Richard Burton as Dr. Edward Hewitt, boarding school headmaster
Big Sur, California, Spring 1965
Film: The Sandpiper
Release Date: June 23, 1965
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Costume Designer: Irene Sharaff
Today would have been the 95th birthday of Richard Burton, the Welsh actor born November 10, 1925 perhaps best known for his Shakespearean talent and his back-to-back marriages with frequent co-star Elizabeth Taylor.
After engaging in an affair during the course of their first two films, Cleopatra (1963) and The V.I.P.s (1963), Liz and Dick finally tyed the knot—for the first time—on March 15, 1964, shortly before production commenced on their third film together, The Sandpiper. While perhaps not a cinematic masterpiece, The Sandpiper remains one of the few major motion pictures to have been filmed at Big Sur and this famously picturesque portion of central California coastline looks fantastic by day and by night as seen from the beach abode where Laura Reynolds (Taylor) calls home.
Laura’s path entangles with Dr. Edward Hewitt (Burton) via her young son Danny (Morgan Mason), who is sent to attend the Episcopal boarding school where Edward serves as headmaster. Happily—if placidly—married to schoolteacher Claire (Eva Marie Saint), the self-righteous Edward finds himself drawn to the free-spirited Laura, an uncomfortable attraction that only intensifies when he drops in unannounced only to find her posing nude for her sculptor friend Cos (Charles Bronson).
Though we the audience know there’s no way Liz and Dick are making it through the movie without, uh, making it, he still fumbles for some small talk to work through the embarrassment of the moment, first about her son and then about the eponymous wounded bird she’s nursing back to health: “The sandpiper appears to be doing very well, I see.”
What’d He Wear?
Tweed has often been described as professorial and, though my own college experiences wouldn’t back up this oft-repeated claim, Dr. Edward Hewitt looks every bit the smartly dressed man of academia in his woolen tweed sport jacket, woven in a wide-scaled brown and black herringbone and finished with tobacco brown suede elbow patches. The single-breasted jacket has fashionably narrow lapels with shallow notches as well as short double vents. The two dark brown mixed buttons on the front are mimicked by the three “kissing” buttons on each cuff. In addition to the welted breast pocket, the jacket has a straight flapped pocket on each hip.
Edward may look a little more at home in Laura’s bohemian enclave if he had taken a more McQueen-like approach to his tweed, such as layering his sports coat over a dark turtleneck en vogue in central California among everyone from beatniks to Bullitt. That said, Burton still looks contemporary and ultimately timeless in the way he wears his tweed, his “cool factor” only threatened by his reserved demeanor.
During this second visit to Laura’s home, he wears a pale blue cotton poplin shirt with a semi-spread collar and front placket that we saw him buttoning up after a round of golf, though it should be noted that the shirt goes from having button cuffs in the Pebble Beach locker room to double (French) cuffs by the time he gets to Laura’s. His straight slate-blue silk tie nicely coordinates with yet contrasts against the lighter shirt.
Edward’s dark olive brown flat front trousers look similar to those he wore for golf, though these seem to be finished with plain-hemmed bottoms rather than the cuffed bottoms we saw him wear on the links. He also wears a pair of dark brown leather cap-toe derby shoes and dark brown socks.
Later, Edward wears the jacket again when he returns to Laura’s home under the pretense of buying her art, this time wearing a white shirt with French cuffs connected by gold links and a brown silk tie with an olive cast.
Throughout The Sandpiper, Burton wears a gold wristwatch that may be one of his own, possibly even the Patek Philippe automatic watch that Taylor had gifted him during the production of Cleopatra a few years earlier… though a Patek Philippe would be a considerably showy piece for a school headmaster to wear.
How to Get the Look
One of my favorite parts of fall fashion is returning tweed to the front of the wardrobe cycle, particularly in earthier shades like Richard Burton’s brown herringbone sports coat worn in The Sandpiper with this cool blue-on-blue shirt and tie combination or his later-seen white shirt and tonally coordinated olive brown tie.
- Brown-and-black wide-scaled herringbone tweed single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with narrow notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, suede elbow-patched sleeves with “kissing” 3-button cuffs, and short double vents
- Pale blue cotton poplin shirt with semi-spread collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Slate-blue silk straight tie
- Dark olive brown flat front trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark brown leather cap-toe derby shoes
- Dark brown socks
- Patek Philippe yellow gold automatic wristwatch with champagne-colored dial and woven bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
That’s the miracle of man. He can imagine the awe and terror of an infinite universe and still not be frightened by it. And facing the mystery of time and the implacability of death, he can still laugh, work, create, and love.