Tommy Guns and Thigh High Slits in The Gangster Squad

11:35:00 AM

Whether or not you're fascinated by the sensational idea of the 1940's with its' dapper wool vested Charlie's, you can appreciate the glamorous style that sums up Ruben Fleischers' The Gangster Squad, an adapted novel by Paul Lieberman.

Los Angeles, 1940's
The film opens in a fresh Los Angeles County under the soon to be firm grip of gangster Mickey Cohen--Jew turned whop sympathizer (to win the mob throne in LA). There are countless articles that rag on the film noir wannabe script but it's not a documentary, it's entertainment and it's 2013--people want the glitz and glamour of the past, not reality. We come to the movies for a sure thrill in the two hours we're planted firmly as seedlings in the velvety plus chairs, only to grow into cultured movie goers full of coffee table conversation by its end.

The film may not be true to history, or to the novels every last comma and character persona but it sure does give the eye something lovely to burn into the brains memory. The fashion of the film takes the front seat of scrutiny for some of us. The thigh high slit peek-a-boo dresses that only give a glimpse of the timeless Emma Stones Grace Kelly stems, can only be credited to history and designer Mary Zophres. 

The Zazous, Zoot Suitors, the War Production Boards ban on military colored fabrics only pushed this era of post Depression into a rationed world of red dresses the Rita Hayworth Little Black Dress. The rationing concept consumed most of the United States while others scorned the idea and paraded the downtown jazz clubs with extra fabrics followed by a tossing of hundred dollar bills at the bar keep just to stay ahead of the losing game. Because of course, the removing of clothing ten minutes after a meet cute with the mobsters girl, negates the rebellious notion of ignoring government advice. 
Rita Hayworth
Zoot Suitor

Let's leave the moral behavior critique to the historians and religious sects; let's stick to the clothes and the metaphoric speech. The fedora found its nesting place at the crown of the coppers in the late thirties to the end of the 1940's along with the double breasted and single breasted vests of the time. 

Women wore garters, large diamonds and pearls given to them by their cheating bosses, and the bob had made way for the shoulder length U-shaped haircuts, curled up and pinned around simply finger waved layers. The men of course were less fussy with their hair and settled for a do that was easy for everyone from the film star to the working class hack--the side part. Regardless of the flip flop of emotions and loyalties of these men and women we could always count on the glamour of the time that would and forever will be a landmark for fashion designers for years to come; take it from Christian Dior and Coco Chanel who changed the world of war and post wartime fashion. 

So even if The Gangster squad fell short of the history books, when it comes to actual events, we can count on it's consistency with the world of fashion and a birds eye view into the technicolor version of the 1940's.

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  1. I saw a screening of this flick and adored it. The movie drops you right into the middle of the action (I abhor lots of backstory)and snags your attention from the jump.

    I thought Josh Brolin and his wife complemented each other perfectly. Actually, he was my favorite character.

    Two things irritated me, however:
    1 Sean Penn's horrid Italian(?) accent, and
    2 Ryan Gossling's prepubescent teenage voice.

    (I was actually distracted and taken out of the story by these two things.)

    Overall, though, one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

  2. In general I think Sean Penn is an amazing actor. But I think you're right; in this movie he didn't do it for me. I don't think it was the accent because he wasn't supposed to be Italian, he was a Jew who got in with the Italian mob when he was in Chicago and when he got to L.A. he broke from them and started his own thing. Ryan Gosling was good to a point, some of what he said threw me off. I think it's difficult in general for writers to make the colloquialisms sound genuine to us like they did in the late 30's early 40's. I think you'll find a lot more of it that works in pulp fiction but difficult to come off on screen.

    Overall I think it was great! One thing though, who does Ryan Gosling have to be paired up with Emma Stone so often? But, aside from that, it's my favorite era and I loved the music.


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