It’s been several weeks, but it’s time to come back to James Bond style!
When we last left off, Sean Connery had just come back to the world of James Bond for one more go with the poorly-received “Diamonds are Forever.” He had absolutely no intention of ever coming back to the role, at least at that point, and the producers took him at his word. Lazenby was back in Australia modelling, and the series desperately needed a shot of newness to get it back on track after such a disappointing entry. They went with someone who had come very close to getting the role back in 1962, Roger Moore.
Moore was, unlike Connery and Lazenby, already an established actor in his own right before coming to the Bond franchise. What’s more, he had a pre-existing history as a jet-setting fictional spy, in th guise of Simon Templar of “The Saint,” a long-running BBC series based on a novel series of the same name. In essence, he was bringing an entire espionage-appropriate wardrobe with him to the role!
Moore was cut from a cloth more similar to Lazenby rather than Connery. Simply put, Moore was pretty. He didn’t have the rough-hewn edges that Connery had, or even the boyish ruggedness that Lazenby possessed. Instead, Moore was prim, proper, and elegant. The Conduit Cut that had worked so well for a decade simply didn’t suit him. Instead, Moore went with his existing tailors at Cyril Castle in Mayfair. They had made the suits he had worn to great effect throughout his work on “The Saint,” and made similar suits for Moore’s first Bond outing, “Live and Let Die,” albeit with some slightly more 1970s lines and colors.
In a nod to his predecessors, Moore kept the distinctive turnback cuff shirts that Connery and Lazenby had worn, at least at first. Unfortunately, those only survived through Moore’s first two films, 1973’s “Live and Let Die,” and 1974’s “The Man with the Golden Gun.” In addition, there was a much more relaxed sense to Moore’s Bond, with more sports jackets and slacks than suits.
The first two Moore outings were unabashedly ’70s: minimalistic, car-focused and roughly filmed. Bond had come a long way away from the glamor of the ’60s films. They both performed poorly at the box office, and an extended absence was initiated, while the series returned to form. In 1977, Moore starred in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” a gargantuan, world-spanning production that also featured a much more formal set of clothes for Bond. The full trappings of the late ’70s showed up here…
“The Spy Who Loved Me” remains the most popular of Moore’s Bond films, and 1979’s “Moonraker,” the highest grossing of his films, which had the same styles, along with some terrifying space-themed clothing…
…So the styles that showed up here stayed associated with Moore’s Bond well after the fact. But here is where there was a serious change. Moore had, shall we say, some tax issues back in the United Kingdom, starting in 1978. He moved the the South of France in the interim, and could no longer make regular visits to Mayfair.
The timing of the forced change in style was fortuitous, as after the over-the-top entries of the ’70s, the series was about to take a sharp turn back into seriousness with 1981’s “For Your Eyes Only.” Moore sought out a tailor who was willing to come to his home in France: Douglas Hayward. Hayward already had a reputation as a tailor to the stars, as evidenced by his beautiful suits for Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier and Peter Sellers. His more subtle, subdued approach engineered a look for Bond that was so timeless, it lasted all the way into the ’90s, and doesn’t look particularly dated even today.
This continued through Moore’s last two films, 1983’s “Octopussy” and 1985’s “A View to a Kill.”
After “A View to a Kill,” Moore was simply too old to keep doing the films, so the search for a new Bond was on. This switch in actors was easily the most tumultuous of the entire series, and ended with Pierce Brosnan, then of “Remington Steele,” getting the role… He was forced to turn it down, much to his horror, because of his commitment to “Remington Steele” (the same reason we have Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones instead of Tom Selleck, due to “Magnum, P.I.”). The producers were left scrambling, and settled on sort of dark horse choice in the form of Timothy Dalton, who had been approached back in 1969 for the role, but felt himself too young at the time. Dalton was a big fan of the Fleming novels, and wanted to take the character back to brutal basics. His two installments, 1987’s “The Living Daylights,” and 1989’s controversially violent “License to Kill,” remain some of the darkest, grimmest entries in the series. His wardrobe took a similar tack.
Hayward left the series with Moore, with whom he remained close friends until his death in 2008. Exactly who made the suits for the Dalton films is a bit of a melange, and was the result of the work of several different tailors. In the first half of “The Living Daylights,” Dalton dons several different Benjamin Simon suits.
After around five of these, things go downhill from a sartorial perspective, and don’t come back up until 1995! Bond goes downright casual from here on, a reflection of the film’s chaotic, gritty tone, but also, apparently, Dalton’s discomfort with formal wear. It works in “The Living Daylights.” Terrifyingly, Dalton had to reign in the producers on “License to Kill.” The film centers on drug trafficking in Florida, the Caribbean and Central America. “Miami Vice” was popular at the time. You can probably guess where we’re going with this…
Of Jodie Tillen, costume designer on “License to Kill,” Dalton had words…
“She wanted to put me in pastels. Can you imagine? I thought, ‘No, we can’t have that.’ The clothes say so much about Bond. He’s got a naval background, so he needs a strong, simple color, like dark blue.” – Timothy Dalton, 1989
While that disaster was averted, the film’s plot, featuring a renegade Bond out for revenge in the tropics, kept Dalton out of suits for nearly the entire film, excepting the horrendous “best man” suit he dons in the pre-title sequence (probably deliberately hideous), and a very, very average tux he wears to a casino midway through the film. It looks like a rental, which, again, makes sense in the context of the story (Bond has no resources, and is operating on his own and without a plan), but it’s still quite unfortunate to not get to see the finery we associate with the character in one of his films.
Like we said, this sad state of affairs would not be corrected until 1995. Why so long? Well, that’s a story for next time, when we go into our fourth and final entry into our exploration of Bond’s wardrobe. Until next time!