Glenn Ford as Ben Wade, bandit leader
Arizona Territory, 1880s
Film: 3:10 to Yuma
Release Date: August 7, 1957
Director: Delmer Daves
Costume Designer: Jean Louis
Looking for a movie to watch on 3/10? I recommend 3:10 to Yuma, the swift, suspenseful, and compelling Western based on an early short story by Elmore Leonard.
Modern audiences may be more familiar with the 2007 adaptation starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale as the outlaw and the rancher, respectively, though the original black-and-white version was produced in 1957, four years after Leonard’s story was published in Dime Western Magazine.
A decade before revisionist Westerns would become fashionable in “New Hollywood”, the original 3:10 to Yuma followed in the allegorical tradition of High Noon (1952) with complex characters and moral questions that paint a worldview where the concept of right and wrong are less black and white than the cinematography.
The cunning, confident, and complicated outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) operates by a unique moral code. During a stagecoach robbery, Wade duly executes a member of his gang after he put himself in a position to be subdued by the stagecoach driver, only to then gun down the driver in retribution… and then asking the stagecoach owner to return the driver he just killed to be buried in his hometown.
Mild-mannered family man Dan Evans (Van Heflin) witnesses the robbery, and one may expect the worst for the rancher and his sons after we saw Wade’s quick trigger finger in action, but Wade merely relieves Evans of his horses to delay him running to the nearest marshal, informing him where can recover them later. Wade has no expectations that Evans won’t share what he saw, but he still lets his guard down just enough to be captured in a Bisbee saloon.
Having played his role in engineering the outlaw’s recapture, Evans believes he’s done his duty and can return home with his recovered horses to continue trying to run a profitable ranch for his family, but the less-than-effective local lawmen enlist him into their posse escorting Wade to the eponymous 3:10 train to Yuma, where he’ll be locked away in a territorial prison. As Wade’s dangerous gang tracks them in the hope of rescuing their leader, Wade engages Evans in thought-provoking conversation and questions of ethics as they ride to Contention City and wait out the remaining hours in a cramped hotel room.
What’d He Wear?
Starting at the top, Ben Wade wears a well-traveled cowboy hat that seems to have been a favorite for Glenn Ford across more than a dozen of the Canadian-born actor’s Western films with its tall, cattleman-style crown, an unevenly curled brim, and a narrow lace-like leather band around the sweat-stained base. Golden Gate Western Wear, the home of Knudsen Hat Company, replicated Ford’s 3:10 to Yuma-worn hat in a stone-hued silverbelly felt with a 4.75″-tall crown and 3.5″-wide brim.
Wade’s work shirt is puckered with thin white stripes against a medium-colored ground (likely on the blue-to-gray spectrum), resembling seersucker. At the time of the film’s setting in the 1880s, seersucker was still a hard-wearing cloth for rugged workwear—hence the “railroad stripe” association with train conductors—before New Orleans tailor Joseph Haspel would rebrand this puckered, striped cotton for warm-weather business suits after the turn-of-the-century. Though the fabric may be accurate, Wade’s long-sleeved shirt with its narrow point collar and full-length front placket could be considered anachronistic for the era as this style wouldn’t be popularized for another few decades. The squared barrel cuffs at the end of each sleeve close with a single button.
Like many Hollywood Westerns of the ’50s, the characters in 3:10 to Yuma dress in a modernized reinterpretation of workwear with more contemporary sensibilities than would have been worn by actual gunslingers of the old West.
Wade’s waist-length jacket stands out as the most obvious anachronism. Likely the same tan needlecord cotton jacket Ford would wear a decade later in the modern-set Western The Rounders (1965), the style of the jacket echoes the then-contemporary iteration of the Levi’s denim trucker jacket, the “Type II” 507XX seen in movies like Badlands, with its double chest pockets and pleated front, though it’s fitted with a cinch-back like the original “Type I” 506XX Blouse that Levi’s introduced in 1905.
In looking for more information about Ford’s screen-worn jacket, I encountered a post in The Fedora Lounge‘s forums where user “Fatdutchman” had ordered a similar vintage jacket that had been made from Scully RangeWear, which may have possibly made the jacket seen in 3:10 to Yuma and The Rounders.
Wade’s jacket has six buttons up the front from the straight-cut waist hem to the shirt-style collar. A horizontal yoke extends across the axis aligned with the second button down, with a set of double forward-facing pleats extending down from this yoke on each side of the placket. The chest is detailed with two mid-slung pockets, each closing with a single button through the mitred-corner flap. The set-in sleeves are finished at the wrists with squared cuffs that each close through a single button, and the back has a short cinch strap with a buckle to adjust the fit around his waist.
The marshal’s gambit includes a decoy swapped onto the Butterfield stage in the hopes of fooling Charlie Prince (Richard Jaeckel), Wade’s ruthless lieutenant. This initially works, due in part to the decoy wearing a corduroy cinch-back coat similar to Ben Wade’s jacket.
Wade wears darker flat front trousers, possibly made from a brown or gray wool. The trousers have curved front pockets, no back pockets, and are cut straight through the legs down to the plain-hemmed bottoms. Through the trouser belt loops—another possible anachronism—Wade wears a wide dark leather belt with a large squared single-prong buckle. The end of the belt, fed through the buckle, appears to have a lighter-contrasting tape piped around the edges.
Marshall Trimble explored the history of belt loops in a 2019 feature for True West magazine, noting the earliest recorded use seen on baseball uniforms in the late 1850s though it wasn’t until the hot summer of 1893 that Westerners seemed to begin trading in their braces for belts en masse. Thirty years later, Levi’s introduced belt loops to its venerated 501 jeans, marking a more universal shift to trouser belts that would catch on over the following decade.
Wade wears a pair of dark leather cowboy boots with decorative stitching on the shafts and rigged with a set of spurs.
Before he’s taken into custody, Ben Wade holsters his Single Action Army revolver in a brown leather buscadero-style gun belt. “Back in the 1880s, holsters (when they were used) looped over the top of the belt; low-slung holsters like the buscadero weren’t common,” wrote Jane C. Bischoff for True West in 2006, exploring when this popular holster may have originated. Bischoff points to a period photograph of lawman Commodore Perry Owens to suggest the buscadero’s origins may be earlier than the 1920s, when many purport it was developed for use in Hollywood Westerns, though it still would have been uncommon among true cowboys and gunfighters of the old West even if someone like Owens had pioneered one to be specially made.
The belt hangs low on Ford’s waist, fastened in the front via a slimmer ranger-style leather strap that closes through a squared single-prong buckle. The holster itself hooks onto the right side of the belt, laced around Ford’s right thigh for additional support. The cartridge loops around the left side and back of the belt are mostly filled with presumably .45 Long Colt rounds that would be used in Wade’s Peacemaker.
Fabled alongside the Winchester rifle as one of the guns that “won the West”, the Single Action Army revolver is Ben Wade’s sidearm of choice. Colt had introduced the Single Action Army in 1873, initially chambered for the powerful .45 Long Colt cartridge though it would ultimately be produced in at least thirty different calibers. Wade’s Single Action Army has a 5.5″-long barrel, designating it as an “Artillery” model as opposed to the longer “Cavalry” or shorter “Quickdraw” models.
Rather than Colt’s wordy designation “New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol”, the Single Action Army eventually earned its “Peacemaker” moniker, though this nickname could be considered ironic given its ubiquity in the hands of bandits from the fictional Ben Wade to the real-life Butch Cassidy.
Wade’s Single Action Army doesn’t feature too prominently in this 1957 film, though it would be mythologized in the 2007 remake in which Russell Crowe carried a shorter-barreled “Quickdraw” Single Action Army configured with the reportedly cursed “Hand of God” grips. (See more of this weapon at IMFDB!)
What to Imbibe
Consistent with the hard-drinking cowboys of Hollywood Westerns, Ben Wade and his men down several shots of whiskey upon hitting the local watering hole, in this case a Bisbee saloon operated by Wade’s sweetheart Emmy (Felicia Farr). The bottles powering the boys’ drinking spree are affixed with prop labels for a likely fictional Old Hickory, presumably a rye or bourbon though the equally fictional “Old Meirkirk” that Alex Potter (Henry Jones) sleeps aside touts itself as Scotch whisky.
Though the Old Hickory labels featured in 3:10 to Yuma may be fictional, the name was revived for an actual 86-proof bourbon developed by R.S. Lipman Company and named in tribute to President Andrew Jackson who—according to the Old Hickory site—”enjoyed his own blend from a distillery on the grounds of the Hermitage, his Tennessee plantation home.”
The 2007 remake features a similar scene in her bar, though Vinessa Shaw’s character has been renamed Emma and the bottles are labeled Robertson’s Genuine Bourbon Cordial, an actual whiskey distilled in Harrison County, Kentucky, during the 19th century.
How to Get the Look
Though it may not have been strictly accurate to the 1880s time frame, Glenn Ford’s wardrobe as Ben Wade in the original 3:10 to Yuma is comprised of rugged Western-inspired workwear that could be easily translated to hard-wearing weekend casual style today… sans gun belt, of course.
- Tan pinwale-corduroy cotton pleated-front trucker jacket with six buttons, two button-flapped chest pockets, back cinch-strap, and 1-button cuffs
- Slate-and-white railroad-striped puckered cotton work shirt with narrow point collar, front placket, and 1-button squared cuffs
- Dark wool flat front trousers with belt loops, curved front pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Wide dark leather beelt with squared single-prong buckle
- Brown leather buscadero-style gun belt with right-side revolver holster and cartridge loops
- Dark leather cowboy boots with decorative-stitched shafts and spurs
- Silverbelly felt cattleman’s-style cowboy hat with narrow leather band and curved brim
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie, which was thoughtfully remade by director James Mangold. The 2007 adaptation built upon the relatively simple story with more days and obstacles added to Evans and Wade’s journey to Contention, an extended role for Dan Evans’ oldest son, and a modified ending that may surprise viewers more familiar with the original story.
Readers should also track down Elmore Leonard’s original 1953 short story, included in the collection Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories.
Squeezin’ that watch ain’t gonna stop time.