Jim Fanning: Navy Worsted Flannel Suit and Bow Tie

13

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Douglas Wilmer, who played Jim Fanning in Octopussy, died Thursday at the age of 96. Wilmer was best known for playing Sherlock Holmes in the 1965 television series, but he made a lasting impression to James Bond fans in his brief role alongside Roger Moore in Octopussy. Wilmer also appeared with Roger Moore in an episode of The Saint titled “The Rough Diamonds” and filmed a scene for—but was cut from—Sean Connery’s film Woman of Straw.

Wilmer’s character Fanning in Octopussy is an art expert employed by MI6 who is excited about the auction he attends with Bond, but he’s quickly frustrated by Bond’s antics. His old-fashioned and relaxed outfit is stylish and detail-focused, and it perfectly suits the character.

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Fanning’s light navy lightweight worsted flannel suit is made in a soft drape cut that suggests an Anderson & Shepard inspiration. It’s certainly a bespoke suit, and it’s likely Douglas Wilmer’s own suit from his personal tailor. It’s unlikely the film would budget for a bespoke suit for such a minor character. The suit has a worn-in look, which would be appropriate for an older gentleman who has likely had this suit for two decades.

This suit jacket’s drape cut is characterized by soft and slightly extended shoulders with light wadding and by a full chest with vertical folds at the side. The waist is suppressed, but how much so cannot be determined from an unbuttoned jacket. The jacket’s soft construction allows the narrow fishmouth lapels to roll gently over the top of the jacket’s three buttons, but the actual lapels start at the top button. The fishmouth shape of the lapels suggests that this jacket is likely not from Anderson & Sheppard, despite the rest of it resembling their style. Still, Anderson & Sheppard could be a possibility. The jacket is detailed with straight flap pockets and two buttons spaced apart on the cuffs, and there is no vent in the rear.

The details of the suit trousers cannot be seen clearly, but the trousers likely have double forward pleats and are worn with braces. They have a medium-long rise to the waist.

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Fanning’s light grey and white narrow-striped shirt follows the traditional English design. Whilst solid grey shirts can look very dull and bland, the fine stripes on this shirt give it a livelier appearance. The collar is a wide spread with a little tie space and stitched a 1/4-inch from the edge. The front has a narrow placket identical to Turnbull & Asser’s and is stitched 3/8-inch from the edge. The cuffs are double cuffs.

The bow tie is navy with a woven pattern of large tics, each made up of a green tic, a yellow tic and a red tic. Unlike James Bond’s perfectly tied black bow ties, Fanning’s bow tie is left askew. The back and front don’t perfectly line up, giving the bow tie some character. He accessorises his suit with a white linen handkerchief stuffed into his breast pocket with the corners sticking up. Reading glasses hang from Fanning’s neck on a thin red lanyard whilst a magnifying glass hangs from a thicker black lanyard.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. I always liked that the British secret service has and art expert. Presumably they have a master carpenter and a head chef, too!
    Douglas Wilmer was a man with a precision cut career in cult films, Hammer movies, Harryhausen, Bond, Robin Hood, Fu Manchu, Sherlock (several incarnations), Roman epics and more. I saw him once at an event at a Bray Studios in 2007 and he was smiling constantly. An instantly recognisable man with classical features and a very likeable screen presence, it’s difficult to think of qualities that could make more of an impression in cinema than that.

  2. I think we should consider that the character of Jim Fanning is essentially Dr. Fanshawe from ‘Property of a Lady’, so let’s take a look at his style; “The stranger was middle-aged, rosy, well-fed, and clothed rather foppishly in the neo-Edwardian fashion – turned-up cuffs to his dark-blue four-buttoned coat, a pearl pin in a heavy silk cravat, spotless wing collar, cufflinks formed of what appeared to be antique coins, pince-nez on a thick black ribbon.”
    Wilmer might be wearing an updated, more conservative version of this.

  3. I can’t imagine tha a major film would rely on an actor to bring his own wardrobe. What if he wore the wrong outfit or got a stain on it or damaged it on the way to the studio?

    Having a film crew waiting around while you repair or hunt for a replacement costume is not an option. Time is money in production.

    It might not be bespoke, but I am betting it came from the Bond wardrobe department.

    • Desmond Llewelyn spoke about wearing his own clothes for Bond films, so I wouldn’t be surprised if other characters did as well. If the actor brought his clothes to the studio before the shoot and kept them there throughout, there wouldn’t be the problem you mention. But it is entirely possible that this suit was made bespoke for someone else for another production and it closely fit Wilmer.

    • That is interesting. I know in Indy films actors often provide their own costumes from their wardrobe, but I’m surprised that a film as big as Bond would.

      Did Desmond say this about an early Bond film or a later one?

  4. It may just be me reading too much into things, but I’ve always thought that this character, based on his appearance, style of dress, and similar-sounding name was an inside reference or tribute to Ian Fleming.

    • Kyle
      That had crossed my mind before, too. The bow tie, the oiled hair, the tall face and long broken nose. I hadn’t considered the similarity in names but now you mention it, it may explain why they changed it from the Fanshawe of the novel to Fanning. I can’t see what they achieved other than a thickly disguised in-joke, but it’s there!

  5. I’ve always found Fanning to be one of the better cast characters in the series – quintessentially British and stiff upper-lipped to the extreme. I actually feel that Wilmers understated Fanning suits Moores jovial Bond perhaps even better than Llewelyns Q – “splendid, I could use an extra pair of eyes.. perhaps we could try to schpott the seller”.

  6. I prefer when Bernard Lee’s M used to sport flannel suits and bowties. He looked great in it, very handsome. This outfit looks a bit like a costume to me, I guess it’s due to the glass and reading glasses, but the jacket isn’t my cup of tea either. I don’t think such a loose, wide and not very structured cut is suitable to this actor’s physique. Even with the jacket closed, I still would have the impression he wears a jacket too large for him. Why not put him in a DB suit, like some of Fleming’s ?

  7. Since he is a bow tie fan Fanning should have worn a three-piece suit (like the other characters) or a double-breasted one. At least he should have closed his jacket. The rather loose-fitting jacket together with the crumpled shirt makes a sloppy look. A waistcoat would have covered the shirt. In classic movies bow tie wearers are to be found quite regularly and the stylish ones among them prefer three-piece suits.

    • But look at Fleming with his short sleeve shirts and tiny bow tie. People often just wear what they want.

      And, with that one sentence, I have summed up this entire blog

  8. Is a beautifull suit.probably cut in 60s.
    I like very much the anti-fashion attitude of this gentleman.

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