Robert De Niro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, Vegas casino executive and mob associate
Las Vegas, Spring 1980
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Design: Rita Ryack & John A. Dunn
1976 was a rough year for Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal.
Plagued by his history of illegal gambling and mob ties, the bookie who had seemingly found his place managing the Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas was now under state scrutiny for operating without a license. Despite his criminal ties, Lefty is often remembered now as a visionary in the gambling community.
When Rosenthal died in 2008, gaming analyst Larry Grossman told the Las Vegas Sun that he “was one of the first handicappers to be purely analytical in viewing sports betting… he paved the way for many to follow.” The Sun itself went on to describe that “today every major casino in Las Vegas has sports book salons modeled after the one Rosenthal put in at the old Stardust.” Lefty’s cinematic counterpart, Sam Rothstein, had even realized: “Back home, they would have put me in jail for what I’m doing. Here, they’re giving me awards.” But the awards are long over.
Called out for having operated in a managerial role at the Stardust without a license, Lefty followed the procedure to apply with the Nevada Gaming Commission and came before the control board in January 1976, where he was grilled for two days by attorney Jeff Silver in a series of ugly exchanges. As Silver relayed decades later to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the two men found themselves standing next to each other while relieving themselves, making their figurative pissing contest a reality. Rosenthal addressed Silver: “You’re Jewish, I’m Jewish. Why can’t we just get along?” to which Silver replied with his characteristic quick wit: “I generally don’t talk to gentlemen at restroom urinals.”
The exchanges got ugly, as was later reflected in Martin Scorsese’s Casino when Sam “Ace” Rothstein – the cinematic substitute for the real Rosenthal – was not only denied his license but also denied the opportunity to appeal and fight back for one, leading to a very public argument with the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. The chairman, played by Dick Smothers, was based on Harry Reid, currently the U.S. Senate Minority Leader and formerly the NGC chairman from 1977 to 1981. Reid verbally sparring with Rosenthal after the latter’s rehearing was denied formed the basis for this scene in the film.
Reid wasn’t the only party involved who would later achieve greater political fame. Oscar Goodman, who portrays himself in this scene, was Rosenthal’s attorney at the time and would later be elected Mayor of Las Vegas on June 8, 1999, four days shy of Rosenthal’s 70th birthday. Goodman served as mayor for an impressive 12 years, during which time he also served as a spokesperson for Bombay Sapphire gin and was also named the Least Effective Public Official by readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
For more information about this incident in Vegas history, State v. Rosenthal (1977) is posted online.
What’d He Wear?
Ace is forced to tone down his silk pastels for his hearing, taking a conservative approach of earth tones for a day in the political arena where his flashy mob connections have already gotten in the way of his fair shot at a gaming license. Every element of Ace’s outfit incorporates shades of yellow, gold, or brown, unifying his color palette.
Ace wears a tan single-breasted blazer in a soft fabric, likely cashmere given his status and penchant for luxury. The shoulders are wide and well-padded out the roped sleeveheads. The jacket has two flat gold sew-through buttons on the front with a single, slightly larger matching gold button on each cuff. The lapels are the same fishmouth “cran necker” notch lapels that appear on many of his jackets. There are two long vents in the back.
Ace’s jacket has sporty patch pockets on the hips and a welted breast pocket where he wears a brown silk display kerchief puffing out, made by Anto to perfectly match his tie.
Ace goes a humble step further, eschewing his usual silk shirts in favor of a pale yellow Swiss cotton dress shirt. Anto confirmed the details of this shirt that they made for the film, which incorporates the same long point collar as his usual shirts with a single cuff at the end of each sleeve. Ace fastens his cuffs with a pair of 14-carat yellow gold cuff links that may be set with cubic zirconia or citrine. The patch pocket has a shaped bottom and top-stitched pointed welt effect at the top, emboldened with the “SR” monogram.
Ace’s dark brown silk tie, knotted here in a four-in-hand, was also made by Anto and – as noted – perfectly matches his pocket square.
Ace wears a pair of dark brown trousers, a shade warmer than his brown silk tie, that appear to be the same trousers he wore with his burnt orange jacket a few scenes later. The flat front trousers have a fitted waistband with an extended tab in the front. The legs are straight down to the plain-hemmed bottoms. His trousers have frogmouth front pockets, more similar to those on jeans than on modern dress pants, as best seen when he places his left hand in his pocket during his harangue against the committee who denied his license.
Though barely seen, the brief glimpse of Ace’s feet appear to show him wearing dark brown suede desert boots, likely worn with dark brown silk socks.
Ace’s jewelry and accessories are at their most limited and conservative in this scene. Typically a pinky ring wearer, Ace avoids this mob-associated affectation during his hearing, sporting only a yellow gold-banded watch strapped to his right wrist. This may be one of the vintage yellow gold wristwatches from Bueche Girod, Juvena, or Noblia that Robert De Niro wore on screen in Casino.
Of course, once Ace is denied his shot at a license, the proverbial gloves come off and the literal sunglasses go on. He steps out into the hallway, addressing reporters behind the shield of the brown lenses in his large plastic tortoise-framed sunglasses.
Casino‘s costume team put plenty of work into ensuring that Robert De Niro’s onscreen wardrobe reflected the real Lefty Rosenthal’s clothing as much as possible. De Niro, noted for his extreme method acting, was probably delighted that Rosenthal had been an Anto client and the shirtmaker still had his original orders on file to replicate exact fabric and details – including those long point collars – for De Niro’s shirts and ties in the movie.
Check out Ibraheem Youssef’s poster that illustrates all of Ace’s Casino suits. This outfit is depicted with matching tan trousers and light cream shoes.
How to Get the Look
Ace doesn’t sacrifice personal style when it comes to dressing smartly to give the appearance of a serious businessman in a desert community. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop his mouth and his past from getting him into deeper trouble.
- Tan cashmere single-breasted 2-button blazer with fishmouth “cran necker” lapels, welted breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 1-button cuffs, and long double vents
- Dark brown flat front trousers with tab-front waistband, frogmouth front pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Pale yellow Swiss cotton Anto dress shirt with long point collar, front placket, monogrammed breast pocket, and single cuffs
- Dark brown silk Anto necktie
- Gold cuff links
- Dark brown sueded leather desert boots
- Dark brown silk dress socks
- Yellow gold wristwatch with rectangular case, square dial, and flat bracelet
For a final touch of earth tone class, Ace wears a dark brown silk display kerchief puffing from his jacket’s breast pocket.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Buy the movie.
Bullshit! We all have a past. You have a past, I have a past, and my past is no worse than yours… but you guys think you have the right to pass judgment on me!
Although the bulk of Rosenthal’s run-ins and hearings with the Nevada Gaming Commission occurred in 1976 and 1977, the film chose to portray the year as 1980; hence, my listing the setting as 1980 above.