Christopher Lee in White as The Man with the Golden Gun
Christopher Lee as Francisco Scaramanga, sophisticated freelance assassin
Bangkok, Thailand, Spring 1974
Film: The Man with the Golden Gun
Release Date: December 20, 1974
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell
Today would have been the 100th birthday of Sir Christopher Lee, the imposing yet debonair screen icon known to many for portraying Count Dracula a total of nine times while Bond fans may know him best as Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous villain who faced off against Roger Moore’s James Bond in Moore’s sophomore 007 outing, The Man with the Golden Gun.
Loosely adapted from Ian Fleming’s unfinished final novel of the same name, The Man with the Golden Gun was arguably the first Bond movie to posit a “we’re not so different, you and I” antagonist that likens himself to a darker reflection of 007, a template that would later be followed by entries like GoldenEye and Spectre.
Scaramanga: At a million dollars a contract I can afford to, Mr Bond. You work for peanuts, a hearty well done from her Majesty the Queen and a pittance of a pension. Apart from that we are the same. To us, Mr. Bond, we are the best.
Bond: There’s a useful four letter word… and you’re full of it.
Despite playing foes, Moore and Lee were great friends in real life, and it’s fun to watch the two settle into an easy screen chemistry. In his memoir Bond on Bond, Moore recalls that “I used to tease Christopher mercilessly about his role as Dracula and, just before the director called ‘Action,’ I would lean over and say, ‘Go on, Chris, make your eyes go red!'”
In addition to being Moore’s “old pal”, Lee was also a distant cousin to Ian Fleming, who had originally invited Lee to portray the first Bond villain in Dr. No before learning that the producers had cast Joseph Wiseman in the role. Still, Lee was evidently fated for a role in the James Bond franchise and was finally cast as Scaramanga, of whom the actor described to Total Film: “In Fleming’s novel he’s just a West Indian thug, but in the film he’s charming, elegant, amusing, lethal… I played him like the dark side of Bond.”
What’d He Wear?
Scaramanga’s doomed mistress and courier Andrea Anders (Maud Adams) describes her boss as usually wearing “a white linen suit, black tie, and jewelry, all gold,” an outfit described in great detail by Matt Spaiser at Bond Suits, whose words and observations I cannot improve upon.
While Scaramanga may indeed have a penchant for wearing white linen suits, the actual off-white tailoring crafted by Bermans & Nathans for Christopher Lee’s screen-worn outfit consists of a cream-colored polyester jacket and non-matching trousers.
Actual white linen would have been an excellent choice for Thailand’s warm tropical climate, with cotton or even a lightweight wool also reasonable options, but Scaramanga instead stifles himself in the warm-wearing polyester. This inadvisable choice of wearing polyester is exacerbated by how much of Lee’s torso is covered by the jacket, with its close fit, high three-button stance that flatters Lee’s 6’3″ height, and squared full skirt. The back is split with a long single vent. Three mother-of-pearl buttons on each cuff match those on the front of the jacket, which is shaped with darts that extend straight down on each side from mid-chest to the crest of each slanted flapped hip pocket. Unlike conventional suit and sport jackets, Scaramanga’s jacket has no breast pocket.
Scaramanga’s jacket has a wide, flat collar that Matt likens to camp collars typically found on casual shirts and—contemporary to the ’70s—frequently on leisure suits, as illustrated when Scaramanga sits beside Moore’s Bond, whose green safari shirt-jacket features a similar collar.
Under his jacket, Scaramanga wears a cream-colored shirt that nearly matches his trousers, detailed with a semi-spread collar and double (French) cuffs fastened with gold links that also serve a tactical purpose for the assassin. Miss Anders appropriately described her boss’s “black tie”, though Matt’s blog post points out that Scaramanga’s choice of knitted silk neckwear nods to 007’s literary origins, as Ian Fleming had described Bond’s own preferred black silk knit tie in multiple novels.
I’ll admit that I always assumed that Scaramanga’s cream-colored trousers were part of a complete suit, informed not just by Andrea Anders’ description but also sartorial taste and tradition. However, Matt’s blog post calls out the difference in cloth and cites a 2009 Bonhams auction listing that described the narrow-leg trousers as “wool (with a waffle texture)”, adding the details of a darted front and belt loops.
Scaramanga’s practice of wearing all three buttons of his full-skirted jacket fully fastened keeps his waist-line covered during much of his screen-time, but Bond Lifestyle features information about Christopher Lee’s screen-worn belt that was auctioned by Christie’s in 2012, yielding £30,000. The narrow dark brown faux-crocodile leather belt has a wide gilt buckle with two parallel slots and—on each side—a tube presumably to store two of Scaramanga’s custom-made 4.2mm gold bullets.
Scaramanga’s narrow-leg trousers remain immune to the questionable flare that increasingly plagued trouser bottoms throughout the 1970s, with the plain-hemmed bottoms neatly breaking over the tops of his shoes. These white leather apron-toe loafers have a strap across the vamp detailed with a gold horsebit, a style pioneered in the early ’50s by Gucci, who had provided much of Roger Moore’s leather-wear in The Man with the Golden Gun before he converted to Ferragamo goods for his subsequent films. The hint of hosiery seen between his trouser bottoms and shoes suggest that Scaramanga wears ivory socks that maintain the leg-line of his trousers into his white shoes.
Among Scaramanga’s assortment of “gold jewelry” described by Miss Anders is a flat yellow gold wristwatch with a squared gold dial that’s flush with the rest of the nine-piece bracelet, a style that seemingly enjoyed its widest popularity during the 1970s. I’ve read Scaramanga’s watch identified as a Rolex Cellini King Midas (most convincingly here), but the screen-worn version lacks the Midas’ smaller inset dial and wider bracelet links and instead appears to be a Bueche Girod, not unlike the timepieces rotated through Robert De Niro’s wrist as the flamboyant disco-era gambler “Ace” Rothstein in Casino.
To my knowledge, Bueche Girod wristwatches are no longer produced, but plenty of vintage pieces can be found online, such as the 18-karat Bueche Girod ref. 750 (as found on eBay), which bears a close resemblance to Scaramanga’s watch. (In the novel, Fleming describes Scaramanga’s “thin gold watch on a two-colored gold bracelet.”)
Scaramanga also wears a pair of gold pinky rings, though—unlike the practical purpose served by his watch or the tactical purpose served by his cuff link—these seem to be purely ornamental. The ring on his right pinky has a raised square surface, detailed with four wavy lines in relief. The larger signet ring on his left pinky has a round surface with the complex relief of a knight on horseback.
Scaramanga’s all-white attire was conceptualized for the movie, as Ian Fleming’s description of Scaramanga in the fifth chapter of his novel The Man with the Golden Gun suggests a kit more colorful… in every sense of the word:
He was wearing a well-cut, single-breasted tan suit and “co-respondent” shoes in brown and white. Instead of a tie, he wore a high stock in white silk secured by a gold pin the shape of a miniature pistol. There should have been something theatrical about the getup but, perhaps because of the man’s fine figure, there wasn’t.
For the denouement, Fleming notes that “Scaramanga had added a broad-brimmed white Stetson to his immaculate tropical attire,” that also consists of short Texan boots from which he pulls a stiletto knife while being hunted by Bond.
Scaramanga: A duel between titans. My golden gun against your Walther PPK. Each of us with a 50-50 chance.
Bond: Six bullets to your one?
Scaramanga: I only need one.
In a world where the world’s greatest “secret” agent is known internationally by his equally “secret” code number, it serves to reason that the world’s greatest assassin would also be renowned for his choice of weapons… in this case, a signature Golden Gun made of seemingly non-lethal items that could be found in any gentleman’s pockets and armed with 23-karat gold bullets custom-made by a proud Portuguese gunsmith. Given this exclusivity and Scaramanga’s reputation for never missing his first shot, one can understand why he would charge his clients a million dollars per shot.
In his memoir Bond on Bond, Roger Moore marvels at how his friend Christopher Lee was armed with one of the most iconic gadgets of the series: “His legendary Golden Gun was assembled from a pen (the barrel) inserted into a cigarette case (the firing chamber), a cigarette lighter (the handle), and a cufflink (the trigger).” (With respect to the late Sir Roger, I believe the cigarette case is actually used as the pistol grip while the Waterman fountain pen is actually inserted into the lighter, which is a Colibri Model 88 gas lighter.)
The Golden Gun is said to fire single rounds of proprietary 4.2mm ammunition—”an unusual size”, as Moore accurately editorializes—which Scaramanga wears in his belt buckle until he needs to load his weapon. A 4.2-millimeter diameter would measure to be even smaller in diameter than the appropriately named 4.25mm Lilliput cartridge or the dimensionally equivalent .17 Hornet centerfire and .17 HMR rimfire rounds, though the bullets shown on screen are slightly larger. You can read more about the fabled Golden Gun at IMFDB and James Bond Lifestyle.
The Man with the Golden Gun‘s end credits acknowledges the “Golden Gun made by Colibri Lighters, London, U.K.,” though some debate continues as to who had designed the screen-used weapon itself. Moore’s memoir credits the concept to Pinewood Studios engineer Bert Luxford, while other sources credit the design to special effects expert John Stears or art director Peter Lamont. Most sources can agree that three Golden Guns were developed: “a solid piece, one that could be fired with a cap and one that could be assembled and disassembled, although Christopher Lee said that the process ‘was extremely difficult’,” as explained by James Bond Lifestyle.
The screen-used weapon was a stark contrast to Ian Fleming’s choice for the literary Scaramanga, whose dossier describes “a gold-plated, long-barreled, single-action Cotl .45. He uses special bullets with a heavy, soft (24 ct) gold core jacketed with silver and cross-cut at the tip, on the dum-dum principle, for maximum wounding effect.”
The movie seemingly pays tribute to Fleming’s original choice when Lee’s Scaramanga uses a gold-plated Colt Single Action Army revolver—presumably the same type of Peacemaker described in the novel—to shoot the cork off a bottle of Dom Pérignon when welcoming Bond onto his private island. He then places the “harmless toy” on Nick Nack’s champagne tray, and holds up his hands to tell Bond that “I am, as you can see now, completely unarmed…” despite holding his cigarette case that we know to be part of what he uses to build his famous Golden Gun.
How to Get the Look
If you’re dressing for the tropics, you’d be best inclined to follow Miss Anders’ description of a “white linen suit” rather than the non-matching (and warm-wearing!) polyester jacket and wool trousers seen on screen, but Francisco Scaramanga’s wardrobe otherwise presents a template for tastefully sinister summer tailoring, only breaking up the all-white look with a dressed-down knitted tie and enough gold jewelry to get Tony Soprano’s attention… many of which are worn specifically to aid his nefarious occupation.
- Cream polyester single-breasted 3-button jacket with camp collar, slanted flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Cream shirt with semi-spread collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Gold cuff links
- Black knitted silk tie
- Cream waffle-woven wool darted-front trousers with belt loops and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Dark brown scaled faux-crocodile leather belt with gold-toned two-slot buckle
- White leather apron-toe horsebit loafers
- Ivory socks
- Gold square-faced wavy-relief pinky ring
- Gold signet ring with horseback knight in relief
- Gold wristwatch with square gold dial against flush gold nine-piece link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
A mistress cannot serve two masters. She was a difficult shot, but most gratifying.