Orson Welles’ Le Chiffre in the 1967 Casino Royale



Orson Welles plays Le Chiffre in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale wearing an outfit fitting for a colourful villain. Welles’ segment of the film is the only one that derives from Ian Fleming’s original story. Following Peter Lorre’s version of Le Chiffre in the 1953 version, Welles also wears a light-coloured dinner jacket as the same character. Emilio Largo, the most recent Bond villain in Thunderball, may have influenced the choice to put Welles in an ivory dinner jacket while the hero wears a dark dinner suit.

Welles wears a traditional ivory dinner jacket with a single button on the front, a shawl collar, jetted pockets, three buttons on the cuffs and no vent in the rear. The shawl collar is narrow in relation to Welle’s tremedous size, even though it is close to 3 inches wide. The dinner jacket has an English cut with lightly padded straight shoulders, roped sleeve heads and a full chest to give the illusion of waist suppression.


Under the dinner jacket, Welles wears a white dress shirt made by Frank Foster with a spread collar, double cuffs and a pleated bib that closes with two black onyx studs. Unusual for a pleated bib, the front of the shirt has no raised placket. The pleats go through the middle of the shirt’s bib, changing direction at the centre where the studs are. The pleats are 1/4 inch deep, matching the depth of the stitching on the collar, cuffs and front edge. The pleats are smaller than ordinary pleats but larger than swiss pleats (also known as pin tucks).

With the dinner jacket, Welles wears black trousers and a deep burgundy bat wing bow tie and matching cummerbund that accentuates Welles’ girth. A black cummerbund would be more slimming since it wouldn’t draw as much attention to the widest part of his figure. And as the name of the ‘black tie’ dress code suggests, the bow tie properly should be black, not burgundy. However, a burgundy cummerbund is very classic, particularly with the ivory dinner jacket. The bow tie does not need to match the cummerbund. The bow tie should—and must—only match the colour of the cummerbund if the cummerbund is black. Welles’ burgundy bow tie makes his outfit look like costume, which it very much is intended to be to complement such a colourful film.


Though difficult to tell from the film, it appears that the pleats on the cummerbund open downwards. Pleats on a cummerbund should always open upwards. The pleats once served to hold opera tickets, so one of the more reasonable reasons for cummerbund pleat direction goes.

Welles also wears a burgundy silk pocket square, in a shade lighter than the bow tie and cummerbund. He uses his pocket square for magic tricks, though the silk square’s presence in his breast pocket is magically inconsistent. Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not, and it we only see him remove it from his breast pocket once.




  1. What wonderful villain could have been Orson Welles in a serious James Bond Movie!
    Let’s imagine a “Moonraker” in 1968 with Welles as Hugo Drax,George Lazenby as Bond..and a script more faithful to novel (not any silly space station or spaceplane,but a intercontinental ballistic mssile).

    • He might have also been a great Blofeld – he certainly could have pulled off the literary Blofeld’s menace, and his appearance here isn’t too far off from Fleming’s description in “Thunderball” (minus the beard). Plus, given that Welles was always broke, I’m sure he would have jumped at the chance to play a recurring villain in a huge franchise.

  2. I concur, Welles seems born to have played a Bond villain– think The Third Man or The Stranger– and he certainly looks the part here. This is generally how I picture Le Chiffre’s appearance whenever I read the Casino Royale novel.
    As it stands, the showdown between Welles’ Le Chiffre and Peter Sellers as Tremble/Bond is by far the best segment of a… shall we say uneven?… film.

    • You’re right, I watched those few minutes again today after seeing this post. I can see Mike Myers getting the spark for Austin Powers from that one exchange between the two characters. I could happily have watched a film with Sellers in the lead throughout with this type of humour (“My word, this is strong shampoo…”) barring the frankly weird racial stereotyping-accents Sellers would often pull out for no reason. It’s a shame the film turned out the way it did but in a way, that made it utterly unique. There really are very few films this constantly bizarre.
      Ps Anyone notice that Octopussy borrowed a joke from this film…?
      Pps To keep it on topic, this is the first film in which we see “James Bond” in a kilt!

  3. I agree — Welles was the face and voice of Le Chiffre I saw in my mind’s eye when I first read Casino Royale.

    He would have been great playing that role in a serious Bond “Casino Royale” film, with Sean Connery as 007.

  4. Was it bespoke. No offense intended to one of our greatest directors and actors. As big as he was I’d think it’d have to be bespoke.


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