Welcome to today’s show, The Garment Jungle (1957), my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcast formally known as iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. So please subscribe when you are finished listening. You can also go to classicmovierev.com to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts.
Today’s movie is The Garment Jungle (1957). This movie is a gritty Film-Noir crime story that is great for our #Noirvember celebration. The only reason I took a look at this movie because of Robert Loggia. But with Lee J. Cobb, Gia Scala, and Richard Boone, it turned out to be a pretty solid movie, with a decent plot. This movie is rated at 6.6 on iMDB.com. The movie has a 64 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I feel it’s a little better than the ratings.
The movie was directed by Robert Aldrich but Vincent Sherman took over in the end. Aldrich is uncredited. Glenn Erickson stated:
Depending on which sources one believes, there’s a hot Hollywood story behind The Garment Jungle. The feisty independent Robert Aldrich was the film’s original director, and it has often been reported that Columbia showed him the door after mogul Harry Cohn realized out that it was Aldrich who produced and directed The Big Knife. That 1955 movie has Rod Steiger in the role of Stanley Hoff, a vulgar, brutal studio head supposedly modeled after … Harry Cohn.
So, let’s jump into the with our two show veterans and lots of new people to talk about.
Richard Boone played Artie Ravidge, an evil mobster. Boone was first covered in Episode 49 – The Alamo (1960).
Willis Bouchey had a small role as Dave Bronson, the president of the union. Bouchey was first covered in Episode 37 – The Violent Men (1955).
Lee J. Cobb played hard and tough businessman Walter Mitchell. Cobb was born in 1911 in New York City. He was a musical prodigy until a broken wrist ended his violin career. Around the age of 16 or 17, he ran away to Hollywood but general lack of success forced him to return to New York. After his return, he acted in radio dramas in the daytime while attending City College of New York studying accounting.
Returning to California, in 1931, Cobb began performing at the Pasadena Playhouse. His acting in California led to a short run back on Broadway. Cobb joined the Group Theater project in 1935. Others in the politically left group included Elia Kazan and John Garfield. During the red scare and the Un-American actives of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), all of these men were investigated.
Cobb made a few films but his film career really began in with North of the Rio Grande (1937) and Rustlers’ Valley (1937). Cobb took time off from films to serve in the US Army Air Corp during World War II. Following the war, some of his movies include Anna and the King of Siam (1946), Johnny O’Clock (1947), Boomerang! (1947), and Call Northside 777 (1948). However, he hit his real stride in the 1950s. Movies during this period include On the Waterfront (1954), The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), The Three Faces of Eve (1957), The Brothers Karamazov (1958), and a really angry juror in 12 Angry Men (1957).
Cobb was called by HUAC and sadly named names. The investigation had already caused his wife to have a nervous breakdown, so he chose to save his career at the cost of others.
Other great films by this actor include Exodus (1960), How the West Was Won (1962), and Our Man Flint (1966). Cobb died in 1976 at the early age of 64.
Robert Loggia played paragon of virtue Tulio Renata. Loggia was born in 1930 in New York City. For some reason, Loggia left New York to get a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. After graduation, he returned to New York and joined the Actors Studio. Loggia served in the US Army before beginning to work in television. The Garment Jungle (1957) was one of his earliest film roles. He really became well known after his appearances in Scarface (1983), Big (1988), and Independance Day (1996). Loggia appeared on the original “Hawaii Five-O” in 1968 and returned to the new version of “Hawaii Five-O” in 2010 playing a World War II veteran on the USS Arizona. Loggia died in 2015, just short of his 86th birthday.
Kerwin Mathews played Alan Mitchell, the son of the garment factory owner. Kerwin was born in 1926 in Washington. When his parents divorced, Kerwin moved to Wisconsin with his mother. Kerwin began acting in high school but ended up spending some time in the Army Air Corp during World War II. Following the war, Kerwin attended Beloit College and taught high school English for a few years. Finally, he headed to Hollywood to become an actor.
Kerwin began studying at the Pasadena Playhouse and was soon signed to the seven-year Columbia Pictures contract. His first big role was 5 Against the House (1955). Based on the strength of this work he was cast in The Garment Jungle (1957) and Tarawa Beachhead (1958). He was cast as the lead in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) where he was able to use his fencing skills against an array of creatures created by effects master Ray Harryhausen.
Kerwin did more stop action films with The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960) and Jack the Giant Killer (1962). Other films include The Last Blitzkrieg (1959), Man on a String (1960), and The Devil at 4 O’Clock (1961). In the 1960s, Kerwin had to go overseas to get leading film roles. Kerwin retired in 1978 to live in San Francisco where he patronized the arts. He died in 2007.
Gia Scala played Theresa Renata. Scala was born in 1934 in England, however, she later moved to Sicily with her father. Gia moved to New York City and graduated from high school there is 1952. Gia studied with Stella Adler at the Actors Studio and worked odd jobs. Two years after she graduated from high school, she appeared on a game show. A Universal talent scout saw her and quickly had her sign a contract.
Gia took a few small parts and quickly began getting larger roles. These films include The Price of Fear (1956), The Garment Jungle (1957), Don’t Go Near the Water (1957), The Two-Headed Spy (1958), The Angry Hills (1959), I Aim at the Stars (1960), and the great anti-war film The Guns of Navarone (1961) starring Gregory Peck and Anthony Quinn. In this last film, Gia played a partisan that was believed to have been tortured by the Nazis so severely that she could no longer speak. It was also during this time that she made her first suicide attempt, following the death of her mother in 1958. The depression and drinking ruined her career and she lost her studio contract. When her ex-husband remarried in 1967, Gia attempted suicide again. Gia sought psychiatric treatment and spent her time painting. In 1972, she finally ended her life will booze and sleeping pills.
Valerie French played girlfriend and buyer Lee Hackett. French was born in England in 1928. After college, she went to work in the BBC drama department and later decided to try acting and joined the Theatre Royal Repertory Company. After working in English films, she moved to Hollywood in 1955. Her best known American roles are Jubal (1956), Decision at Sundown (1957), and The 27th Day (1957).
In the 1960s, French began doing more stage work and also worked in daytime soap operas. Her iMDB.com profile says she was a former Miss Galaxy but I can’t find any other reference to this. French died in 1990.
Harold J. Stone played shop manager Tony. He plays a big tuff guy so I kept expecting him to be in the mob. Stone was born in 1913 in New York City. Stone’s family was in the Yiddish theater and he began working at the age of 6. Stone studied medicine at college but changed to acting after graduation. He first worked in radio by was on Broadway by 1939.
Beginning in the 1950s, Stone began playing, mostly tuff guys, in films. Some of his better-known films include The Harder They Fall (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Spartacus (1960), and The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967). A good friend of Jerry Lewis, Stone appeared in a few of his comedies. Widowed in 1960, with two small children, Stone switched to television, where he worked through the mid-1980s. Stone died in 2005 at the age of 92.
Wesley Addy played the killer, Mr. Paul. Addy was born in Nebraska in 1913. Addy studied economics at UCLA before becoming an actor. In 1935, he made his Broadway debut, working extensively in Shakespeare plays. Like many of his era, his career was interrupted while he served in the US Army during World War II. After the war, he went back to the theater.
In 1950, Addy began working in television and made his first movie the next year with The First Legion (1951). He had a good run in movies with Scandal Sheet (1952), My Six Convicts (1952), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), The Big Knife (1955), Time Table (1956), The Garment Jungle (1957), Ten Seconds to Hell (1959), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964).
He did much better on television and even worked in daytime soap operas. My favorite role of his is Lt. Commander Alvin D. Kramer, the officer that gets cranky with his wife in Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). Addy died in 1996 at the age of 83.
This movie begins in the garment district of New York City, where at the time, most of the clothing worn by Americans was made. The narration tells of a vise squeezing the business owners between the Unions and the mob.
On the cutting floor of Roxton Fashions, co-owners Walter Mitchell (Lee J. Cobb) and Fred Kenner (Robert Ellenstein) are having a fight about the union and the mob. Mitchell has allowed the mob in for a percentage to protect the shop. Kenner wants to pay a decent wage and let the union into the shop. Tony (Harold J. Stone) stands by watching the fight. Mitchell rips a dress off a model to show how complicated it is to make. She stands there in her underwear without a problem.
Kenner storms towards the freight elevator, that Mr. Paul (Wesley Addy) is working on. Kenner steps into the elevator and it drops dozens of floors smashing and killing him. Mitchell is shocked by the death of his partner.
Alan Mitchell (Kerwin Mathews) the son of the factory owner arrives back in town on the day of Kenner’s funeral. Alan is fresh out of the military and wants to go into the garment business with his father. Walter doesn’t want his son to get involved with the business. Lee Hackett (Valerie French) who is the old man’s girlfriend comes in for the funeral. Lee is a very important garment buyer. She spills the beans that Kenner was killed. When Alan leaves the room, Lee says that Kenner was killed because he wanted to unionize. Alan comes backs and demands to work in the business.
Alan is late for work and Walter assigns Tony to train him. Tony tells him to be nice to the buyers and that there is no love in the dress business. There are models undressing all around. He is shown the sewing room and they are paid by the piece. Tony tells Alan that his dad learns through sweat and the son learns through someone else’s sweat. A woman on the line wants more money for the piece she is working and Tony blows his stack.
Tulio Renata (Robert Loggia) comes in and calls for calm. He is a labor organizer and everyone stops working. Walter comes in and Tulio says the people in the shop want to unionize. Walter tells him to get out and Tulio talks about the hired goons and the murder of Kenner. Alan is shocked by what his father is doing after just spending three years fighting in Korea for people’s freedom.
Walter goes back to his office and calls Artie Ravidge (Richard Boone). Artie is the head of goons that Walter pays. Walter ask him directly about the killing of Kenner. Artie denies it but at the same time, Mr. Paul from the elevator lights Artie’s cigarette.
Alan talks to his dad about the problems at the shop but the old man stonewalls him. That night Alan goes to the Union Hall. Tulio is there with his baby. Alan asks about Kenner. Tulio thinks he is at the union to make a payoff. Theresa Renata (Gia Scala) the mother of the baby is next door teaching dance lessons. Alan gets hit with the lightning bolt. Theresa throws down on her husband for going to Roxton Fashions and says if he wants to be a hero for the union he should go organize the devils in hell.
Tulio explains to Alan that his father’s shop undercuts the other shops by half a million a year because he is not unionized. He says his father is using the criminal Artie Ravidge to keep out the union. Theresa gets a threatening call from the mob about her husband. Tulio leaves for a union meeting.
At the secret union meeting, they addressed by Dave Bronson (Willis Bouchey). The news is that manufacturers association is going to pull out of the agreement unless the final 10 percent of garment shops are unionized. About that time Mr. Paul, Ox (Adam Williams), and a couple of goons come into the secret meeting. Tulio stands up to Mr. Paul as the hall fills with goons. Paul pulls a gun and they beat Tulio and Bronson.
This drives more union protestors out into streets. Alan comes into his father’s office and Artie Ravidge is there. Alan stands up to him. Walther thinks his son is taking sides against him. Artie says he is in the protection business. Alan then brings in the beaten Tulio. Walter says he will never have the union in his shop. Tulio says the truckers are standing with the garment workers. Since the garment workers are striking, the trucks won’t cross the picket line.
Alan calls Theresa looking for Tulio and finds out that he is on the picket line. Five union men are standing in the alley to make sure no scab trucks get through. Alan warns Tulio about Artie’s threat. Just then a taxi with Theresa and the baby arrives at the alley. Tulio asks Alan to ride home with his wife in the taxi.
Alan and Theresa decide to go to a bar and take the baby along. Okay!!! Theresa goes to another booth to breastfeed the baby. Alan and Theresa talk and he begins to understand Tulio’s drive. Tulio’s father was a dreamer and Alan’s father is a schemer. Theresa says blood is blood, but there is always a right and wrong.
Back at the alley, a lone truck pulls in. Tulio is the only one of the five that hold the line. As he fights with the drives, Mr. Paul, Ox, and his goons get out of the back. One of the four union men, George Kovan (Joseph Wiseman) goes to help Tulio but he is quickly knocked out of the way. The other three grab Tulio, betraying him, and holding him for Mr. Paul. Mr. Paul repeatedly stabs Tulio in the gut. Kovan sees the stabbing from his hiding place. He runs away, leaving the still alive Tulio in the alley.
Two of the three corrupt union men run in the bar saying that they got Tulio and call the police. Theresa runs to the alley with Alan right behind. She holds Tulio while he dies. She left the baby in the bar. Alan is now on the side of the union.
Lee waits for Walter and conforms him about the killing. Artie has told Walter the Tulio pulled a knife on one of the truckers and he had no choices, and Walter believes it. Lee asks him if it is worth it.
Walter gets upset when his shop workers go to the funeral of Tulio. Sid Melton, who played painter “Alf Monroe” on “Green Acres” 1965-1969 has a brief appearance as a sewing machine operator. Dave Bronson gives a rousing union speech at the funeral. Tulio’s Mother (Celia Lovsky) attends the funeral with Theresa. Kovan is one of the pallbearers even though he hasn’t told the police about the murder.
Alan goes to see Theresa and she is moving out. She is kind of hard on Alan but he jumps in the taxi with her and the baby. Theresa goes to the apartment of her mother-in-law but Alan has the taxi not bring up her luggage. He goes into the house and is introduced to Mama Tulio as a friend. About that time Kovan shows up. He tells what really happened. She can’t believe his friends betrayed him. She starts calling him an assassin in Italian. A newspaper shows that the story has broken.
Artie meets with Mr. Paul and one of his thugs and says to put pressure on Kovan before the grand jury hearing. The grand jury decides not to indict anyone. Walter and Lee hear the news in his apartment. Alan comes in and accuses his father of working with murders. The old man slaps his face. Lee begs Alan to stay with his father and he does.
One day at the shop, Alan see the three men that betrayed Tulio working on the ironing presses. Tony said Artie ordered him to let the men work. Alan throws them out and is willing to fight with scissors.
The three men go to see Artie and he guarantees them a job. They have lost their union cards and can only work in non-union shops. Walter shows up in Artie’s office. Walter final accepts the fact that he has been working with a murder. Artie shows Walter that he is really in charge and makes threats against Alan. This changes everything for Walter. Walter says that he and Artie are through. But it don’t work that way.
Walter and Alan are in the shop on Friday evening as everyone leaves. Walter tells his son that Arties is out. He says he has records of every cent he has ever paid Artie. He plans on going to the district attorney in the morning. Walter says he is ready to go union. Walter sends Tony home.
Walter asks Alan to pick-up Lee and Alan asks if Theresa can come along for dinner and Walter agrees. Walter goes to get his records and Alan calls Theresa. At a shoe shine stand are Mr. Paul and his goon, Ox. Walter calls Lee and proposes to her.
Suddenly someone locks Alan’s office door and he hears a gunshot. He breaks out and finds his dad dead on the shop floor. Artie hears that Alan plans on giving the evidence to the police.
Theresa, Lee, and Alan wait at the funeral home. Lee finally says that she has the records that Alan has been looking for to convict Artie. Alan takes Theresa home and Mr. Paul and Ox ride by in a taxi and says they will break the baby’s legs if Alan doesn’t layoff. The baby is fine. Shortly, Alan sees Mr. Paul and Ox parked on the street.
Lee gets a call and they threaten to destroy her face. Alan stands guard over Theresa and the baby. Theresa takes over watch duty. The milkman comes and starts making his deliveries. That’s right, a man used to bring milk to your door in the morning! The milkman goes to Theresa door and when they turn him away, he leaves a package containing the records to convict Artie.
Theresa hides the records and Alan tries to make it to the phone that is a few blocks away. The goons watch him go out and load him into the car. Ox waits outside to watch Theresa as they drive Alan to see Artie. Theresa tries to take the records out and Ox begins chasing her. Theresa heads out onto the rooftop and makes a run for it with Ox hot in pursuit.
Alan is taken to meet Artie’s at his father’s office. Artie demands fifty percent of the profits and no union. When Alan says he has books on what Artie was paid, he gets mean. Artie begins beating the crap out of Alan demanding to know where the books are. But Alan is a veteran and fights back. Theresa comes in with the police and they have Mr. Paul. The police arrest Artie for murder.
Lee, Theresa, and Alan head for lunch but Tony makes Alan go back to work. Tony says the union workers get an hour for lunch but not the boss.
World-Famous Short Summary – Hire a vet. Happy Veteran’s Day
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Beware the moors