Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, Lucchese family Mafia associate
New York City, Summer 1964
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno
What could be more appropriate for this blog on the Mafia Monday after St. Patrick’s Day than our favorite Irish-Italian cinematic Mafioso?
Henry Hill’s Irish-ism was very prominent for a movie about such an Italian-centric tradition. Besides preventing him from being a made man, his Irish heritage also led Henry into the open arms of brutal mob associate Jimmy Conway, a man who looked past twenty years of friendship to turn on Henry after suspecting him of complicity with the police. Of course, these guys were all brutal thugs, but it’s sad to see Henry’s eyes when he realizes his former best friend is about to kill him. Especially when that best friend is De Niro.
But that’s all fifteen years after the scene in question. Here, Henry and Jimmy are thick as thieves – literally, I guess – and are out on a routine collection when Henry receives a desperate call from his girlfriend Karen. Luckily for Henry, he’s perfectly attired for the gangster shit needed to act on her behalf. Had he been wearing a Lacoste polo and a seersucker jacket, he may have instead chosen to just go have a talk with Karen’s abuser.
What’d He Wear?
If you’re gonna be out intimidating people for mob money, your best bet is a leather jacket.
I offer the warning that many brown leather blazers, vintage or not, can look pretty cheesy on the wrong person or paired with the wrong stuff. Henry’s attire walks the line of “eh, it was good for it’s time” and “holy shit, that’s badass and I just peed a little.” You want people thinking the latter. Proceed accordingly.
The jacket itself is medium brown in color. It’s styled like a typical single-breasted jacket with notch lapels, a 2-button front, and a ventless rear. A casual sportcoat is evoked with the patch breast and hip pockets. The lining is dark brown with an inner pocket on each side.
Henry wears a black knit long-sleeved casual shirt. The buttons are large and white and the turndown collar is very soft and flappy. The shirt buttons seven down the front with a double button fastening at the bottom. This is a very retro ’60s look, when shirts like this were meant to be worn untucked but still look neat.
The pants, which are a little tight for my preference, are dark brown flat front trousers. The material looks like a polyester or similar blend. They are very retro-styled with plain-hemmed bottoms, frogmouth pockets, and a unique extended tab built-in belt that fastens through a brass squared clasp. There are no rear pockets. This sort of clean waistband is good for Henry as there are no bulky pockets, clumsy fly, or extended belt for him to catch his gun on when drawing it.
Henry’s accessories are the usual: his gold Catholic cross necklace, gold pinky ring on the right pinky with a dark ruby stone, and a gold watch. This watch is more casual than his Rolex Day-Date; this has a dark brown leather strap and a gold squared case and face. Underneath is his usual white sleeveless A-style undershirt.
On his feet, Henry sports a pair of black tasseled loafers, likely in Italian leather. His socks are thin silk – as you’d expect – in brown with black thin stripes and black heels.
Go Big or Go Home
Although ill-conceived, Henry does show his passionate side here by rushing so desperately to Karen’s rescue. At this point in their relationship, he would do anything for her and he sees red when he hears about her treatment at the hands of her douchebag neighbor.
According to the Pileggi-Scorsese screenplay:
EXT. KAREN'S PARENTS HOUSE HENRY's car is parked at the curb. A new red Corvette is parked across the street. HENRY Go inside. I'll be right there. KAREN What are you gonna do? HENRY Get inside! When KAREN gets out of the car, WE SEE HENRY reach under the seat for a snub-nose .38 revolver. EXT. CORVETTE DRIVEWAY WE SEE HENRY walk down driveway to the backyard area where BRUCE and TWO of his BROTHERS are talking. BRUCE sees HENRY and walks toward him. BRUCE'S TWO BROTHERS are smirking. BRUCE What do you want? They get closer. BRUCE (annoyed and menacing) Hey! Fucko! You want something? With absolutely no warning, HENRY reaches out and grabs BRUCE's hair with one hand and pulls his gun out of his waistband with the other. In almost one motion, HENRY Smashes the gun across BRUCE's face. Teeth fall from BRUCE's mouth. The TWO BROTHERS, still not seeing the gun, start toward HENRY, but HENRY continues to pound the gun into BRUCE'S face like a dinner gong. BRUCE's head is still off the ground only because HENRY refuses to let go of his hair. BRUCE'S BROTHERS realize HENRY has a gun. They freeze and back off. WOMAN'S VOICE (from a window) HELP! Police! He's got a gun! Police! Quick! Murder! HENRY drops BRUCE to the ground.
A side note: I’ve talked a lot about peeing one’s pants in this blog post so far. According to the book Wiseguy, Henry’s savage beating of Karen’s abuser actually did cause the man to make a puddle in his pants. Thankfully, Scorsese avoided any blatant employment of this fact when making his film.
While pistol-whipping his girlfriend’s abuser can’t be officially endorsed by this blog (for legal reasons), take note of Henry’s sense of honor. When his girlfriend is threatened, he doesn’t just say, “Calm down, honey,” he takes action.
Of course, then he goes and marries her.
We don’t see Henry drinking anything here, but he’s got his usual pack of Winston Reds, clamped badassed-ly in his teeth when he peels up to the curb in his yellow Chrysler convertible.
Naturally, Henry chooses the most BAMF way possible to enter the car. After sitting Karen in the passenger seat, he leaps over the back seat and plops down next to her in the driver’s seat.
For anyone interested, Henry’s car is a beautiful yellow 1966 Chrysler Newport convertible with New York plates #707145.
How to Get the Look
- Medium brown leather single-breasted blazer with notch lapels, 2-button front, patch breast pocket, open patch hip pockets, ventless rear, and jetted inner pockets on a dark brown lining
- Dark brown flat front polyester trousers with plain-hemmed bottoms, frogmouth pockets, no rear pockets, and a built-in extended tab belt on a brass squared single-prong buckle
- Black acrylic/cotton blend casual long-sleeve shirt with large white buttons
- Brown silk socks with black stripes and heels
- Black leather tasseled loafers
- Gold squared-case watch on a dark brown leather strap with a gold face
- White sleeveless A-style undershirt
- Gold necklace with a Catholic cross
- Gold pinky ring with a dark ruby red stone, worn on the right pinky
I covered this in the last Goodfellas post, but in this scene we actually get to see it. Henry carries a Smith & Wesson Model 36 “Chief’s Special” snubnose revolver, kept under the front seat of his Chrysler. The Model 36 was beloved by mobsters for its concealability; it had a 2″ barrel and, with its five-round capacity, didn’t look bulky in a pocket, waistband, or holster. Of course, most gangsters carried around considerable bulk anyway.
Not the most violent of the mobsters portrayed, Henry – even when armed – shows impulse control. Although he beats the shit out of Bruce in this scene, he refrains from actually shooting him or any of his friends. In real life, I believe the real Henry taught all three a lesson with the butt end of his gun, but that would’ve made a much longer scene and Henry probably would’ve lost some of his likability.
One last thing that I found interesting… We clearly see the butt end of Henry’s Model 36 as he pulls it out from under the seat (although not as closely as Bruce gets to see it a few seconds later). Eagle-eyed viewers – or anyone who has Goodfellas on Blu-Ray – can read the serial number from the bottom of the frame. In real life, Henry and other mobsters typically removed the serial number to avoid law enforcement tracing the weapon. This was even more of a common practice before the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 that made possession of a weapon with the serial number removed a felony. Smart move on the government’s part, as anyone who had a gun without a serial number probably had some nefarious felonies planned anyway…
As mentioned above, the Model 36 was liked for its concealability. This did not go unnoticed by Henry.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
Henry says some pretty badass stuff in this sequence, but it’s all pretty run-of-the-mill “Hey, I’ll kill you!” stuff:
I swear to my fucking mother, if you touch her again, YOU’RE DEAD.
Although, as it’s not seen in the script excerpt above, some credit should probably be given to Liotta for adding the convincing threats.
For me, the best exchange comes from Chuck Low as Morrie Kessler, the hapless Jewish barber/bookie that Henry and Jimmy are intimidating.
Morrie Kessler: Henry, you’re a good kid, I’ve been good to you, you’ve been good to me. But there’s something really unreasonable going on here. Jimmy’s being an unconsionable ball-breaker. I never agreed to 3 points on top of the vig! Am I something special? Some sort of schmuck on wheels?
Henry Hill: Morrie, please! You borrowed Jimmy’s money, pay him.
Morrie: I never agreed to 3 points on top of the vig! What am I, fuckin nuts? Come on!
Henry: Are you gonna argue with Jimmy Conway? Just give him his money so we can get the fuck outta here!
Morrie: Hey! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em in the ear! What are you talking about? Fuck ’em in the other ear, that son of a bitch! Did I ever bust his balls? Did I? Did I? I could’ve jumped the dime a million times, and I wouldn’t have to pay tip!
Chuck Low was completely underrated as Morrie and I would love someone to make a Morrie tribute on YouTube.
The best part is De Niro’s reaction. The first time Morrie says, “Fuck him in the ear,” he just sort of rolls it off, still watching the commercial. Then Morris drops the “Fuck him in the other ear” and De Niro loses it. Which ear do you think De Niro is more protective of?