Lee Marvin as Walker, revenge-driven armed robber
San Francisco to Los Angeles, Summer 1967
Film: Point Blank
Release Date: August 30, 1967
Director: John Boorman
Costume Designer: Margo Weintz
Today in 1924, one of the ultimate classic movie tough guys, Lee Marvin, was born in New York City. After serving with the Marines in the Pacific Theater during World War II (and receiving a Purple Heart among other commendations), Marvin fell into acting and eventually became a household name as Chicago cop Frank Ballinger on M Squad, the show best lampooned by Leslie Nielsen and the ZAZ gang in 1982’s short-lived but brilliant Police Squad!
Having achieved fame through acting, Marvin took his distinctive voice and badass demeanor to starring roles on the silver screen, culminating in 1967 with back-to-back badass hits The Dirty Dozen and Point Blank. The latter film was the first cinematic adaptation of Donald E. Westlake’s crime thriller The Hunter (written under the nom de plume Richard Stark). The novel itself was a massive success, and Westlake catapulted his stand-alone book about the criminal Parker into an eventual 24-book series that lasted until Westlake’s own death in 2008. In that time, The Hunter had been adapted into two films: Point Blank in 1967 and Payback in 1999.
Although it was more or less overlooked at the time of its release, Point Blank has been more and more regarded with each passing decade, with film historian David Thomson referring to the “masterpiece” as both a “cool, violent pursuit film” and “a wistful dream”.
The beginning of Point Blank finds Marvin’s character, renamed Walker, abandoned on Alcatraz Island after a heist involving his wife and her lover (ugh, hate that word). Walker patches himself up, suits up, and goes after “The Organization”, a shadowy group that his wife’s lover (eek!) has bought his safety from using the ill-gotten gains from the heist. Receiving a boost in the right direction from a mysterious benefactor named Yost, Walker heads first to L.A. to track down his double-crossing ex-wife, Lynne.
What’d He Wear?
Walker is considerably well-tailored for a man on the run, wearing at least three different suits and two sharp sport coats during the duration of Point Blank.
After his recovery, Walker sets off on his mission. He’s all business, and he shows it by dressing in gray – the traditional color of the American businessman. His suit is far from traditional, however, with its military-like cut and details like the symmetrical chest and hip pockets that evoke the 4-pocket front of the classic U.S. Army dress tunic.
The suit, constructed of light gray semi-solid flannel, has a single-breasted jacket that fits comfortably on Marvin’s athletic 6’2″ frame. It has notch lapels that roll easily down to the second button of the 3-button front. The two cuff buttons are light gray plastic to match those on the front of the jacket.
The most distinctive aspect of the jacket are the two patch pockets on each side of the chest; typical suit coats have only one breast pocket – on the left and usually welted. It also has flapped straight hip pockets and a short single rear vent.
The structure of the jacket perfectly flatters Walker for whatever situation he finds himself in. When he wants to look formidable, he stands with the button fastened and elicits a military-esque image. When he is tired and relaxed, he unbuttons the jacket and leans back against Lynne’s couch, looking more casual than sloppy and still every bit as fashionable.
His trousers have a clean, minimalist look with a fitted, low rise waistband devoid of belt loops and fastened by an extended square tab with a hook closure in the front. The side pockets are situated along each seam and the rear pockets are jetted with no visible buttons. They are flat front with plain-hemmed bottoms with no cuffs, buttons, flaps, or folds breaking the trouser line.
Walker’s shoes, a pair of brown cordovan leather derby shoes with longwing broguing and medallion-brogued toecaps, are briefly seen as he kicks his way into Lynne’s apartment. We get a better look at these shoes two suits later when Walker is conning his way into mob boss Carter’s office… but I’ll cover that suit later.
Walker wears a pair of regular black socks. Since his trousers are gray and shoes are brown, I would have worn a pair of gray socks instead, but I wasn’t the film’s costumer (in fact, Margo Weintz was uncredited for her work on Point Blank so it would make sense if you didn’t know who the costumer was). This isn’t necessarily an error as it’s just the man’s choice, but there is a slight technical error with the film when we hear his shoes clicking around as he walks around Lynne’s hard tile floor… in only his socks.
Interestingly, he wears a pair of gray socks the next day… but with a blue mohair suit.
When we first see Walker on the ferry from Alcatraz, he wears a light gray shirt and slim black tie (as seen in some of the above screenshots). By the time he reaches L.A., Walker has changed into a pale blue cotton poplin shirt with a spread collar, front placket, rear darts, and squared 1-button cuffs.
He also wears a different slim necktie, this time in slate blue silk.
As one would expect, Walker is a man of few accessories. He removes his only piece of jewelry – his plain gold wedding band – to place it on Lynne’s hand after (SPOILER ALERT!) her overdose.
Go Big or Go Home
…especially if you can get home from Alcatraz. In fact, this was the first major movie to film on Alcatraz Island after the prison was closed four years earlier in 1963. If you’ll note (as Steven Soderbergh does in the commentary), the shots of Walker swimming from the island are juxtaposed with the ferry loudspeaker explaining just how “impossible” it is to leave the island. By presenting its main character literally doing something just said to be physically impossible, the film manages to tell us plenty about Walker rather than needing some cheesy expository dialogue like, “Boy, that Walker guy sure is tough!”
The sequence continues to show his toughness, as he manages to elicit a full, teary confession from Lynne without saying a word… or even looking at her.
How to Get the Look
Walker shows us that just because a man is a badass doesn’t mean he can’t be fashionable. With unique touches like the suit jacket’s double breast pockets and fitted trousers, Walker obviously cares about his appearance without being that guy that spends an extra two hours in the bathroom each morning. (We all know that guy. And we don’t like him.)
- Light gray semi-solid flannel suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, 3-button front, patch breast pockets, flapped straight hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and short single rear vent
- Flat front low rise trousers with fitted waistband, on-seam side pockets, jetted rear pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Pale blue cotton poplin shirt with slim spread collar, front placket, rear darts, and squared 1-button cuffs
- Slate blue-gray silk necktie
- Brown cordovan leather medallion-toe 4-eyelet longwing derby brogues
- Black dress socks
- Plain gold wedding band
Walker’s “sword of revenge” throughout Point Blank is a Smith & Wesson Model 29, the classic .44 Magnum revolver that would go on to cinematic infamy as Dirty Harry’s “most powerful handgun in the world”. Unfortunately for Smith & Wesson, the film didn’t have quite the booming effect on sales that Dirty Harry would, and the firearms manufacturer was forced to suffer through four more years of the average Joe not caring about its most powerful production revolver.
The Model 29 carried by Walker has a 4″ barrel, and – unlike the film Payback – we’re not made privy to exactly how Walker acquires it. It’s likely that it was given to him by Yost, who later reveals his own reasons for bankrolling Walker’s revenge. According to Lee Marvin, he faked the recoil when firing the .44 Magnum blanks at Lynne’s bed, but later discovered – while filming at Alcatraz – that he experienced no recoil at all when firing it with live ammunition. Marvin reportedly told Boorman that, “Fiction overtakes reality.”
As I have yet to read Westlake’s source novel The Hunter, can anyone tell me who has read it what firearm(s) Parker uses in the book? Just curious!
(Some debate exists on whether or not Walker carries the .44 Magnum Model 29 or the .357 Magnum Model 19. I tend to believe that it’s the Model 29, and statements from both director Boorman and Lee Marvin substantiate this. Either way, it would make sense that a powerful man would use such a powerful cartridge, wouldn’t it?)
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. I have a feeling I should read The Hunter as well.