Sean Connery as an impostor James Bond
SPECTRE Island, Spring 1963
(“SPECTRE Island” is actually Heatherden Hall at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire.)
Film: From Russia With Love
Release Date: October 10, 1963
Director: Terence Young
Costume Designer: Jocelyn Rickards
Tailor: Anthony Sinclair
Dressing up as James Bond for Halloween this year or just celebrating the new release of Spectre? You’re certainly not the first to don a 007 costume; even within the series itself, an anonymous SPECTRE bait henchman sported a classic midnight blue tuxedo for his unnecessarily detailed Bond guise during the pre-credits sequence of From Russia With Love.
This sequence provides some interesting cultural context; formalwear was nowhere nearly as prominent in Ian Fleming’s literary Bond adventures as it would become in the films, yet the opening scene of the second film seems to recognize and lampshade the fact that the audience will know this is James Bond because we’re seeing Sean Connery in a dinner suit.
Of course, it turns out to not be Bond as we see when the gummy mask is removed – accompanied by a gross sound effect – and we see the mustached actor John Ketteringham, who more closely resembles a snooty waiter than Sean Connery. (This was by design, the original actor under the mask shared too much of a physical resemblance with Connery so director Terence Young re-shot the scene with Ketteringham. From Russia With Love would mark the start of a six-film career for Ketteringham, always uncredited.)
The opening scene is a cheap gag and not the last time the series would try to “trick” the audience into thinking Bond is dead. Of course, a dead Bond means a dead franchise and even the least cynical of movie-goers know that EON Productions would never shoot itself in the foot like that. Wisely, editor Peter R. Hunt – later to direct On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – moved the scene from the middle of the film to a quick teaser before the credits, introducing the now-traditional pre-credits sequence that Bond fans have come to expect. 007 himself would not appear until nearly 20 minutes into the story.
What’d He Wear?
The impostor’s sharp midnight blue tuxedo has all of the characteristics of classic Bond dinner suits, blending Anthony Sinclair’s timeless tailoring with fit and style details contemporary for 1963. It shares many similarities to the tuxedo that Connery wore previously in Dr. No for his iconic “Bond, James Bond” introduction, but the slimmer, more streamlined look informs us that this is not an identical suit.
The single-breasted dinner jacket has very straight, narrow shawl lapels. The hip pockets are jetted, and a white linen handkerchief is nearly folded in the welted breast pocket to provide a subtle and welcome contrast against the darkness of the scene.
The classic “turnback” jacket cuffs make a return from the Dr. No tuxedo, paired with four covered buttons on the end of each sleeve. This would be the last appearance of turnback gauntlet cuffs on a Bond dinner jacket until the classic Tom Ford dinner jacket worn by Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace.
Due to the darkness of this brief sequence, other details are difficult to ascertain, but the jacket likely has no vents. The shoulders are straight with roped sleeveheads. The lapels, the single front button, and the gauntlet cuffs are all faced in midnight satin, rather than pure black.
When 007 first emerges from the hedge maze, his white shirt provides a stark contrast against both the dark night and his midnight tuxedo. The shirt has a traditional English spread collar and stitched front placket with mother-of-pearl buttons, which Bond prefers to studs on his formal shirts. The French cuffs are fastened with links that appear to be the gold discs he wears in most of the early films, although the promotional photos show a more ornate design.
After Red Grant works his garotte and “Bond” falls dead to the ground, Grant pulls off the mask to reveal the mustached impostor. This also reveals more of the shirt, including the 1/8″-pleated front.
Bond’s bow tie is a very slim “batwing”-shaped tie with straight blades on each end. The narrow batwing is the most flattering tie shape for this slim dinner suit. It appears to be midnight satin to match the lapel facings, although it might also just be black.
The lower half of Bond’s outfit in the scene is almost totally guesswork, but the trousers definitely have a traditional rise with double forward pleats and midnight silk side striping. Bond always followed black tie rules with plain-hemmed bottoms on his formal trousers, and promotional photos indicate that these tapered leg trousers are no exception.
Many men also prefer waist coverings like cummerbunds or waistcoats, but early Bond never did. The doomed SPECTRE impostor evidently knew this, as he also foregoes any waist covering. (This poor guy put way too much work into being killed!)
Based on the promotional photos – again – it looks like Bond is wearing his usual black patent leather plain-toe oxfords. Oxfords – or balmorals – are the preferred practical shoe* for black tie, although later Bonds also wore less formal bluchers/derbies and even slip-on loafers.
* I consider opera pumps – the most formal men’s footwear – to be impractical.
A very accurate Bond costume would also include a light brown chamois leather shoulder holster with a blue nylon strap, and – if you can swing it – a stainless Rolex Submariner with a black dial secured to your left wrist via NATO strap. NATO straps appear to be making a comeback, thanks in part to their reappearance in Spectre after a 50-year absence from the Bond franchise.
If you’d like an awesome graphic breakdown of all of Bond’s dinner suits over the years, check out Matt Spaiser’s infographic from January. Matt also covered this tuxedo in a post on his blog, The Suits of James Bond.
How to Get the Look
Even though this isn’t technically James Bond (in the film’s narrative), it’s a classic 007 look and the promotional material featuring Connery in his From Russia With Love dinner suit holding a long-barreled Walther air pistol has become iconic in its own right.
- Midnight blue tuxedo, consisting of:
- Single-breasted 1-button dinner jacket with slim satin-faced shawl lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted pockets, 4-button “turnback” gauntlet cuffs, and ventless back
- Double forward-pleated formal trousers with satin side stripe and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White formal shirt with spread collar, pleated front, mother-of-pearl buttons, and double/French cuffs
- Midnight blue satin batwing-style bow tie
- Flat gold disc cuff links
- Black patent leather plain-toe oxfords
- Black dress socks
Bond typically also wears his tan chamois shoulder holster under his left arm, although arming himself doesn’t do the impostor much good against Red Grant’s garotte watch. And speaking of Bond’s armament…
From Russia With Love – in fact, this scene – is the first time we actually see James Bond carrying an actual Walther PPK, as it is now well-known that the “PPK” in Dr. No was actually the slightly larger Walther PP. Bond’s PPK is chambered for the somewhat anemic 7.65 mm (.32 ACP) round, although carrying the .32 rather than the larger .380 gives him one extra round in the magazine.
The famous image of a tuxedoed Sean Connery smirking while holding a Walther pistol near his face – seen a few times in this post alone – was taken during a promotional shoot for From Russia With Love. However, the pistol is not an actual firearm; it’s a Walther LP-53 air pistol.
When photographer David Hurn was taking photos of the actors, the film’s propmaster either misplaced or simply forgot to bring Bond’s signature PPK. The quick-thinking Hurn improvised by getting his own Walther air pistol and using it for the shoot. Nearly 50 years later, Hurn’s original Walther LP-53 from the shoot was auctioned by Sotheby’s for $439,000.
Luckily, few of the movie-going public recognized that the prop wasn’t the same Walther they’d seen on screen. The all-metal LP-53 thankfully shared some cosmetic traits with both the Walther P38 and Luger pistols, both recognized as deadly tools from World War II. The LP-53 is far from deadly, though, firing a lightweight .177 pellet at just around 300 ft/s. (Stats from a Pyramid Air review.)
Sotheby’s auctioneer Dr. Gabriel Heaton commented on the use of the pistol: “Sean Connery clearly had such a presence that it was never questioned. A lot of people presumed it had a silencer attached.”
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie and have a Happy Halloween!