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Palmer's glasses - the plot thickens!

Posted by on June 28, 2005 at 04:06:12:

Apologies in advance for a lengthy message! A few weeks back the ‘Financial Times’ ran an interesting feature on collecting vintage sunglasses – the trends, styles, prices etc. The exclusive London based firm of ‘Oliver Goldsmith’ was heavily mentioned and rated as the first British company to create and market frames as ‘must have’ fashion items. From the late 1950’s on, designer Oliver Goldsmith was THE man to visit if you counted yourself amongst the scene’s rich and famous looking for frames. On the strength of that I thought that I’d pay a visit to the website of the newly re-vitalised firm. The home page was a roll call of past customers including John Lennon, Audrey Hepburn, Bardot – you get the picture! What blew me away though were the references to their products’ deployment in movies –this included the “Ipcress File”! This baffled me as I’ve had it on good authority that Palmer’s iconic frames were made by the British firm of UK Optical. I emailed the website that day not really expecting any response but was amazed to receive a reply just 10 minutes later from the designer’s niece herself! She told me that Palmer’s glasses were definitely designed and made by her uncle whose brief was to create a ‘space’ in the arm of the frame to house a “secret note” that would be significant in the film! To illustrate this ‘look’ she mailed me a scan of an advert dated 1968 of a ‘similar’ style using a triangular profile arm. ‘Oliver Goldsmith’ was apparently the only company to manufacture this type of frame. A classic more questions than answers situation! If Ms Goldsmith is correct about her uncle getting the commission to design the frames then they were definitely not used – the ‘triangular’ profile arm is completely different from the ‘flat’ sides of Palmer’s glasses in the film. Len Deighton himself wears an identical pair in the famous ‘on set’ kitchen photo with Caine. I can truly believe that Oliver Goldsmith, being top of the mid 60’s London optical designers, would be top of Saltzman’s costume list (and Goldsmith was certainly known to Caine) but I’m really not sure if the concept of ‘special’ glasses would have been discussed pre-production – would original choice Christopher Plumber as Palmer been the same myopic character as brought to life by Caine?? Intriguingly, in a further email, Ms Goldsmith promised to dig through her uncle’s archive to see if any documentation or design drawings still exist for the ‘Ipcress commission’. Nothing yet, but I’ll keep you posted!


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