Walter Matthau as Carson Dyle, posing as CIA administrator Hamilton Bartholomew
Paris, April 1963
Release Date: December 5, 1963
Director: Stanley Donen
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Today commemorates the 99th birthday of the great Walter Matthau, the New York-born actor and comedian. After playing heavies in movies like the Elvis vehicle King Creole (1958) and his self-directed Gangster Story (1960), Matthau got a chance to exercise his versatility and comedic chops with a delightfully duplicitous role in Stanley Donen’s romantic comedy thriller Charade (1963).
American housewife Regina “Reggie” Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) is in Paris “mourning” the death of her detested late husband when three mysterious men interrupt the proceedings and she is handed a letter, inviting her to the office of H. Bartholomew at the U.S. Embassy. There, we first encounter Matthau in the guise of Hamilton Bartholomew, a charmingly modest bureaucrat given to amused non-sequiturs and grumpy anecdotal spells as well as being easily distracted by the inanities of office life from a spot on his tie to the lack of variety in his lunch options:
I’ve got something here… I’ve got liverwurst, liverwurst, chicken, and liverwurst.
Even his position with the CIA is downplayed; no, he isn’t in the romantic world of spies and agents, he insists, merely an administrator. “A desk jockey,” he clarifies, “trying to run a bureau of overworked men with under-allocated funds.” Of course, fans of the film know there’s far more to “Mr. Bartholomew” than meets the eye…
What’d He Wear?
When posing as CIA administrator Hamilton Bartholomew, Carson Dyle dresses for the office in a three-piece sack suit made from dark navy narrowly striped flannel.
After his white handkerchief gets its due time as the primary scrubber of his tie, Dyle gives it an ignominious sniff before relegating back to pocket detail where it peeks out just over the top of his jacket’s welted breast pocket, keeping watch on the proceedings should his next round of liverwurst and red wine again endanger his tie’s aesthetic value.
The single-breasted jacket has three buttons widely spaced upon the front to balance Walter Matthau’s 6’2″ height, with the notch lapels rolling over the top button. The jacket has straight flapped hip pockets in addition to the breast pocket, a single vent, and two-button cuffs. The sleeve buttons are non-functional, as illustrated in the above screenshot where loose threads flaring out from where the second button would be indicates that this sleeve button has been removed, possibly an in-character detail Dyle is employing as Bartholomew to give the impression of an uninteresting office drone who doesn’t care enough to have his clothing repaired.
The suit has a matching six-button waistcoat, worn fully fastened down to the notched bottom. Little is seen of the trousers, but Dyle’s gray flannel suit has flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms, so we can safely assume that these trousers are styled consistently with those. As Dyle wears the jacket and waistcoat throughout the scene, we also can’t tell if the trousers are worn with a belt, suspenders, or are fitted with either side-adjusters or a tailored waistband… though “Hamilton Bartholomew” seems like the type who would wear a belt for practical reasons even if it isn’t the aesthetically recommended choice for wearing under a waistcoat.
Dyle’s cotton shirt has a subtle icy cast that suggests pale blue rather than stark white and neatly harmonizes with his dark blue suiting. The collar is fastened under the tie knot with a gold barbell-style bar, though this contrasts with the silver-toned metal of his bar-style cuff links.
“It’s a stubborn little devil,” Dyle remarks on his dark navy tie when greeting Reggie in his office. “Dry cleaning-wise, things are all fouled up.” As he continues going on about his laundry woes, Reggie interrupts to make sure he’s aware of why he called her there. He apologizes for focusing on his neckwear in the widow’s presence: “I’m very sorry… last time I sent out a tie, only the spot came back.”
Unseen in the movie, Dyle almost certainly wears the same black three-eyelet cap-toe derbies that he later wears with his gray flannel suit. Anything else would be far too creative for such a conventional dresser.
How to Get the Look
Walter Matthau’s classic American sack suit and conventional accessories of collar bar and white pocket square strengthen Carson Dyle’s guise as Hamilton Bartholomew, an uninteresting bureaucrat who may work for an intelligence organization but presents himself as a non-threatening “desk jockey” rather than a dangerous, opportunistic spy.
- Navy narrowly striped flannel sack suit:
- Single-breasted 3/2-roll jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with notched bottom
- Flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
- Ice blue cotton shirt with pinned collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Gold barbell-style collar bar
- Silver bar-style cuff links
- Dark navy tie
- Black leather three-eyelet cap-toe derby shoes
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, and be sure to find one of the high-quality versions like the recent Criterion Collection release. The film’s decades under public domain meant an abundance of lower-quality versions opportunistically released on home video to take advantage of the film’s high profile and cast recognition.