Tom Cruise in Rain Man

Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man (1988)

Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man (1988)

Vitals

Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt, yuppie exotic car sales executive

Across the United States, Summer 1988

Film: Rain Man
Release Date: December 16, 1988
Director: Barry Levinson
Wardrobe Credit: Bernie Pollack

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Let’s kick off this summer’s #CarWeek! As today, July 3, is Tom Cruise’s birthday, there’s hardly a more appropriate subject than the iconic Buick Roadmaster he drives for his trip across the United States with Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

Cruise stars as Charlie Babbitt, an L.A. yuppie with a failing exotic car import and sales business who just had to postpone a romantic getaway with his girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino) to return to Cincinnati for his estranged father’s funeral. With his business in trouble, Charlie at least looks forward to the promise of a substantial inheritance until he learns that his sole endowment from the millionaire’s estate is the very 1949 Buick convertible that drove father and son apart in the first place… as well as the rose bushes, he definitely got the rose bushes.

Charlie’s search for the heir to his father’s fortune leads him to Wallbrook, a mental health facility where he learns that he has an autistic older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), and—in a moment of ill-advised opportunism—kidnaps his brother with the initial hopes of returning to Los Angeles and letting the courts settle who deserves Sanford Babbitt’s fortune. Along the way, Charlie develops a true kinship with and appreciation for Raymond, particularly after realizing that his memories of the protective “rain man” from his childhood were actually of the older brother he barely got to know.

It’s lucky for the two men’s relationship that Raymond refused to fly any airline except Qantas, providing the opportunity for the brothers to bond as they drive from one secluded motel and country diner to the next with the occasional stop for Judge Wapner but nary a K-Mart to be patronized.

I must say, I’m with Raymond on this one; if I’m going to be traveling across the U.S., I’d pick a car over a plane anytime, especially if that means a cruise on Route 66 in a classic American convertible.

What’d He Wear?

Properly accessorized with Ray-Ban sunglasses, Charlie Babbitt’s got the look of a stylish but selfish yuppie, exclusively sporting cool tones of gray, charcoal, and navy silk with nary any warmth to his palette save for the gold Rolex shining from his wrist, making him the smooth urbanite response to Don Johnson’s pastel-clad ’80s hero in Miami Vice.

Prologue

Los Angeles

To the tune of The Belle Stars’ “Iko Iko”, we meet Charlie Babbitt as he looks over a sleek new Lamborghini Countach, the latest import to his sales fleet of exotic cars. His attire for the workday is clearly consistent with how he dresses for every occasion: a trendy suit or sport jacket with pleated trousers, a coordinating soft polo or silk button-up, and loafers.

  • Charcoal 2-button short-sleeve polo shirt
  • Light gray mini-herringbone linen/silk suit:
    • Single-breasted 1-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather tassel loafers
Charlie admires his reflection on a glossy new Lamborghini... and the strategic placement of the luxury marque's logo tells us even more about what the young man thinks of himself.

Charlie admires his reflection on a glossy new Lamborghini… and the strategic placement of the luxury marque’s logo tells us even more about what the young man thinks of himself.

Day 1 – Saturday

Leaving L.A.

After a tense day at the office, Charlie and Susanna are on their way to a romantic getaway in Palm Springs when he gets a call on his car phone (hello 1988!) informing him of his father’s death and redirecting him to Cincinnati for the funeral.

  • Charcoal microfiber soft silk shirt with spread collar (buttoned to neck), plain front, breast pocket, and button cuffs
  • Dark navy windowpane (rust and faded white check) slubbed linen-blend twill Bobby Yosten single-breasted sport jacket with notch lapels, low 2-button stance, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • Light gray mini-herringbone linen/silk double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather tassel loafers
A busy day at the office.

A busy day at the office.

Day 2 – Sunday

A funeral in Cincinnati

Dressed in a shiny gray silk suit, Charlie’s attire for his father’s funeral is hardly traditional but apropos the lack of warmth between he and Sanford Babbitt. Given how abruptly Charlie and Susanna changed their plans from a romantic weekend in Palm Springs to a rainy funeral in Cincinnati, it’s likely that Charlie didn’t even stop home in L.A. to pack a new bag and instead just brought along the clothes he was planning to wear on vacation. In that context, this suit is still probably the most formal piece from Charlie’s road wardrobe as everything else consists of odd jackets and slacks.

  • Charcoal microfiber soft silk shirt with spread collar (buttoned to neck), plain front, breast pocket, and button cuffs
  • Gray silk suit with black-and-white slubbing:
    • Single-breasted 1-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Double reverse-pleated trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, jetted back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather tassel loafers
Charlie attends the funeral of his estranged father.

Charlie attends the funeral of his estranged father.

Sanford Babbitt’s funeral marks the first of two times that Charlie would wear this particular suit in Rain Man. The suiting is gray silk with black-streaked slubbing, similar to the “atomic fleck” effect popular during the 1950s, with the occasional white slub.

Day 3 – Monday

Meeting Raymond at Wallbrook

Of course, today’s Monday. I always drive the car on Saturday. Never drive on a Monday.

Charlie Babbitt first meets his brother Raymond the day after his father’s funeral when hoping to identify the mysterious unnamed trustee inheriting his father’s $3 million estate.

Charlie processes the fact that, at the age of 26, he has just learned of the existence of his older brother Raymond.

Charlie processes the fact that, at the age of 26, he has just learned of the existence of his older brother Raymond.

The disappointed son’s personal investigation takes him to Wallbrook, a psychiatric hospital in Cincinnati, where he whisks Raymond away in his father’s prized Buick Roadmaster. The scene implies that Charlie and Susanna take Raymond across state lines into Kentucky, but the Vernon Manor Hotel—now a pediatric hospital—was actually located at 400 Oak Street in Cincinnati. (Curiously, this is the address that Raymond provides as the K-Mart that is his preferred underwear purveyor.)

  • Dark navy knit cotton 2-button short-sleeve polo shirt by Carroll and Company
  • Dark navy windowpane (rust and faded white check) slubbed linen-blend twill Bobby Yosten single-breasted sport jacket with notch lapels, low 2-button stance, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • Light gray mini-herringbone linen/silk double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather tassel loafers
  • Gray socks
  • Gray cotton Calvin Klein boxer shorts with white stitched band branding (though he gives Raymond a pair of “Hanes 32” underwear a few days later)
Charlie stands astride his newly inherited Roadmaster on the driveway ("slow on the driveway") at Wallbrook.

Charlie stands astride his newly inherited Roadmaster on the driveway (“slow on the driveway”) at Wallbrook.

Both the sport jacket and the polo shirt have since been auctioned. The Bobby Yosten jacket, described as a “navy blue knobby linen blend” in the auction listing has yet to be sold, but the polo shirt—made by Carroll and Company and described as a size M—was included with a pair of screen-worn woven gray trousers that sold for $2,560.

A more complete version of the outfit, consisting of a second Bobby Yosten jacket, a second navy knit cotton Carroll and Company polo (this one size L), gray-and-white herringbone slacks (size 30×31), black-and-gray diamond pattern socks, and light blue cotton Perry Ellis boxers (size 30) was also auctioned, yielding a total of $3,000.

The kidnapper makes his ransom demands.

The kidnapper makes his ransom demands.

Susanna: You use me, you use Raymond, you use everybody!
Charlie: Using Raymond? Hey Raymond, am I using you? Am I using you, Raymond?
Raymond: Yeah.
Charlie: Shut up! He is answering a question from a half hour ago!

Day 4 – Tuesday

Grounded

Now traveling sans a frustrated Susanna, Charlie dons the silk suit from his father’s funeral two days earlier and takes Raymond to breakfast at a diner in Newport, Kentucky—directly across the river from Cincinnati—where both he and waitress Sally Dibbs (Bonnie Hunt) are duly impressed by Raymond’s ability to instantly count the number of matches (246) that spilled to the floor.

Charlie isn't yet used to the fact that he'll need to keep an extra eye on Raymond, particularly when in a new place.

Charlie isn’t yet used to the fact that he’ll need to keep an extra eye on Raymond, particularly when in a new place.

Charlie intends for it to be a single stop before their flight back to L.A., but—as Raymond’s preferred accident-free Qantas does not fly from Cincinnati to Los Angeles—Charlie must change plans and begins the first leg of a long road trip in the Roadmaster that had proved to be the final wedge in his relationship with his father.

  • Charcoal knit long-sleeve polo shirt with three widely spaced buttons
  • Gray silk suit with black-and-white slubbing:
    • Single-breasted 1-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Double reverse-pleated trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, jetted back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather tassel loafers
Qantas receives the greatest word-of-mouth advertising it could ask for in the form of Raymond Babbitt's memorization and recital of aviation disaster stats and facts.

Qantas receives the greatest word-of-mouth advertising it could ask for in the form of Raymond Babbitt’s memorization and recital of aviation disaster stats and facts.

Day 5 – Wednesday

Bumblefuck, Missouri

So much for a long road trip. The rain prevents Raymond from allowing he and Charlie to leave their room at “the Honeymoon Haven Motel in Bumblefuck, Missouri”, presumably off of U.S. Route 60.

  • Pale gray shirt covered with mini navy dots, with point collar, plain front, and two low-slung chest pockets
  • Gray silk double reverse-pleated trousers with fitted waistband, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Brown leather penny loafers
  • Charcoal socks
Charlie's clothing is as gray as his attitude as he downs Pepto-Bismol in a lonely motel room.

Charlie’s clothing is as gray as his attitude as he downs Pepto-Bismol in a lonely motel room.

Day 6 – Thursday

Old 66 in Oklahoma

Clear skies on Thursday mean extended road time for Charlie and Raymond, who admits that he isn’t wearing any underwear as he’s out of his fresh pairs from K-Mart. Growing increasingly impatient with his inability to deal with his brother’s condition, Charlie stops in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where he takes Raymond to a family doctor who eagerly explores Raymond’s intellectual talents and aptitude for math, even if he isn’t able to process the concepts on a practical level. The rest of the day’s activities include phone booth farting and a Judge Wapner “emergency” before the two finally stop for the night at the Big 8 Motel in El Reno, Oklahoma, where they bond over their shared memories of Charlie’s childhood.

  • Dark navy knit cotton 2-button short-sleeve polo shirt by Carroll and Company
  • Light taupe double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Brown leather penny loafers
  • Taupe socks

Although the photos from this auction listing for the dark navy polo and “gray woven slacks” indicate that the costume was worn in this scene, the trousers depicted in the auction listing differ with the more neutral-toned taupe slacks seen on screen.

With the help of a small-town doctor, Charlie discovers the depth of his brother's talents.

With the help of a small-town doctor, Charlie discovers the depth of his brother’s talents.

It’s this sequence in Oklahoma, halfway through the brothers’ road trip, where we start to see Charlie’s genuine affection toward Raymond and concern for his wellbeing emerge, and with that shift in attitude comes a slight palette shift toward taupe and ivory, slightly warmer colors than his usual shades of gray.

The ivory comes into play when Charlie recognizes the desperate situation on their hands if Raymond isn’t able to watch The People’s Court when it airs. Posing as “Donald Clemons from the A.C. Nielsen Company” with his partner, “Mr. Bainbridge”, Charlie dons a light gray silk single-button sport jacket to give himself a more professional appearance as he tries to gain his brother entrance to a rural farmhouse… with a television.

Raymond and Charlie hustle to meet the approaching deadline of "one minute to Wapner."

Raymond and Charlie hustle to meet the approaching deadline of “one minute to Wapner.”

This light gray jacket with white slubbing was part of a selection of Cruise’s screen-worn clothing included in a 2013 auction.

Day 7 – Friday

Into the desert

Raymond entertains himself with the washers and dryers at a coin-operated laundromat in the desert, presumably located in Tucumcari, New Mexico, though the actual location has been identified as Blue Diamond, Nevada. (Tucumcari, however, would be consistent with the trip’s adherence to the old Route 66.) After some bad news from his associate Lenny, we follow the Roadmaster on a lonely drive through the desert into Vegas, set first to the tune of Lou Christie’s “Beyond the Blue Horizon” before Aaron Neville and Rob Wasserman’s “Stardust” takes over the soundtrack, two contemporary takes on 1920s and 1930s standards.

  • Suva gray silk shirt with slim point collar, plain front, breast pocket, and button cuffs
  • Gray wool tweed Sy Devore double-reverse pleated trousers with fitted waistband, slightly slanted side pockets, double flapped back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather tassel loafers
  • Black-and-gray socks
No more missing Wapner, thanks to the portable Sony TV that Charlie thoughtfully purchased for Raymond... though there are moments where the laundromat machines prove to be even more compelling than The People's Court.

No more missing Wapner, thanks to the portable Sony TV that Charlie thoughtfully purchased for Raymond… though there are moments where the laundromat machines prove to be even more compelling than The People’s Court.

Though simple, the outfit is one of Charlie’s most interesting. His somewhat oversized shirt, a trend of the ’80s, is gray silk with a rosy cast similar to the color known as “suva gray”. While comfortable, silk’s proneness to wrinkling shows after Charlie spends several hours in the driver’s seat of his father’s Roadmaster.

At first, the trousers appeared to be the same ones belonging to the suit he wore for his father’s funeral, but a closer look reveals that this has two flapped back pockets, rather than just the right pocket flapped as on the suit trousers. Furthermore, an auction listing for the outfit describes the trousers as “slate gray tweed wool,” no doubt an unusual and uncomfortably warm choice for these desert scenes and certainly different from the obvious silk of his suit.

The same auction listing informs us that the trousers are a product of Sy Devore, the “tailor to the stars” who styled the Rat Pack during their early ’60s heyday. Though the legendary Devore himself died in 1967, the Sherman Oaks store carrying his name has continued dressing some of Hollywood’s elite for the better part of a century.

Day 8 – Saturday

Vegas, baby!

A chance observation at a diner outside Las Vegas inspires Charlie to test Raymond’s quick counting and memory, soon discovering that his brother’s skills include card counting… and how! With a dream in mind to recoup at least the $80,000 he needs to save his business, Charlie enthusiastically backtracks to Las Vegas. (Based on the fact that both men are still wearing their clothes from the day before, I wonder if this scene was intended to immediately follow his phone call from Lenny the previous day before the decision was made in post-production to push this a day later.)

Once the brothers Babbitt have returned to Las Vegas, we’re treated to the iconic scene of both gents newly tailored in gray subtle plaid suits—Charlie’s single-breasted, Raymond’s double-breasted—as they approach a Caesars Palace blackjack table.

  • White satin tonal self-striped shirt with narrow point collar, plain front, breast pocket, and single-button cuffs
  • Gray subtle plaid open-weave wool tailored suit:
    • Single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, low 2-button stance, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Reverse-pleated trousers with fitted waistband and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black leather shoes
  • Gray-on-gray patterned socks
Production photo of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in their new gray suits and at the tables in Rain Man.

Production photo of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in their new gray suits and at the tables in Rain Man.

“It’s not K-Mart,” observes Raymond of his new duds, though the timing of the scene and the length of his sleeves indicates that he is still likely wearing something off-the-rack as no tailor or bespoke manufacturer would be able to whip up two new suits in a matter of minutes. Raymond would wear his new suit and shirt again two days later for his custody hearing in L.A.

Day 9 – Sunday

Home

A week after he left, Charlie Babbitt finally returns to his Los Angeles apartment, now accompanied by his brother Raymond, closer than ever to Susanna, and a whole lot wiser. Thus, it’s no coincidence that he’s wearing his warmest palette yet, having come a long way from the cool gray tones of a week earlier.

  • Pale gray shirt covered with mini navy dots, with point collar, plain front, and two low-slung chest pockets
  • Taupe woven double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Brown leather penny loafers

RAIN MAN

Their road trip behind them, Charlie changes into a light gray slubbed silk single-button ventless sport jacket, the same that he had worn in Oklahoma days earlier, over his navy short-sleeve polo and with dark trousers and black shoes for his nighttime meeting with Dr. Burner. The sequence finds Charlie, only a week ago desperate for cash, turning down a $250,000 check because he wants the chance to care for his brother Raymond.

Day 10 – Monday

Custody hearing

Home after his days on the road with Raymond, Charlie dons his most professional look yet for the climactic custody hearing with the psychiatrists Dr. Bruner from Wallbrook and Dr. Marston. His suit is a somber charcoal worsted with a single-breasted, two-button jacket with a single vent. Charlie wears the suit with the white satin-striped shirt he picked up in Vegas, buttoned to the neck as usual.

Charlie makes his case for Dr. Marston, played by the film's director Barry Levinson.

Charlie makes his case for Dr. Marston, played by the film’s director Barry Levinson.

Day 12 – Wednesday

Bye-bye, Rain Man

Two days later, a matured Charlie Babbitt takes Raymond to the Santa Ana bus station for Dr. Bruner to return him to Wallbrook. Perhaps of some significance is the fact that he wears a variation of the same outfit he wore when he first met Raymond (and removed him from his comfortable home in Wallbrook), though the trousers are a warmer shade.

  • Dark navy windowpane (rust and faded white check) slubbed linen-blend twill Bobby Yosten single-breasted sport jacket with notch lapels, low 2-button stance, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • Dark navy knit cotton Carroll and Company short-sleeve polo shirt with two buttons
  • Taupe woven double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
"One for bad, two for good."

“One for bad, two for good.”

The similar clothing indicates Charlie’s redemptive rebirth, returning him to the moment when he first met Raymond but giving him the opportunity to “do it right” by respecting Raymond and the level of care that is best for him. This time, as Charlie walks away from Dr. Bruner wearing a dark navy windowpane jacket, dark polo, and slacks, he isn’t committing an act of near-felonious selfishness.

Shoes

Charlie packs two pairs of shoes, one for each palette. He wears black calf leather tassel loafers earlier in the trip, with his blue and gray tones, as well as with his gray suit in Vegas.

Once Charlie’s sense of warmth and humanity emerges, sensed through the warmer colors in his clothing, he sports a pair of brown penny loafers that better complements that earthy aesthetic.

Two similar outfits with two different pairs of shoes: black tassel loafers while trying to arrange the release of his father's multimillion-dollar fortune in exchange for returning Raymond, and brown penny loafers while seeking help for Raymond in a small Oklahoma town.

Two similar outfits with two different pairs of shoes: black tassel loafers while trying to arrange the release of his father’s multi-million-dollar fortune in exchange for returning Raymond, and brown penny loafers while seeking help for Raymond in a small Oklahoma town.

Accessories

By the mid-1980s, Tom Cruise had been Ray-Ban’s de facto cinematic ambassador for years, first popularizing the Wayfarer in Risky Business (1983) before redefining cool eyewear with his aviators in Top Gun (1986). As the stylish yuppie Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man, there was no doubt that Cruise would return to the most fashionable eyewear purveyor of the eighties, here sporting a pair of classic Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunglasses with black “browline” frames, hooked into the breast pockets of his jackets when he isn’t wearing them.

Susanna and Charlie's coordinated eye rub does not seem to be intentional, but something unexplained causes both characters to rub their right eyes with their right index fingers at the same time.

Susanna and Charlie’s coordinated eye rub does not seem to be intentional, but something unexplained causes both characters to rub their right eyes with their right index fingers at the same time.

“Well forgive me, I’ve lost my secret decoder ring!” Charlie exclaims during his first breakfast with Raymond. He may have been sarcastic about having a secret decoder ring, but his right hand is considerably weighed down with other jewelry. On his ring finger, he wears a silver ring with a black enamel inlay through a pebble effect. On his pinky, he wears a bulky gold signet ring with his initials “C.B.”

Charlie doesn't get his rings get in the way of taking a drag from his Newport.

Charlie doesn’t get his rings get in the way of taking a drag from his Newport.

“It’s a Rolex,” purrs the sleazy Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner) in Die Hard, released just five months before Rain Man during the height of Rolex fever in the late eighties. Charlie Babbitt would be paying attention to what watch screamed status, and a solid yellow gold Rolex Day-Date—the watch that Blake (Alec Baldwin) would tout as costing “more than your car” four years later in Glengarry Glen Ross—would suit Charlie’s needs to a T.

Charlie’s faith in Raymond is illustrated when he wastes no time pawning the watch in Vegas in order to bankroll their card-counting spree. (And he’s soon able to buy it back with $3,500 from their $86,000 winnings at blackjack!)

Charlie's Rolex appears to be worn on a "President"-style link bracelet, indicating his own lofty ambitions even if he isn't close to reaching them.

Charlie’s Rolex appears to be worn on a “President”-style link bracelet, indicating his own lofty ambitions even if he isn’t close to reaching them.

What to Listen to

In addition to an excellent score by relative newcomer Hans Zimmer, Rain Man has one of the greatest and most evocative soundtracks. From Tommy Edwards’ “Please Love Me Forever” and Bob Luman’s “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers” in rural diners to “Dry Bones” by the Delta Rhythm Boys for heir neon-lit arrival at an Oklahoma motel and Lou Christie’s country-inspired take on the 1930 standard “Beyond the Blue Horizon” as the Roadmaster works its way through the desert, the soundtrack perfectly suits the movie’s nostalgic Americana vibe.

The Babbitt brothers’ arrival and entrance to Las Vegas are also beautifully heralded, first by Aaron Neville and Rob Wasserman’s quiet update of Hoagy Carmichael’s 1927 standard “Stardust” as the two drive into town the first night and finally by an orchestral version of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” as the reunited trio leaves Sin City with Raymond taking a turn at the wheel, continuing Fred Astaire’s rendition that Raymond watched in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) on his new handheld television.

Of course, perhaps the most famous music queue from Rain Man is Etta James’ classic “At Last”, the soundtrack for Charlie’s impromptu dance lesson with Raymond in their comped suite at Caesars Palace.

Mack Gordon and Harry Warren penned “At Last” in the early 1940s when it became a considerable hit for Glenn Miller and his Orchestra and lingered as a secondary standard over the next few decades until Etta James put it on the map with her beautiful and stirring rendition for her 1961 album of the same name. Notable cuts on At Last! also include “Stormy Weather”, “A Sunday Kind of Love”, “Trust in Me”, and a brassy bluesy take on Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, but it’s the powerful title track that became James’ signature song, rising to #47 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Rain Man arguably breathed new life into “At Last”, introducing it to modern audiences and paving the way for its inclusion in countless more movie and TV soundtracks, commercials, and wedding ceremonies. James herself performed it upon her 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Beyoncé covered it for President Barack Obama’s first dance with his wife at his January 2009 inaugural ball.

The Car

For a guy who deals in brand-new Lamborghinis and personally drives a shark gray Ferrari, it’s worth wondering what Charlie Babbitt thought about traversing the country in a forty-year-old Buick.

“Knew this car my whole life, only drove it once,” recalls Charlie. “It’s a 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible. Only 8,000 production models made, straight eight—Fireball Eight. It was the first full year of the Dynaflow transmission… I know it by rote.”

While it was this car that permanently estranged Charlie from his father, it’s the same car that leads to his renewed acquaintanceship with his brother as Charlie emerges from Wallbrook to find Raymond behind the wheel, adding his own color commentary by correcting that there were, in fact, 8,095 production models made (there were actually 8,244) and that the seats were once a brown leather as opposed to their current “pitiful red” color.

"Fart."

“Fart.”

Buick first introduced the Roadmaster in 1936 as a reimagining of its Series 80 model. The Roadmaster went through several redesigns before World War II when Buick followed the queue of all American auto manufacturers and halted production in 1942. Under GM design head Harley Earl, the first major postwar redesign arrived for 1949, the same year that Sanford Babbitt’s pride and joy rolled off the production line and—as both Charlie and Raymond would confirm—the first full year that the two-speed Dynaflow automatic transmission was offered as standard equipment after it had surprised Buick with its popularity as an option for the ’48 model.

The celebrated “Fireball Eight” was also upgraded for 1949 with an increased power output of 150 horsepower that could propel the heavy car to a top speed of 110 mph. A cosmetic addition to all 1949 Buick models were the iconic “VentiPorts” installed on the front fenders. Initially inspired by the exhaust stacks of a fighter plane, these became an off-and-on signature of the Buick marque for decades to follow, most recently reintroduced in 2014. The ’49 Roadmaster completed its powerful aviation-inspired look with the “bombsight” hood ornament, first introduced in 1946.

1949 marked an all-time high for the Roadmaster, selling a total of 88,130 models, but the future of the Fireball Eight engine was in jeopardy. Though displacement had increased since its introduction in 1931, the Fireball Eight was a veritable dinosaur by the early ’50s, and Buick needed a short-stroke eight-cylinder engine to keep up with its competitors. 1953 marked the final model year both for this iconic generation of Roadmasters as well as for Buick’s venerated straight-8, ushering in a new era of sleek Roadmasters powered by the smaller and more powerful “Nailhead” V8 engine.

1949 Buick Roadmaster

Body Style: 2-door convertible

Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)

Engine: 320 cid (5.2 L) Buick straight-8 “Fireball Eight”

Power: 150 hp (112 kW; 152 PS) @ 3600 rpm

Torque: 280 lb·ft (380 N·m) @ 2000 rpm

Transmission: 2-speed Dynaflow automatic

Wheelbase: 126 inches (3200 mm)

Length: 214.1 inches (5438 mm)

Width: 79.9 inches (2029 mm)

Height: 63 inches (1600 mm)

The actual beige yellow 1949 Roadmaster driven by Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man was auctioned in December 2012, yielding $170,050.

While the car was fitted with Ohio license plates #368-P9C for the production, it’s unknown if it had the necessary FM adapter for Raymond to enjoy “97X – BAM! The future of Rock and Roll” on the standard AM-only radio.

Charlie and Raymond cruise west in their father's prized Roadmaster.

Charlie and Raymond cruise west in their father’s prized Roadmaster.

What to Pack for the Road

Charlie Babbitt’s “road closet” sticks to a palette of blues and grays in slubbed, lightweight linen and silk with the occasional earthier color or fabric slipping into the mix. The character generally sticks to styles that are both fashionable and flattering: ventless single-breasted jackets, trousers with double reverse pleats meant to be worn beltless, and two pairs of loafers.

Tom Cruise's screen-worn navy linen-blend Bobby Yosten sports coat, navy cotton Carroll and Company polo, and black-and-gray herringbone slacks from Rain Man. Worn on at least three occasions on screen, this is as close as Charlie has to a signature outfit. (Source: iCollector)

Tom Cruise’s screen-worn navy linen-blend Bobby Yosten sports coat, navy cotton Carroll and Company polo, and black-and-gray herringbone slacks from Rain Man. Worn on at least three occasions on screen, this is as close as Charlie has to a signature outfit. (Source: iCollector)

Jackets:
Charlie’s single-button and low two-button tailored jackets are a flattering choice to balance Tom Cruise’s height while also adhering to the lower-stance fashions of the ’80s.

  • Dark navy (with rust and faded white windowpane check) slubbed linen-blend twill Bobby Yosten single-breasted sport jacket with notch lapels, low 2-button stance, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • Gray slubbed silk single-breasted 1-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • Light gray slubbed silk single-breasted 1-button sport jacket with notch lapels, patch pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back

Shirts:

  • Dark navy knit cotton 2-button short-sleeve polo shirt
  • Charcoal knit 3-button long-sleeve polo shirt
  • Charcoal microfiber soft silk shirt with spread collar, plain front, breast pocket, and button cuffs
  • Suva gray silk shirt with slim point collar, plain front, breast pocket, and button cuffs
  • Pale gray shirt covered with mini navy dots, with point collar, plain front, and two low-slung chest pockets

Trousers:
No belts for Charlie Babbitt! All of his pleated trousers have been tailored to perfectly fit around the waist, eliminating the need for belts, suspenders, or even side-adjuster tabs.

  • Light gray mini-herringbone linen/silk double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Gray slubbed silk double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, jetted back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Gray wool tweed Sy Devore double-reverse pleated trousers with fitted waistband, slightly slanted side pockets, double flapped back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Taupe woven double reverse-pleated suit trousers with fitted waistband, extended 1-button front tab, side pockets, flapped back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man (1988)

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man (1988)

Shoes:

  • Black leather tassel loafers
  • Brown leather penny loafers

Socks:

  • Black-and-gray diamond-patterned socks
  • Charcoal socks
  • Gray socks
  • Taupe socks

Underwear:

  • Gray cotton Calvin Klein boxer shorts with white stitched band branding
  • Light blue cotton Perry Ellis boxer shorts

Accessories:

  • Ray-Ban Clubmaster black browline-framed sunglasses
  • Rolex Day-Date “President” yellow gold wristwatch
  • Silver ring with black enamel inlay through pebble effect
  • Gold monogrammed signet pinky ring

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

What you have to understand is, four days ago he was only my brother in name. And this morning we had pancakes.

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