Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent and legendary super spy
Venice, Spring 1963
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, From Russia With Love is a very polarizing film for Bond fans. It is almost a direct adaptation of the novel, a gritty and realistic espionage adventure based on the murder of a British naval attache on the Orient Express in 1950. The film too is grounded in realism, relying on genuine suspense rather than gadgets or contrived villains. It’s one of my favorites (definitely my favorite of the pre-Craig era) and Sean Connery’s personal favorite, so that should tell you something.
After a tense mission and subsequent getaway stretching from Istanbul through Eastern Europe in From Russia With Love, Bond is glad to spend a short holiday relaxing in Venice with new arm candy Tatiana before having to ship her off to London with the film’s MacGuffin, a decoding device. This is the first of three times (so far) that we see Bond in the floating city and certainly the least destructive of the three. As opposed to the time he destroyed a house.
For the last leg of his mission, Bond sports a timeless and well-cut flannel chalkstripe suit. The look is very classic and British, managing to avoid the extremes of looking stodgy or too trendy.
What’d He Wear?
Bond’s suit for the From Russia With Love finale is his heaviest yet, a warm charcoal flannel suit with a light gray chalkstripe. I have read elsewhere online (notably Matt Spaiser’s excellent blog) that the suit may be a dark navy, but I have seen it only as charcoal on my DVD and Blu-Ray versions, so let’s just call it charcoal and agree that a dark navy flannel chalkstripe would also look great. Okay?
This suit differs from the rest of tailor Anthony Sinclair’s suits for Connery due to the heavier, softer material that has more of a relaxed, comfortable fit. It makes sense that Bond would choose this suit for his holiday rather than one of the more closely-fitting gray business suits from his adventures in Istanbul. However, flannel may be a tad warm for Venice, especially in summer months. The suit was one of eight Savile Row suits purchased for Connery’s use in the film, each costing around $2,000.
The single-breasted jacket is 2-button with slim notch lapels, flapped hip pockets, and a single rear vent. Additional details include 4-button cuffs, natural shoulders, and a draped chest. A folded white linen pocket square peeks out of his welted breast pocket.
Connery’s suit pants have the generous rise typical of early 1960s menswear, with double forward pleats and cuffed bottoms (or “turn-ups”). The suit is fastened on each side with button-tab side adjusters rather than belt loops or suspenders. It is a good, minimalist look and is an additional detail of a custom-made suit. Plus, the buttons on his adjusters come in handy to fasten in his shoulder holster. The front closes on an extended tab.
From Russia With Love features the least derivation of Bond’s shirts and ties, with only one style of tie – the navy grenadine – matched with almost exclusively pale blue poplin shirts throughout, all made by Turnbull & Asser.
This shirt is the single exception, in light ecru silk with a spread collar and placket front. The mother-of-pearl buttons fasten high, with the second button just below the neck. Ecru was likely used instead of blue to both provide a needed contrast as well as avoiding any issues that would come from the blue screen projection of Bond and Tania gondola-ing through Venice. (I also wonder if a navy suit would have some issues with this projection, bolstering my belief that it is, indeed, a charcoal suit.)
The cuffs are a very distinctive type worn by Connery in his Bond films and Roger Moore in some of his – the 2-button turnback or “cocktail” cuffs. Hardly seen in recent years, these are like French cuffs that button. A good choice for a man of action like ’60s Bond who wants a classier look to his shirts without having to worry about breaking or losing cuff links. The shirt is fitted in the rear with two darts, but it still has a comfortable, baggy fit for our man on holiday, indicating that it’s likely silk rather than the poplin material of his other shirts.
Bond’s slim necktie is dark navy grenadine woven silk, tied very tightly in a small four-in-hand knot.
Bond’s shoes are black 3-eyelet leather derbies, worn with dark navy socks. These may be a tip that the suit itself is navy, but if it doesn’t appear navy in the screencaps I provide, I can’t – in good conscience – call it that in my description. Either way, Bond would probably far prefer to be wearing Rosa Klebb’s poison-bladed shoes, despite the unstylish look of them.
Go Big or Go Home
This final scene of From Russia With Love is a great illustration of the dangers of Bond’s life. Just about to settle into a sort of domestic bliss, having breakfast with his new lady friend before heading off to work, the temporary state of it becomes blatantly apparent when the danger surrounding him whirlwinds into the room in the form of a gun-and-shoe toting Rosa Klebb. Naturally, Bond is able to subdue the woman (although he needs Tatiana’s help!) but even he is shaken up by the experience.
The lesson here? If you’re going to lead a dangerous life, don’t expect it to be easy. Also, never trust your hotel maid. She may be a Soviet spy. To be sure, yank her hair and check her apron for firearms.
Now, a few Bond lifestyle tips: The gentlemanly Bond lights his woman’s cigarette, but isn’t afraid to attack another woman with a chair when she tries to kill him. Also, there’s something really cool about the way he answers the phone.
How to Get the Look
Bond sports an elegant, albeit warm, suit for his brief stay in Venice. His ensemble would make a great traveling suit or even something for the office.
- Charcoal chalkstripe flannel “Conduit cut” suit tailored by Anthony Sinclair:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit coat with slim notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and single rear vent
- Double forward-pleated trousers with 3-button tab “Daks top” side adjusters, straight on-seam side pockets, button-through jetted right back pocket, and turn-ups/cuffed bottoms
- Light ecru poplin Turnbull & Asser dress shirt with spread collar, front placket, and 2-button turnback/”cocktail” cuffs
- Navy blue grenadine woven silk necktie, worn with a four-in-hand knot
- Black leather 3-eyelet plain-toe derby shoes/bluchers
- Dark navy socks
- Light brown chamois leather shoulder holster with blue strap, made to fit Walther PPK
Also, if you’d prefer wearing dark navy to dark charcoal – go for it! For all I know, that’s what Sean Connery was wearing in real life.
Bond has his trusty brown-gripped Walther PPK in .32 ACP, although he doesn’t get to do much with it in this scene except for strap on the holster, then toss the gun when Klebb gets the better of him.
Interestingly, the book From Russia With Love featured Bond confronting Klebb in a hotel room, although for more official purposes. Bond was still carrying his .25-caliber Beretta (mentioned in Dr. No). After Klebb tried to kill him with her bladed shoe, Bond attempted to draw his Beretta but the suppressor got stuck in his holster and he was jabbed in the leg. He didn’t think much of it, as his ally Mathis was soon there to subdue Klebb and arrest her, but soon Bond began to feel woozy… the blade was poisoned.
That was how Fleming intended to end his series, with Bond’s death. Thankfully, popular demand revived Bond for Dr. No and, after a series of Skyfall-like trials in the novel, Bond was fit for service and at least six more years of stories by Fleming’s pen. Either way, the faux pas at the end of From Russia With Love gave Fleming an excuse to re-arm his hero with a more efficient sidearm, the now iconic PPK.
For a great article about the guns featured in Fleming’s novels, including the Beretta-Walther switch after From Russia With Love, read Bradley Steele’s “The Handguns of Ian Fleming’s James Bond” here.
The Other Gun
ALSO interestingly, Klebb uses a Llama XVIII Especial, a .25 ACP Spanish pocket pistol with white grips, when she attacks Bond. After the gun drops to the floor and is grabbed by Tatiana, it becomes – in a continuity error – a Beretta 418. The Beretta 418 is the very pistol that the literary Bond would’ve carried in this scene.
I’m not sure why they switched guns… maybe they felt it would be more appropriate for Daniela Bianchi (a former Miss Rome) to be carrying an Italian pistol?
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
Bond wouldn’t be Bond without his arsenal of one-liners after a death.
Yes, she had her kicks.
Again, credit and thanks must be given to Matt Spaiser’s blog The Suits of James Bond. If you haven’t checked out yet, do so.