Martin Landau’s Two Beautiful Suits in North By Northwest


North By Northwest is a stylish spy film from 1959 that set the stage for the Bond films to come in the following decade. While the film is famous for Cary Grant’s style, it’s a beautifully and effectively costumed film all around. North By Northwest is Martin Landau’s first major film appearance, where he plays a prototype SPECTRE agent named Leonard. Leonard is Vandamm’s (James Mason) right-hand man, whose cleverness, resourcefulness and eye for menswear places him above the level of a mere henchman.

Director Alfred Hitchcock intended for Leonard to be the best-dressed character in the film. In an interview with The Telegraph, Landau said of Hitchcock, ‘He had helped me choose the suits because he wanted my character, Leonard, to be better dressed than Cary Grant’s.’ The only way to dress Landau better than Cary Grant was to send him to Grant’s tailor, Quintino of Beverly Hills. Though Arthur Lyons of Kilgour, then in London’s Dover Street, took credit for Grant’s suit in the film, Quintino made at least some of Grant’s suits for the film because it is their label that is visible in one of the scenes.

Landau’s suits have the same English look that Grant’s have, and they portray Leonard as a well-travelled man who could have visited a tailor in England or Hong Kong. Many Beverly Hills tailors sought to emulate the dignified styles coming out of Savile Row. Leonard’s observation of Grant’s character, ‘He’s a well-tailored one, isn’t he?’, may be a nod to the two of them using the same tailor and wearing a suit with the same cut. At the very least, it portrays Leonard as a man of superb taste for admiring not only Cary Grant’s clothes but also for admiring what would become the most famous suit in cinematic history.

As opposed to Grant’s singular suit in the North By Northwest, Landau has the privilege of wearing two different suits in film. For the New York and Chicago scenes, Landau wears a navy suit—which resembles a worsted flannel suit—and for the Rapid City scenes he wear a black-and-white barleycorn tweed suit. The navy suit is a sophisticated choice for New York City and Chicago, while the tweed suit is perfect for South Dakota. The tweed suit would have been appropriate for Long Island too, but the navy suit is an effective look when travelling between the city and its suburbs. Both suits have the same cut and style with only minor differences.

Like Grant’s suit, Landau’s suits are cut with straight shoulders and roped sleeve heads, a full chest and a gently suppressed waist. Landau’s suits have narrower shoulder’s than Grant’s suit, giving him a trimmer and more youthful look. The front is in the three-roll-two style with the lapels rolling through the the top button. The lapels have a medium width and a medium-height steep gorge. The classic cut and style of these suits originated in the mid-1930s but still didn’t look outdated in 1959. Such a cut could still look good today, with only the angle of the gorge making it look old fashioned.

The navy suit jacket is detailed like Grant’s suit, with straight, jetted hip pockets, a welt breast pocket and no rear vent for a smarter style. The barleycorn tweed suit has been given sportier details, including flapped hip pockets, a flapped breast pocket and a single vent. The flapped breast pocket adds an English country touch. Both suits have three buttons on the cuffs.

The suit trousers are cut with double forward pleats and a medium-wide leg. They have a self-supporting waistband, most likely with strap-and-buckle side-adjusters like Cary Grant’s suit trousers have. The trousers have turn-ups.

Leonard’s restrained choice of shirt and ties displays the pinnacle of taste. With both suits Landau wears a white shirt with a semi-spread collar and squared button cuffs. With the navy suit he wears a dark blue tie and with the tweed suit he wears a black tie. Both ties are solid with a textured weave. The shirt and solid, textured ties provide Landau with a tonal look that is reminiscent of how James Bond would dress on screen three years later. Even Landau’s shoes are similar to what Sean Connery would later wears a Bond: black plain-toe three-eyelet derby shoes. Landau’s shoes have a very trim leather sole.

Overall, both suits provide Martin Landau with a refined look that challenges Cary Grant’s position for the best-dressed man on screen. Like Grant, Landau looks timelessly elegant, and the 30-year-old actor wears his clothes with ease. His choice of suits, shirt and tie could easily have been at home in James Bond’s wardrobe. Seven years later Martin Landau would play his most famous role Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible. This was another stylish character, and like James Bond he was a spy who had a penchant for shirts with cocktail cuffs.


  1. They are indeed beautiful suits, particularly the navy one.

    Also, can we expect a wardrobe analysis of Casino Royale some time soon?

  2. With this piece you went in an interesting direction I didn’t expect. So much focus in NBNW is on Grant, as it should be, that Landau’s clothes tend to get overlooked. Yet, he does compete well with Grant, if anyone can, in this movie. Very good review selection on this one Matt. Excellent movie and excellent actor in Landau.

  3. Is it possible Kilgour made none of the suits for Grant in North By Northwest, and merely recognized a similar suit they had made for him? This reminds me of when Oliver Peoples first believed their sunglasses would be featured in QOS. Upon closer inspection, it later turned out Tom Ford copied the style of the sunglasses and provided their version for the movie. There were some pissed off fans on the Bond forums when that came out…

  4. And I think Mason’s suit with a light color sweater was the inspiration for Bonds suit with odd waistcoat in M ‘s office in Goldfinger. I always thought Grants suit in North by Northwest was old fashion because of the baggy full trousers. Don’t get me wrong it’s a beautiful suit and you can put anything on Grant and its going to look elegant because he was an elegant man. I always loved Landaus navy blue suit. It looks modern and forward looking. Great article Matt as always!

  5. Grateful to discover unearthed territory about many of my cult movies.
    I recently watched Get Carter, and was absolutely stunned by Michael Caine’s suits.
    I remember you mentioning the movie a few times, a while ago, and this kind of digression, albeit not un-Bondian, might deserve your undivided attention, and thorough coverage ?

      • Thanks a mil for the link, Matt.
        I concur with the description as the ” the fourth greatest suit in film history”, and would have even put it up by a notch or two.
        “Likely tailored by legendary outfitter Douglas Hayward”. So still shrouded with some mystery…
        Given all the details we learnt thanks to you, I dare say we can quasi-unmistakenly attribute this suit to the late Doug Hayward.
        Helluva suit ;)

    • I love that film – it was shot on location around where I grew up. I haven’t looked at it in a long time but somebody did a website with side by side screenshots of ‘then and now’ locations throughout the film which was interesting.
      The car park in Gateshead where Carter famously threw Alf Roberts (from ‘Coronation Street’) from the roof was condemned many years ago and finally demolished.
      The less said about the remake with Stallone the better, but ‘The Limey’ with Michael Caine’s old roommate Terrence Stamp covers similar territory and is well with a watch too.

  6. Great article, these suits have been a favorite of mine and a suggestion for some time. Matt, it’s possible you overlooked another third suit. When Landau is in the train with Mason, and when he’s in the phone booth giving instructions, he seems to be wearing a charcoal -with a blue cast- herringbone flannel suit with his usual white shirt and a slim silver tie. There’s a good close up of the lapel roll (and of the cloth) when he picks up a paper from the train waiter. I can send you the picture if you’re interested. This suit is my favorite of Landau’s. Have a great week everyone !

  7. One of my all time favourite films and in many ways it anticipated the.Bond films. I wonder how much the screenwriters at the beginning of the canon were aware, consciously or subconsciously, how much they were ‘borrowing’ from NXNW? Suave and well dressed handsome bloke becomes embroiled in a life-endangering espionage plot which involves a beautiful lady and despite the adventure and scrapes he gets into there is still a comedic slant and somehow we know he’s gonna come through OK in the end and hook up with the beauty. As is often the case, the strength of the plot rests heavily on having a worthy villain and James Mason with his smarmy charm is perfect in the role. I love his speech about needing a little less training from the FBI and a little more from the Actors’ Studio!
    Martin Landau was a great character actor who had a face that seemed able to lend itself to both sympathetic and sinister roles. His legacy was slightly tarnished in later years by perhaps the most unconvincing toupee since Andy Warhol!

  8. Martin Landau looked great in those timeless suits.

    I noticed there was a lack of a pocket square with Grant, Mason and Landau’s characters. Any particular reason or personal choice?


    • Also pocket squares have a tendency to move around so they are notoriously disliked by film makers due to the issues with continuity. That’s why when they are used on camera, more often than not it’s a TV fold which is more easy to corral!

      • Some of Hitchcock’s previous films like Rope and Dial M For Murder make beautiful use of pocket squares, and perhaps Hitchcock had a difficult time with the continuity in those films.

      • Interesting Matt. It’s a long time since I’ve seen either film so I’ll pay more attention next time they come around. We’re all just speculating here but it may be that the characters in these two films were a lot less mobile than Grant in NXNW so maybe continuity issues with a roving pocket square weren’t such a problem!

  9. Great insights on the sartorial elegance displayed in ‘North By Northwest’! I was particularly impressed by how you highlighted the role of Landau’s attire in shaping his character as Leonard, going beyond just his acting. The comparison between the tailoring styles of Landau and Grant really underscores the attention to detail Hitchcock insisted on. It’s fascinating how fashion can be used so effectively to define characters and enhance storytelling in film.

  10. Great writeup Matt. I’m always impressed when a much less important characters in a TV show or film are equally well-tailored as the main characters. One in particular from the Bond films who struck me is the MI6 official who brought in Bond’s new Walther PPK. Any chance you’d do an article on his suit?

  11. Besides Landau’s other suit, I would like to suggest Mason’s first two suits, navy and grey, which are gorgeous as well. Hell, even the henchmen are pretty well dressed in this movie.


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