Sean Connery as James Bond, British government agent
Las Vegas, Spring 1971
Film: Diamonds are Forever
Release Date: December 17, 1971
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Master: Ray Beck
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
Yesterday’s post discussed the first car driven by Sean Connery’s James Bond (in an action scene). Today, we’ll be looking at the last.
After making five Bond films in as many years, Sean Connery was reasonably tired of his role. Sure it made him a star, but he was an actor, and actors like roles with character development and tight dialogue rather than repetitive plots, anonymous henchmen deaths, and volcano lairs. The days of espionage thrillers laced with realism like From Russia With Love had given way to over-the-top action and cliches in You Only Live Twice. (Sir Sean and I both agree on this matter.)
Had Connery only held out for one more film, he would have been Bond in the game-changing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which many regard as the greatest Bond film despite the inexperience of first-time actor George Lazenby. OHMSS is an excellent and relatively grounded spy drama that would have provided Connery with plenty of opportunity to show off some actual acting in the role that he feared had become too one-dimensional. In fact, EON Productions had announced at the end of Thunderball that OHMSS would be the next film, but the producers unwisely decided to capitalize on the insane amounts of Bond mania at the time by making a major action piece.
The Bond team was stuck after the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The film ended with a poignant scene that would affect both the character and the franchise. The logical move would be to cast George Lazenby in an equally serious follow-up film as he tracked down Blofeld in a quest for vengeance. Instead, we ended up with a semi-bloated Sean Connery fighting off two flamboyantly gay killers and surrounded by brainless beauties all against the cheesy backdrop of early ’70s Las Vegas. How did we get there?
Lazenby followed the advice of his agent, who said that Bond had no future, and quit the role – a move he admitted later was very unwise. Immediately, the producers scrambled to find the next Bond. Michael Gambon refused since he had “tits like a woman”, Roger Moore was unavailable, and Timothy Dalton – a future Bond – turned it down as he believed he was too young. The EON team then looked across the pond, considering American actors like Batman‘s Adam West, John Gavin, and even a young Burt Reynolds. Eventually, United Artists chief David Picker managed to convince everyone at EON that they needed Connery back, no matter what the cost. Likely aware that money was no object, Connery demanded a fee of £1.25 million (which he generously used to establish the Scottish International Education Trust) and the backing of two films of his choice. I’ve never seen The Offence, which is the only film that actually made it into production due to the deal, but I’ve heard that it is quite good.
So Connery was back, and everyone expected that we would have a return to the old Bond that made everyone popular. However, he was no longer preparing as an action star and had let his physique falter a little, as a 41-year-old man could be expected to do. A terrific interview with The Montreal Gazette even asked: “Does Sean Connery still have that old 007 magic?” The article reports that the filmmakers had clearly disliked the realistic elements of OHMSS:
Dusting off Diamonds Are Forever, Ian Fleming’s 1956 suspense saga of international gem smuggling, the first Bond film ever to be shot on this side of the ocean, they hired Guy Hamilton who directed Goldfinger, dreamed up a galaxy of phenomenal new gadgetry and never let the novel interfere with a script that was clearly conceived to outdo any previous epics for pure incredibility.
That was a nice way of the Gazette to say: “They’re really fucking this one up, and we can’t wait to see how!” Connery himself ranges from boredom to having a little too much fun with the role, but when given material like Diamonds are Forever, seeing the Bond we used to know – even if he does look a little worse for wear – provides plenty of relief.
…a friend jokes with [Connery] about his weight and he takes umbrage. “I’m just the same as I always was,” he snaps. “If I weren’t in shape I would be by now. The first week I didn’t get any sleep at all. We shot every night, I caught all the shows and played golf all day. On the weekend I collapsed – boy, did I collapse. Like a skull with legs.”
An unmotivated and comparatively less talented actor like Lazenby in Diamonds are Forever would likely have sunk the franchise. Even if he did spend most of his time on set golfing (as the pictures below may prove), I think it is safe to say that Sean Connery helped to save the dignity of the Bond series.
What’d He Wear?
Diamonds are Forever is far from the most serious Bond adventure, and it offers some of the most confusing sartorial choices. Aside from the general gaudy excess of the ’70s which permeates through the movie, Bond looks very out of place even when dressed otherwise fashionably. He wears a countrified tweed sport coat during the day in Vegas, and dons a nice-looking but contextually inappropriate white dinner jacket for an evening in the casino. By this time, Vegas was already being taken over by fanny packs and wolf t-shirts, so Bond’s attire would look more like a costume than serious clothing. He eventually gets it right with a nice cream linen suit, but he pairs with with a godawful pink tie that makes me wonder if Sean Connery lost a bet prior to filming that sequence.
One suit that works a little better overall is the light gray tropical worsted suit he wears for the film’s major chase scenes. Gray is a little “business”-y for Vegas, but he pairs it nicely with a warm cream shirt. The black tie neutralizes the cream and avoids the clashing effect of three different colors worn together, which would have been a possibility with a blue or a red tie. Tropical worsted is also a nice fabric for the warm climate without the casual look of a linen suit, and – as readers of my earlier post should know – tropical worsted was the cloth of choice for the literary James Bond.
Anthony Sinclair wisely tailored the suit to look flattering on Connery, who was tipping the scales somewhere over 190 by this point, although the low 2-button stance on the jacket accentuates Connery’s increasing paunch.
The suit is otherwise a very nice incorporation of Sinclair’s classic British tailoring and early ’70s trends. The notch lapels are wide, but not to excess, and the width of the flaps on the gently slanted pockets looks appropriate next to the wider lapels, shirt collar, and tie. A welted breast pocket is present, but there is no pocket square or handkerchief in place. The 4-button cuffs match the two dark gray horn buttons on the front.
The jacket hangs from Connery’s frame with natural shoulders, roped sleeveheads, and a cleaner chest than on his previous suits in the series. The fashionable long double rear vents work in Connery’s favor, accentuating his height from all angles.
Connery’s suit trousers rise slightly lower than his earlier suits, a dangerous tactic for someone whose mid-section has been growing. There are two short darts on the front in place of pleats. Like all of his previous trousers, the waistband fastens with 3-button “Daks top” adjusters on the sides and an extended hook-and-tab closure in the front. The side pockets are on-seam and, as usual, Connery’s hands get plenty of storage time in them. There is no rear pocket on the left side; I haven’t been able to tell if the right rear has a pocket or not.
The trousers are cut fully through the leg, tapering only slightly at the plain-hemmed bottoms, which have a quarter break over his shoes.
Connery’s standard pair of shoes with this suit are black leather 3-eyelet longwing brogues, similar to the pair he wore earlier in the film with his black “funeral” suit. He wears them with a pair of surprisingly thick black ribbed socks. Heavy black socks are the easiest way to ensure that your feet smell like hell after a long day, but at least he rolls down the top of them while relaxing on Tiffany’s rear patio.
Immediately after the moon buggy chase, Bond hijacks a security guard’s motorbike to make his escape. Briefly seen in the film but mostly seen in production photos, he is now wearing a pair of brown leather monk-strap ankle boots. In fact, these are the same boots that he later wears with the aforementioned cream linen suit.
Production photos show a shirtless Sean Connery golfing between takes in the desert, wearing both the ankle boots and the brogues (though not at the same time…)
Bond’s shirt is a light cream poplin shirt, naturally from Turnbull & Asser. It has the usual Connery Bond features of a spread collar, front placket, and 2-button turnback (or “cocktail”) cuffs, but the collars are slightly larger than before to keep up with the times. Connery also wears one of the cuff buttons undone.
Although the shirt looks white in some outdoor shots, this is due to the intense desert sunlight. When in relative shade, the shirt’s true cream color can be seen.
Paired with the shirt is a wide black tie, also from Turnbull & Asser, with self-striped ribbing in a left-down-to-right direction. This is certainly one of the wider ties from the Connery era, but it is understated enough to remain classy, and it is well-served by the larger collars and lapels around it. Diamonds are Forever is the only film after Dr. No to feature Bond wearing a Windsor knot.
Once again, we have an example of early Bond dressing very minimalist with no visible accessories. That means no belt, no watch, no cuff links, no tie bar… not even a holster! Also, Bond isn’t wearing an undershirt as Sean Connery’s sweater of chest hair was probably providing too much warmth as it was.
Production photos do show Sean Connery wearing some kind of gold pendant while shirtless between takes, but it is very likely that he removed it for the actual filming.
The suit has been featured twice on Matt Spaiser’s excellent blog The Suits of James Bond, once for an individual analysis and once when interestingly compared to a similar suit worn by Connery in Dr. No.
Bond also briefly dons a white lab coat as “Klaus Hergesheimer, G Section,” a winking reference to director Guy Hamilton constantly calling a character “Hergesheimer” when unable to recall the actual name. Tom Mankiewicz incorporated this into his screenplay for Diamonds are Forever for the hapless G Section employee who kinda resembles Ted Chaough from Mad Men.
Go Big or Go Home
Every man should visit Vegas at least once in his life, and at least one of those visits should include the James Bond “Old Vegas” experience. While The Strip has changed plenty in the forty-odd years since Diamonds are Forever (hell, it’s probably changed plenty in the last forty minutes), the Fremont Street area has been maintained to stay relatively similar to its 1970s heyday… for better or worse.
If you plan on starting your Vegas experience like Bond, sitting poolside while enjoying a cool drink, you’d have to travel about 250 miles southwest to Palm Springs. It is at 515 West Via Lola in Palm Springs where Connery was filmed idly reading Time while a buxom Lana Wood met her demise in the swimming pool. Although it doubled for Tiffany Case’s Vegas home in Diamonds are Forever, the residence actually belonged to Kirk Douglas at the time. (For an even deeper Bond connection, Leslie Bricusse stayed at Douglas’ Palm Springs home while writing the title song to You Only Live Twice four years earlier.
Trivia aficionados can date the setting of the scene to mid-to-late spring 1971, as Bond is reading the April 12, 1971 issue of Time. The cover story was titled “Who Shares the Guilt?” and investigated Lt. William Calley, the U.S. Army found guilty in the brutal My Lai Massacre three years earlier in Vietnam.
On a lighter note, let’s take a look at Bond-era Las Vegas.
Earlier in the day, before making his moon buggy getaway from Willard Whyte’s factory, Bond and the CIA chased Tiffany through Circus Circus, a casino at 2880 Las Vegas Boulveard on The Strip that features daily circus acts and carnival games. Opened in October 1968, Circus Circus was still a Vegas novelty with less than three years under its belt. Fans of mob history – particularly the Scorsese film Casino – may know that Tony Spilotro, portrayed in the 1995 film by Joe Pesci as “Nicky Santoro”, owned a gift shop in the hotel.
The casino’s famous midway is featured in the film with trapeze artists and elephants joining the fun as Tiffany manages to evade supposedly “trained” CIA agents. Hunter S. Thompson effectively summed up the casino in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, also written in 1971:
The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the sixth Reich.
Following the Circus Circus debacle, Bond sneaks into Professor Metz’s van (somehow) and ends up at Willard Whyte’s research lab, portrayed in the film by a Johns-Manville gypsum plant not far from Vegas. Bond makes his getaway in an awkward moon buggy which kept losing its wheels during the production. Sean Connery actually bought the moon buggy in 2004 for $54,000.
Finally, we get to downtown Vegas. It has since been turned into pedestrian traffic to create “The Fremont Street Experience”, but many of the exterior lights and even the casino interiors have been preserved to keep that whole Robert Conrad/Bert Convy feel of the mid-’70s alive. Bond drives Tiffany’s Mustang Mach I down the western end of Fremont Street, engaging in a police chase with Las Vegas’
Casinos pictured during the chase are:
- Binion’s Horseshoe (now closed)
- Four Queens
- Fremont Hotel
- Golden Nugget
- Las Vegas Club
- The Mint (now closed)
- Pioneer Club (now closed)
Binion’s Horseshoe, at 128 East Fremont Street, opened in 1951 in the style of an old-time riverboat. It was still Binion’s Horseshoe at the time of Diamonds are Forever, but the final name was Binion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel when it closed in 2009 in the midst of a longtime financial scandal involving the Culinary Workers Union and Bartenders Union.
Around the corner on Fremont Street is the smartly-named Fremont Hotel and Casino, which was built in May 1956 and was the tallest building in the state of Nevada at the time it opened. It was purchased and expanded in 1976 by Allen Glick, whom was played by Kevin Pollak in Casino as “Philip Green”, marking yet another casino with a known mob connection.
At 202 East Fremont Street, the Four Queens has stood since 1966 and was supposedly named after builder Ben Goffstein’s four daughters rather than the poker hand. The casino has gone through a number of renovations and survived filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the mid-1990s to continue standing to this day with 690 guest rooms available.
The Golden Nugget stands at the fourth corner at 129 Fremont Street and is one of the oldest casinos still open in the city, having opened in the summer of 1946. It’s remained profitable through every major transformation that the city has gone through. When Steve Wynn become majority shareholder in 1973, two years after Connery blazed in front of it in a red Mustang Mach 1, it made Wynn the youngest casino owner in Vegas and marked the beginning of a new era for the city. With 2,419 guest rooms and 38,000 square feet of gaming space, it is one of the largest hotel and casinos in downtown Vegas. It even withstood a major hit in July 2010 when I personally took home about $300 in hard-earned blackjack winnings.
The four corners of Fremont Street and Casino Center Boulevard are comprised of the Golden Nugget, the Four Queens, the Fremont, and the now-closed Binion’s.
Further down Fremont Street at 18 East Fremont, the Las Vegas Club has remained a steadfast link to the city’s origins. The Las Vegas Club installed a neon sign in 1931, becoming the first casino to use the now-iconic lighting. The hotel portion closed last year, but the 22,210 square foot gaming area remains open.
The Pioneer Club closed in 1995 when the Fremont Street Experience opened to the public. The building itself – at 25 East Fremont Street – had existed since 1918 and became the popular Western-themed Pioneer Club in April 1942. The most famous aspect of the casino, the large neon cowboy “Vegas Vic”, still stands to welcome visitors to Fremont Street.
Finally, The Mint – where the picture at the top of this page was taken – had one of the shortest durations of a major downtown casino. Opened in 1957, it quickly became famous as sponsor of the Mint 400 off-road race. It was this race that led Hunter S. Thompson to Vegas for his immortal 1971 work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the casino was digitally recreated for the film version in 1998. After it was featured in U2’s video for “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, the Mint closed its doors in 1988.
How to Get the Look
Connery looks businesslike and cool as he gallivants around Las Vegas, using classic suit elements and keeping any excess flair minimal. It was very easy for a man to look hopelessly outdated in 1971, but the classic elements of Connery’s suit work in his favor.
- Light gray semi-solid tropical worsted suit tailored by Anthony Sinclair, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with wide notch lapels, 2-button low stance front, welted breast pocket, widely-flapped slanted hip pockets, long double rear vents, and 4-button cuffs
- Darted front trousers with “Daks top” 3-button tab side adjusters, slanted side pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Light cream poplin Turnbull & Asser dress shirt with large spread collar, front placket, and 2-button turnback/”cocktail” cuffs
- Black ribbed Turnbull & Asser necktie with L-down-to-R self-stripes, tied in Windsor knot
- Black leather 3-eyelet derby brogues
- Black ribbed dress socks
The Ford Mustang was a hit from the second it hit the sales floor in 1964, instantly creating the “pony car” class of powerful but practical sports cars. The Mustang also marked the start of a long association with the James Bond series. Tilly Masterson drove a white ’64 Mustang convertible in Goldfinger, and Fiona Volpe memorably tested Bond’s nerve behind the wheel of a light blue model the following year in Thunderball. Thus, it only makes sense that Diamonds are Forever – which was made to appeal to American audiences – would finally place James Bond in the driver’s seat of a Mustang, specifically a bright red 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1.
Although they clearly had a winner on their hands with the Mustang, Ford felt left behind in the late 1960s as its competitors were offering up powerful and stylish muscle cars that combined streamlined aesthetics with almost absurdly strong V8 engines. Mopar had the Dodge Charger and the Plymouth ‘Cuda, GM had the Chevelle and even the Camaro, which began life nipping at Mustang’s heels as a pony car but soon took on muscle car status with engines like the 396 and big-block 427. Feeling the need to step up, Ford launched a major design of the Mustang for 1969.
Introduced in August 1968, the new ’69 Mustang was far more aggressive-looking than the previous models with its longer and heavier body. In addition to the car’s physical size, Ford engineers also created a variety of performance packages including the Boss 302, Boss 429, and the Mach 1.
If the older Mustang GT was a pony car, there was no doubt that the Mustang Mach 1 was all muscle. Built only on the fastback “SportsRoof” body, the Mach 1 was a V8 only performance option with Goodyear Polyglas tires and upgraded competition suspension. The car was designed to look menacing also with its chrome gas cap and exhaust tips, hood scoop, and rear deck spoiler. The interior was also deluxe, featuring teak wood grain details, sport bucket seats with high backs, and sound deadening that was borrowed from the more luxurious Grande model. The option of a Shaker hood air scoop offered more functionality than the mostly cosmetic standard hood scoop would mount directly to the top of the engine to collect the fresh air.
The engine itself was a beast, with the standard motor being the new 351 cubic inch Windsor – not to be confused with the 351 Cleveland. Options ranged up to the large 428 cubic inch Cobra Jet, which could be had with or without Ram Air. A three-speed manual transmission was standard, but four-speed manual and three-speed automatics could also be chosen.
By 1971, American cars were feeling the heat for its massive engine displacements of previous years and the base Mach 1 engine was downgraded to the still-powerful 302 Windsor V8, which produced 210 brake horsepower and 296 foot-pounds of torque. The following six engine options were still available in 1971:
- 302 cubic inch (4.9 L) Windsor V8 “F-code” with 2-barrel Autolite 2100 carburetor, 210 bhp, 296 lb·ft
- 351 cubic inch (5.8 L) Cleveland V8 “H-code” with 2-barrel Autolite 2100 carburetor, 240 bhp, 350 lb·ft
- 351 cubic inch (5.8 L) Cleveland V8 “M-code” with 4-barrel Autolite 4300A carburetor, 285 bhp, 370 lb·ft
- The Cobra Jet “Q-code” of this engine, introduced in late 1971, offered Ram Air with no difference in displacement, horsepower, or torque
- 429 cubic inch (7.0 L) Cobra Jet V8 “C-code” with 4-barrel Rochester Quadrajet carburetor, 370 bhp, 450 lb·ft
- 429 cubic inch (7.0 L) Super Cobra Jet V8 “J-code” with Ram Air and a 4-barrel Holley 4150 carburetor, 375 bhp, 450 lb·ft
While some might say that a Mustang is a Mustang, it’s important to point out just how different the 302 performed from the 429. Chuck Koch tested a base 302 against a 429 Mach 1 for a Motor Trend review in January 1971, finding the following results:
0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds (429) vs. 9.9 seconds (302)
1/4 mile: 13.8 sec. @ 104 mph (429) vs. 17.5 sec. @ 78 mph (302)
Top speed: 114 mph (429) vs. 86 mph (302)
Of course, more economical buyers would scoff at the 9-10 mpg average fuel consumption of the 429 Cobra Jet, opting for the far more affordable (!) 15.2-17.1 mpg of the 302 engine.
For more info about ’71 Mustangs and the Mach 1 series, check out MustangSpecs.com. (Or buy one, because that would be badass.)
The base price for a 1971 Mustang Mach 1 was $3,268, which would include the 302 Windsor V8 and a 3-speed manual transmission. That’s only $19,130 in 2014 dollars; you would have to pay nearly double to even come close to that kind of power in a modern car. 36,499 total Mach 1s were made that year.
Body Style: 2-door fastback “SportsRoof” coupe
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 351 ci (5.8 L) “Cleveland” V8 with 4-barrel Autolite 4300A carburetor
Power: 285 bhp (213 kW; 289 PS) @ 5400 rpm
Torque: 370 lb·ft (502 N·m) @ 3400 rpm
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Wheelbase: 109 inches (2769 mm)
Length: 189.51 inches (4814 mm)
Width: 74.1 inches (1882 mm)
Height: 50.1 inches (1275 mm)
Definite specs on the actual Mustang used in Diamonds are Forever are hard to come by, with at least two different Mach 1s identified for their use in the film. Just from looking at the car, it clearly has the code 3 “bright red” exterior paint, tinted windshield, and radio. One aspect notably missing from the car is Ram Air which rules out the J-code 429. The Q-code 351 can also be ruled out since it was a Ram Air option that wasn’t introduced until after filming wrapped.
The one car that has been authenticated as being used during the filming is VIN #1F05M160938, which implies that it was built in 1971 (1) in Dearborn, MI (F) and naturally has the “SportsRoof” two-door body (05). The M in the VIN indicates the engine code, which refers here to the more powerful of the two 351 Cleveland V8 options with the 4-barrel Autolite 4300A carburetor. Thus, at least one Diamonds are Forever Mustang was definitely pushing out 285 brake horsepower, which would have been very fun for Sean Connery and Jill St. John to drive. This car, #1F05M160938, has been confirmed as definitely been used for the film’s famous alleyway scene.
However, according to an IMCDB user and the Ian Fleming Foundation, another car – #1F05J100066 – claims to be part of the Diamonds are Forever production. This is somewhat questionable since it would use the massive but glorious 429 Super Cobra Jet V8 with Ram Air and a 4-barrel Holley carburetor. Another 429 Cobra Jet, #1F05J00076, is claimed by its owner Michael Alameda to have been used in the film, but research mentioned on IMCDB found that both cars were just press loans for cars that were sent to Vegas months before Diamonds are Forever filmed there. According to the site:
…the only car to be absolutely confirmed from the film is Dezer’s 1F05M160938 351C car, which performed the retake of the two-wheeled alleyway exit scene by the French stunt crew – the cut that made it to the film. It may also be the same car that performed the J-turn and shots behind the police cruiser, given the rollbar and possible appearance of red seatbelt straps hanging down from the car in the J-turn scene.
Many sources say that there was one 429 Mustang used for most of the chase, the one confirmed 351 Cleveland car mentioned above, and lighter 302 Windsor models for the beginning of the two-wheeled stunt in the Universal Studios backlot. Since no 429s can be confirmed as definitively used in the film as yet, I won’t hold my breath that we’ll ever get any actual verification.
Diamonds are Forever marked the beginning of a decade-long trend for James Bond of cool stunts where just one little thing nearly ruined the whole thing. In The Man with the Golden Gun, an AMC Hornet performed a 360° aerial twist in mid-air after flying off a broken bridge with a poorly-added slide whistle diminishing the amazing effect. In Moonraker, a gondola rises from the water and grows wheels… and a pigeon does a double-take. (The only stunt gag that really works for me from the era is Roger Moore casually tossing a fish out the window when his Lotus emerges from the water in The Spy Who Loved Me.)
In Diamonds are Forever, Buzz Bundy’s Tournament of Thrills stunt team impressively managed to drive a Mustang Mach 1 into a narrow alleyway at the Universal Studios car park using only the two right tires. Three days later, Bundy’s team drove the Mach 1 out of an alley onto Fremont Street again using two tires… the left two tires. When director Guy Hamilton realized the mistake, he went to Cubby Broccoli and was told that it didn’t matter. Hamilton decided to quickly film a shot of Bond and Tiffany in the car with the car somehow shifting from its two right tires to its two left tires to explain the shift. It’s not necessarily a stunt-ruiner as the two-wheel driving is impressive enough, but… someone should have told Cubby Broccoli that yes, these things do matter.
Tiffany’s Mach 1 was fitted with license plates #CA52H6. Even though Ford was providing many cars for the film, director Guy Hamilton shared Ian Fleming’s dislike for large American cars and he took a special delight in crashing many of the cars in the film’s chase scenes.
One car that luckily emerges from the film undamaged is a brown 1971 Ford Galaxie 500 that Bond briefly rents from Hertz when expecting to meet with Tiffany and escape town. Unfortunately for Bond, Tiffany never shows and the car is never seen again.
The Galaxie was a luxury trim of the Ford Custom. In an interesting coincidence, Burt Reynolds drove a brown 1971 Ford Custom 500 in White Lightning only two years later; Reynolds was strongly considered for the role of Bond in Diamonds are Forever.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
Her devotion to larceny versus my… incomparable charm.