Three Days of the Condor: Joubert’s Trench Coat

Max von Sydow as Joubert in Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Max von Sydow as Joubert in Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Vitals

Max von Sydow as G. Joubert, French Alsatian contract assassin

New York City and Washington, D.C., Winter 1975

Film: Three Days of the Condor
Release Date: September 24, 1975
Director: Sydney Pollack
Costume Designer: Joseph G. Aulisi

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

You may be walking, maybe the first sunny day of the spring, and a car will slow beside you, and a door will open, and someone you know – maybe even trust – will get out of the car, and he will smile a becoming smile… but he will leave open the door of the car and offer to give you a lift.

Happy Spring to my BAMF Style readers in the Northern Hemisphere! Among the many screen credits of the late Max von Sydow, who died at the age of 90 earlier this month, was the taciturn professional assassin known as G. Joubert in the ’70s espionage thriller Three Days of the Condor.

While Joubert had offered the above informed warning to Joe Turner (Robert Redford) on a wintry morning in Maryland, his “first sunny day of the spring” description has become memorable in its own right, inspiring homages and spoofed deliveries from the like of Newman on Seinfeld.

Joubert’s movements and precision indicate his experience as a cunning, calculating contract killer, rarely impressed by the humans whose deaths he engineers en masse until he encounters the wily CIA researcher Turner, codenamed “Condor”, whose very inexperience makes him a fortunate yet unwitting foil to the seemingly unstoppable Joubert:

Condor is an amateur. He’s lost, unpredictable, perhaps even sentimental. He could fool a professional. Not deliberately, but precisely because he is lost, doesn’t know what to do.

What’d He Wear?

Joubert’s light taupe gabardine trench coat is a fashionable evolution of the Burberrys that protected British officers during World War I, re-designed with form over function having excised the functioning shoulder straps, D-rings, and storm flaps that delivered a practical purpose for military wearers but not minimalist assassins roaming the streets of New York City decades later.

The first we see of Joubert, he is walking away from the camera on a rainy morning in Manhattan, adequately protected with an umbrella and trench coat.

The first we see of Joubert, he is walking away from the camera on a rainy morning in Manhattan, adequately protected with an umbrella and trench coat.

Joubert’s knee-length coat has the classic double-breasted front with six brown nut two-hole buttons arranged in a “keystone” of three rows of two, tapering down from a widely spaced top row to a more closely spaced bottom row around the belt line, just below the full belt that closes through a buckle. The coat also has broad, widely notched lapels with triple-stitched edges that he wears turned up in the back, slanted hand pockets on the sides below the belt line, and a long single vent that extends up to about a half-foot short of the belt in the back.

The set-in sleeves have a triangular semi-tab on each cuff that closes through a single button, and the shoulders are detailed with faux shoulder straps that are fused to the cloth beneath them unlike functional straps on military garments that would be used to attach epaulettes and rank insignia shoulder boards.

In solitude as his fellow hitmen storm the rest of the American Historical Literary Society, Joubert allows himself a rare moment without his signature specs on.

In solitude as his fellow hitmen storm the rest of the American Historical Literary Society, Joubert allows himself a rare moment without his signature specs on.

Joubert’s base layer with this outfit is a lightweight rust-colored ribbed-knit turtleneck.

CONDOR

Behind the scenes, Robert Redford and Max von Sydow call a truce from their characters' deadly game of cat-and-mouse.

Behind the scenes, Robert Redford and Max von Sydow call a truce from their characters’ deadly game of cat-and-mouse.

Joubert’s habit of keeping his trench coat buttoned up throughout his mission covers much of the layers beneath it, but we see enough of his intermediate layer to know that he’s wearing a light brown thin-waled corduroy sports coat, single-breasted with slim notch lapels and a welted breast pocket. (The behind-the-scenes shot of von Sydow conversing with Redford on set, at right, shows considerably more of the jacket than we ever see on screen.)

This may or may not be the same jacket that is again only briefly glimpsed under his winter-friendly houndstooth coat, but we know that Joubert wears his same signature hat and eyewear no matter what the rest of his outfit is.

Joubert’s brown velvet trilby has a narrow textured tan-on-rust band, evoking the look of a traditional Bavarian Tyrolean hat that nods to the character’s own vaguely Teutonic origins.

He also wears large tortoise square-framed glasses with thick lenses that create a disorienting barrier between the assassin and the audience, making it all the more significant when he removes them for a powerful conversation during the film’s final act, showing us that the seemingly unstoppable hitman is a human after all.

CONDOR

Joubert’s straight-leg trousers are a dark, cool shade of brown, tonally appropriate for the rest of this earthy-colored outfit. The plain-hemmed bottoms break cleanly over his snuff brown suede two-eyelet desert boots, worn with tan socks.

Unless properly treated, suede boots may not be the wisest choice for a rainy day like this, but they're still a comfortable, stylish, and appropriate complement to this smart casual outfit.

Unless properly treated, suede boots may not be the wisest choice for a rainy day like this, but they’re still a comfortable, stylish, and appropriate complement to this smart casual outfit.

In an interesting inversion of genre tropes, Joubert doesn’t signify his preparation to kill by donning a pair of sinister black leather gloves; rather, he sports a pair of short burgundy lambskin three-point gloves.

Joubert breaks the ice with Condor when he steadily bends down and, with his already gloved hand, picks up an errant black glove from the floor of the elevator they share. "Yours?" he asks, before delicately placing the glove on the handrai.

Joubert breaks the ice with Condor when he steadily bends down and, with his already gloved hand, picks up an errant black glove from the floor of the elevator they share. “Yours?” he asks, before delicately placing the glove on the handrai.

Joubert also wears an all-gold watch with round case and dial and a mesh-like bracelet on his left wrist.

CONDOR

CONDOR

The Gun

The first firearm we see Joubert wield is the distinctive Mauser C96, colloquially known as the “Broomhandle Mauser” for its unique rounded wooden grip said to resemble the handle of a broom. Per its official designation, the Mauser C96 was introduced in 1896 and would be produced for the next four decades until it was superseded by more modern weaponry as Germany amped up its arms production leading up to World War II.

Without additions like the shoulder stock or extended magazine, the typical C96 weighed about two and a half pounds and measured just over a foot long with its five-and-a-half inch barrel, comparable in mass to the M1911 service pistol but considerably heavier than World War II-era German sidearms like the venerable Luger or James Bond’s preferred Walther PPK, both weighing in at less than two pounds and between six and nine inches long, respectively.

Aside from the run of “red 9” pistols developed for the Imperial German Army, the Mauser C96 was chambered for the proprietary 7.63x25mm ammunition, an effective round though limited only to use in the C96 and unique other weapons of the era.

Joubert takes aim with his Mauser C96, fitted with scope and shoulder stock.

Joubert takes aim with his Mauser C96, fitted with scope and shoulder stock.

So why would a sophisticated assassin like Joubert be using a heavy, hard-to-conceal handgun that hadn’t been made in nearly half a century?

Aside from Joubert’s suggested shared heritage with the Mauser, the weapon’s long barrel and ability to be fitted with a mounted scope and shoulder stock—as he uses it—allows him the longer-range functionality of a rifle in the more compact packaging of a handgun. True, Joubert wouldn’t necessarily be able to snipe a target if needed, but he would have a more precise longer-range shot potentially accurate up to 200 yards as opposed to the compact Walther PPK’s effective range of, say, up to about 75 yards in the hands of an expert.

While it may take up more space than a PPK or its ilk, the Mauser C96 would give Joubert greater flexibility for finding scenarios to take out his valuable target while still likely fitting into one of the oversized pockets of his trench coat.

Despite Joubert's thoughtful choice of weaponry, the wily Condor still manages to avoid being taken out during a risky visit to his late pal Sam Barber's apartment complex.

Despite Joubert’s thoughtful choice of weaponry, the wily Condor still manages to avoid being taken out during a risky visit to his late pal Sam Barber’s apartment complex.

How to Get the Look

Max von Sydow as Joubert in Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Max von Sydow as Joubert in Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Three Days of the Condor is set just before Christmas, but Joubert’s trench coat, trilby, and turtleneck for walking the rainy streets of New York and Washington would be just as suitable for a dressed-down stroll on a spring day with April showers expected.

  • Light taupe gabardine trench coat with widely notched lapels, keystone-formation 6-button double-breasted front, full belt with buckle, faux shoulder straps, set-in sleeves with single-button triangular semi-tab cuffs, and long single vent
  • Rust-colored ribbed-knit turtleneck
  • Light brown pinwale corduroy single-breasted sport jacket with notch lapels and welted breast pocket
  • Charcoal twill flat front trousers with straight/on-seam side pockets, button-flapped back pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Snuff brown suede two-eyelet desert boots
  • Tan socks
  • Brown velvet trilby with textured tan-on-rust band
  • Tortoise square-framed glasses
  • Burgundy lambskin three-point leather gloves
  • Gold wristwatch with gold-mesh bracelet

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

Kids… probably the same everywhere.

2 comments

  1. jdreyfuss

    As Joe Turner noted, he’s not strictly German, but, as his French name indicates, Alsatian. Joubert can be a Jewish name and Alsace-Lorraine traditionally had a sizable Jewish population. Although it isn’t stated, it would make a certain amount sense for someone his age who was an Alsatian Jew that probably got his start in the Resistance to end up as a professional mercenary and assassin.

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