Mr Fish: Making a Splash in the Movies

The Italian Job was filmed in 1969, long before product placement and brand sponsorship became the industry it is today, but somehow, Michael Caine’s charming tailor, Douglas Hayward, managed to get his name in the opening credits for providing “Mr Caine’s suits”.

The equally charismatic shirt maker, Michael Fish, gained even greater exposure by actually having his boutique feature in the movie (the Mr Fish logo can be seen in the background of the above still).

Simon Dee and director, Peter Collinson, review Charlie Croker's prison-release outfit.

Charlie Croker’s first task upon his release from prison is to visit his tailor and shirt maker to update his wardrobe. Adrian, the gentleman assisting Croker with his shirts, is played by Simon Dee who was a television superstar at the time. The following extract from Matthew Field’s book “Self Preservation Society” explains more:

"Pursed lipped and disgusted by Croker’s wardrobe, Dee’s delivery was genius, ‘Quite revolting’ he says under his breath. At the time he filmed The Italian Job, Simon Dee was Britain’s first celebrity chat show host and one of the coolest figureheads of the 1960s. His show, Dee Time, was at its zenith, pulling an average of 18 million viewers. Born on 28 July 1935, Dee launched his broadcasting career as one of the original disc jockeys on pirate radio station Radio Caroline."

Simon Dee and the Fab Four during his Radio Caroline days

"On television, Dee interviewed everyone from Sophia Loren to John Lennon. Dee had it all, and was later the inspiration for Mike Myer’s character, Austin Powers. When the BBC refused to bow to his salary demands, he moved to ITV but following disputes with his new bosses his show was cancelled within months. Dee was an early example of the pitfalls of fame. Unable to revive his career, he retrained as a bus driver. By the mid-1980s he was a recluse. He died 29 August 2009, aged 74."

Simon Dee with his very own "pretty" Aston Martin - which he crashed whilst driving Joanna Lumley to the Montreux festival in 1968. 

There is some uncertainty as to why Henry McGee (the actor who was cast as the tailor rather than the shirt-maker) appears in a still taken in the Mr Fish boutique. Whatever the reason, it provides a good opportunity to see the candy-pink shirt that unfortunately didn't make the final cut of the film.

Henry McGee and Michael Caine - looking pretty in pink.

Dee was perfectly cast as the man in charge of the Mr Fish boutique, which at the time was producing clothes for David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Pablo Picasso, David Hockney, Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret... and Dee himself. In addition to making shirts for Michael Caine to wear both on and off screen, Mr Fish regularly made the trademark dressing gowns for another of the film's stars, Noel Coward.

Noel Coward as Mr Bridger - serving time in style. 

Other than the psychedelic shirts and man-dresses that Michael Fish designed for Bowie & Jagger, he is probably best known for his neckties, that were so wide they became known as "Kippers". He often made them from the same fabric as the shirts with which they were to be worn: a look that was sported by both Dee and Caine in the film.

Blowing the bloody doors off.

On set, but not on-screen, was another Mr Fish staple - the ruffle-front shirt - which appeared to be a firm favourite of the director, Peter Collinson. It was also a style favoured by actor Tony Beckley who played the role of Camp Freddie.

Camp Freddie remained unruffled throughout the film.

Charlie Croker's strongest look in the film is arguably the outfit he wears when reuniting himself with his Aston Martin - the blue-on-blue striped Mr Fish shirt providing such a powerful lift to the conservative grey suit.

Croker - ready to do business.

To celebrate the golden anniversary year of The Italian Job, Mr Fish has reproduced the most popular fabrics from the film, in order to create a limited edition of 50 shirts in each design. All are made to order to your exact specifications... just in case you have gorilla-length arms.

Film director, Peter Collinson, making sure that Caine measures up for the job.