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
Among all the Christmas and Christmas-adjacent cinematic classics, I feel like The Silent Partner has yet to receive its due. Written on spec by Curtis Hanson—who later directed and co-wrote L.A. Confidential, among many others—this Canadian-made thriller blends touches of comedy with genuine thrills and a unique plot. Elliott Gould stars as Miles Cullen, a bored bank teller who foils a robbery plot attempted by the psychotic Harry Reikle (Christopher Plummer), whose wardrobe frequently alternates between a mall Santa costume and drag.
Through one of Harry’s abandoned hold-up notes, Miles caught wind of the robbery plan in advance and decided to let the crook’s larcenous plans benefit him as well by squirreling away a small fortune in anticipation of the heist. When Harry finally carried out the robbery, Miles was ready and handed over only a fraction of the money to the gun-toting Santa.
Miles’ coolness under pressure makes him popular among his colleagues, particularly the attractive Julie Carver (Susannah York), who shifts her attention from their married manager Charles Packard (Michael Kirby) to Miles, who accompanies her to a Christmas party at the Packard home on the following Sunday. Unfortunately, his quick thinking during the holdup has also attracted the attention of a bitter Harry Reikle, who realizes what Miles has done and begins threatening the scheming teller for the remaining money he feels he rightfully owed.
What’d He Wear?
Miles Cullen regularly wears sport jackets at work but dresses up for the boss’ Christmas party in a full two-piece suit, made of a warm medium-gray woolen flannel. Double-breasted jackets can have an old-fashioned connotation, but 1970s menswear trends neatly integrated with the contemporary revival of this style, as worn by Elliott Gould for Miles’ Christmas party.
Miles’ gray flannel suit jacket follows the hourglass silhouette that had been popular during the double-breasted style’s “golden age” heyday in the ’30s and ’40s and was again trendy during the disco era, naturally structured with concave shoulders, roped sleeveheads, and front darts that add dramatic shape through the full chest, suppressed waist, and flared skirt. The peak lapels are fashionably broad with high, slanted gorges. The 6×2-button configuration has a narrow wrap that, in addition to the wide hip pocket flaps and long single vent, serve to update the style for the seventies. The sleeves are finished with three dark gray vestigial buttons matching those on the front.
The suit’s matching flat front trousers rise to Gould’s natural waist, where he holds them up with a black leather belt that closes through a silver-toned single-prong buckle. Following the prevailing fashions of the ’70s, the trousers are tight through the hips with Western-style “full-top” or “frogmouth” pockets, which present cleaner lines without gaping open like some side-entry trouser pockets. The trousers are cut straight through the legs, with the plain-hemmed bottoms breaking over the tops of his black leather shoes.
Miles’ white poplin shirt has a then-fashionably long point collar, echoing the spearpoint collars of the ’30s and ’40s. The shirt has a front placket and barrel cuffs that fasten with clear plastic buttons, and the breast pocket is detailed with a horizontal yoke across the top.
He incorporates some festive color with his crimson-red pocket square and tie, wisely not exactly matching the fabrics as the pocket square is solid satin silk while the silk twill tie is regimental-striped with pale-blue bar stripes shadowed along the top with a narrower navy stripe, all following the “downhill” direction. (He later wears the same tie with a dark blue striped three-piece suit.)
Miles layers to combat the chill of a Canadian December in a British Warm, a martial-inspired overcoat descended from the double-breasted greatcoats authorized for British Army officers during World War I.
These knee-length coats are distinguished by their cloth (typically a camel or fawn Melton wool, consistent with Army uniform regulations), their leather-buttoned double-breasted front with de rigueur peak lapels, and military-styled shoulder straps (epaulettes). Miles’ fawn-colored British Warm follows these design points, with its two neat columns of three dark brown woven leather shank buttons down the front and the set-in sleeves each finished with a single button at the end. His coat is additionally detailed with a long single vent, a welted breast pocket, and rear-slanting flapped hip pockets.
Miles wears his usual brown outerwear accessories, including leather three-point gloves with snap closure over the inside of each wrist and a woolen scarf with shallowly fringed ends.
On his left wrist, Miles wears a yellow-gold wristwatch that was likely Elliott Gould’s own timepiece. The watch has a round silver dial with plain gold non-numeric hour markers, secured on a dark brown leather band.
What to Imbibe
After the Packards’ party, Miles drives Julie back to her home where they share a nightcap of Courvoisier, appropriately poured into brandy snifters. These short, bulbous glasses have long been the preferred drinkware for brandy, designed to contain the aroma and to maximize how much of the glass can be gripped to warm its contents.
The youngest of the “big four” cognac houses, Courvoisier was founded in 1835 in the Parisian suburb of Bercy, where Napoleon Bonaparte had supposedly been inspired to arm his artillery companies with rations of cognac after an 1811 visit. Though Napoleon I was dead for more than a decade by the time Emmanuel Courvoisier began production, his nephew Napoleon III personally requested Courvoisier as “Official Supplier to the Imperial Court” toward the end of his reign as Emperor. In 1951, Courvoisier introduced its now-familiar wide-based bottle with a narrow neck, known as the “Josephine” bottle in tribute to Napoleon’s first wife.
How to Get the Look
Miles Cullen again sets the Gould standard for dressing up for the holidays, adding subtle festivity and seasonal warmth to a tastefully trendy business suit.
- Gray flannel suit:
- Double-breasted 6×2-button jacket with wide peak lapels (with high, slanted gorges), concave shoulders with roped sleeveheads, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and long single vent
- Flat-front trousers with belt loops, full-top “frogmouth” front pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White poplin shirt with long point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Crimson regimental-striped silk twill tie
- Crimson satin silk pocket square
- Black leather belt with silver-toned single-prong buckle
- Black leather dress shoes
- 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 with snap wrist closure
- Dark brown woolen scarf with short-fringed ends
- Gold dress watch with round white dial on dark brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
That’s the second time tonight I’ve been told I was underestimated.