Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti, New Jersey Mafia associate
New Jersey, Fall 1999
Series: The Sopranos
Episode: “The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti” (Episode 1.08)
Air Date: February 28, 1999
Director: Tim Van Patten
Costume Designer: Juliet Polcsa
“The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti”, the eighth episode of The Sopranos‘s first season, was a defining moment for the character of Christopher Moltisanti. Up to this point, he had still been more interesting than the standard TV mobster (as all characters on The Sopranos are…), but “Legend” was his—and Imperioli’s—first time to shine.
Here, we see all sides of Chris; the small-time Mafia associate who feels like he’s carrying the weight of the Jersey mob on his shoulders and the aspiring screenwriter who only writes what he knows. Of course, both of his dreams of being a top Mafioso and a Hollywood screenwriter are hampered by his primary job being menial errands to pick up cannolis and, respectively, his inability to spell.
This may also be the episode where viewers were finally able to place Imperioli’s face from their memory. The emphasis on movies and a character being shot in the foot (by Imperioli, no less) certainly reminded people—as it was intended to—of Imperioli’s breakout role of “Spider”, the Mafia errand boy who gets shot in the foot by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. After Imperioli takes out his frustrations by firing a hole through the foot of a bakery clerk, he casually nods to his early career by telling the clerk,
What’d He Wear?
Despite what Al Pacino says in Donnie Brasco, the Mafia does model itself after the military in quite a few ways. Besides the rank structure and use of firearms, there seem to be three basic uniforms for The Sopranos‘ mafiosi. The Class A service uniform is a dark suit—probably silk and definitely Italian—worn with a monochromatic shirt and tie combination. The fatigues are a track suit with a ribbed undershirt and various gold chains and rings standing in for military medals.
Instead of a combat uniform, the mobsters all wear leather jackets when out on the streets (or “war zone”). Chris is no exception to this rule, wearing a number of leather jackets throughout the series, including one this blog has already covered when he was stranded out in the Pine Barrens with Paulie.
This jacket is similar, but of a lesser quality. However, the thickness and more rugged aspects of this jacket probably would’ve been better for Christopher’s adventure in the woods. Like the Pine Barrens jacket, it is a black leather zip-up with shirt-style turndown collar. It is a thick leather and has a generous fit on Chris, extending just past his hips.
It zips down the front with a brass zipper. There are open slash-style side pockets, in line with the side seams. Each cuff has a tab that buttons to close, but Chris wears each sleeve unbuttoned, giving the jacket more of a casual look.
Underneath the jacket, Chris wears a distinctive short-sleeve polo shirt. The collar, three-button placket, and sleeve ends are all solid black, but the shirt itself has a light brown repeating chevron pattern on a black ground.
Christopher tucks his polo into a pair of copper brown canvas jeans made by Versace, as evident by the black brand labels on the seam of the slanted right pocket and on the back right pocket. Like most jeans, these flat front trousers have front pockets with a coin pocket on the right side, patch pockets on the back, and rivets on the corners where the seams meet.
Chris wears a black leather belt with a squared gold-toned single-prong buckle. Chris ignores the standard menswear practice of matching his belt and shoe leather, instead opting for a pair of brown leather plain-toe derbies that he wears with no socks.
Chrissie’s other accessories include his usual thin gold necklace with a gold cross pendant on the end.
Cartier was Chris’ preferred watch brand throughout the series, aside from the second season when he wears a Rolex Datejust on a mixed-metal bracelet. Across the first season—including in this episode—Christopher wears a gold Cartier Tank watch on his left wrist with a small white face and a gold link bracelet.
His undershirt is also a Christopher staple, a white ribbed sleeveless A-shirt seen most clearly when he’s sporting one of his numerous track suits.
Go Big or Go Home
We learn a lot about Chris’s tastes, attitude, and hobbies in this episode. One of the few characters on TV who lights up almost as much as Don Draper, the episode establishes Marlboro Reds as his cigarette brand of choice – after smoking Camels in the first two episodes. Christopher smokes Marlboros during the rest of the show’s run, switching to Lights for the fourth and fifth seasons before going back to Reds after the sixth season premiere.
Marlboro Reds are often associated with the working man. In keeping with this manly, blue-collar image, we also see cans of Budweiser scattered around his apartment. Of all the booze on the show, Christopher clearly prefers Budweiser, drinking it up until the fourth season when he enters rehab.
Christopher is one of the most complex characters on the show, frequently frustrated by his inability to get ahead and get what he wants. As one of the younger characters on the show, he is more used to the instant gratification that younger generations are more accustomed to. However, the Mafia is an old tradition that doesn’t adhere to trends. Christopher takes out his frustrations and insecurities often, getting him into trouble. Tony (his boss, if you’re totally out of step with this show and modern culture) eventually recognizes that Chris is the guy to “update” the mob and bring it into the 21st century, promoting him to capo in the sixth season.
Chris’s tale is an ultimately tragic one, as his disillusionment with the mob grows from the first episode, but his overall lack of willpower and the powerful, manipulative draw of the Soprano crime family keeps him from going anywhere else. He is given a few opportunities to leave “the life”, but eventually always picks the easier route and remains a loyal (or “loyle”…) soldier for the family.
The largest distraction for Christopher is his desire to be a Hollywood screenwriter. The Sopranos laid the seeds for this early, beginning in this episode, slowly growing throughout the show until becoming a major plot point in the sixth season. Here, we see him trying to write a screenplay on his old Mac laptop. His struggle (and spelling) is tragic, but his Gatsby-esque ambitions are almost adorable.
How to Get the Look
The next time you’re deciding what to wear to the bakery… Never mind, you should never have to consciously think about what you’re wearing when you’re going to a bakery.
- Black leather jacket with a brass zip-up front, shirt-style turndown collar, button-tab cuffs, and open slash side pockets
- Copper brown canvas designer jeans
- Black chevron-patterned short-sleeve polo shirt with 3-button placket
- Black leather belt with a squared gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Brown leather plain-toe derby shoes
- Thin gold necklace with a gold religious pendant
- Gold Cartier Tank wristwatch with a link bracelet, square case, and small white face
The gun that Christopher memorably uses to shoot the bakery clerk in the foot is a Star Firestar M-43, a somewhat rare Spanish 9 mm handgun. Developed in 1994 by Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A. of Spain – a now defunct company – the Firestar is a single-action semi-automatic pistol that has some cosmetic and operational similarities to the venerable M1911 design. However, the Firestar lacks two of the notable safety mechanisms of the M1911, including a grip safety and a firing pin safety.
Also, most (but certainly not all!) M1911s are .45-caliber, whereas the Firestar M-43 is chambered for the 9×19 mm Parabellum cartridge, carrying seven rounds in a magazine. The other variants of the Firestar are the M-40, chambered in .40 S&W, and the M-45, naturally chambered in .45 ACP. Uma Thurman’s character in the Kill Bill franchise carried a long-barreled M-45 FIrestar.
The Firestar is a smart carry choice for Chris, as it is light and compact at less than two pounds unloaded and 6.5 inches long. Chris keeps his nickel-plated model in the rear of his waistband.
The Golden Closet and IMFDB tracked down the exact pistol used by Chris on the show, serial #1925804, placing a photo of it on both sites. This is the only time we see Chris using the Firestar, as he tends to prefer a larger Smith & Wesson 9mm, a Glock 19, or – for concealed carry – a .38 snubbie on his ankle.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the first season. This isn’t the kind of show where you want to skip around.
Oh, so I can go out, fuck your sister, come back Saturday, and I go to the front of the line?