Hutton Playtime in Hollywood – Bullitt 1968
Here we have the movie that everyone associated with the Hutton Playtime, and it’s true they feature at the end of the movie in a major way. No one seeing the movie on the big screen could avoid the fact of Steve’s Playtime stepping on the gun at the end.
But this movie has also generated a mass of false history, as beloved by the internet. To what am I referring? The strange tale of the black soles. It used to be that we could blame all misinformation on ‘the man in the pub’, that expert on everything who was always at the bar. These days it’s ‘the man on the web’ who knows everything there is to know. (I used to be a member of Talk Ivy on Film Noir Buff and boy were there some ‘experts’ on there…)
When we launched the Playtime in 2020 we got a lot of messages from aficionados of Bullitt asking why we hadn’t reissued them with black soles.
At first I thought it was just the odd weirdo but this happened time and again. So I went looking in the recesses of online forums (where, believe it or not, I never usually hang out) only to find a lot of spurious suppositions about ‘McQueen’s boots in Bullitt’ in general. Most of that being the endless repetition of the lie that McQueen wore Sanders (it never happened, wasn’t possible see here as to why) but even those that conceded that McQueen may have worn Hutton were adamant that his boots had black soles.
Part of this can be explained by something so obvious to those of us of a certain age and wearers of certain footwear – that is the indisputable fact that crepe even when it’s blond to start with ends up very dark gray. Dark enough to look black in an old movie where they already boosted the contrast as a style of film.
They point out that the welts were tan on the Bullitt boots. Well they were, because they were made of leather which when new was dark brown but as they wore the leather would show through. Not convinced? Here’s Rob’s pair of original Playtime shoes where this effect is so clear it cannot be disputed.
The biggest and strangest theory is that the boots were made with black soles. As we’ve seen throughout this series of articles of Hutton Playtime at the Movies, McQueen clearly wore his own boots in his movies. I mean, we have shots of him offset, not even near a set, and he’s wearing Hutton. So why is it such a stretch to imagine he was suddenly wearing a pair with black soles?
Now here’s the thing. If you have any experience with photography or movies you’ll know that oftentimes things are not what they seem, or they have been manipulated to appear to be different for purposes of the story, or just cinematic preference. We’ve all seen Apple laptops with stickers covering the Apple logo, presumably because Apple didn’t sponsor freebies for that movie (must have been the only one they didn’t!).
Likewise, here at the end of Bullitt we have a pivotal scene shot at that airport where McQueen is seen running at night across the grass and the tarmac of the runway. Now, naturally the soles of all Hutton Playtimes end up going pretty dark, almost black, but the space in between the heel and sole usually stays lighter. But if they’d been left that way all we would see when McQueen is running across the runway would be flashing soles of his Playtime, something that no prop person or cameraman could have avoided seeing in the rushes, or even in real time.
So the likely story is that Wardrobe took Steve’s boots and darkened off that part of the sole to not flash when he’s running. It’s something I would have spotted if I were the lighting cameraman
Because, we know for a fact that Hutton never made the Playtime with black soles – not even when they made black versions. Because crepe is naturally blond. They would have stained the outside foxing on a black models but the sole underneath was always blond. It makes no sense to dye the soles of crepe in those days. (I know Sanders does it but that is to use one ugly gray sole unit for every color they make and most importantly they have to do that as they do not use separate crepe for the foxing, so their sole edges have to be the same color as the sole).
However, it’s such a polemic that Hutton is going to produce a limited edition series called The Conspiracy Model just so all those guys can finally get their dream come true, complete with brown welt and black soles. But be aware, when the black stain wears off the bottom, they will go blond for a while but then go nearly black again!
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