Alain Delon as Francis Verlot, swaggering small-time thief
Paris, September 1960
Film: Any Number Can Win
(French title: Mélodie en sous-sol)
Release Date: April 3, 1963
Director: Henri Verneuil
Any Number Can Win was adapted from Zekial Marko’s 1959 novel The Big Grab, the first of the author’s crime stories that would be adapted to films starring Alain Delon. Marko himself would adapt his novel Scratch a Thief into Once a Thief (1965), starring Delon, Ann-Margret, and Van Heflin.
Considered one of the best and certainly among the most stylish movies of the early 1960s, the ice-cool Any Number Can Win—released in France as Mélodie en sous-sol—begins with recently released ex-con Charles (Jean Gabin) searching for a new partner to help him with his ambitious heist. “I have a kid who just might jut cut it… I hope I don’t find him good for scrap.”
We then cut to what looks like a messy bachelor pad, where a young man is sprawled out on his bed, snapping his fingers to the jazz on his record player. He’s already dressed for larceny in his leather jacket, a dinner plate doubling as an ashtray—crowded with spent Gitanes and shelved on a pile of books—not far from his reach. Pulling back, we reveal that the “bachelor pad” is merely a corner of the family apartment that the young man shares with his reasonably concerned mother, whose shout from the kitchen leaps him to attention… revealing the one and only Alain Delon!
Gitane clenched in his teeth and marked with an unfamiliar scar, Delon’s character takes the opportunity to taunt his mother, to whom he’s five months late paying his rent. The poor woman can’t bear to see her 27-year-old son, who recently served two years for the “youthful indiscretion” of armed robbery, idling all day with no job, money, or prospects.
Mme. Verlot: You’ll kill your dad and me of grief!
Francis: Then no one will find the murder weapon.
Enter Charles with the prospective solution to Francis’ financial woes and ambitions: a major robbery in the Riviera.
What’d He Wear?
The rockabilly-loving Francis Verlot styles himself after the quintessential American “greaser” subculture made famous by Marlon Brando in The Wild One (and later sanitized by the Fonz) with his leather jacket and slicking back his hair that would otherwise fall naturally with a slight curl over his forehead. This marked a considerable shift from Delon’s Ivy-meets-continental fashions three years earlier in Plein soleil.
When we meet Francis Verlot, his daily dress is anchored by a leather flight jacket, likely constructed of black lambskin, with a zip-up front that smoothly closes up to the neck where it meets the shirt-style collar. The jacket has horizontal yokes across the front of the chest and the back. Shoulder pleats behind each armhole extend down from the back yoke to the waistband, giving its wearer a greater range of movement. The plain cuffs have only a short tab on the inside to adjust tightness, and there are two slanted hand pockets.
The jacket is pulled in at the waist with a self-belted strap toward the back of each side, similar to the U.S. Navy’s WWII-issue Type 440 carrier jacket, each closing through a single-prong buckle and ostensibly collected under a leather strip along the back of the jacket waistband.
Francis leaves his family home to drop in on his brother-in-law Louis (Maurice Biraud), a mechanic he later describes as “so monstrously honest, it’s twisted.” Leaving home, he buttons his work shirt up to the neck.
We see more of the shirt while Francis, Charles, and Louis are in the Riviera, finalizing the details of their planned casino heist. The rugged shirting is likely a light blue brushed cotton, styled with a large spread collar, front placket, button cuffs, and two patch pockets over the chest, each detailed with a horizontal yoke.
Our first glimpse of Francis is of his feet, one planted on the ground with the other hanging off the other side of his bed. He wears dark trousers, possibly a charcoal gray woolen cloth, with a long rise to his waist where they’re held up with a slim brown leather belt that closes through a single-prong buckle. These flat front trousers have side pockets and the bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Given his personality and demeanor, it’s no surprise that Francis wears comfortable and casual footwear, a pair of black leather plain-toe loafers with short elastic side gussets filling the vents on each side of the instep to allow Francis to slip his dark-stockinged feet in and out of the shoes with ease.
Once Francis and Charles’ plan is underway, they meet back at Louis’ garage where Francis provides an array of ID photos he had taken for the papers that will be used to create his cover identity as Francis Grandchamp. “Same first name so you don’t get mixed up,” explains Charles, simultaneously explaining the process followed by Tony Danza’s casting directors.
As Francis looks over the photos, we also get a nice look at his wristwatch, a stainless steel piece that has a round black dial rigged with luminescent numeric hour markers and worn on a steel expanding band. He would swap this out for a more elegant dress watch once he arrives in the Riviera, likely at Mister Charles’ urging.
“I’d prefer them with a necktie, but they’ll do,” Charles observes of the photos taken earlier that day, before looking Francis over and directing: “Talking about threads, you’ll need to dress up.”
In this case, Francis has already seemingly taken a step toward dressing up by layering a soft mohair V-neck sweater under his jacket, worn over a lighter-colored work shirt that would again appear in the Riviera scenes. Of course, Charles was thinking more along the lines of suits and ties for his young protégé.
After observing Mr. Grimp (José Luis de Vilallonga) conduct casino operations, Charles, Francis, and Louis discuss how they’ll commence to steal a season’s worth of missions from the casino vault… by having a dinner-suited Francis ride atop the actual elevator as it descends.
When Francis asks Charles how he’ll be sticking up Mr. Grimp’s men, Charles reveals a MAS-38 submachine gun but cautions him that he shouldn’t need to use it: “In tense situations, talking firmly with steel in your mitt keeps everybody in line.”
The Pistolet Mitrailleur MAS modèle 38 evolved from the first French submachine gun, the STA 1922 and MAS 1924 developed after World War I. Unlike its 9mm predecessors, the blowback-operated MAS-38 fired the same 7.65×20mm Longue rimless ammunition as in the French modèle 1935A service pistol, fed from a 32-round box magazine.
As its designation implies, this weapon entered production in 1938 and was produced steadily through 1949, even during the years of Nazi occupation when it was redesignated MP722(f) by the Germans and issued to the Vichy French. The unique weapon’s most significant wartime usage may have been in the hands of Italian partisan Walter Audisio who reportedly gunned down Benito Mussolini with a MAS-38.
Production briefly resumed following World War II until it was replaced in French Army service by the 9mm MAT-49 in—you guessed it!—1949.
How to Get the Look
The leather-clad “greaser” wasn’t solely an American phenomenon of the fabulous fifties, as Alain Delon effectively dresses in leather jacket and loafers to look the part of a swaggering street grifter who needs a new wardrobe before he can fit in among the Riviera jet-setters.
- Black lambskin leather flight jacket with shirt-style collar, zip-up front, side pockets, “action back” pleats, and buckle-tab side adjusters
- Light blue brushed cotton work shirt with large spread collar, front placket, two top-yoked chest pockets, and button cuffs
- Dark wool flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Brown leather belt with single-prong buckle
- Black leather side-gusset loafers
- Black socks
- Ornamental ring
- Stainless steel wristwatch with round black dial on steel expanding band
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
You always say I’ll die on the gallows. Make your mind up: disease or decapitation?