The Little Drummer Girl: Michel’s Green Suede Jacket

Alexander Skarsgård and Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl (2018)

Alexander Skarsgård and Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl (2018)

Vitals

Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker, taciturn Mossad agent, and
Amir Khoury as Salim Al-Khadar, aka “Michel”, Palestinian revolutionary leader

Athens to Munich, Spring 1979

Series: The Little Drummer Girl (Episodes 1-3)
Air Date: 
October 28, 2018 to November 11, 2018
Director: 
Park Chan-wook
Costume Design: Sheena Napier & Steven Noble

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

John le Carré was one of the most prolific espionage authors, penning more than two dozen novels including The Spy Who Came in From the ColdTinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Tailor of Panama, many of which were successfully adapted as movies or limited series that made the most of le Carré’s richly drawn worlds of deception.

Le Carré died in December 2020 at the age of 89, following in death within the month by his half-sister Charlotte Cornwall. Charlotte reportedly inspired the titular character at the center of his novel The Little Drummer Girl about a free-spirited, idealistic, and impressionable actress named Charmian “Charlie” Ross who gets pulled into the world of espionage.

Upon its publishing in 1983, The Little Drummer Girl was almost immediately adapted for the screen, its leading character transformed from a twentysomething Brit to an American in her thirties to accommodate Diane Keaton’s age and nationality. Decades later, BBC’s successful miniseries adaptation of le Carré’s The Night Manager encouraged the network to look at faithfully re-adapting The Little Drummer Girl, this time casting the eponymous Charlie as written with the excellent Oxford-born Florence Pugh.

Following a few sparingly attended performances in London, Charlie follows her theater friends on holiday in Greece, where she encounters the mysterious Peter who spirits her away to Athens… and eventually reveals that he’s an Israeli agent named Gadi Becker, hired to recruit her into the Mossad’s operation against a Palestinian terrorist group. Charlie’s acting experience and history of deception signals her ability—if not her enthusiasm—to play the role of the latest in a slew of young women seduced by the dashing bomber Salim Al-Khadar, known as “Michel”, who had used his manipulative charm to recruit vulnerable women as couriers in his dangerous network… until he was apprehended by agents led by Israeli spymaster Martin Kurtz (Michael Shannon), leaving Gadi to pose as Michel while traveling with Charlie across Europe to establish her credentials.

By establishing one of their own recruits as one of Michel’s trusted confidantes, Charlie’s Mossad handlers hope she can infiltrate the Palestinian revolutionary group and lead them to the leader, Salim’s enigmatic brother Khalil. Of course, as Charlie’s situation grows more dangerous, the reluctant double agent’s loyalties fall into question as the conflicted fledgling spy finds herself drawn to both her case officer Gadi and the Palestinian cause.

What’d They Wear?

The Real “Michel”

For most of the first episode, we primarily see the “real” Michel, Salim Al-Khadar, wearing his signature green jacket. The material is a rich and supple bottle green sueded leather, light-wearing but insulated enough to be an effective layer for transitional seasons like spring. (Indeed, the first few episodes are established to be set during the final days of March 1979, as opposed to the novel’s summer setting.)

Michel’s recognizable green suede jacket is a blouson, fitted at the waist hem with elasticized sides that the jacket “blouses” over. The front zip is reinforced by single brass-finished snaps at the top and bottom of the fly, though he never zips up more than halfway and thus leaves the neck open with the shirt-style collar laying flat. Though the jacket has set-in sleeves, there are seams that stretch diagonally over the chest from each armpit to the neck—raglan-style—from which a vertical seam extends down to the waist. A single brass-finished snap on each squared cuff echoes the hardware across the jacket, and there are two gently slanted hand pockets.

Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl

Michel oversees a bombing in West Germany.

Michel exclusively wears sporty red shirts with the green jacket, beginning with a coral-hued knitted shirt textured with a ridged self-stripe. The polo-style shirt has short set-in sleeves with narrow ribbed bands and a non-textured collar that matches the three-button placket. Michel fastens the bottom two of the three dark brown two-hole buttons, leaving the top undone.

Another signature of Michel’s attire is the silver arrowhead pendant he wears on a thin gold necklace, typically on the outside of his shirts but with the necklace chain under the collar (almost like a necktie).

Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl

Charlie creates a memory of Michel speaking to her through a letter.

Mossad agents surveil Michel returning to his Munich apartment, dressed in a trendier crimson shirt that would have been fashionable during the Saturday Night Fever era of the late ’70s with its disco-friendly fit, long-pointed collar, and his penchant for wearing half the mother-of-pearl buttons undone up the plain “French placket” front. The shirt is uniquely patterned with scattered but organized rust-shaded dots against the crimson ground, broken up by long, narrow, vertical shapes.

Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl

Michel works his manipulative charm under the watchful eyes of Mossad agents.

Inside the apartment, he wears plain black flat front trousers, but Michel otherwise prefers his uniquely textured stone-gray trousers detailed with dark, widely spaced stripes. These flat front trousers have side pockets, jetted back pockets (with a button through the left), and wide belt loops for his dark brown leather belt with its silver-toned rectangular single-prong buckle.

Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl

The short break of Michel’s fashionably flared trouser bottoms keep them clear above his cognac brown leather apron-toe tasseled loafers, though this also shows plenty of his dark brown socks. Le Carré describes Michel’s “Gucci shoes” that he stops to have polished on a promenade in Istanbul.

Detailed with braided straps across the vamps from which the tassels are hooked, these would be comfortable shoes for motoring across Europe for hundreds of miles.

Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl

Michel falls into a Mossad trap.

Once Michel is in Mossad custody, the agents are thorough in making sure Charlie is well-acquainted with every detail of her supposed lover, which even means pulling down the short black briefs he wears as underwear.

Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl

Mossad agents conduct thorough research in order to make sure Charlie is properly prepped for her role.

More instantly recognizable to the casual observer would be Michel’s flashy gold jewelry on his left hand, including a pinky ring with a flush-set diamond positioned toward the front of the round surface.

Michel’s gold Omega Constellation watch would be crucial to Gadi establishing his Michel “disguise”. Omega has issued many versions of the Constellation since its 1952 introduction, responsive to each era’s horological trends. In 1969, Omega introduced a streamlined Constellation with a square-shaped case and integrated five-piece link bracelet, and it’s this ref. BA 368.0847 that Michel prominently wears in The Little Drummer Girl. Powered by a 20-jewel automatic movement, this 18-karat solid yellow gold watch has a light gold squared dial with rounded edges, gold non-numeric hour markers, and a 3:00 date window.

Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl

You couldn’t ask for a better shot of the Omega or the ring!

Consistent with his playboy image and reputation, Michel also sports a pair of hip gold-framed aviator-style sunglasses with brown gradient-tinted lenses.

Amir Khoury in The Little Drummer Girl

Le Carré describes the jewelry appropriated from Michel (also known as Yanuka in the novel) as “his fine gold watch by Cellini and his linked gold bracelet and the gold-plated charm that Yanuka liked to wear against his heart, believed to be a gift from his beloved sister Fatmeh,” in addition to “a pair of expensive Polaroid sunglasses.”

Gadi as Michel

When we meet Gadi during Charlie’s holiday in Greece, the squared gold Omega and shining pinky ring may indicate to some eagle-eyed viewers that something is awry, though he doesn’t fully assume Michel’s look until toward the end of this first episode. By this time, we know Michel is in Mossad custody, never to be freed again and only dressed in his signature threads when he needs to be identified after his death is arranged at the end of the third episode.

However, Charlie still remains blissfully ignorant as she follows the laconic man she knows as “Peter” through the Athens port to the red Mercedes-Benz which had just been, er, liberated from Michel at the border. It isn’t until she glimpses in the back seat that she sees a green jacket which raises a red flag…

The Little Drummer Girl

“My mate has a jacket just like that,” Charlie suspiciously comments upon spotting Michel’s green suede jacket in the back of Gadi’s Mercedes. In le Carré’s novel, the coat in question is actually a red blazer with brass buttons.

Gadi slips on the jacket upon their arrival at the Acropolis, a spectacle that momentarily distracts Charlie enough to take her mind off of the familiar jacket, but the distinctive gold ring and watch are too many similarities for her to ignore. The lead-footed Gadi speeds an increasingly nervous Charlie back to the luxurious Mossad safe house, where she’s given a comprehensive—if truncated—briefing into her nerve-rattling mission.

Charlie learns that the first leg of her mission will be to establish a convincing background as the latest young woman to fall for the seductive charms of Michel’s seductive charms, with Gadi conveniently standing in for Michel. To make the guise more convincing, Gadi will continue appropriating Michel’s manner of dress, from his red shirts and green suede blouson to the distinctive jewelry and accessories.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

Gadi completes the Michel look with his sunglasses.

From Gadi and Charlie’s arrival in Athens toward the end of the first episode and into the second, Gadi wears what appears to be the exact same coral red textured-stripe knitted short-sleeve polo shirt that Michel had worn during the opening bombing.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

He may have the right clothes, but his homework left one detail unaddressed; Gadi indeed wears the arrowhead necklace over his shirt but neglects to tuck the chain under his collar as Michel had.

Gadi’s trousers illustrate another departure from Michel’s established style as he dresses in a pair of plum-colored cotton chinos. These flat front trousers have side pockets, button-through back pockets, and even the slightly flared plain-hemmed bottoms, but he also wears a black leather belt with a silver-toned single-prong buckle that not only differs from Michel’s brown belts, it also contrasts with his shoe leather.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

Gadi wears Michel’s same cognac leather apron-toe loafers, with the scenes of his driving through Athens illustrating more unique detailing of these slip-on shoes like the braided leather straps across the vamps, over which the double tassel is looped. During this first day, he wears olive green ribbed cotton lisle socks.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

Comfortable and well-fitting driving shoes are particularly an asset for cars with manual transmissions that require negotiating across three pedals.

 

Midway through Gadi and Charlie’s journey in the second episode and into the third, Gadi wears his most contemporary and unique shirt.

Bright red with white accents and large creamy off-white buttons, this short-sleeved Ban-Lon shirt has large, curved chest yokes that resemble the storm flaps on a trench coat, accented by a vestigial button at the inner corner of each “flap” positioned just above the open-top patch pocket on each side of the chest. The edges of both of these chest pockets, the shoulder flaps, and the large collar are all piped with double tan-and-white contrast stitching.

Gadi’s olive green flat front trousers are styled like his purple chinos, worn with the same black leather belt and brown braided-strap tassel loafers.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

Beginning midway through the third episode, Gadi concludes his guise as Michel by wearing the green suede jacket over a silky red long-sleeved shirt that reflects a subtle tonal checkerboard pattern in certain light. He wears the top few flat pearl buttons undone on the narrow front placket.

This may be the most conventional shirt of the trio and is worn with the most conventional trousers, made from a plain stone-gray wool with gentle napping that suggests a lighter-weight flannel. These flat front trousers are styled the same as his others and also worn with the black leather belt and brown tassel loafers.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

Aware that people notice details, Gadi is sure to wear the same distinctive gold pinky ring and squared Omega Constellation that Michel had sported on his left hand. Both Gadi and Michel are surrounded by colleagues in less expensive Sekonda watches (for Gadi, this includes fellow agent Shimon Litvak; for Michel, his brother Khalil), but Gadi remains in character with his gold Omega… suggesting that there may indeed be occasion for government agencies to issue Omega watches to their spies beyond the world of Bond!

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

A spy in an Omega!

Gadi also makes use of Michel’s sunglasses, the gold aviators with brown gradient-tinted lenses in the rectangular frames.

Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

The fourth episode reveals how the Mossad’s plan all comes together as their own surveillance photos of Gadi and Charlie are doctored to position Michel’s head over Gadi’s.

In the same episode, Gadi wears the green suede blouson for a final time, more to “get in character” as he gives Charlie shooting lessons in the English forest. In this instance, he wears it with his own clothing, layering it under his well-worn brown leather flight jacket with a navy turtleneck and jeans.

Promotional photo of Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl.

Promotional photo of Florence Pugh and Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl.
Photo: Jonathan Olley/AMC/Ink Factor

The Gun

The “real” Michel is never prominently armed, but Gadi carries an M11911A1 semi-automatic pistol that he reveals to Charlie before slipping it under his pillow in one of the hotels they patronize while driving across Europe. Later in England, Gadi would again draw this pistol when teaching Charlie how to shoot and familiarizing her with Khalil’s preferred weapon.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

Gadi reveals his .45.

The venerable M1911 semi-automatic pistol was designed by John Browning and introduced into U.S. military service in the years leading up to World War I. During the ’20s, the pistol was upgraded with a shorter trigger, arched spring housing, and longer hammer and spur, designated the M1911A1.

1911-style pistols are primarily associated with the .45 ACP cartridge that Browning had designed in 1904 for his prototypes that would eventually become the M1911 and M1911A1 series, though 1911s have been produced in multiple different calibers from .22 LR and 9×19 mm Parabellum to .38 Super and .455 Webley Auto, depending on usage and country of service.

The Car

Part of the Israeli team’s gambit includes obtaining an additional red Mercedes-Benz W123 like the 230E sedan that Michel famously drives across Europe, though the specific screen-used E-Class sedans have been identified by IMCDB as a 1983 model, making it slightly anachronistic for the 1979 setting. (Le Carré’s source novel describes “the polished wine-red Mercedes—not new, but handsome enough.”)

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

If one red W123 is admirable, imagine having two!

E-Class? 230E? W123? How many different names does this car have?

“E-Class” refers to Mercedes-Benz’s platform of mid-range executive cars that has been continuously produced since 1953, though it wasn’t until the early ’90s that the German automaker formally adopted the E-Class nomenclature. Each generation of the E-segment is differentiated by its one-letter and three-digit code, beginning with the W120 in the ’50s, the W110 in the ’60s, and the W114 and W115 that was produced from 1968 to 1976 and which featured in the 1984 adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl.

Mercedes-Benz introduced its W123 sedan for 1976, which would be expanded to include the C123 coupe, V123 and F123 extended wheelbase, and S123 estate wagon. Within the W123’s ten-year timeline, there were multiple different sub-generations, culminating in a “third series” introduced in September 1982. Within these were sub-models named for engine displacement, chassis, and fuel delivery and system. Thus, Michel’s 230E driven in The Little Drummer Girl would refer to the 2299 cc engine (230) with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection (E) as opposed to, say, the 200T, a wagon powered by a 1997 cc engine with a carburetor or the 300CD, a diesel-fueled coupe with a 3005 cc engine.

Alexander Skarsgård in The Little Drummer Girl

1983 Mercedes-Benz 230E

Body Style: 4-door full-size executive sedan

Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)

Engine: 2299 cc (2.3 L) Mercedes-Benz M102 E 23 I4 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection

Power: 134 hp (100 kW; 136 PS) @ 5100 rpm

Torque: 151 lb·ft (205 N·m) @ 3500 rpm

Transmission: 4-speed manual

Wheelbase: 116.5 inches (2960 mm)

Length: 199.2 inches (5060 mm)

Width: 73.6 inches (1870 mm)

Height: 56.3 inches (1430 mm)

More than 2.6 million W123 automobiles were manufactured before production transferred to the new W124 generation from 1986 through 1994. Beginning in in 1993, Mercedes-Benz officially adopted the “E-Class” designation that would be used for the W124, W210, W211, W212, and current W213 generations.

What to Imbibe

Gadi isn’t much of a drinker (at least not as much as some other Omega-wearing spies), but he and Charlie do toast to their mission with a shot of vodka each.

“As a man, I naturally drink more than you. I don’t drink well; alcohol gives me a headache, occasionally it makes me sick. But vodka is what I like,” he instructs Charlie in the novel, informing the spirit of choice seen frequently across nearly each episode fhte series.

Alexander Skarsgård and Florence Pugh in The Little Drummer Girl

Cheers!

Later in Munich, room service brings them a 1974 vintage Riesling with the fictional “Ribaroff” label. In the same scene, he pours Charlie some of the equally fictional “Korolevska” vodka with a dash of lemonade.

How to Get the Look

Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker in The Little Drummer Girl

Alexander Skarsgård as Gadi Becker in The Little Drummer Girl (2018) (Photo by Jonathan Olley/AMC/Ink Factory via AP)

In his distinctive bottle green suede jacket, red shirts, and gold jewelry—including that gold contemporary Omega Constellation—terrorist Michel sets a straightforward template for Mossad agent Gadi Becker to follow when stealing his style for a trip across the continent.

  • Green suede blouson jacket with shirt-style collar, zip-up fly with top and bottom snaps, slanted side pockets, and set-in sleeves with single-snap cuffs
  • Red short-sleeved polo or button-up sport shirt
  • Flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, button-through back pockets, and flared plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Dark leather belt with rectangular single-prong buckle
  • Cognac brown leather apron-toe tassel-strap loafers
  • Dark brown socks
  • Silver arrowhead pendant on thin gold necklace
  • Omega Constellation BA 368.0847 yellow gold square-cased automatic watch with squared gold dial (with non-numeric hour markers and 3:00 date window) on integrated five-piece link bracelet
  • Gold pinky ring with small diamond on round ridged surface
  • Gold-framed aviator sunglasses with brown gradient-tinted lenses

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the series, described by Troy Patterson for The New Yorker as “a chic, surreal adaptation… that approaches spy craft as a form of experimental art”, and read John le Carré’s 1983 novel.

I’ll be returning to the series this summer to take a look at some of Gadi’s beach looks when he’s undercover in Greece, laying the foundation for ultimately seducing Charlie into the Mossad’s service.

The Quote

The good news is… I’ve lied to you as little as possible.

One comment

  1. jdreyfuss

    I think it was in a Robert Forsythe novel that I first came across the notion that a successful disguise relies on the details, that people see the “furniture” (hairstyle, facial hair, glasses, jewelry) more than the face. When imitating a real person, this is more difficult, as you will have to be able to at least look like the person from 20 feet away, but I could see how appropriating Michel’s distinctive choices of jewelry, sunglasses, car, and signature shirts and outerwear would be enough to pass as him for a while as long as Gadi didn’t run into anyone who knew Michel with any degree of intimacy.

    Unless Michel was known for wearing those gray slacks and a brown belt, it’s unlikely anyone would notice that the man of roughly the same height, build, complexion, and hair color wearing a red shirt and green suede jacket with that jewelry was wearing the wrong pants, or a black belt, or had the necklace chain inside his collar instead of outside it.

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