Lee Marvin’s Plaid Suit in Prime Cut

Lee Marvin as Nick Devlin in Prime Cut (1972)

Lee Marvin as Nick Devlin in Prime Cut (1972)

Vitals

Lee Marvin as Nick Devlin, mob enforcer

Kansas City, summer 1972

Film: Prime Cut
Release Date: June 28, 1972
Director: Michael Ritchie
Costume Designer: Patricia Norris

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Lee Marvin’s submachine gun-packing mob enforcer Nick Devlin gets plenty of opportunities for badass action in Michael Ritchie’s sophomore film, Prime Cut, but the smooth gangster also takes the chance to show a more genteel side, such as when escorting Poppy (Sissy Spacek) to a fancy dinner in a hotel restaurant.

Poppy, still in her teens though she’s endured a lifetime of trauma, has had little exposure to life outside the small-town orphanage where she was groomed for a life of prostitution and degradation. Thus, the poor young woman shows up to dinner a new sheer green dress that attracts plenty of unwanted attention for her choice to neglect wearing anything underneath it, leaving little to the imagination of the roving eyes of their fellow patrons.

The two order dinner—consommé for her, vichyssoise for him—to the appropriate tunes of the orchestra playing “A Bird in a Gilded Cage,” the turn-of-the-century ballad bemoaning the plight of a trapped kept woman à la Poppy. The sophisticated Nick offers some help by signaling which spoon to begin with, though he may have been more ultimately helpful to the young woman by purchasing undergarments for her.

By the end, once all debts have been settled with rancher-pimp Mary Ann (Gene Hackman), Nick provides Poppy with the opportunity to exact revenge—via a hard punch—of the matron of the cruel orphanage from which Poppy and her friends like Violet (Janit Baldwin) were sold into prostitution.

What’d He Wear?

Nick Devlin’s gray plaid suit makes its first appearance for his dinner with Poppy, though even the complex and colorful plaid suiting can hardly compete for attention against Poppy’s transparent green dress. The latter color in the navy, white, and orange plaid pattern coordinates with both his rust orange tie and his orange striped tie.

Nick stares down a fellow patron who can't keep his eyes to himself.

Nick stares down a fellow patron who can’t keep his eyes to himself.

The plaid suit jacket is cut and styled mostly like Nick’s other suits, a single-breasted two-button jacket with substantial notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and long double vents. This suit jacket’s single-button cuffs are the only differentiating point of style from his other two suits seen on screen.

Enjoying vichyssoise.

Enjoying vichyssoise.

Nick wears a striped shirt, though the low contrast between the orange and lilac bengal stripes provides an overall orange effect. The shirt has a large point collar, breast pocket, and double (French) cuffs with gold links. His darker rust orange tie presents a much stronger contrast against the striped shirt.

PRIME CUT

The suit and shirt return for the finale, when Nick, Shea, Shaughnessy, Poppy, and Violet close down the orphanage/brothel before returning to Chicago, which Nick describes to Poppy as “windy, calm, and peaceful as anywhere.” Instead of the orange tie, Nick opts for a solid black tie.

Both ties, in the tradition of 1970s fashion trends, are considerably wide, coordinating with the lapels and shirt collar and doing their part to fill the open space between the lapels of his suit.

All's well by the end of Prime Cut.

All’s well by the end of Prime Cut.

Nick steps out wearing a pair of dark cordovan leather derby shoes, probably the same textured derbies and squared apron toes that he also wore with his beige suit. He also appears to be wearing the same dark brown cotton lisle socks.

PRIME CUT

Little is seen of this suit’s trousers, but—like the jacket—they appear to be consistent in style with his other suit trousers with their medium rise, flat front, and plain-hemmed bottoms. Does he also wear the same brown leather belt with its asymmetrical gold buckle and red enamel accents? Possibly.

What to Imbibe

Nick’s post-prandial whiskey of choice is Maker’s Mark bourbon, drank neat from a glass snifter. Is this one of the first appearances of Maker’s Mark in a mainstream movie?

Though the label isn't seen, the bottle's shape and red wax top tells us that Nick is enjoying a glass of Maker's Mark. The red wax top has been a signature element of Maker's Mark's branding since its introduction in 1958.

Though the label isn’t seen, the bottle’s shape and red wax top tells us that Nick is enjoying a glass of Maker’s Mark. The red wax top has been a signature element of Maker’s Mark’s branding since its introduction in 1958.

Despite its ubiquity today, Maker’s Mark is a relative newcomer in the bourbon world, a place where Jim Beam was introduced in 1795, Old Crow in 1835, Early Times in 1860, and countless others across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. First bottled in 1958, four years after production began at the Burks’ Distillery near Loretto, Maker’s Mark sought to differentiate itself in the bourbon marketplace over the following decades with the tagline: “It tastes expensive… and it is.”

How to Get the Look

Lee Marvin and Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut (1972)

Lee Marvin and Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut (1972)

Nick Devlin’s third of three suits in Prime Cut reinforces his unapologetically bold dressing.

  • Gray plaid suit with navy, orange, and white plaid:
    • Single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, single-button cuffs, and long double vents
    • Flat front trousers with tall belt loops, frogmouth front pockets, flapped set-in back pockets, and flared plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Orange-and-lilac bengal-striped shirt with large point collar, breast pocket, and double/French cuffs
    • Gold cuff links
  • Rust orange silk tie
  • Brown leather belt with extended gold single-prong buckle with red enamel circle
  • Dark cordovan textured leather squared apron-toe derby shoes
  • Dark brown cotton lisle socks

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

Orphanage madam: Who do you think you are?
Nick: J. Edgar Hoover.

2 comments

  1. John OConnor

    “unapologetically bold dressing” LOL! I think I may be the person of interest who piqued your interest in this scene from this movie!

    Like

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