Tom Selleck in Quigley Down Under
Tom Selleck as Matthew Quigley, taciturn sharpshooter from Wyoming
Western Australia, early 1870s
Film: Quigley Down Under
Release Date: October 17, 1990
Director: Simon Wincer
Costume Designer: Wayne A. Finkelman
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
I only recently learned that January 26 is observed as Australia Day, a national holiday that commemorates the landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and is celebrated today by presentations of the Australian of the Year Awards and announcement of the Australia Day Honours. Since at least 1938, which was the 150th anniversary of the landing, there has been a movement led by Indigenous Australians to redefine the observance as Invasion Day or Survival Day, a Day of Mourning for the British arrival that resulted in often violent colonization.
Given the movie’s setting and themes of a protagonist who refuses to engage in violence against Aborigines, the unique 1990 Western Quigley Down Under felt like an appropriate choice to write about today.
As suggested by the latter two-thirds of its title, Quigley Down Under follows the tradition of predecessors like The Sundowners (1960) and Ned Kelly (1970) as an Australian-set Western, or “meat pie Western”. The eponymous Quigley is Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck), a cowboy with a penchant for riflery. He arrives in the west—western Australia, that is—after answering an advertisement from rancher Elliott Marston (Alan Rickman).
Along the way, Quigley encounters a woman dismissed as “Crazy Cora” (Laura San Giacomo), pulled onto the wagon for the days-long journey to the Marston ranch. Quigley’s skills with his legendary Sharps rifle are enough for Marston to extend him a job offer… which Quigley swiftly refuses—by tossing Marston through a window—upon learning that he’s been hired to hunt Aboriginal Australians. Marston’s men drive a battered Quigley and Cora out to die in the Outback, where Quigley regains the upper hand and sends both attackers back to befuddle their employer. In waning health, Quigley and Cora are rescued by Aborigines, amongst whom Quigley soon grows respected for defending them against predators like Marston. (Cora consistently refers to Quigley as “Roy”, the name of her estranged husband, making this the second time in two years that a villain played by Alan Rickman faced off against a dangerous yet heroic gunman who was occasionally called “Roy” despite that not being his name.)
Though some promotional copy vaguely refers to a setting of “1860” and the British presence in Australia suggests the second half of the 19th century, no more specific time-frame is given for Quigley Down Under. References are made to recent inventions by Samuel Colt (who died in 1862), “Wild Bill” Hickok (who rose to fame after 1865), and Dodge City, Kansas (founded in 1872), not to mention that Quigley’s signature Sharps is technically the 1874 model… which actually debuted in 1871. For those interested, I imagine this narrows down the setting to sometime between the late 1860s and mid-1870s, though I’ll avoid further pedantry but merely noting that the production is set sometime during “the old west era” and leave it at that. (Evidently, some of the murky timelines had been the result of Ian Jones updating John Hill’s screenplay to include a setting revised from the 1880s to the 1860s… okay, now I’ll leave it alone.)
Hill started his screenplay around 1974, inspired by reports of aboriginal genocide in 19th century Australia. The script languished in various states of ownership, at one point intended for Steve McQueen, though his death in the 1980s sent production back to square one. Toward the end of the decade, Tom Selleck was wrapping up his star-making seven seasons on Magnum, P.I. when he was tapped for the leading role of Matthew Quigley, launching a new phase of his career centered around Westerns like Last Stand at Saber River (1997) and Crossfire Trail (2001). Selleck’s performance as the legendary marksman also launched his popularity among recreational shooters as professional events like the Matthew Quigley Buffalo Rifle Match have emerged in the decades since the movie’s release.
What’d He Wear?
From head to toe, Matthew Quigley projects the quintessential image of the American cowboy.
Quigley wears a beige 4X beaver felt with a tall, pinched-front crown and a wide, dramatically curved brim. The tan suede hat band was once decorated in an “X” pattern that has all but faded from long days on the sun-drenched trail, leaving only the assorted sets of small white beads arranged in sets of two across the band’s top and bottom, presenting like the four corners of a square at each interval. A thin brown braided leather stampede string wraps around the back of the crown and down through a small hole on each side of the hat base, dangling down on each side past Quigley’s face where they intersect at a slider and tassel around his mid-section.
As usual for large-scale productions by this time, there were likely multiple hats used as WorthPoint features a screen-used hat said to be a genuine John B. Stetson while Larry McQueen’s Collection of Motion Picture Costume Design includes a hat made by the Australian hatmaker Akubra. The movie’s popularity has inspired a wave of replicas from hatmakers like Az Tex Hat Company, Bernard Hats, Knudsen Hat Company, The Last Best West, and Staker Co.; the dimensions of these replicas range from 5¾”-7″ crowns and 4½-5″ brims.
Shirts and Kerchief
Quigley also wears the requisite neckerchief, a substantial swath of faded, raw-edged red cotton with a hand-painted floral and paisley print in yellow and green. He showcases the many purposes of these iconic kerchiefs, wearing it not just as a sweat-catching bandana but also to cover his nose and mouth when escaping a hotel fire and, later, as a tourniquet after he’s shot in the right thigh.
When Quigley arrives in Australia, he wears a faded turquoise-blue tunic-style “popover” shirt made from a boiled-looking linen. The shirt has a long V-shaped integrated front bib with a button-up closure and two stacked buttons to close at the neck. The shirt also has a short, widely spread attached collar, a shirred back, and long “balloon”-style sleeves with button cuffs.
After he’s initially hired by Elliott Marston and invited to dine with his new boss, Quigley changes into a new shirt, made from a vivid indigo-blue cloth, which may be the “raw silk” mentioned in the McQueen Collection listing. The base of the shirt recalls the earlier with its attached spread collar, two-button neck and V-shaped under-bib, and voluminous sleeves with button cuffs, but it differentiates itself with the addition of a broad flap across the chest, detailed with two parallel columns of five nickel “buffalo head” buttons each.
These double-breasted, double-front “bib shirts” were popularized by John Wayne in his westerns of the ’40s and ’50s, though the style itself likely dates back to mid-19th century firefighters on both sides of the Atlantic, according to a 2009 blog post by Robin Chapman. When the Civil War broke out, the handsome yet rugged practicality of woolen “firemen’s shirts” appealed to whoever was choosing uniforms for the Union Army. After Appomattox, soldiers returned home and normalized their practical G.I. duds in civilian life, just as we saw with khakis and field jackets a century later. Of course, the style itself “re-upped” after the Civil War and remained in use among Cavalry units (think Custer), which is what likely inspired Duke’s cinematic cowboy costumes.
Trousers and Accoutrement
Quigley tucks his shirts into light taupe flat-front fitted trousers with era-correct details like recessed metal suspender buttons around the waistband, a button-up fly, and a short two-piece back strap with two stacked grommets on each side. He wears a wide dark brown leather belt worn around his waist on the outside of his trousers, as they—correctly for the mid-19th century setting—do not have integrated belt loops.
The trouser bottoms have loops that button closed under each foot to secure that Quigley can smoothly slide his boots over each leg; though not seen directly on screen, these straps are mentioned in the McQueen Collection listing that also describes the Western Costume Co. label inscribed “2963-3, Tom Selleck, Waist 37.”
In a slit-style pocket on the right front side of his trousers, Quigley carries a nickel pocket watch with a hunter-style hinged cover, attached to a silver-toned chain and a nickel bar-tack that he loops through the third buttonhole down on the left side of his bib shirt.
Quigley holds up his trousers with a set of tan tonal-printed cloth suspenders (braces) with faded olive border trim. Each suspender strap adjusts with a dulled silver-toned slider buckle, and they have sueded double-ear hooks that connect to the buttons along the outside of the trouser waistband.
Belts and Chaps
Influenced by Spanish “zahones” that made their way north from Spanish America in to American cowboy culture, traditional chaps are hardy leather leggings designed to protect a wearer’s legs, fastened around the waist through an integrated belt.
Quigley wears tan leather chaps with long-fringed sides and a curved “cargo pocket” over the left thigh with rawhide-laced trim and a rounded flap that closes through a bone toggle. The wide brown basket-woven leather integrated belt stretches around the back and dips down in the front over the crotch, where the two sides are rawhide-laced together.
As Quigley doesn’t regularly carry a revolver, instead favoring a rifle, he wears a cartridge belt in lieu of a traditional gun belt. This hefty, 45″-long russet-brown leather belt is best described in the comprehensive words of Phil Spangenberger, who appraised it in March 2007 prior to being auctioned:
This is a 3 5/8-inch wide, rifle-type cartridge belt, medium brown in color, with 21 cartridge loops (laced through the slots rather than sewn to the belt) to hold the large 45-110 Sharps cartridges. The loops are set up as follows: three (3) loops at each end of the belt and 15 loops centered at the back of the belt. In between each section of cartridge loops is a strip of leather bearing a basket-type design. There are 13 dummy cartridges in the cartridge loops. Several of the dummy rounds are paper patched. The belt’s buckle is a squared brass “garrison” style of single tang buckle, while the billet end is a short, tapered tab with just three (3) holes for adjustable fit.
Though he doesn’t carry a handgun, Quigley still holsters a knife, specifically a Bowie knife custom-made for Selleck by Chuck Stapal and carried in a uniquely beaded two-piece buckskin sheath with a large loop to slide it over the right side of the cartridge belt, also described as part of Spangenberger’s appraisal:
Attached to the belt is an Indian-style knife and scabbard. The knife is a skinning-type knife with a stag handle, a white metal (German silver?) capstan and cross guard, and an 8 3/8-inch clip-point Bowie-style blade. It appears to be custom made.
The sheath is of tattered buckskin with red, blue, white, and green beadwork and a faded woven design of a red, blue, and yellow geometric Indian pattern.
Boots and Spurs
Quigley wears light-brown suede cowboy boots that are mostly unornamented from the plain-toe up the knee-high shafts, aside from the pull tabs sewn onto each side of each boot’s straight top.
As expected of any cowboy worth his boots, Quigley wears a set of spurs. Each spur has a 18-pointed silver rowel secured to a silver shank that extends from the brown leather heel-band, personalized for this particular wearer with a silver “Q” affixed to each side. Rather than a swing arm, the outside features a large ornamental silver button against a brown leather base with a silver-toned single-prong buckle and matching keeper that connect to a narrow leather strap that wraps around from a large leather piece worn against the other side of the boot.
Quigley occasionally pulls on a tan cotton duster that extends to from his calves. These long coats were designed to fully cover the wearer and protect from dust kicked up while riding, made from a loose, light, and unstructured cloth so that it wouldn’t wear heavy or burden the wearer’s range of motion.
Quigley’s collared duster has three large buttons positioned along the front, two pockets with large flaps, and a single vent to be compatible on horseback.
Quigley protects his hands with a set of wheat-colored deerskin leather work gloves.
Quigley’s underwear consists of a matching henley-style shirt and “long johns”, which I had originally imagined was a one-piece union suit until the McQueen Collection listing confirmed that the “dark pink over-dyed” cotton underclothes were actually a matching set.
The ribbed cotton long-sleeved shirt is a traditional henley-type shirt with a two-button placket that extends down to mid-chest. The thermal cotton “long johns” have a lace-up, flap-front fly.
New Duds for Departure Day
After Quigley’s clothing gets destroyed by bullets, beatings, and horse draggings, he presents himself in the finale dressed in all new clothing, though closer inspection reveals that these are merely different-colored versions of his usual bib shirt, neckerchief, and trousers.
Perhaps in tribute to Cora telling “Roy” that red was her favorite color when she asked him to go dress-hopping for her, Quigley wears a red version of the blue boiled bib shirt. He had arrived wearing a blue shirt and red bandana but now leaves wearing a red shirt and a blue bandana. His dark slate-blue trousers appear to be the same fitted style as his previous trousers, also detailed with suspender buttons though he foregoes actually wearing suspenders.
Though he needed new clothes, Quigley continues wearing his trusty old boots, belts, chaps, and hat.
A secondary star of Quigley Down Under is Matthew Quigley’s Sharps Model 1874 Long Range rifle, nearly establishing a Western equivalent to the famed .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver used by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry series. A total of three Hartford-model 1874 Sharps rifles, each weighing about 13 pounds, were custom-built for the production by the Montana-based company Shiloh Rifle Manufacturing, which continues to include the 1874 Quigley model among its rifle lineup.
“The legendary Sharps,” Elliott Marston notes to Quigley, who responds with a comprehensive description: “You know your weapons. It’s a lever-action breech-loader. Usual barrel length’s 30 inches, this one has an extra four. It’s converted to use a special .45-caliber, 110-grain metal cartridge with a 540-grain paper patch bullet. It’s fitted with double-set triggers and a Vernier sight. It’s marked up to 1,200 yards, this one shoots a mite further.”
“An experimental weapon with experimental ammunition,” Marston comments. “Let’s experiment.”
“Patented by Christian Sharps in 1848, the Sharps breechloading rifle achieved immediate popularity because it was powerful and quick to load,” describes the American West Chronicle, curated by Walter Nugent, Ph.D. and William Deverell, Ph.D. “In 1854, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher shipped Sharps carbines to fellow abolitionists in Bleeding Kansas. The crates were marked ‘Bibles’, and the carbines became known as ‘Beecher’s Bibles’. More than 100,000 were purchased for the Union Army during the Civil War.”
In the early 1870s, Sharps began manufacturing hunting rifles that grew quickly popular among Western frontiersmen and buffalo hunters like the young Teddy Roosevelt, future lawman Bill Tilghman, and and Canadian-born gentleman gunfighter Bat Masterson, who carried a Sharps rifle while serving as sheriff of Ford County, Kansas in late 1878.
Arguably the most famous contemporary usage of the Sharps rifle would have been in the hands of bison hunter Billy Dixon during the Second Battle of Adobe Walls in June 1874. Dixon and nearly 30 others were sheltered in the Texas hunting outpost when a group of hostile Native American warriors were spotted approaching from about a mile to the east. Concerned that his own .45-90 Sharps wouldn’t be up to the task, Dixon borrowed a .50-90 Sharps and fired a single fatal shot that felled a warrior from a distance of more than 1,500 yards.
Though the prospect of shooting indigenous people actually results in Quigley refusing Marston’s job offer, Dixon’s sharpshooting achievement may have inspired the character’s ability to shoot his Sharps “a mite further” than the suggested range of 1,200 yards. The 34-inch octagonal barrel (four inches longer than standard) and the accuracy afforded by a ladder-elevated Vernier rear sight, hooded Lyman Beach globe front sight, and double-set triggers would have also helped.
The earliest Sharps rifles produced during the 1850s typically fired a .52-caliber projectile until 1867, when they were standardized for .50-70 Government cartridges. The development of the Sharps 1874 hunting rifle and carbine series opened up a wider possibility of ammunition, including the U.S. Army’s .45-70 Government round and the more substantial .45-110 cartridge fired from Quigley’s 34mm-barreled sharps, though Quigley also informs a gunsmith that he can substitute .450 British No. 2 musket lead to refill his ammunition in a pinch.
Following a recommendation to the production team by firearms expert Phil Spangenberger (as explained in his True West article), Shiloh built three identical Sharps rifles for Tom Selleck to use on screen, including one primary rifle to be fired, a backup, and a third that would be used as a club during fighting scenes. “Sporting a steel military-style butt plate, the straight-grained, custom-fit American walnut stock was fitted with an extra-long length of pull for Selleck,” Spangenberger later wrote, adding that each rifle “wears a color case hardened patchbox, and a pewter-tipped forearm.” Selleck kept all three after the production, later signing and auctioning two of them while donating the third—with its fringed leather scabbard—to the Brownell’s Family Museum.
The tanned buckskin scabbard is 62″ long, just about a foot longer than the overall length of the Sharps rifle he stores inside. The scabbard tapers from eight inches wide at the butt-end to about three inches wide at the muzzle-end, which is also decorated with buck-stitch laced fringe up about a third of the length of the scabbard. Like the knife sheath he wears on his belt, much of one side of the scabbard is decorated in Native American designs of red, green, and white beads.
You can read more about Quigley’s famous Sharps at IMFDB, Rock Island Auction, and True West as well as the Bidsquare auction listing for the screen-used Shiloh Sharps with serial no. 8887.
Unlike the quintessential big-screen gunfighters who always keep a six-shooter strapped to their thigh, Quigley quips to to Marston that “I never had much use for ’em.” Still, Marston praises his Colt Model 1860 Army single-action revolver, prompting Quigley to acknowledge that “God created all men… they say Sam Colt made ’em equal. More or less.”
The maxim is proven true enough when Marston later insists on the two of them facing off with his pair of Colt Army revolvers, rather than allowing Quigley a chance to grab his prized Sharps rifle for their final showdown. Marston smugly comments, “I seem to remember you’re not too familiar with Colonel Colt’s revolver, so this’ll be your first lesson.” After three fast and well-placed .44-caliber shots in less than two seconds, Quigley approaches a now-dying Marston and the two dead henchmen on each side of him, to correct his previous misstatement: “I said I never had much use for one, I never said I didn’t know how to use it.”
The Model 1860 Army was the most widely used revolver of the Civil War and one of the last open-top percussion revolvers developed by Colt before the introduction of the Single Action Army “Peacemaker” in 1873, when production ended on the Model 1860 Army after more than 200,000 were produced. These six-shot revolvers fired .44-caliber cap-and-ball ammunition, with later models converted to fire .44 Colt metallic cartridges. Colt Model 1860 Army revolvers presented a distinctive look when compared to their predecessors, with the barrel rounded and smoothed into the frame. The brass trigger guard and front-strap contrasted against the blued frame, barrel, and back-strap, with Colt’s usual handsome one-piece walnut grips.
After the final duel, Quigley also arms himself with an engraved nickel and ivory-gripped Colt Model 1851 Navy “U.S. Marshal” revolver from Marston’s now-departed henchman Dobkin (Tony Bonner). With a production span running nearly a quarter century, the Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver (originally “Colt Revolving Belt Pistol”) was the most widely produced full-sized Colt revolver during the pre-cartridge era, popularized by users like “Wild Bill” Hickok, “Doc” Holliday, and Clint Eastwood’s unnamed character in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The Colt 1851 Navy revolutionized handguns upon its introduction in the mid-19th century for balancing a manageable weight of 2.6 pounds with the reasonable power of its .36-caliber cap-and-ball ammunition (until .38-caliber metallic cartridge conversions were made available). Detailed on the smooth cylinders with Waterman Ormsby’s engraving of the Second Texas Navy’s victory at the Battle of Campeche, the standard Colt 1851 Navy revolver measured a total of 13 inches long with a 7.5-inch octagonal barrel. However, shortened versions of the Model 1851 Navy revolver were also produced, like the “U.S. Marshal” variant with its 5-inch barrel and half-fluted cylinder that lacked any engraving.
Both of Quigley’s commandeered Colt revolvers appear to be percussion cap-and-ball revolvers, lacking the telltale ejector rod tubes and loading gates of contemporary cartridge-converted models.
How to Get the Look
Matthew Quigley initially doesn’t disappoint his new employer, who was hoping for a quintessential American cowboy and received exactly what he ordered in the form of the gloriously mustached sharpshooter with a tall-crowned cowboy hat, faded bib shirts and kerchief, cartridge belt and chaps, and well-traveled boots with jangling spurs.
- Blue raw fiber popover tunic with spread collar, 2-button neck and V-shaped under-bib, double-breasted 5×2-button bib of nickel buttons, shirred back, and long sleeves with button cuffs
- Red paisley-and-floral print cotton neckerchief
- Light-taupe flat-front trousers with suspender buttons along waistband, slit-style watch pocket, and buttoned under-boot straps
- Tan tonal-pattern cloth suspenders with dulled silver-toned slider-buckle adjusters, and leather hooks
- Brown leather belt with brass-finished single-prong buckle
- Russet-brown basket-woven leather cartridge belt with brass-finished single-prong garrison buckle, 21 .45/110 cartridge loops, and multi-color beaded tan suede knife scabbard
- Light-brown suede knee-high cowboy boots with pull tabs
- Tan cotton calf-length 3-button duster with large flapped hip pockets
- Wheat leather work gloves
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I’m new here, so I ain’t rightly certain. Is everybody in this country as butt ugly as you three?
A great flick. The first Governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip, was a fine man who wouldn’t tolerate any mistreatment of the Aborigines. Sadly, that changed later. Using firearms bought locally would have been very risky. Blacksmiths used to churn out counterfeit guns which were more dangerous for the firer than the target. Selleck is a true star and a class act – fully invested and credible in everything he does. You can enjoy the film as an action piece, and also reflect on how a champion like Quigley could have stood up for our indigenous. Thanks v.much for this, Luckystrike.
Oh yeah, it’s Western time. Hope you do some of the more ignored ones like The Professionals, Silverado, Open Range, Broken Trail, True Grit just about anything with good strong costuming that led to distinctive looks. I love to know what movie I’m watching just from how the actors are dressed. Plus with 1923 going strong it should bring more eyeballs here.
Those are all great ones! I definitely want to write about Broken Trail, Open Range, and Silverado, plus some looks from 1923.
The original True Grit got some love a few years ago: https://bamfstyle.com/2020/05/26/true-grit-duke/
And I plan on revisiting The Professionals soon, though I did do one post about Lee Marvin: https://bamfstyle.com/2017/10/25/professionals-rico-cardigan/
Yes! I’m still waiting patiently for the write up for Charles Bronson’s Wild Bill Hickok in The White Buffalo.
Great like usual! It would be nice to see Roy Scheider from the movie the “Seven-ups”.