Richard Burton’s Gray Tweed Jacket in The Sandpiper
Richard Burton as Dr. Edward Hewitt, self-righteous Episcopal boarding school headmaster
Big Sur, California, Spring 1965
Film: The Sandpiper
Release Date: June 23, 1965
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff
Seventy years ago today, more than 500 gathered on a picturesque terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean for the grand opening of Nepenthe, a restaurant named for the medicine of ancient Greek mythology that helped one forget their sorrows.
Development on the land began in 1925 with the construction of a log cabin. Two decades later, Hollywood royalty Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth purchased the cabin on a whim but never did anything further, selling it in 1947 to Bill and Madelaine “Lolly” Fassett. The Fassetts hired Frank Lloyd Wright protégé Rowan Maiden to expand the area into a large terrace with room for dancing, dining, built-in bleachers, and a fire pit.
After the restaurant opened on April 24, 1949, Nepenthe became renowned for its stunning panoramic views of 50 miles of Big Sur’s south coast as well as Graves Canyon and the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Artists, writers, and celebrities flocked to the iconic restaurant in the decades to follow, with newlyweds Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton a frequent presence during the production of their Big Sur-set melodrama, The Sandpiper. (Read more about their time at the restaurant here.)
“And there is no other Nepenthe, where those who made The Sandpiper came and relaxed and found the spirit of the endless day even as night came to the noblest thing I have ever seen,” narrated Burton in a documentary about Big Sur produced during the film’s production. Nepenthe was so ingrained into regional culture that the famous terrace was reconstructed on a sound stage for a scene where Burton’s and Taylor’s characters verbally spar with one of her friends, played by Charles Bronson.
The lovestruck Dr. Edward Hewitt traveled an hour south from Monterey in search of Laura Reynolds, the free-spirited mother of one of his students, with the excuse that he needed her to sign papers to keep her son at his school though he eventually admits that he “cannot dispel [her] from [his] thoughts,” and the couple’s inevitable affair begins… or, as she puts it, he did what he’s wanted to do ever since he first saw her.
After a little bit of guilt and a lot more lying later, Edward arrives on Laura’s beach for a weekend together, having told his wife that he “was going to San Francisco for three days on a fundraising drive” for the school.
“It must be wonderful to live in such a place forever,” narrated Burton in the same documentary. “But think twice before you try it, for it is a land not always quiet and serene but often dramatic, violent, awesome. This is Big Sur… even today.”
What’d He Wear?
Though we first meet him in his Episcopal vestments, Dr. Edward Hewitt has a fine wardrobe of tailored suits, comfortable casual wear, and everything in between, including a plaid three-button blazer and a number of timeless tweed sport jackets.
One of the latter is a fine black-and-gray mixed tweed sports coat with a traditional American undarted sack cut, not unlike the one that Louis Jourdan wore as Burton’s romantic rival two years earlier in The V.I.P.s.
The single-breasted sport jacket has three black buttons on the front that match the three buttons on each cuff. It has a welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and single back vent.
Edward wears a white self-striped shirt made from such a thin, lightweight cotton that the reinforced crew-neck band of his short-sleeved undershirt can be easily seen through the fabric. His shirt has a spread collar, plain front, and double (French) cuffs fastened with squared gold cuff links.
Edward’s repp tie maintains his outfit’s monochromatic mien, block-striped in black and dark gray in the traditionally American “downhill” right shoulder-to-left hip direction. The tie is consistent with the super slim trends of the mid-1960s, primarily straight from knot to blade and no wider than 2.5 inches.
The Tie Bar currently offers a similar product, the 2.5″-wide Black College Stripe Wool Tie in a blend of 70% wool and 30% silk.
Edward’s attire below the waist is simple and uncomplicated, coordinating with his grayscale upper half. He wears charcoal flat front trousers with belt loops—but no belt—and black leather lace-up shoes with dark socks.
While his monochromatic jacket and tie may have been a bit conservative for Nepenthe, Edward eventually lets down his sartorial guard when he arrives at Laura’s for a romantic beach weekend together, wearing his same gray tweed jacket and charcoal slacks but with a polo as a dressed-down alternative to the white shirt and tie.
This long-sleeve polo shirt is a light blue cotton knit with a three-button top that he wears fully fastened when he arrives on the beach but unbuttons as he loosens up with Laura by the fire.
After his weekend in the sun with Laura, the gray tweed jacket is exclusively worn with a white shirt and solid charcoal skinny tie rather than the striped tie seen earlier. At the film’s finale, as he’s planning to embark on his summer trip and his separation from his wife, Claire (Eva Marie Saint), he carries a khaki raincoat with a beige windowpane-checked lining.
On his left wrist, Burton wears a gold wristwatch, likely one of the actor’s own timepieces. Based on the timing of the production and the glimpses we get of the watch, it may be the yellow gold Patek Philippe that Taylor had gifted him during the production of Cleopatra a few years earlier. This automatic watch has a champagne gold dial and a woven gold bracelet. Admittedly, a Patek Philippe would be quite a showy piece for a school headmaster to wear.
How to Get the Look
A gray tweed sport jacket should be a staple of every gentleman’s wardrobe, a versatile piece that can be dressed up with a shirt and tie or dressed down with a polo and slacks… or even jeans, not that you’d see the dignified Dr. Hewitt sporting denim. The neutral palette also allows its wearer to add color or remain understated, as we see with Edward’s white shirts and dark ties.
- Gray mixed tweed single-breasted 3-button sport jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- White self-striped thin cotton shirt with spread collar, plain front, and double/French cuffs
- Black-and-gray “downhill”-striped skinny silk repp tie
- Charcoal flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black leather lace-up shoes
- Black socks
- White cotton crew-neck short-sleeve undershirt
- Khaki raincoat
- Patek Philippe yellow gold automatic wristwatch with champagne-colored dial and woven bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie or see a variety of movies that Liz and Dick made together with the Taylor and Burton Film Collection.
Well, I served in the Medical Corps during the war, and I can’t tell you how many dying and wounded men found something of god’s mercy at the end of just such a needle as you described.