Jean-Pierre Cassel as Jean-François Jardie, dashing French pilot and resistance operative
France, Winter 1942
Film: Army of Shadows
(French title: L’armée des ombres)
Release Date: September 12, 1969
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Costume Designer: Colette Baudot
Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 French Resistance epic, released at a volatile time for France and the world at large, was barely seen by the rest of the world until decades later. Army of Shadows officially debuted in the United States in 2006 and quickly shot to the top of many critics’ “best of the year” lists.
“Melville knew that life for a fighter was not a series of romantic scenes played in trench coats but ambiguous everyday encounters that could result in death,” wrote Roger Ebert in his 2006 review. “His film is about the war within the minds of Resistance members, who must live with constant fear, persist in the face of futility, accept the deaths of their comrades and expect no reward, except the knowledge that they are doing the right thing.”
Based on Joseph Kessel’s 1943 novel that fictionalized his own experience with the Resistance during World War II, Army of Shadows follows a small but dedicated Marseilles-based network of civilian Resistance operators commanded by Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) as they explore the murky morals and tactics of continuing to operate despite the seemingly inevitable fate that awaits them all.
What’d He Wear?
Jean-François Jardie, a former French military pilot, is recruited into Gerbier’s network by Félix Lepercq (Paul Crauchet), who encounters him in a Marseilles bar.
“You’ve got some nerve, wearing that pilot’s jacket,” Lepercq tells Jardie upon their meeting.
Jardie sports a very dark brown leather jacket throughout Army of Shadows, worn like a topcoat over his suits. Per Lepercq’s comment, Jardie’s jacket indeed shares stylistic similarities to outerwear worn by European civil and military aviators and motorcyclists prior to World War II, and its short, thigh-length fit and sportier details differentiate it from the sinister long leather coats traditionally associated with the Gestapo. Jardie’s coat has raglan sleeves with plain cuffs at the ends of the sleeves.
The coat has an Ulster-like lapel with a deep notch so that it can be worn with the left lapel buttoned up to the right with the collar either flipped up and snapped or folded down over the coat. Jardie typically wears this top button undone and only the back of the collar flipped up against his neck, revealing the under-collar back strap as well as the double snaps on the right collar leaf that coordinate with the single snap on the left.
The single-breasted coat has two buttons that fasten somewhat right-of-center for a fuller wrap similar to a double-breasted jacket. The coat has a full belt that closes in the front through a rounded gold-toned single-prong buckle, positioned just above the lower of the two buttons.
A low-slung set-in pocket over the left breast closes with a single snap on a pointed flap, and the gently slanted welted hand pockets are placed just below the belt on each hip.
Jardie wears his leather pilot’s coat with three distinctive outfits in Army of Shadows. He is wearing it when he first encounters Lepercq in Marseilles, worn over a gray tweed single-breasted suit.
Jardie’s pale gray shirt has subtle tonal hairline stripes, button cuffs, and a point collar with minimal tie space. His gray repp striped tie has bold red “uphill” stripes in the classic European direction, bordered by slimmer blue stripes above and below them.
Jardie quickly finds himself serving as a courier in Gerbier’s Resistance network, taking time out of his first mission to Paris to meet his quiet older brother, Luc (Paul Meurisse), for a lunch of rutabagas and unrationed cheese. Jean-François knows his older brother only as a reserved and quiet – if eccentric – philosopher, but Luc Jardie is, in fact, implied to be the secret chief of all French Resistance networks (based on the real mathematician Jean Cavaillès who was executed by the Nazis in February 1944.)
For his mission to Paris, Jardie wears a marine blue pinstripe suit, the same pale gray hairline-striped shirt as with his gray tweed suit, and a navy-on-blue checked tie. The double-breasted suit jacket has a 6×2-button front, peak lapels, and flapped hip pockets. The presumably pleated trousers have plain-hemmed bottoms.
After Lepercq, the agent who recruited him, is arrested, Jardie takes it upon himself to have himself arrested and jailed alongside Lepercq, who is barely alive after relentless torture at the hands at the Gestapo.
As it is now the middle of winter, Jardie adds a layer to his everyday attire, wearing a dark navy jumper under a taupe-gray suit, which appears to have a single-breasted jacket and trousers finished with turn-ups (cuffs). He also wears a different shirt, a pale blue cotton shirt with bisected white stripes and a point collar. He wears a plain navy tie with the knot barely visible above the sweater’s crew-neck opening.
With all of his outfits, Jardie wears a pair of cognac tan leather derby shoes and black socks.
For a nighttime mission, Jardie discards his daily getup of a leather coat, suit, and tie in favor of a dark navy knit shawl-collar cardigan and turtleneck jumper that blends him in with the night sky.
Jardie’s evening mission attire also includes a pair of charcoal gray wool trousers and black leather boots.
Jean-François Jardie’s leather aviator’s jacket adds a dashing sense of adventure to his business suits.
- Dark brown goatskin leather belted jacket with snap-closure Ulster-notched lapels, two-button single-breasted front, raglan sleeves, set-in snap-flapped breast pocket, slanted hand pockets, and plain cuffs
- Taupe-gray single-breasted or marine-blue pinstripe double-breasted business suit
- Light subtly striped cotton shirt with point collar and button cuffs
- Navy blue tie
- Navy blue knit crew-neck sweater
- Cognac tan leather derby shoes
- Black socks
The film gives us little background regarding Jean-François Jardie’s military experience, but it’s significant that he carries a French SACM mle. 1935A semi-automatic pistol, identified by IMFDB and seen only when he draws it upon hearing a sound during a covert nighttime operation.
The 1935A is one of two French pistols to carry the “Modèle 1935” designation, though the SACM 1935A and MAS 1935S share little in common other than their model numbers and the capacity of eight rounds of the unique 7.65x20mm Longue cartridge.
A French military competition for the next military sidearm in 1935 led to submissions from both Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques (SACM) and Manufacture d’armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS), though the latter MAS 1935S submission would be dropped in favor of the SACM 1935A. The specter of war, however, meant the French would need as many arms as it could muster, and both the SACM 1935A and the initially rejected MAS 1935S were ordered into production by October 1937.
The SACM mle. 1935A, which Jardie is seen using on screen, was designed by Charles Petter, a Swiss veteran of the French Foreign Legion, with a unique integrated fire control system that contained the trigger, hammer, mainspring, and sear assembly in one unit and would later be incorporated into the design of the SIG P210 pistol. Delivery to the French Army began in late 1939, and about 10,700 pistols were manufactured before production was halted when the Germans occupied France (and thus, the SACM factory) in June 1940. Following the ousting of the Germans in August 1944, production resumed and a total of 84,950 SACM 1935A pistols were manufactured by February 1950 when the French adopted the MAC mle. 1950 pistol in the more standardized 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie. The now-iconic frame of Cassel’s Jean-François Jardie slumped in captivity while wearing this coat has been used in much of the film’s contemporary promotional artwork.
I said five minutes, but she’ll wait a lifetime.