Samuel L. Jackson as Mitch Henessey, wisecracking private detective and ex-con
New Jersey, Christmas 1996
Film: The Long Kiss Goodnight
Release Date: October 11, 1996
Director: Renny Harlin
Costume Designer: Joanna Johnston
As Christmas is only two weeks away, BAMF Style is taking a look at the Die Hard-meets-The Bourne Identity holiday action flick, The Long Kiss Goodnight.
The Long Kiss Goodnight has received a generally positive reception in the 20 years since it’s release, but there’s one review that stands out of particular importance for this blog. In 2001, an IMDB reviewer gave the movie the top rating of 10 stars with the added note:
Saw this film on TV just now for the first time in ages and realised what makes it so good… SAMUEL L. JACKSON’S WARDROBE.
Indeed, there is something appealing about seeing the cynical private eye subverting genre expectations by not only playing sidekick but also doing so while wearing a mishmash of loud clothing that just wouldn’t work for anyone but Samuel L. Jackson.
The Long Kiss Goodnight focuses on amnesiac schoolteacher Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) who discovers her shadowy past as a CIA assassin. Since she woke up pregnant eight years earlier with no recollection of who she was, Samantha had spent a small fortune in private investigators tasked with helping her find clues about her background. It isn’t until she’s enlisted the help of skid row private eye Mitch Henessey (Jackson) that the pieces begin to fall into place.
Given director Renny Harlin’s previous direction on Die Hard 2 and writer Shane Black’s scripts for the first two Lethal Weapon installments, it makes sense that Christmas provides the backdrop to the film’s violent and often blackly comic action. After the release of The Nice Guys earlier this year, Black explained to Entertainment Weekly why the holidays feature so frequently in his screenplays:
Christmas represents a little stutter in the march of days, a hush in which we have a chance to assess and retrospect our lives. I tend to think also that it just informs as a backdrop. The first time I noticed it was Three Days of the Condor, the Sydney Pollack film, where Christmas in the background adds this really odd, chilling counterpoint to the espionage plot. I also think that Christmas is just a thing of beauty, especially as it applies to places like Los Angeles, where it’s not so obvious, and you have to dig for it, like little nuggets. One night, on Christmas Eve, I walked past a Mexican lunch wagon serving tacos, and I saw this little string, and on it was a little broken plastic figurine, with a light bulb inside it, of the Virgin Mary. And I thought, that’s just a little hidden piece of magic. You know, all around the city are little slices, little icons of Christmas, that are as effective and beautiful in and of themselves as any 40-foot Christmas tree on the lawn of the White House.
What’d He Wear?
Having drenched his own clothing after falling through the ice, Mitch Henessey is given some sharp duds from Nathan Waldman (Brian Cox), Samantha’s former CIA handler. Each individual garment makes sense in the collection of an older man like Waldman, but only a confident cat like Samuel L. Jackson could pull off wearing all of them together.
The base layer of Mitch’s borrowed outfit is a bulky knit turtleneck sweater in electric yellow with dark brown heathering. It is the same sweater that Waldman had been wearing when we first met him on screen the evening before while lecturing his senile sister Alice about her dog’s asshole.
Over his heathered jumper, Mitch wears a light gray cashmere cardigan sweater from Lacoste, easily identified by the familiar green crocodile logo on the left breast. The cardigan is oversized for Jackson’s frame, clearly meant to fit the more corpulent Waldman, with the set-in sleeves falling below Jackson’s shoulders. It has five light gray plastic buttons down the front, and Mitch leaves the bottom hem button undone. The cuffs are ribbed.
When he first dons the outfit, Mitch’s outer layer is a green polyester crested blazer that evidently signifies Waldman’s membership in a local country club. A loud kelly green in color and likely constructed from polyester or at least a synthetic blend, the blazer is single-breasted with two crested gold shank buttons on the front and three smaller gold shank buttons on each cuff. Edge swelling is present on the notch lapels, the welted breast pocket, and the straight flaps of the hip patch pockets. There is a single vent in the back.
The round patch on the blazer’s breast pocket is a darker shade of green than the blazer with red trim on the edge. Two crossed golf clubs are embroidered in gold above a white ball on a gold tee, creating four quadrants. The top quadrant features a gold embroidered “W” with a red “C” stitched in the left and right sides, likely an abbreviation for a “WCC” country club to which Waldman belonged.
Surprisingly, none of the items listed above are the loudest part of Mitch’s outfit, an honor that clearly belongs to his large-scaled multi-plaid twill trousers. The bold check consists of brown, red, and blue tartan plaid on a tan ground… an odd choice as none of these colors match the rest of his outfit.
The flat front trousers have frogmouth pockets on the front, jetted pockets in the back, and plain-hemmed bottoms. The left back pocket closes with a button, but the right pocket is open. The waistband has an extended tab in the front with a hidden hook closure.
The combined low rise and high break indicate that the trousers were meant to appear intended for a shorter man (Brian Cox is 5’9″ compared to Jackson at 6’2″), a wise detail on the part of the costume team.
Mitch wears a dark burgundy brown leather belt with a distinctive polished gold half-oval buckle that may be unique to its manufacturer.
Although the rest of the outfit might have sartorial purists cringing, Mitch follows the basic menswear rule of matching the color of his belt to his shoes… in this case, a pair of very dark burgundy patent leather horsebit loafers with a gold horsebit detail and raised black heels, worn with pale gray cotton dress socks.
Mitch completes his outfit with a furry green ivy cap, likely a Kangol Furgora 504 in an angora-acrylic blend. The furry texture comes from angora, a soft, silky wool produced by the Angora rabbit. The Kangol brand has long been known to be a favorite of Samuel L. Jackson, who wears them in real life and in movies like Jackie Brown. Although evidently no longer available in green, you can still pick up a furry Furgora 504 from KangolStore.com.
Mitch wears a gold class ring on the third finger of his right hand with a red ruby stone.
As plenty of The Long Kiss Goodnight‘s action is set in the snow, Mitch is wise to pick up Waldman’s discarded gloves from the dashboard of his Lincoln and wear them through most of the movie. The woolen gloves are a sandy shade of brown and ribbed over the wrists.
When the weather really starts to cool down, Mitch wears the herringbone wool topcoat that Waldman had initially given to Samantha. Once she transitioned from the amnesiac schoolteacher back to “Charly the spy” in Atlantic City, she was no longer in need of a tweedy topcoat and gave it to her partner-in-sorta-crime to wear.
The coat is black and white herringbone tweed with gray fur peak lapels. The single-breasted front has three black woven leather buttons. The hip pockets are flapped, and there is a flapped ticket pocket on the right side. Each set-in sleeve ends with two small buttons that match those on the front. There is a single vent in the back and a mustard plaid silk lining that ties in some of the color and patterns in the rest of the outfit.
Like the rest of Waldman’s clothing, the coat falls shorter than intended on Jackson, falling well above his knees.
The Long Kiss Goodnight‘s costume designer Joanna Johnston has a prolific career spanning nearly 40 years on screen, beginning with her uncredited work for Death on the Nile (1978). Most recently, she worked on period films like Lincoln (2012), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), and Allied (2016).
Go Big or Go Home
Samantha: What, are you a Mormon?
Mitch: Yes, I’m a Mormon. That’s why I just smoked a pack of Newports and drank three vodka tonics.
Mitch may take pride in his hedonistic habits of smoking and drinking, but Samantha’s transition to Charly Baltimore puts his substance abuse to shame. She has a particularly cool trick with a shot glass full of Finlandia vodka (which The Long Kiss Goodnight is very careful to emphasize as their brand of choice!) that I’ve never been able to replicate… at the expense of several souvenir shot glasses.
Appropriate for his down-and-out worldview, Mitch loves the blues and often sings his tasks to a classic stop-time blues riff in order to relieve stress. Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy”, recorded in 1955 as a response to Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man” and also briefly featured in Goodfellas, played in the movie as Mitch nervously surveyed his own situation on Daedaelus’ farm.
Another great music cue comes a few scenes later after Samantha and Mitch (or at least just Samantha) have effectively disabled some CIA heavies who cornered them in an Atlantic City alleyway. The brash Charly has taken over Sam, and Mitch makes the mistake of vocally wondering if she even needs him anymore.
“Good point,” she nonchalantly responds before even more nonchalantly pushing him out the passenger door of their “borrowed” Ford Bronco. Once again discarded, all Mitch can do is cynically lay in the street and light up a Newport while Marvin Gaye’s “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” plays on the soundtrack… a song so exciting that Phil Spector nearly crashed his car on Sunset Boulevard when he first heard it on the radio after its 1962 release.
Mitch is always ready with a quick, sarcastic retort, although his nothing-to-lose cynicism often comes at odds with his natural sense of self-preservation. Having just been tossed out of the car and left in the street, he can’t help but to remind Samantha of his apparent uselessness that got him kicked out in the first place…
Samantha: I’m leaving the country, Mitch. I need a fake passport and I need money, lots of it.
Mitch: Well why didn’t you say so? Hold on a minute while I pull that outta my ass.
How to Get the Look
Although it isn’t Mitch’s clothing, Samuel L. Jackson looks perfectly at home – and better than anyone should! – wearing Nathan Waldman’s bold and bright cold-weather attire.
- Kelly green polyester single-breasted blazer with notch lapels, 2 gold crested shank button front, welted breast pocket with “WCC” crest, flapped patch pockets on hips, 3-button cuffs, and single back vent
- Electric yellow and brown heathered cotton knit turtleneck sweater
- Light gray cashmere Lacoste cardigan sweater with 5-button front and ribbed cuffs
- Tan multi-colored tartan plaid twill flat front trousers with low rise, belt loops, frogmouth front pockets, jetted back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Burgundy brown leather belt with rounded gold buckle
- Dark burgundy patent leather apron-toe horsebit loafers with gold horsebit detail and raised black heels
- Pale gray cotton dress socks
- Green angora-blend Kangol “Furgora” ivy cap
- Black-and-white herringbone tweed single-breasted 3-button topcoat with gray fur-faced peak lapels, flapped hip pockets, ticket pocket, 2-button cuffs, and single back vent
- Brown woolen gloves
- Gold class ring with ruby stone
Alley Agent: Hey, honey, this is a real big fucking gun.
Mitch: This ain’t no ham on rye, pal.
Samantha: What the hell are you doing?
Mitch: Saving your life. I would have been here sooner, but I was thinkin’ up that “ham on rye” line.
The non-“ham on rye” in which Mitch takes so much pride is a stainless steel Colt King Cobra revolver, a medium-size “V”-framed double-action revolver produced in short bursts by Colt throughout the late 1980s and 1990s. It is chambered for the powerful .357 Magnum cartridge, ostensibly serving as a replacement for Colt’s earlier Trooper line of medium-framed revolvers and supplementing the larger-framed Python series that was still in production at the time.
The Colt King Cobra was offered in several different finish and barrel length configurations. Colt’s signature bright and highly polished blued finish was available through the weapon’s first production run from 1986 to 1992 with stainless offerings with a matte finish (1987-1992 and 1994-1998) and polished finish (1988-1992) also available. It was also available in a variety of barrel lengths throughout its run: 2″, 2.5″, 4″, 6″, and 8″. Mitch appears to carry a 6″-barreled model with a polished stainless finish.
The Colt King Cobra is one of many weapons handled by Mitch Henessey and was likely taken from the cache of weapons recovered from Daedalus’ compound. Mitch had earlier carried his own piece, a nickel Smith & Wesson Model 36, but he lost it during the train station gunfight.
As well as borrowing Nathan Waldman’s clothing, Mitch also temporarily relieves him on his sidearm, a black SIG Sauer P225 semi-automatic pistol. The P225 is one of three handguns that Waldman packs in addition to a snubnose Smith & Wesson Model 19 and a Walther PPK/S proudly carried near his privates. The SIG P225 was the first compact variant that SIG Sauer had produced of its new P220 model in the mid-1970s, and it quickly entered West German police service as the P6 pistol. The P225’s compact size and single-stack magazine for eight rounds of 9×19 mm Parabellum ammunition made it a popular handgun for American concealed carriers faced with magazine capacity limits.
Armed with his P225, Mitch disarms Daedalus of his Winchester Model 1894 lever-action rifle, which makes him feel every bit the badass as he sings his reassuring blues to himself… until Waldman shoves a revolver into his neck a few minutes later. Daedalus’ choice of a Winchester rifle aptly serves his cover as a “Mr. Outdoors” rural type rather than the international spy he is proven to be. Often credited as the “ultimate lever-action design,” the Winchester Model 1894 was designed by John Browning as the first rifle to chamber the smokeless powder .30-30 Winchester (.30 WCF) round and enjoyed more than 100 years of production until U.S. Repeating Arms discontinued it in 2006.
The Winchester isn’t the only rifle Mitch carries, as Samantha/Charly later hands off her Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifle to cover her while she infiltrates the Niagara Falls compound to rescue her daughter Caitlin. This stainless rifle has a synthetic black stock and a side-mounted stainless scope.
The final act in Niagara Falls also finds Mitch taking control of a dead henchman’s Beretta 92FS.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
Samantha: Easy, sport. I got myself outta Beirut once, I think I can get outta New Jersey.
Mitch: Yeah? Well, don’t be so sure. Others have tried and failed. The entire population, in fact.