Two weeks ago we lost actor Michael Lonsdale at the age of 89. Lonsdale gave a memorable, well-tailored performance as Hugo Drax in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker.
In classic Bond villain style, Drax wears modes from both the East and the West throughout Moonraker. His Blofeld-esque Mao jackets in the film are perhaps his most memorable looks, but his old-fashioned and flamboyant Western clothes give Drax a unique look amongst Bond villains.
For a hunting scene as his château in California, via France’s Vaux-le-Vicomte, Drax wears an outfit that combines Victorian and Edwardian influences and turns them into something that a comic-book villain would wear.
The main piece of this outfit is a dark olive wool melton cape. Its body is sleeveless without buttons and has a rolled one-piece collar without lapels. A capelet over the shoulders covers the arms. The cape gives Drax an imposing appearance while also providing his arms with more movement for shooting than a coat or cape with sleeves would.
Under the cape, Drax wears an irregular double-breasted suit made of light taupe woollen flannel with black woollen flannel facings. The heavy flannel keeps Drax warm outdoors. The suit jacket is made in a high-buttoning Edwardian double-breasted button three, show three style.
Rather than modern peaked lapels, the suit jacket has Ulster-collar-like fish mouth lapels. The lapels are likely a callback to double-breasted suits of the Edwardian era, which have this type of lapels. Fish mouth lapels are also known as the Parisian lapel or the cran Necker lapel, and aside from the Edwardian look they give this suit a look local to the French filming location. These lapels could possibly signify that the suit was made by a French tailor, which would follow with the film’s French centre of production.
The lapels and Edwardian gauntlet cuffs that surround the entire wrist are trimmed in contrasting black flannel. Carved wood shanked buttons trim the front of the jacket to give the suit a rustic but fancy look appropriate for the countryside.
Because Drax wears the suit under a coat, and there are no shots of Drax from below the thighs, not much of the suit is seen. Nevertheless, the suit is a striking piece.
Drax does not appear to wear a shirt under the suit, though there’s most likely some sort of tunic shirt under it. All that can be seen inside the suit jacket’s cuffs is the jacket’s striped lining. Drax fills in the opening of his jacket with a black silk scarf, fastened under the neck with a round gold pin. The scarf and lapel facings are not the same exact colour; they are both black but are different shades of black and the different materials reflect light differently.
His hat is a black fur felt German Trachten Hat with a larger fedora-like brim. The hat has a centre dent crown and a front pinch with an olive-coloured triple-cord band at the base of the crown that matches the cape. Tucked into the left side of the cord band are the traditional feathers and brush.
Completing the outfit are beige leather gloves that coordinate with the colour of his suit. They have a button fastening at the back of the wrist. Drax leaves the buttons open.
Quote: “Under the cape, Drax wears an irregular double-breasted suit made of light taupe woollen flannel with black woollen flannel facings.”
Are the facings really black? I didn’t check the blu-ray, so I’m not sure, but in the pictures above they look rather midnight blue.
I debated with myself about this for a few days, and I have settled on them being black, just a different shade of black than the other parts of the outfit. Midnight blue usually looks much more blue in daylight.
I always thought the outfit was unrealistic given the scene is set in Southern California (rather than Northern France). Surely he would have sweated like a pig in that heat?
Parts of Southern California are cool in the winter. They filmed the airport at LAX, though they only say he lives in California. Drax’s grounds couldn’t possibly be in Southern California, but France can pass for Northern California, where these clothes would be appropriate much of the year.
The central coat area of California, around Paseo Robles/San Luis Obispo is similar enough to pass for France in a film. Its coastal enough to be foggy and cool. Distance from LAX is about 200 miles, which would make the helicopter ride make sense.
Moonraker is all about spectacle and choreography; if you think about it, in that same scene Bond is supposed to be on his way to the airport, but they put him in a heavy Donegal country suit (which I love) so that he would fit in with the countrified hunting theme of the whole scene. That would not be a comfortable suit to wear on a plane!
I was just about to add much the same comment.
Well, I am a Southern California resident, and it can be quite cool here in the winter months . Trying to put reality onto the films doesn’t really work but the Moonraker facility in the film was, I believe, the Rockwell factory in the high desert in Palmdale and Drax’s mansion was nearby in the film. It is quite cool in that area in the winter months.
Speaking of Drax’s mansion, Vaux le Vicomte is amazing and I was fortunate to visit it a few years ago. I hope to be able to one day be able to travel again….
Tastefully ostentatious. Not something I would wear, nor would I take someone seriously if I ever saw them wear it, but it’s perfect for a sophisticated Bond villain. Love it!
Honestly, if it weren’t for the facings, I probably wouldn’t give him a second glance on the street. It’s a little silly looking, but not that far out there.
An interesting and insightful post, Matt, on a wonderful actor whose excellent body of work goes far beyond Bond. That said, Lonsdale’s Drax was always my favorite of the “big” Fleming-esque villains.
Cool outfit, but IMHO inspired by Tirolean or Bavarian “tracht” rather than french hunting stuff (“tracht” is the German term for traditional dress).
Reminds me more of a Janker – grey loden coat with contrasting collar, contrast trim and stag horn or wooden buttons – and a traditional hunting cape (usually made from green loden cloth).
See here: https://www.google.com/search?q=tirol+hunting+cape&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwj6j6aCoqfsAhXTkKQKHY5NBrEQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=tirol+hunting+cape
And here: https://www.google.com/search?q=janker&sxsrf=ALeKk03kMJhEVrdeC22ybScXA440u1hSzw:1602238192602&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjk5sKyoqfsAhXXTxUIHVNYDykQ_AUoAXoECAgQAw&biw=1680&bih=971
Definite Tyrolean infuence, hat, hat band, brush, colors. In the book Drax was a former NSDAP member with amnesia I believe.