The Avengers (1998): Sean Connery’s Teddy Bear Suit

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If Sean Connery’s red outfit from Zardoz—something I left few words about on this blog in honour of Sean Connery’s 83rd birthday—is the most absurd getup Sean Connery has worn on screen, his black bear suit from The Avengers—a 1998 film starring Uma Thurman and current Bond-series M Ralph Fiennes and based on the 1960s British television series—is a solid runner-up. Sean Connery plays the film’s villain, Sir August De Wynter, who in one scene leads a gathering of villainous and colourful teddy bears.

Costume designer Anthony Powell dressed the people in De Wynter’s evil organisation in teddy bear costumes to mask their identities, including the security guards. They only know who their leader is, who is able to remove his mask. The audience knows its Sean Connery under the mask due to his familiar brogue, so it’s not much of a reveal when he removes his mask. For each person the bear suits is a different colour, such as red, yellow, green, brown, purple, orange, baby blue and pink. The bright colours make the villains look like cute, silly and powerless gummy bears, while De Wynter’s black bear suit gives him a slight menacing edge over the rest of the gang. The black bear suit makes him look the most villainous of all the teddy bears. But it still is difficult for any person to look threatening while dressed as a bear or any other animal in either a cartoonish or realistic-looking suit.

The bear suit is made up of a body with a separate, easily removable head. Most of the bears’ faces have friendly looks with centred pupils in round eyes but with various mouth expressions. Some are happily smiling, some have an endearing frown, and others have a straight mouth that gives them a confused look. The eyes of De Wynter’s bear have more menacingly placed pupils than the others, with the the right pupil looking up and the left pupil inwards of the centre.

With the bear’s head off, the body of the bear suit resembles the shape of a highly muscular physique with large shoulders framing Sean Connery’s much smaller head. This helps make him look slightly more intimidating, but not by much because he is still wearing most of a bear suit.

All of the bear suits at the table are the same overall style, though De Wynter’s suit has different paws. While most of the suits have full paw-gloves with matching-coloured pads on the palm of the hands and black claws on the back of the hands, De Wynter’s suit is open at the paw to allow dexterity and does not cover his ice blue painted hands. It also has white claws for a sharper look.

The idea to dress De Wynter and the others in his organisation in teddy bear suits may have come from the original Avengers television series. The first episode of the second series titled “Mr Teddy Bear” features an assassin known as Mr Teddy Bear who uses an animatronic teddy bear to communicate with Dr. Cathy Gale, played by Honor Blackman who would later play Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. This episode also features Michael Collins, the voice of Auric Goldfinger, as George the Technician.

From the 1962 episode of The Avengers titled “Mr Teddy Bear”

There is a more wearable alternative to the teddy bear suit. Motoluxe invented a very warm double-breasted coat during the days of unheated motoring that becaume known as the “Teddy Bear Coat” because its luscious deep-pile alpaca fabric resembled that of a teddy bear’s fabric and turned its wearer into something of a bear. While a proper, luxurious Teddy Bear coat would be a more appropriate garment for a serious villain than a cute teddy bear costume, it wouldn’t have the ridiculous element that was always present in The Avengers television series.

The Motoluxe Teddy Bear coat from Mason & Sons

The Motoluxe brand had been dormant since the 1960s until Mason & Sons recently revived it, so it would not have been an option for the 1998 film, and thus Sean Connery had to settle with a proper teddy bear suit. Mason & Sons now produces the Motoluxe Teddy Bear Coat and makes it from the same deep-pile alpaca wool that Steiff teddy bears are made of. Now with Motoluxe under control by the same people who operate Anthony Sinclair, the maker of Sean Connery’s James Bond suits, the Motoluxe coat would have been an even more appropriate choice. While the Motoluxe Teddy Bear Coat in black would not mask one’s identity, it certainly has a villainous look.

Sean Connery never had the opportunity to dress up as an animal in his James Bond films like Roger Moore did. In Octopussy, Roger Moore both operated an alligator submarine and hid himself inside a gorilla suit. But Connery’s time to wear an amusing animal costume finally came with The Avengers. Then again, Sean Connery was wearing a bear suit underneath his clothes all along and revealed it in a number of scenes throughout his Bond films. Perhaps in Bond 25 we will once again see a James Bond dressed as a more exotic creature than James Bond himself.

Sean Connery, about to reveal his bear suit

18 COMMENTS

  1. “Perhaps in Bond 25 we will once again see a James Bond dressed as a more exotic creature than James Bond himself.”

    -You really hope for that? 🙂 As long as that doesn’t mean that we will see him in a safari outfit again…

  2. Let’s not forget Connery’s iconic seagull helmet in Goldfinger ! Another item « no well-dressed man should be without ! »

  3. I like The Avengers 1998.
    The trouble with that movie is the main cast.
    I think that Colin Firth as John Steed and Rachel Weisz as Emme Peel would have been a much better choice.
    Have Sean Connery as villain was brilliant.
    From a sartorial perspective i think that a tailor as Welsh & Jefferies or Huntsman would have been more appropriate than Anderson & Sheppard and his soft cut.
    The Steed’s clothes should have a Edwardian/equestrian cut (clean chest single breasted one button with waistcoat,slender trousers without cuffs and chelsea boots).

    • Back in 1998, however, the trousers you describe with Chelsea boots would have looked laughably out of time. I do agree that a single button suit with a cleaner, more structured cut would have looked better though.

      • Of course, but “The Avengers” is set in a world apart.
        The movie,as his director said,was set “in a world in which 60s are never finished”.
        So Chelsea boots and “new Edwardian” trousers had perfectly sense.
        Moreover one coulde said that also the bowler hat was laughably out of time in lae 90s,but still the “The Avengers” UK is not in our world.

    • I’m less forgiving of the film, but I do agree with your Sartorial and casting choices. Also I think that the bowler in the movie was a fraction too curved in the crown. When you look at off duty grenadier guards bowlers and most of MacNee’s from the TV series, the crown has a flatter top. Giving I think, a slightly more serious appearance.

  4. This was easily the scene in the film that beat captured the whimsical, surreal vibe of the TV and what made it stand apart from the other 60s spy shows. Aside from being cut to incomprehensible ribbons in editing, the main issue was that they gave Steed and Mrs. Peel way too much gravitas. Their trademark relationship was almost OTT lighthearted in the face of danger.

    And yes, they got Ralph Feinnes suits all wrong. They should have hired Mark Powell to design and tailor them.

  5. I Agree with Agent00Sould,and I’m sorry to said that Ralph Feinnes was wrong as Steed (and Uma Thurman terribly wrong as Emma Peel).
    A wonderful occasion sadly lost.

  6. I knew a couple of lads back then who were peripherally connected to the film industry. I’d mentioned that I was looking forward to the release of The Avengers as I had vague recollections of the original series in reruns, and had seen The New Avengers when I was young. They told me not to have high hopes as all the publicity had been yanked, probably as a result of miserable response to test screenings. I never did get to see it but they were right in that it got stinking reviews. An opportunity missed but the continued attempts, usually unsuccessful, to reboot old TV shows into movies just illustrates the complete dearth of new ideas in Hollywood.

  7. I personally own the teddy bear suit that Connery wears in this movie. It is made from the finest cashmere, and it is much more versatile than it seems. I wear it out to the opera, to the office, but I receive the most compliments when I wear it to Six Flags.
    (Happy April Fools!!^^)

  8. “Sean Connery, about to reveal his bear suit”

    -You had better cited “Bird never make nest in bare tree”. 😉

  9. It never made any sense for the bear costumes. Avengers often had a certain level of the surreal but it always within theme. As the big bad was controlling the weather, so the table theme should have been weather related. Each chair with an expanded umbrella, perhaps with bright projections of the sky, clouds and lightning onto the faces of all those present. Then ending a crack of thunder, with rain coming down from the ceiling. Bird’s eye view of all members taking umbrellas from chair backs and beginning to exit/ cut to next scene.

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