Hot Saturday: Cary Grant’s White Suit
Cary Grant as Romer Sheffield, smooth playboy
Ohio, Summer 1932
Film: Hot Saturday
Release Date: October 28, 1932
Director: William A. Seiter
Today being a hot Saturday in late summer reminded me of the early Cary Grant movie called, well, Hot Saturday. 1932 had been a breakout year for the Bristol-born star, as the erstwhile Archie Leach had worked his way in six months from his screen debut (This is the Night) to his first leading role, as the dapper playboy Romer Sheffield in Hot Saturday. (Curiously, this marks the second time both this month and in the decade-long history of this blog that I’m writing about a character named Romer!)
Romer provides a prototype of what would become Grant’s signature screen persona: charming, debonair, and romantic yet wickedly self-deprecating. We meet him on a warm afternoon in the fictional Ohio berg of Marysville, where he strolls into the local bank and makes a date with the young clerk, Ruth Brock (Nancy Carroll), despite his already scandalous living arrangement with a woman named Camille Renault (Rita La Roy). As Ruth already has a date set that weekend with co-worker Connie Billop (Edward Woods), Romer invites both to his lakeside estate for what promises to be a hot Saturday indeed.
His amorous advances spurned by Ruth, a spiteful Connie begins rumors about Ruth’s activities with Romer which ultimately threaten to derail her engagement to another man, her childhood friend Bill Fadden (Randolph Scott, who was Grant’s Very Good Friend and Roommate at the time).
With its relatively frank depictions of sex, dating, and jealousy, Hot Saturday exemplifies cinematic storytelling during the pre-Code era “when a lax code of censorship let sin rule the movies,” as described by Mark A. Vieira in the prelude to his book Forbidden Hollywood.
What’d He Wear?
Even in black-and-white, the brightly bleached fabric of Cary Grant’s suit as he emerges from that elegant Lincoln phaeton leaves little doubt that our confident playboy is tailored in white. Lacking linen’s characteristic wrinkle and silk’s distinctive shine, the material may be a blend of wool and mohair, which Alan Flusser describes as “one of the few summer suits capable of holding its crisp good looks.” Another potential option would be the signature cotton and mohair tropical-weight blend that Goodall Worsted Co. of Sanford, Maine, had patented as “Palm Beach cloth” n 1908 (Source: The Met).
The double-breasted jacket follows classic proportions with its pearl buttons arranged in a traditional 6×2 arrangement, with only the top of the two fastening buttons done for a more laidback look that eases Romer’s habit of slipping at least one of his hands into a trouser pocket. (This was long a real-life habit of Cary Grant’s, borne of early insecurity as reported by his third wife Betsy Drake: “He said you notice how my hand is in my pocket because I didn’t know what to do with my hands.”) Wearing the bottom button undone would ease the habit, particularly given the jacket’s lack of vents—a prevailing style of the 1930s, particularly with double-breasted jackets.
Sporty patch pockets dress the suit down, with rounded patch pockets over the hips and a more squared breast pocket that Romer dresses with a medium-colored cotton or linen pocket square. Straight, padded shoulders build up Romer’s silhouette, and each sleeve is finished with four-button cuffs.
Romer wears a low-contrasting shirt and tie, though still shades darker than the suit to suggest an off-white color. The point collar is pinned to keep it neatly in place behind the knot of his darker silk tie. Publicity photos taken to promote Hot Saturday depict a lighter shirt with a non-pinned collar and a knitted silk tie of the same color, though the screen-worn tie is clearly a smoother silk. Romer’s shirt has a front placket and double (French) cuffs, which he keeps in place with subtle rectangular links.
Even with the lower button undone, the jacket’s double-breasted wrap still covers enough of the trouser waistband that little of the trousers can be spied beyond the bottoms, which are finished with turn-ups (cuffs) but are likely pleated in accordance with the prevailing fashions of the era.
The trousers have a high break that shows plenty of Romer’s spectator semi-brogue oxfords, which are primarily white but designed with dark brown toe caps. These two-toned shoes were also known as “correspondent shoes”, so nicknamed for their association with the “co-respondent” third parties legally named in adultery-themed English divorce cases and thus contextually appropriate for Romer’s scandalous playboy reputation.
Romer completes his look with a dark felt short-brimmed fedora with a matching grosgrain silk band. Though the color is obviously lost to history, something along the brown or olive spectrum would be a reasonable choice.
By the time the eponymous hot Saturday comes around, Romer dresses comfortably for his party in a crested navy blazer, white slacks, and a white scarf through his open-neck shirt, while Connie appears determined to mimic his romantic rival in an off-white double-breasted suit of his own.
How to Get the Look
As could be expected by his reputation for three successful decades to follow, Cary Grant steals the sartorial spotlight for his fashionable introduction to leading screen roles in a white double-breasted Palm Beach suit, pinned collar, and natty spectator shoes.
- White tropical-weight mohair-blend suit:
- Double-breasted 6×2-button jacket with peak lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Pleated trousers with side pockets and turn-ups/cuffs
- Light-colored cotton shirt with pinned point collar, front placket, and double/French cuffs
- Medium-colored silk tie
- Dark felt fedora with matching grosgrain band
- White-and-brown leather semi-brogue spectator oxford shoes
- Light-colored socks
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Say, what’s the matter? Does everyone in this town have high blood pressure?
Nice look and a lovely suit!
Grant’s way of buttoning the jacket (with the middle button only of a 6×2 configuration) is the traditional standard way of buttoning the standard form of double-breasted jacket – it’s the way my dad told me to do it. It would have been common at the time I suspect too: less stuffy than buttoning both the lower buttons, not quite as fashion forward as the ‘Kent fasson’ adopted by the Prince of Wales and his brother.