The Frightened City: Connery Preparing for Bond in a Dark Suit

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Happy 87th birthday to Sean Connery!

Daniel Craig was not the only James Bond actor who prepared for the role by playing an elegantly suited gangster. Layer Cake was that preparation, and many consider it Craig’s audition for James Bond. The Frightened City from 1961 is a comparable Bond audition that stars a 30-year-old Sean Connery just a year before he debuted as James Bond in Dr. No. Connery plays Paddy Damion, a London thief who gets into racketeering and proves, like James Bond, that he is quite the ladies’ man. Connery looks most like his future role as James Bond in a dark two-piece suit that he wears in some of his early scenes in the film.

This dark worsted wool suit is most likely navy based on how dark and smooth the shade is, though it’s just an educated guess as I was unable to find any colour stills of Sean Connery in this suit. Because The Frightened City is an English production, Connery’s suits in the film are likely of English origin, probably bespoke. Though the suits are not in a Savile Row style, they look English enough with their straight, lightly padded shoulders, natural sleeve heads and full chest. The waist is only gently suppressed.

Like the suit jackets that Connery would soon wear as Bond, this jacket has narrow—but not skinny—lapels and two buttons on the front in a low stance, with the top button slightly below the waist. Connery’s habit of fastening both buttons that can be seen in Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Diamonds Are Forever can first be seen in this film on a number of occasions. He often keeps both buttons fastened when standing and effortlessly unbuttons both when sitting. Most people would look clumsy when trying to unbutton both buttons, but Connery at least does it elegantly. However, fastening the bottom button of his jacket distorts the lines of the suit, particularly when Connery places both of his hands in his trouser pockets.

The jacket is cleanly detailed with no vent, jetted hip pockets and four kissing buttons on each cuff.

The suit trousers have double reverse—outward facing—pleats, slanted quarter-top pockets and button-tab “Daks Tops” side adjusters. Though forward-facing pleats are the standard style in Britain, some tailors and manufacturers have long preferred reverse pleats. Reverse pleats are often used to give the trousers are fuller style, but the pleats on Connery’s trousers are shallow and the legs are trim, tapered and balanced, which is a style that Connery’s Bond trousers would adopt with the traditional forward pleats. The bottoms are finished with turn-ups.

Under the suit, Sean Connery wears a light, fine bengal stripe shirt, and it’s possibly light blue and white. A striped shirt looks better on black-and-white film than a solid light blue shirt does, since light colours on black-and-white film tend to look like a dingy white. On this shirt, the contrast between a light stripe and the white ground prevents this dirty look.

The shirt has a spread collar with rounded points, which should not be confused for a club collar. A club collar is more rounded with a larger radius and is narrow enough to be pinned. This collar is much to wide for a pin. The shirt has double cuffs and an open breast pocket cut on the bias so the stripes go diagonally.

Connery’s tie is narrow and tied in a Windsor knot, the same knot that Connery would use in Dr. No a year later. He uses a tie bar to secure the tie a little more than halfway down the front of his shirt. The tie is solid with a pronounced rib and is either dark or saturated in colour. The colour of the tie is possibly dark blue or burgundy.

The footwear are black Chelsea boots, and being 1961 this was still in the early days of the 1950s and 1960s popularity of the Chelsea boot. However, by this the time of this film, Chelsea boots were commonplace with suits in London where this film is set. Connery’s black socks are too short to completely cover his ankles when he sits down. Later as Bond, Sean Connery would also wear boots with his suits, but in a shorter style.

Over the suit, Connery wears an informal, light-coloured—likely camelhair—coat that has some similarities with a balmacaan. This is a very informal coat, which is determined by its raglan sleeves, A-line cut and knee length. The coat has three buttons down the front, notched lapels, slash pockets, turnback cuffs, swelled edges and lapped seams. This is the one of the most informal types of coats that can still pair with a suit.

Connery also wears a dark, faintly striped three-piece suit with a lapelled waistcoat, a specked tweed jacket and black lounge in The Frightened City, and some of these outfits may be covered here at a later date.

11 COMMENTS

  1. I haven’t yet mastered the art of casually unbuttoning a suit jacket. Much too worried that I might take the button with me :)).

    Nice write-up as per usual, Matt. Very interested to see the film. Do you (or anyone else for that matter) recommend the film? Definitely intrigued.

    • I enjoyed the film, but it’s nothing special. Being a rather short film of 97 minutes it’s not a big commitment. It’s much better than the average Pierce Brosnan film!

    • I saw the film recently and Connery is terrific – he really commands the screen and you can see why Broccolli and Saltzman knew he was right for Bond. The film itself starts off pretty well but gets a bit draggy, despite a relatively short length.

  2. What are your thoughts and opinions on tie bars? Is it purely a practical consideration if you don’t want your tie flapping around?

    • Ryan, something like The Tie Thing is a much more elegant solution if you want to restrain your tie but maintain a more minimalist, Bond-esque look. (Though ironically I am wearing a tie bar today just because I felt like it.) Tie bars work but, besides what Matt said, limit how your tie drapes and moves with you.

  3. I’ll have to see if I can get a copy of this film. Connery would have been 31 at the time of production, the same age I am now interestingly. Connery looks like he hadn’t started wearing a hairpiece at the front of his hairline at this time. His hairstyle looks more like what he had from Thunderball onwards, rather then the style he had in Dr. No. I’m looking forward to more posts from this film.

    • As I said in the article, he was just 30 when the film was made, and you’re right that there’s no toupee. But he didn’t have a toupee in his first two Bond films either, just some good hair product and some scalp paint. It’s a great trick on camera, but not so much in person.

  4. You can tell Connery had scalp paint on in FRWL. It did work until there wasn’t much left to work with. Even though he was only 30 he had a rugged mature look that gave him a tougher appearance then say Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan had at the same age. They all lookedmore like Bond as they entered middle age in my opinion.

  5. Connery looks terrific here, also the pictures makes me come to the idea that a man with a great stature can always look great in a suit, it’s his body doing most of the work. For an average guy I think it’s most different.

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