The Grissom Gang: Tony Musante’s Brown Striped Suit

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971)

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971)

Vitals

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagan, smooth and ruthless fringe mobster

Kansas City, Summer 1931

Film: The Grissom Gang
Release Date: May 28, 1971
Director: Robert Aldrich
Costume Designer: Norma Koch

Background

The Grissom Gang had intrigued me ever since I was in eighth grade. I was flipping through a book about crime cinema from the school library when I found myself paused on a full-page photo of a man in a bloody white dinner jacket stumbled out of a roadster while Kim Darby sat in the passenger seat with her mouth agape. I had been newly introduced to Bonnie and ClydeDillinger, and other films depicting that famous 1930s crime wave, but The Grissom Gang remained elusive.

Half a decade later, I was a college student with a considerably better budget and the vast resources of the internet at my disposal. I finally managed to track down a DVD of The Grissom Gang and, despite what the critics said, I was far from disappointed. Granted, I had no idea what to expect, so a sweaty, exploitative period crime piece from The Dirty Dozen was exactly what I was happy to get.

The Grissom Gang was the second major cinematic adaptation of James Hadley Chase’s 1939 novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish, following the poorly received British-made noir wannabe from 1948. When Robert Aldrich stepped into the wheelhouse for his adaptation, he kicked the setting back to the early 1930s when the Depression-era desperadoes reigned from powerful organized crime figures down to the lowliest highway robbers.

It’s this latter classification that best applies to the hoods of The Grissom Gang, though they all aspire to the former. The titular gang, led by the cackling and commanding “Ma” Grissom (Irene Dailey, chewing the scenery with her take on Ma Barker’s public image), are a twisted take on the Beverly Hillbillies, lent some criminal credibility by the smooth-talking Eddie Hagan (Tony Musante), the closest the characters come to an actual gangster.

Eddie remains mostly on the periphery as Darby’s haughty Miss Blandish and Scott Wilson’s dimwitted Slim Grissom take center stage.

What’d He Wear?

Eddie Hagen’s sense of style immediately differentiates him from the scrappy bandits who kidnapped Miss Blandish, though being the best dressed character in The Grissom Gang is hardly saying much. Still, the slick gangster takes obvious pride in his appearance from his excessively creamed hair to his redundant accessorizing.

The first suit that Eddie wears on screen is dark brown with a narrow tonal pencil stripe. The jacket is cut and styled to follow the trends of the early ’30s with peak lapels that roll to a high-buttoning single-breasted front. Eddie’s ventless suit jacket has three buttons on the front, three-button cuffs, a welted breast pocket, and straight flapped hip pockets.

GRISSOM GANG

Eddie wears a pale yellow cotton shirt, faintly striped in pale orange and baby blue, with a detachable white spread collar fastened into place with a gold stud and connected under his tie knot with a collar bar that finds itself unhooked by morning. The shirt has a front placket, breast pocket, and single-button squared cuffs.

Note the coordination of Eddie's hat and shirt.

Note the coordination of Eddie’s hat and shirt.

Eddie’s coral tie is patterned with triple sets of narrow white “uphill” stripes. In addition to the collar bar, the tie is accented with a sliding tie bar—with two “downhill”-diagonal ridges on the right side—worn low on his torso.

Smug expression, shoulder holster, and stripes galore: the Eddie Hagan guide to style.

Smug expression, shoulder holster, and stripes galore: the Eddie Hagan guide to style.

Eddie overdoes it with both belt and braces and the latter in particular seems like a redundant addition to create more of a period look and adding yet another clashing stripe to his multi-striped outfit. The suspenders are scarlet with two white stripes, and each white stripe is bordered to the left with a thin navy shadow stripe. The suspenders connect to buttons inside the trouser waistband with black leather hooks.

On the outside of his trouser waistband, Eddie wears a dark brown leather belt with a gold-toned single-prong buckle. The belt may be the more essential trouser suspension device here, as it’s more useful in holding his shoulder holster in place… not to mention that said holster may interfere with his suspenders.

Eddie with his pal Mace (Ralph Waite), the most sympathetic of the criminals in The Grissom Gang.

Eddie with his pal Mace (Ralph Waite), the most sympathetic of the criminals in The Grissom Gang.

Eddie wears his Colt pistol in a brown leather shoulder rig with a leather string-tie that fastens it to the left side of his belt, holding the actual holster in place under his left arm.

His reverse-pleated suit trousers have long belt loops for his wide belt in addition to straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.

Eddie reholsters his Colt during a conversation with Johnny Hutchins (Dots Johnson).

Eddie reholsters his Colt during a conversation with Johnny Hutchins (Dots Johnson).

Despite the effort he puts into his appearance, Eddie’s russet brown five-eyelet derby brogues could use a good shine. He wears them with thin brown ribbed silk socks.

GRISSOM GANG

By the early 1930s, the wristwatch had arguably replaced the pocket watch as the stylish young man’s timepiece of choice. Eddie wears a watch with a squared gold case, coordinating white square dial, and tan leather strap.

GRISSOM GANG

A fifth stripe enters the Eddie equation with the wide band his natural-colored straw fedora. The band is colorfully striped in beige, burgundy, and brown on a lavender ground.

The Gun

As opposed to his revolver-wielding colleagues, Eddie Hagan—who considers himself a more sophisticated, urban-oriented gangster—carries a Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless semi-automatic pistol as his sidearm of choice.

Eddie keeps his pistol drawn after confronting the kidnappers at Johnny Hutchins' farm house.

Eddie keeps his pistol drawn after confronting the kidnappers at Johnny Hutchins’ farm house.

As its nomenclature suggests, the pistol would have been nearly three decades old by the time of the film’s setting, yet it remained a fashionable firearm for its sleek lines, easy concealability, and reliable operation. Eddie’s Colt with its nickel finish and white ivory grips would have been a particularly flashy piece, befitting the colorfully dressed gangster.

Eddie's flashy Colt.

Eddie’s flashy Colt.

Colt introduced the John Browning-designed Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless as a more compact alternative to the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammer. While the larger pistol was chambered in the now-obsolete .38 ACP, the “hammerless” model was first chambered in the more universal .32 ACP (7.65mm Browning Short) round. In 1908, Colt introduced a variant that could fire the slightly more powerful .380 ACP (9x17mm), still a popular self-defense round more than a century later.

How to Get the Look

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971)

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971)

The Grissom Gang introduces Eddie Hagan and his colorful yet chaotic vintage-inspired style with a few too many stripes and accessories.

  • Dark brown self-striped suit
    • Single-breasted 3-button suit jacket with peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
    • Double reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Pale yellow striped cotton shirt with front placket, breast pocket, and 1-button squared cuffs
    • White detachable collar with gold stud
    • Collar pin
  • Coral tie with white “uphill” triple stripe sets
    • Gold diagonal-ridged tie bar
  • Dark brown leather belt with gold-toned single-prong buckle
  • Scarlet-and-white striped suspenders with black leather hooks
  • Brown leather shoulder holster
  • Russet brown calf leather five-eyelet wingtip derby brogues
  • Dark brown thin ribbed silk dress socks
  • Natural straw fedora with beige, burgundy, and brown-striped lavender band
  • Gold square-cased wristwatch with white square dial on tan leather strap

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

You run out of games, Slim, you let me know.

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