I love these two films, which both have Michael Caine in the lead role, but beyond this are very different. The Italian Job is a mostly jolly, somewhat farcical, and thoroughly enjoyable film that captures so much of the old British underdog spirit that so endeared the country to me back in the day. It is also set in some glamorous and quite gorgeous locales. Get Carter, by contrast, is an intense, violent and unsettling gangster film that has revenge as a primary thread throughout the story, and is set in the northeast city of Newcastle which, at the time, seemed a very grim place indeed.
In addition to showcasing a young and very well-cast Michael Caine, the lead character in both films is besuited by Caine’s real-life tailor, Douglas Hayward. Hayward dresses Caine impeccably for both roles and, while the characters of Charlie Croker and Jack Carter are both living in London and seemingly often on the wrong side of the law, the characters are very different to each other. Croker is a small-time chancer, a minor criminal, whereas Carter is a full-time, fierce, menacing villain. One trait they do share, of course, is being dressed by one of the best – and both films exhibit that late 1960s, early 1970s vibe. Hayward’s suits capture the age perfectly, and it is one of my favourite eras in classic menswear.
Looking at some of the style highlights for each film, Hayward’s work is top, top class.
Early in The Italian Job, Cains visits his tailor and shirtmaker, and the result after these appointments is a very well-accoutred man. Arriving at the Royal Lancaster hotel, Charlie Croker wears a lovely grey, three button single-breasted suit, with a blue/grey tie and a light blue shirt with royal blue stripes. The jacket has flap pockets but, sadly (in my opinion), no slanted pockets… But the jacket has lovely deep double vents as does a suit he wears in a later scene, at Turin airport, – a lovely, tan summer-weight three button single-breasted suit, this time with slanted pockets!
In the opening scene of Get Carter, Caine wears a grey double-breasted suit (with slanted pockets!), a cornflower blue shirt and navy blue tie. One thing that we can safely say about Jack Carter is that he is a blue shirt man – he even attends his brother’s funeral wearing a pale blue shirt. The other noticeable bit of clobber that Caine wears is a navy blue, three-piece single-breasted suit, with a lovely skirted jacket and nipped-in waist. Given how grey and wet it is in Newcastle, Carter is constantly seen wearing a navy blue macintosh. Throughout the film, Caine looks sinister and dangerous. Hayward’s tailoring choices work very well.
Every time we do a Silver Screen Revisited, we like to make a suggestion or two about how we would dress the subject of the piece. In this case, the fixes would be simple – we’d give Michael Caine slanted pockets all the time, and add a ticket pocket to his jackets. Also, his jackets in both films were a few centimetres too short for our liking, so we’d lengthen them ever-so-slightly.
One other thing thing to say is that the music in both films is exquisite! In The Italian Job, the opening track by Matt Munro (who also did Bond’s From Russia With Love) sets such an amazing mood, and the “Self Preservation Society” ditty later in the movie perfectly captures the amateurish yet never-say-die attitude of Croker and his gang of somewhat lovable malcontents. In Get Carter, the music by Roy Budd is outstanding (the track played on Carter’s train journey up to Newcastle is a classic), as are the other musical interludes throughout the film.
These two films are masterpieces of their era, and a fitting tribute to the tailoring genius that was Dogie Hayward. If you haven’t seen them yet, do yourself a favour and seek them out. You’ll love what you see! BTWB/MM/YS