Goodfellas – Henry’s Brown Leather Blazer

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas. However, his expression kinda makes him look more like Kurt Russell here.

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990). However, his expression kinda makes him look more like Kurt Russell here.

Vitals

Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, Lucchese family Mafia associate

New York City, Summer 1964

Film: Goodfellas
Release Date: September 19, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Richard Bruno

Background

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.

To really guarantee your success on a mob collection, take De Niro with you.

To really guarantee your success on a mob collection, take De Niro with you.

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.

When worn correctly, this brown leather jacket can force people to urinate themselves just by starting at them in your rear view mirror.

When worn correctly, this brown leather jacket can force people to urinate themselves just by starting at them in your rear view mirror.

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.

A great shot of the watch, ring, gun, shirt, pants, jacket, etc. Don't get Freudian on me.

A great shot of the watch, ring, gun, shirt, pants, jacket, etc. Don’t get Freudian on me.

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.

You'd think the idiots on the right might have ran when they saw the guy on the right coming towards them.

You’d think the idiots on the right might have ran when they saw the guy on the right coming towards them.

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.

If any of you gentlemen have ever dated Ray Liotta's wife, I think now would be the time to call and apologize.

If any of you gentlemen have ever dated Ray Liotta’s wife, I think now would be the time to call and apologize.

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.

Boy-that-escalated-quickly_zps178aa246

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.

I get that she's had a bad day, but would it have killed Melfi to at least look impressed?

I get that she’s had a bad day, but would it have killed Melfi to at least look impressed?

For anyone interested, Henry’s car is a beautiful yellow 1966 Chrysler Newport convertible with New York plates #707145.

How to Get the Look

2013-03-16 12.41.40 pm cropThis is a hard one. Pretty much everything about Henry’s look is vintage and spot-on for its time (around 1965). It’s hard to find a brown leather blazer without looking cheesy. Good luck.

  • 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

The Gun

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.

Henry uses this Smith & Wesson Model 36 to pistol-whip Karen’s harassing neighbor. Thanks, IMFDB!

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.

Although I don't think he was really going for

Although I don’t think he was really going for “likability” here.

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…

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

As mentioned above, the Model 36 was liked for its concealability. This did not go unnoticed by Henry.

It's disturbing how often I've had to take screenshots of Ray Liotta's groin area for this blog. The attached link should take care of any resulting insecurities.

It’s disturbing how often I’ve had to take screenshots of Ray Liotta’s groin area for this blog.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie.

The Quote

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!

We're right there with you, Hendry.

We’re right there with you, Hendry.

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?

4 comments

  1. Max

    This blog just gets better. Henry’s leather always struck me as a bit anachronistic. I picture the rise of the leather blazer not really occurring until at least the early 70s, even amongst wiseguys. I don’t think even Jim Morrison went that route till ’68. In any event, still a BAMF look to this day.

    Side note: I was in the elevator to my apartment one day last spring and a friend and neighbor asked me if my vintage leather blazer was my “gangster costume.” I said it wasn’t a costume. “Oh, you’re saying you’re actually a gangster?” “No, I’m saying costumes don’t come with a gun.”

    Like

    • luckystrike721

      Thanks, Max! You have a good point; the leather – especially the color – evokes a very ’70s look. The collars, lapels, and pants also seem to be a bit more in tune with ’70s styling (or at least late ’60s.) I guess mobsters were ahead of their time in the days before track suits and undershirts like we see on The Sopranos!

      Great story on the elevator – glad you cleared it up for your friend! I’m sure we’d love to see the jacket if you can post it; vintage stuff is 10x cooler than any of the overpriced stuff today.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly | BAMF Style
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