never see him wear it in the finished film) is all black.

The 3-button Chesterfield coat is midnight blue with a black velvet collar on the upper half of the notch lapels. It is made from milled melton cloth and is fitted to Connery, darted and shaped throughout the waist. In addition, it has jetted hip pockets and a welted breast pocket. Finally, the rear is divided by a long single vent.

Casual Friday is a welcome break at the MI6 offices, but Formal Saturday sucks.

Update: Bond is wearing a Gruen Precision 510 dress watch with subsidiary-seconds on his left wrist on a dark leather strap. I had previously assumed this was a non-dive Rolex, but the brilliant minds at JamesBondWatches.com identified it as the Gruen, which is the dress watch of choice for Connery’s Bond when he’s not wearing a Rolex.

According to the site, the watch was first identified by Dell Deaton in March 2013. Prior to this, the model of the watch had only been speculated by Bond forum contributors.

Go Big or Go Home

As mentioned earlier, this sequence from the casino to the flat was Terence Young’s “James Bond Primer”. Although we still don’t know Bond’s signature drink, we see his choice of black tie even though many of the casino patrons are dressed more casually.

We know that he carries a gun and is good with them. He keeps his .380-caliber Beretta M1934 under his left shoulder and, after a visit to the officer, returns home with a Walther PP in the same caliber. (Yes, the film’s dialogue says it’s a .32 PPK, but we can discuss that later.)

We know that he picks up women with ease; He meets Sylvia Trench after beating her at Chemin de Fer and gives her his address. She then breaks into his apartment, undresses, and plays golf in his bedroom while waiting for him.  It’s not the way he drinks, the way he shoots, or even any of his quick quips; all he does is gamble and tell her his name and she determines the necessity of breaking and entering just to engage in familiar relations with the man.

Although a bank roll like this helps too.

So what’s the takeaway here? Learn how to play Chemin de Fer!

What exactly is Chemin de Fer? It’s the original version of baccarat, dating back to its introduction in France. It involves six decks of cards, shuffled together. The player to the right of the croupier begins, with play continuing counterclockwise. Another player is designated as the “banker”. This player also deals. Every other player is a “punter”. Like the direction of play, the position of banker travels counterclockwise throughout the game.

During each round, the banker wagers his bet. Each other player determines if they will “go bank”, playing against the entire current bank with a matching bet, with only one other player going bank. If no one does, players make their bets in order. If the total wagers from the punters is less than the bank, anyone around can start wagering up to that amount. However, if the punters’ total wagers are more than the bank, the banker can decide to increase the bank to match or just remove the excess bets in reverse play order.

Four cards are dealt face down by the banker. The banker gets two with two held in common by the punters. The highest wagering punter represents the punters and, thus, receives the in common cards. The banker and punter then secretly look at their respective cards. If either has a hand totaling 8 or a 9, this must be announced immediately with the hands turned over and compared. If neither does, a third card (dealt face up) can be accepted or refused. Typically, players with hands totaling 0 to 4 accept the card and refuse the card if hands total 6 or 7. Once both players have decided whether or not to accept the third card, hands are revealed and compared.

If the punter’s hand is higher than the banker’s hand, each wagering player receives double their wager in return and the next player (counterclockwise) becomes the banker. If the banker’s hand is higher than the punter’s hand, all bets are forfeited and banked, and the banker remains the same. A tie keeps all wagers on the table for the next hand.

Bond enjoys the end result of strategically playing Chemin de Fer.

What to Imbibe

Ha! You thought I was going to talk about a Martini here, didn’t you? Connery doesn’t drink at all in this scene, so better luck next time.

Real men carry cigarette cases. Because real men smoke. Because real men aren’t afraid of cancer. Because real men are apparently not that bright?

How to Get the Look

Bond nails down a pretty good black tie look on his first outing. Give it a shot.

  • Midnight blue dinner suit, tailored by Anthony Sinclair, consisting of:
    • Single-breasted dinner jacket with satin-faced shawl lapels, 1 silk-covered button, 4 silk-covered cuff buttons, silk cuff gauntlets, a jetted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, and double rear vents
    • Double-forward pleated formal dress trousers with Daks-type button side adjusters and a black silk stripe down each leg
  • White Lanvin dress shirt with spread collar, pleated front, front placket with mother-of-pearl buttons, and double/French cuffs
  • Black satin narrow bow tie with diamond-pointed ends
  • Rounded square gold cuff links
  • Black patent leather plain-toe Oxfords
  • Black dress socks
  • Folded white linen pocketsquare
  • Gruen Precision 510 wristwatch with a dark leather strap and white face
  • White sleeveless A-style undershirt
  • Midnight blue melton Chesterfield overcoat with a black velvet collar, 3-button front, a welted breast pocket, jetted hip pockets, and a long single vent
  • Black homburg with a black band
  • Light brown chamois shoulder holster (RHD) under left armpit with blue straps, for a Beretta M1934 or a Walther PP

The Gun

I mentioned earlier the confusion surrounding Bond’s gun. In the scene in M’s office, both in the book and the film, he surrenders his Beretta and receives a Walther. That’s about where the similarities end.

  • M: “Yes, I thought so. This damn Beretta again. I’ve told you about this before.” (to the armorer) “You tell him, for the last time.”
  • Maj. Boothroyd: “It’s nice and light… in a lady’s handbag. No stopping power.”
  • M: “Any comments, 007?”
  • James Bond: “I disagree, sir. I’ve used the Beretta for ten years. And I’ve never missed with it yet.”
  • M: “Maybe not, but it jammed on your last job and you spent six months in the hospital in consequence. If you carry a double-O number, it means you’re licensed to kill, not get killed… From now on you’ll carry a different gun. Show him, armorer.”
  • Maj. Boothroyd: “Walther PPK. 7.65 mil with a delivery like a brick through a plate glass window. Takes a Brausch silencer with very little reduction in muzzle velocity. The American CIA swear by them.”

In the book, Bond has been carrying a skeleton-gripped Beretta 418 in .25 ACP for at least ten years. This is a very small gun with very anemic ammunition and, in fact, would be a poor choice for a secret agent. Fleming only had his hero carry one to reflect the gun he himself carried while working British Intelligence during World War II. Bond then receives a .32-caliber Walther PPK, a suggestion from Major Geoffrey Boothroyd, a fan of Fleming’s books and a firearms enthusiast. In fact, Bond also received a Smith & Wesson Centennial Airweight .38 Special snubnose revolver for “long range work”. Boothroyd said that Bond should carry the S&W alone, but Fleming wanted his hero to have a semi-automatic and ditched the S&W on Crab Key.

Nothing makes Sean Connery more uncomfortable than having an empty shoulder holster.

Unfortunately, this didn’t translate as well to the film. Apparently, the only small-caliber Beretta available to the filmmakers was a Beretta M1934 in .380 ACP. Although reliability is questionable (some say they’ve lasted well over 70 years, some say they jammed immediately in the field), the suggestion that they are far less powerful than a .32 Walther is laughable.

Furthermore, although dialogue specifies a Walther PPK in 7.65 mm (also .32 ACP), Bond is given a Walther PP in .380 ACP – a larger and more powerful gun. All that M and the armorer essentially did was replace Bond’s .380 compact with another .380 compact.

So let’s talk about Bond’s Beretta! The M1934 would have been a far better choice for the literary bond than the 418. For its size and the time in which the books were written, eight rounds of .380 ACP well-concealed in a shoulder holster was nothing to sneeze out and was certainly more powerful than the eight rounds of .25 ACP in the 418.

A Beretta M1934 in .380 ACP (9×17 mm). Pointlessly replaced by Bond in Dr. No.

The M1934 was developed in, naturally, 1934 by the Italians. It was quickly adopted into service as the military’s standard sidearm and saw much use by officers during World War II. Over one million copies were made until production ended in 1991. A .32-caliber version, the M1935, was developed in… Oh, I’ll let you guess what year.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

Bond, James Bond.

Yes, this scene is where we first hear those immortal words.

Footnotes

Matt Spaiser’s brilliant blog covered this dinner suit in its inaugural post in October 2010 and, since then, has been excellently exploring Bond’s wardrobe as well as similar films with Bond actors or style.

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