Sean Connery as James Bond, sophisticated secret agent
Nassau, Bahamas, Spring 1983
Film: Never Say Never Again
Release Date: October 7, 1983
Director: Irvin Kershner
Costume Designer: Charles Knode
Tailor: Douglas Hayward
The “Battle of the Bonds” commenced 40 years ago today when Never Say Never Again premiered on the 00-7th of October 1983. Produced by Jack Schwartzman’s Taliafilm, the movie was essentially a reimagining of Thunderball (1965), in which a weathered but game Sean Connery reprised his iconic role of James Bond… but without the official oversight of Eon Productions.
As I’ll be jetting off to a tropical environment this weekend, it feels appropriate to look at one of Bond’s sartorial highlights from this “unofficial” adventure, worn as Connery’s 007 makes some initial contacts upon landing in the Bahamas for his mission to investigate a missing nuclear warhead. (His lodgings are the historic British Colonial Hotel, which had to close during the COVID-19 pandemic but has been extensively renovated and is planned to reopen by the end of the year!)
The first Bahamian to get Bond’s attention is a beautiful bikini-clad fisherwoman (Valerie Leon), though their tête-à-tête is interrupted by the nervous and nebbish Foreign Office emissary Nigel Small-Fawcett (Rowan Atkinson), whose greeting to Bond includes a warning not to disrupt the tourist trade.
Bond: Do I look like the sort of man who would make trouble?
Small-Fawcett: Well, yes, frankly.
Ditching Small-Fawcett behind a series of columns, Bond orders one of his usual martinis while taking in the sights of the Caribbean… and the alluring Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) as she water-skis in a revealing red bathing suit—right into his arms. The voluptuous villainess eagerly offers her assistance for Bond’s fishing expedition, though he seems to understand that he’s being baited more than the fish. Still, 007 is hardly one to pass up Fatima’s demonstration of “the best waters” and the two end up on her boat, undressing for a deep dive.
Bond: You’re marvelously well-equipped.
Fatima: Thank you, James. (as he takes off his shirt) So are you.
The film’s inception can be traced back to the late 1950s, when Kevin McClory collaborated with screenwriter Jack Whittingham and James Bond creator Ian Fleming on an unreleased Bond screenplay. However, when Fleming transformed it into his 1961 novel Thunderball, McClory and Whittingham filed a lawsuit and reached an out-of-court settlement. This settlement included various conditions that ultimately ensured Eon Productions’ rights to the story remained intact for a period of up to ten years following the release of their own cinematic adaptation in 1965.
Whittingham and Fleming died before McClory regained the rights to film his story in the mid-1970s, but he was dauntless in his pursuit to produce it, even recruiting Sean Connery—despite the Scottish actor having twice declared he would never play Bond again, resulting in the tongue-in-cheek title Never Say Never Again that otherwise makes little contextual sense to the story. Connery’s involvement brought star power and a sense of nostalgia to the proceedings, both valuable assets as the production suffered from lacking trademarks of the Eon-produced series like the iconic gunbarrel opening and theme song.
Never Say Never Again arrived in theaters less than five months after Octopussy, Roger Moore’s sixth consecutive movie as Eon’s canonical Bond, though there was hardly a sense of rivalry between the actors as Moore recalled in his memoir Bond on Bond that he and Connery would occasionally meet for dinner during the production. While Never Say Never Again‘s opening weekend grossed $2 million more than Octopussy, the film couldn’t maintain its box-office momentum and—plagued by lukewarm reviews—ended up significantly outperformed by Octopussy, concluding Connery’s “return” to the role and McClory’s run producing Bond.
What’d He Wear?
Connery’s Bond made a sartorial splash for his return to the Bahamas in Never Say Never Again, dressed in a handsome cream tropical suit cut by master tailor Douglas Hayward.
At the time, Roger Moore was also wearing suits tailored by “Dougie” for his final trio of films as Eon’s canonical James Bond. For his unparalleled blog Bond Suits, Matt Spaiser has chronicled this suit worn by Connery as well as comparing it to one that Hayward tailored for Moore that appeared in a similar context in Octopussy—both essential reads for Bond style enthusiasts.
In addition to Hayward’s tailoring signatures, the suit’s provenance can be definitively traced to Hayward’s Mount Street shop by the tags photographed for a Lyon & Turnbull auction listing, which inaccurately suggests Connery wore the suit for the film Five Days One Summer. The July 21, 1982 date on the label (exactly seven years to the day before I was born) more closely aligns with Never Say Never Again‘s production timeline; looking at the suit itself—sans the French legionnaire lapel threading—matches it to the tropical two-piece that Connery wears for Bond’s arrival in the Bahamas.
The cream-colored cloth is a light, tropical-weight open-weave worsted wool suit that offers breathability while retaining its structure more cleanly than cotton or linen. Hayward’s timeless tailoring signature follows the traditional English silhouette while incorporating his own signature, distinguished by soft shoulders with roped sleeveheads, a clean chest and suppressed waist, and long double vents that flare over the seat.
Bond’s single-breasted jacket has notch lapels that roll to a then-fashionably lower two-button stance that meets Connery’s natural waist and the top of his trouser waistband—a hallmark of quality proportional tailoring. The two recessed beige-toned horn buttons on the front match the three smaller buttons on each cuff. The jacket also has a welted breast pocket and straight flapped hip pockets, with the top jetting of the latter aligned with the top of each vent.
The suit’s matching flat-front trousers rise to Connery’s waist, where he holds them up with a British tan leather belt that closes through a gold-toned single-prong buckle. The trousers are comfortably full through the thighs and straight through the legs down to the plain-hemmed bottoms. They have slightly slanted side pockets and a back-right pocket that closes through a button.
Bond’s sky-blue cotton poplin shirt has a spread collar and front placket. In his Bond Suits post that identifies the shirt as Turnbull & Asser, Matt Spaiser notes that “there are pads sewn into the armpits to mask any underarm sweating in the heat so the shirt looks neat.” This may be one of the few Q branch gadgets I could actually find some use for in real life!
T&A’s shirts for Never Say Never Again recalled the distinctive turnback “cocktail cuffs” that Connery often wore for his official tenure as Bond through the ’60s, though modified here with an additional button on each curve of the cuff that fastens it against the rest of the sleeve. The cuff itself only has a single button fastening it around the wrist, as opposed to the two-button design of his earlier cocktail cuffs. You can read more about button-down cocktail cuffs at Bond Suits.
Bond wears a light silver woven textured silk tie with an “uphill”-directional pattern of fancy blue stripes: each a blue pencil stripe, flanked on each side by a thinner pale-blue stripe. The Windsor tie knot recalls how Connery wore his ties in his first and last “official” Bond movies.
Bond’s shoes with this suit are never clearly seen on screen, but behind-the-scenes shots (courtesy of the comprehensive Thunderballs.org archive) show Connery wearing a pair of dark brown leather moc-toe derbies and beige socks that continue the leg-line from his cream-colored trousers. Whatever shoes Bond was wearing with this suit were left behind with the rest of his clothes aboard Fatima’s boat—with no time to retrieve them after her attempt to kill him in the sea.
Under the bed in Bond’s hotel room, we see a pair of similar (if not identical) shoes, constructed with smooth burgundy-shaded uppers and three sets of derby-laced eyelets. Bond would never get the chance to wear these again either—thanks to the explosive results of Fatima Blush’s time bomb.
As mentioned, Bond loses any hope of retrieving these handsome clothes after he leaves them aboard Fatima Blush’s boat. Luckily for 007, he’s still wearing his Q-issued watch!
The enthusiastic double-0 quartermaster Algy (Alec McCowen) issues Bond a wristwatch with a round black PVD-coated case (said to have an integrated laser that later comes in handy), a black dial with a date window at 3 o’clock, and a unique black five-piece link bracelet.
Despite the significant documentation and product placement of Bond’s watches dating back to the Rolex Submariner that Connery wore as far back as Dr. No (1962), little exists about the blacked-out wristwatch he wears in Never Say Never Again.
Japanese watch company Seiko was in the midst of their placement deal with EON Productions that dressed Roger Moore’s wrist in five Bond films from 1977 to 1985, and it’s unlikely that they would have entered the same agreement with an “unofficial” Bond movie—though some have tentatively identified the Never Say Never Again watch as a Seiko. Others yet have suggested an Orfina Porsche Design, similar to the famous all-black chronograph that Tom Cruise would wear five years later in Top Gun (1988).
What to Imbibe
Fatima Blush: How reckless of me, I made you all wet!
James Bond: Yes, but my martini’s still dry.
Bond orders his traditional vodka martini, prepared by a dockside bartender with 100-proof Absolut vodka and dry vermouth yet very non-traditionally garnished with… a lime wedge?
The conventional martini garnishment is either a lemon peel, olive, or the rare onion (redefining the concoction as a gibson), thus making the lime a curious choice—as if this Bahamian bartender wanted to capture the lemon’s citrus and the olive’s green color without having to choose one. Imbibe writer Emma Janzen quotes author Alex Day, warning against limes in martinis as “it can easily overpower the cocktail and steer it in an odd direction.”
Bond later continues his daily regimen of imbibing and intercourse when he and Valerie Leon’s unnamed fisherwoman split a bottle of champagne in what turns out to be her hotel room.
How to Get the Look
Never Say Never Again comments frequently on Sean Connery’s advanced age, but the fifty-something actor looks distinguished and relatively fit for his return as James Bond, suitably attired for the situation as he arrives in the Bahamas wearing a smartly tailored tropical suit.
- Cream tropical worsted wool suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, long double vents
- Flat-front trousers with belt loops, slanted side pockets, button-through back-right pocket, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Sky-blue cotton poplin shirt with spread collar, front placket, and button-down cocktail cuffs
- Silver with fancy blue “uphill”-stripes woven textured silk tie
- British tan leather belt with gold-toned squared single-prong buckle
- Dark-brown smooth leather moc-toe 3-eyelet derby shoes
- Beige socks
- Black PVD-coated watch with black dial and black three-piece link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Going down, one should always be relaxed.