Elliott Gould as Miles Cullen, mild-mannered bank teller
Toronto, Christmas 1977
Film: The Silent Partner
Release Date: September 7, 1978
Director: Daryl Duke
Wardrobe Credit: Debi Weldon
One of the most fun yet under-celebrated of Christmas-adjacent thrillers, The Silent Partner should sell most new viewers on the simple elevator pitch of Christopher Plummer as a gun-toting robber in a Santa Claus suit who increasingly torments Elliott Gould as a scheming teller.
The action begins on Tuesday, December 14—set exactly 44 years ago today—as the meek Miles Cullen (Gould) wraps up his daily duties at a First Bank of Toronto branch when his flirtatious sketches on a deposit slip wise him to a potential robbery plot. He’s about to reveal the note to his manager Charles Packard (Michael Kirby), who surprises him by asking Miles to him a favor by escorting his mistress—operations officer Julie Carver (Susannah York), the object of Miles’ clumsy affections—out for a few hours to distract her. The excitement of an evening with Julie—and the purchase of an angelfish—push the lingering larceny to the back of Miles’ mind as the two discuss her indiscretions over drinks as they await Packard’s arrival.
Two days later, back at work, Miles schemes to take advantage of the robbery plot, tucking away plenty of cash in his Superman lunchbox and triggering the silent alarm when Santa comes to collect.
What’d He Wear?
The Silent Partner is famous for its first act set around Christmas, though the action spans well into the next year so we see the full range of Elliott Gould’s on-screen wardrobe which includes seasonal tailoring like light linen suits for summer, heavier wool three-piece and double-breasted suits in winter, and sportier staples including a classic navy blazer and the tweed sports coat he frequently wears for wintry days at work, including the first scene set on Tuesday the 14th.
Miles Cullen’s brown tweed sport jacket is woven in a broken twill variation of the barleycorn weave, which you can read more about in Bond Suits‘ exploration of 11 classic checks and patterns. The wool consists of yarns alternating between a rich chocolate brown and a lighter fawn, woven into a series of irregular chevrons that present as the “barley kernels” that give the pattern its evocative appellation.
Tweed as we know it had been developed for rugged outdoors pursuits in 19th century Scotland. Miles’ single-breasted jacket pays homage to these sporting origins, modeling traditionally equestrian elements like rear-slanted “hacking” pockets and a long single vent, a detail that also happened to be consistent with prevailing fashions at the time The Silent Partner was produced in the late 1970s.
The jacket otherwise reflects relatively timeless detailing and cut, with the welted-edge notch lapels—restrained to an eye-pleasingly moderate width for the ’70s—rolling cleanly to the top of two mixed brown horn buttons, where the buttoning point is positioned over Gould’s natural waist. The sleeves are roped at the shoulders and finished with two smaller horn buttons on each cuff. In addition to the aforementioned flapped hip pockets, the jacket boasts a welted breast pocket and a flapped ticket pocket rigged above the right-side hip pocket.
Miles chooses his shirts to look professional at the office and also offer tonal coordination with the warmer cast of his coarse tweed jacket. The first shirt, seen on the afternoon and evening of the December 14th, is made from a pale ecru cotton and detailed with a front placket, single-button barrel cuffs, and a long point collar consistent with the decade’s trends.
His dark rust-colored tie has thin ochre bar stripes spaced apart in a “downhill” diagonal direction, each flanked on top and bottom by a narrower gold stripe.
For several subsequent days at work, Miles wears a plain white cotton shirt that presents a starker contrast than the softer ecru of his previous shirt. Like that one, it’s detailed with a long point collar and single-button cuffs, but it buttons up a plain front rather than a placket. When Miles removes his jacket, we see the shirt also has a breast pocket.
When he’s first confronted by a gun-toting Santa on Thursday, December 16, Miles wears a dark brown tie patterned with a spotted medallion print in beige and taupe.
Miles’ perceived coolness under pressure makes him a minor celebrity at the bank, earning some additional attention from Julie. During one of these days at the office, he wears a plain brown twill tie, possibly polyester.
Following weeks of “Santa” threatening and terrorizing Miles after having been hoodwinked during his attempted robbery, Miles frames the thief for a robbery that leads to his arrest on other charges. Miles is called in to identify Santa as Harry Reikle, again dressing in his favorite tweed jacket but appointing it with his busiest shirt and tie combination of the movie.
The cream shirt is patterned with a field of tonal satin dots that each shine gold under the harsh lights of the police station. Other than this unique detail, the shirt resembles his others with its long point collar, front placket, and single-button cuffs. Miles’ tie consists of an interlocking cream grid connecting unique arrangements of four squares—cream-on-black, black-on-gray, and black-on-bronze—against a field of gold and bronze silk.
Miles wears chocolate brown flat front trousers that provide a tonally coordinated contrast to the lighter brown jacket. As he tends to keep the jacket buttoned in professional settings, we don’t see much of the top of these trousers but we can assume they’re fashioned like his others, held up with a belt and detailed with western-style “frogmouth” front pockets.
The trousers’ plain-hemmed bottoms are fashionably flared with a considerable break over his shoes, which appear to be dark brown plain-toe ankle boots. No laces appear over the front of these boots, so they’re likely pull on boots that may be aided by side zips or elastic gussets—à la Chelsea boots—but the full break of the trouser bottoms prevents seeing much more of his footwear.
Miles’ gold-cased wristwatch was likely Gould’s personal watch, with a round, off-white dial detailed with plain gold hour markers and secured to his left wrist on a dark brown textured leather strap.
Layered to combat the December chill, Miles wears a fawn-colored wool coat known as a “British Warm”, detailed with quasi-martial elements like the shoulder straps (epaulettes) sewn against the roped sleeveheads with the pointed end buttoned toward each side of his neck. The six dark brown woven leather shank buttons comprising the double-breasted front are arranged in two neat columns of three buttons each. The wide peak lapels have slanted gorges that direct each peak toward the shoulders, with “swelled” welted edges that echo the detailing on the welted breast pocket and the dramatically rear-slanting flaps over each hip pocket. Each cuff has a single button, and the back is split with a long vent.
Miles’ additional outerwear pieces are consistent with his brown tones, including the dark brown woolen scarf and his dark brown leather three-point gloves.
Miles’ shades of brown at the outset of The Silent Partner are appropriate for the earthy tones associated with the ’70s, though they also reinforce the lonely clerk’s boredom by juxtaposing his tastefully subdued colors against the decor of this most festive time of year.
That said, Miles’ co-workers showcase how the same palette can be employed in a more festive fashion, such as Simonson (a young John Candy), sprucing up his brown clothing with a sprig of holly pinned to the left lapel of his chocolate windowpane suit.
Less related to the points I’m making but still of sartorial note: one of my favorite aspects of The Silent Partner is the rotation of T-shirts worn by Miles’ comely colleague Louise (Gail Dahms), each printed with a banking-relevant double entendre like “Penalty for early withdrawal,” certainly a violation of the bank’s employee dress code but delightfully unaddressed throughout her on-screen appearances.
How to Get the Look
Many associate the ’70s with brown clothing, but Elliott Gould’s garb in The Silent Partner illustrates why this needn’t be a negative association as—with a shorter collar here and a more restrained trouser cuff there—his tasteful tweed jacket and tonally coordinated ties set a template for smart office-wear during cooler seasons.
- Brown broken twill “barleycorn” tweed single-breasted 2-button sport jacket with welted-edge notch lapels, welted breast pocket, flapped hacking pockets and ticket pocket, 2-button cuffs, and long single vent
- White or pale ecru cotton shirt with long point collar and button cuffs
- Brown plain or patterned tie
- Dark brown flat front trousers with belt loops, frogmouth front pockets, and flared plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark brown leather belt
- Dark brown leather plain-toe ankle boots
- Fawn-colored wool double-breasted “British Warm” overcoat with welted-edge peak lapels, 6×3-button front, shoulder straps (epaulettes), welted breast pocket, flapped hip pockets, 1-button cuffs, long single vent
- Dark brown leather three-point gloves
- Dark brown woolen scarf
- Gold dress watch with round white dial on dark brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.