Paul Newman as “Fast Eddie” Felson, liquor salesman and former pool hustler
Chicago, Spring 1986
Film: The Color of Money
Release Date: October 17, 1986
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
Today would have been the 95th birthday of Paul Newman, the acclaimed actor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and motorsports enthusiast. Over his legendary career that spanned more than half a century, Newman’s sole Academy Award for acting recognized his performance in The Color of Money (1986), in which he reprised the role of “Fast Eddie” Felson that he had originated on screen in The Hustler (1961). Now, a generation later, Newman’s pool-playing Eddie has matured from a swaggering novice into a somewhat wiser but still snarky bourbon peddler, staking young pool hustlers on the side like cokehead Julian (John Turturro). It takes another hotshot virtuoso who actually reminds him of his younger self, the “incredible flake” Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise), for Eddie to assume the role of full-time mentor as he takes the immature Vincent under his wing… while also teaching Vincent’s more streetwise girlfriend Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) a thing or two about managing pool hustlers:
See, if you know that, you know when to say “yes”, you know when to say “no”… everybody goes home in a limousine.
Though some of his most iconic work was still ahead of him, The Color of Money is decidedly a change of pace in director Martin Scorsese’s canon. Scorsese himself said that the movie was less of a personal experience than most of his other work, though he was proud of his ability to direct a mainstream studio picture that was finished under budget and not only on time but ahead of schedule. Scorsese was brought on to direct at Newman’s insistence after the actor had been impressed by how Scorsese directed Raging Bull. (Perhaps giving some credos to the “butterfly effect” is the fact that, while shooting on location in Chicago, Scorsese read a review of Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy, the source material for what would be Scorsese’s arguably best-known film, Goodfellas.)
Under Scorsese’s direction—including his memorable note for Newman to “try not to be funny”—Newman received his seventh Academy Award nomination for acting, and it was The Color of Money that finally yielded the actor his elusive win. He would go on to be nominated twice more for acting Oscars, making him tied with Al Pacino and Spencer Tracy for the third most nominated male actor, behind only Jack Nicholson and Laurence Olivier.
What’d He Wear?
Paul Newman’s glen plaid suit for his introduction at the start of The Color of Money has become a favorite among fans of the actor and has been the subject of frequent requests from BAMF Style readers like Ryan and Chris (this one’s for you guys!) It’s been oft reported that Newman was a proud customer of H. Huntsman & Sons, the venerated Savile Row tailor who also dressed stars like Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Rex Harrison, Laurence Olivier, and Gregory Peck, though I haven’t found any confirmation that Huntsman was responsible for any of Newman’s wardrobe in The Color of Money.
Less questioned is the costume designer responsible for so effectively crafting the looks of everyone in Eddie Felson’s orbit in The Color of Money. After graduating from the cheap bikini beach movies of the ’60s to contributing to ’70s classics like Chinatown, Heaven Can Wait, and Two-Lane Blacktop, and The Way We Were, Richard Bruno began a long-lasting association with Martin Scorsese that culminated with his BAFTA-winning work as costume designer on Goodfellas. The Color of Money reunited Bruno with Paul Newman, with whom he’d previously worked as the wardrobe supervisor in The Drowning Pool, also a rare sequel in Newman’s filmography.
A quarter century after we last saw Eddie Felson, the one-time pool shark seems to be doing well for himself in the liquor market. Defying Bert Gordon’s command from the end of The Hustler, he’s still hanging out in pool halls, staking small-time players while pushing his product on bartenders and blondes alike. He’s dressed for casual comfort in a tasteful two-piece suit with a black knit long-sleeve shirt, the worsted wool suit finely woven in a black and white glen plaid, patterned with a subtle light blue windowpane overcheck that—per Alan Flusser’s definition—elevates the suit into glenurquhart plaid territory.
Fast Eddie rotates through several suits during The Color of Money, including a medium gray birdseye suit, a navy pinstripe suit, another dark blue striped suit, and a dark charcoal suit. All are similarly tailored and styled like this glen plaid suit.
The single-breasted suit jacket has wide, padded shoulders and notch lapels that cleanly roll to the top of two buttons that meet the top of Newman’s trousers. The ventless jacket has a welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, and four-button cuffs.
The suit’s matching trousers have a lower rise, consistent with both the fashions of the mid-1980s and Eddie’s casual demeanor. They have double sets of reverse-facing pleats, jetted side pockets with a gentle slant forward, and jetted back pockets with a button to close through the left. The trouser bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Trouser pleats are among the more cyclical elements of men’s style, weaving in and out of vogue over the last century. Pleats were first popular during the so-called “golden age of menswear” from the 1930s through the 1950s, though some material shortages during the Depression and World War II found tailors outfitting their customers in flat front styles. While Sean Connery’s James Bond still wore pleated trousers through the ’60s, the style was increasingly losing favor until pleats were decidedly passé by the 1970s. The following decade saw the rise of the “power suit” and looser fits to counter the skin-tight trousers from the preceding disco era, which brings us to the mid-’80s and the flatteringly full fit of Newman’s pleated trousers in The Color of Money.
Best seen when he wears the suit trousers orphaned with a loosened tie, Eddie wears a black leather belt through the trouser loops that fastens in the front via a dulled silver-toned rectangular box-frame buckle. In this instance, he’s working with Carmen to manipulate Vincent into agreeing to join them for a road tour before the 9-Ball Classic that spring in Atlantic City.
We’re not sure of the occasion, but he’s wearing a light blue cotton shirt with a point collar, unbuttoned at the neck, with a front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs that he wears unfastened and rolled up his forearms. The French blue silk tie, knotted in a loosened Windsor, is patterned with a field of burgundy drops, each accented with a white dot in the center.
Eddie does himself a favor by sticking to a relatively tonal wardrobe of blue and gray suits, thus requiring no more than a single pair of shoes while on the road. He sports a pair of black calf wingtip oxford brogues, almost always worn with plain black socks.
The black knit long-sleeved polo shirt he wears during the introductory scene in Chicago makes a brief re-appearance after his split from Vincent and Carmen. Eddie wears the shirt with his new tinted glasses and the suit trousers while honing his pool skills at Chalky’s on the way to A.C. The shirt has three black buttons at the top and ribbed cuffs and hem.
The morning after Vincent disregards Eddie’s advice against the boastful champ Grady, Eddie comes to Vincent’s hotel room and calmly reclaims the Balabushka (in fact, a rebranded Joss N7 cue) then heads out to a pool hall to play against locals like Dud (Grady Matthews) and the seemingly affable young Amos (Forest Whitaker).
Dud: That’s all she wrote.
Eddie: (taking Dud’s money) Nice book, though.
Eddie wears the same glen plaid suit from the opening sequence, but with his go-to layered knitwear look of an open-necked shirt under a v-neck sweater. In this case, it’s a cream shirt with a point collar, front placket, and button cuffs worn with a maroon knit sweater vest that has a long-ribbed waist hem and shorter ribbing along the arm holes and the V-shaped neckline.
Eddie’s embarrassing losses to Amos send him into a frustrating spiral, though he sets out to improve himself with plenty of practice and a natty new pair of tinted glasses.
During the montage of Eddie finding his groove again, one vignette at Chalky’s features him in his shirt sleeves and dark burgundy suspenders as he defeats the legendary local pro Moselle. Eddie’s sky blue shirt with its point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and rolled-up button cuffs may be the same as he wore earlier with his tie.
But… getting back to those tinted glasses. After undergoing an eye test, Eddie begins wearing a pair of oversized gold frames with amber-gradient prescription lenses. “I like the glasses,” compliments his pal Orvis (Bill Cobbs), owner of Chalky’s, before he queues Eddie up to play Moselle. Vincent, too, can’t help but to comment “You got new glasses, they look good,” upon his reunion with Eddie in Atlantic City.
Then again, everyone better like them, they’re Cartier… specifically, the Cartier Vendome Santos frame, made of 18-karat gold with a platinum-plated finish according to Dylan Littlefield for Stylish Carry. Cartier introduced this distinctive frame in 1983, and they quickly shot to stardom as a status symbol for anyone with “fuck you money” in the ’80s, particularly materialistic movie villains like Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko in Wall Street and Christopher Walken’s Bond villain in A View to a Kill. (Though he may have a selfish streak, Eddie is hardly as greedy or evil as these Cartier-wearing contemporaries.)
Paul Newman was famously a Rolex wearer in real life, with one of his Daytona chronographs—which had originally been a gift from his famous wife, Joanne Woodward—recently fetching a record-breaking $17.8 million in an October 2017 auction.
In The Color of Money, it isn’t a Daytona that Newman wears as Fast Eddie but rather a stainless steel Rolex Datejust. When the famous Swiss watchmaker introduced the new Oyster Perpetual Datejust model in 1945 to celebrate Rolex’s 40th anniversary, it was the first self-winding chronometer to boast a date window on the dial. The watch was launched with the also-new “Jubilee”-style five-piece link bracelet, so named to commemorate the celebratory occasion. In the decades since, the Rolex Datejust has been associated with leaders like Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ronald Reagan, and U.S. Air Force combat pilots like Chuck Yeager, who was reportedly wearing one when he broke the sound barrier in 1947.
As identified by Rolex Magazine, Eddie’s Datejust has a 36mm case, silver dial, and stainless Jubilee bracelet.
While the Rolex on Eddie’s left wrist may be one of comparatively understated luxury, he flashes his wealth from the ring finger of his right hand where he rocks a large silver or white gold ring with a pavé-set diamond on an engraved band.
Only briefly glimpsed is Eddie’s additional jewelry, a gold necklace he wears under his shirts.
What to Imbibe
Color. Check the color. Dead giveaway, you know? It’s thick, you can almost feel it. Lay down, and just let it roll over you. That’s single malt. On the other hand, you got something like Old McDonnell. More like Young McDonnell, actually. Tastes like 6-year-old bonded.
Now a liquor peddler, Fast Eddie concludes these opening lines by offering a glass of Old McDonnell to Janelle (Helen Shaver), first instructing her to “smell this” before she takes a sip. “That’s good stuff,” she reports. “Yeah… very good stuff,” he confirms.
Unfortunately, it’s also fictional stuff, so don’t try looking for the vaulted Old McDonnell at your nearest liquor store. Luckily for any aspiring Fast Eddies, we also see him enjoying several real world bourbons, including J.T.S. Brown and Wild Turkey, almost always on the rocks… though I believe the latter bottle is confirmed by the bartender to be full of Old McDonnell.
“Bill, I’ll have another Drambuie and potato salad,” orders Dud (Grady Matthews), a friendly hillbilly pool player that Fast Eddie beats. “And, while you’re at it, give my friend Eddie here another J.T.S. Brown.”
The “J.T.S.” stands for John Thompson Street Brown, Jr., who evolved the wholesale liquor business he founded with half-brother George Garvin Brown into the J.T.S. Brown and Sons brand in 1855. After Prohibition ended, the J.T.S. Brown brand fell under the umbrella of the newly founded Heaven Hill. It arguably received its most prominent screen time as the whiskey of choice for Newman’s “Fast Eddie” Felson, both in The Hustler, where it’s served to him by Jake Lamotta, and again in The Color of Money.
While J.T.S. Brown appears to still be in limited production of both its 80 proof and 100 proof bottlings, it seems primarily relegated to the set dressing of period productions such as Magic City, where it is ordered by sleazy Florida senator Ned Sloat (Brett Rice) during the show’s first season.
How to Get the Look
The Color of Money introduces Paul Newman’s matured “Fast Eddie” Felson as a master of the elusive “classy casual” dress code, dressing down while dressing up in sharply tailored suits that he effectively pairs with knitwear, open-neck shirts, and only occasionally a necktie.
- Black-and-white (with light blue overcheck) fine glenurquhart plaid worsted wool tailored suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button suit jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, gently slanted jetted side pockets, jetted back pockets (with button-through left), and turn-ups/cuffs
- Black knit long-sleeve polo shirt with 3-button top, ribbed cuffs, and ribbed hem
- Black leather belt with dulled silver-toned rectangular box-frame buckle
- Black calf leather wingtip oxford brogues
- Black socks
- White cotton V-neck short-sleeve undershirt
- Silver or white gold engraved ring with pavé-set diamond
- Rolex Datejust stainless steel watch with 36mm case, silver dial, and stainless Jubilee-style link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
I never kid about money.