The Grissom Gang: Tony Musante’s Tan Plaid Jacket

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

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Based on James Hadley Chase’s controversial novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish, Robert Aldrich’s sweat-soaked Depression-set crime drama The Grissom Gang hardly features the finest or most inspiring of that elegant era’s sartorialism, but it does showcase unique and interesting approaches to 1930s menswear, particuarly in the wardrobe of the slick underworld dandy Eddie Hagan (Tony Musante).

A hardworking actor throughout his six-decade career who was born 83 years ago tomorrow, Musante’s signature role is considered to be the gritty police series Toma but he declined to continue the show after a single season, a move that the actor never regretted despite many commenting that it would have launched him to stardom. Instead, the show was retooled for Robert Blake and renamed Baretta while many of the writers and crew went on to work at The Rockford Files.

Not long before Toma, Musante joined the ensemble cast of The Grissom Gang, co-starring the always reliable Scott Wilson  and Kim Darby, two years removed from her role as the precocious Mattie Ross in True Grit. While Wilson’s dimwitted gang leader Slim has fallen head-over-heels for the gang’s sophisticated kidnap victim Barbara Blandish (Darby), Eddie has taken up with Anna Borg (Connie Stevens), a platinum blonde torch singer tangentially connected to the Grissom Gang.

Eddie: How come you never get your ass out of bed?
Anna: Well, it’s the place you seem to like it the most.

Between tossing coffee mugs (full of coffee, of course) and profanity-laced insults between them, the couple seems destined—or perhaps doomed—for the mutually destructive relationships associated with gangsters and their molls. Unfortunately, their domestic non-bliss is interrupted by the arrival of private eye Dave Fenner (Robert Lansing), who easily tricks the brassy singer into volunteering information about the Blandish kidnapping case. Eddie unexpectedly returns home just in time to find Anna spilling the beans to Fenner, who smoothly knocks Eddie upside the head with his briefcase on his way out the door.

Eddie’s pride takes a greater hit than his aching head when he realizes just how much Anna really knew about the crime. The dramatic floozy herself starts connecting the dots, realizing Eddie’s involvement in not only the kidnapping but the death of her former paramour, Frankie Connor (Michael Baseleon). Anna reaches for the .35-caliber Smith & Wesson in her drawer, but Eddie’s got the drop on her and ends the singer’s life with three shots from his Colt .32.

To this point, Eddie had always tried to maintain a level of sophistication to rise above the ruffians of the Grissom Gang, but Anna’s murder awakens his ugly violent side. In need of female companionship, Eddie corners Barbara and is about to force himself on her before a knife-wielding Slim Grissom slips into the room, recognizing Eddie’s intentions for the kidnapped heiress that Slim has fallen in love with, and slick Eddie’s era of outsmarting the Grissom Gang comes to a violent end.

What’d He Wear?

Eddie Hagen is hardly the model of ’30s sartorial perfection, though he enjoys the distinction of being the best dressed member of the scrappy Grissom Gang by virtue of wearing not only interesting suits, jackets, shirts, and ties, but also clothes that actually fit.

The tan single-breasted jacket is patterned in a subtle, low-contrast plaid and styled with short peak lapels that roll to a three-button front. This single-breasted, peak-lapel style was first popularized during the 1920s as menswear transitioned toward emphasizing athletic silhouettes with strong shoulders and suppressed waists. Eddie’s ventless jacket also has a welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, and two non-functioning, spaced-apart buttons on each cuff.

Getting smacked in the head with a briefcase doesn't start Eddie's day on the right foot.

Getting smacked in the head with a briefcase doesn’t start Eddie’s day on the right foot.

Despite the bleak nature of the Great Depression and the resulting somber approach to menswear, many men’s clothiers were having more fun with their tie patterns, a tradition that would explode with the post-WWII “Bold Look” of wild designs on “kipper ties” with blades fattening out to 5-6 inches. As crime dominated the headlines during the 1930s, gangsters would flaunt their wealth and status by wearing loud patterns that clearly took some expense to create.

Eddie’s cream silk tie, a precursor to the 1940s Bold Look fashions, consists of an abstract black amoebic pattern, reinforced with a thinner red pattern weaving in and around it, with each amoebic blob containing an imperfect bullseye-like shape of two red rounded squares encircling a red dot. A gold tie bar with a wide name plate is clipped askew a few inches above the tip.

Eddie wouldn’t be Eddie if he wasn’t mixing various stripes and patterns all in one outfit. His linen shirt is striped with six sets of thin gray stripes on an ecru ground that, from a distance, have the effect of wide block stripes. The shirt has a plain front and two-button squared cuffs, and he keeps the point collar fastened under the tie knot with a gold collar pin that he keeps pinned to the left collar leaf even after removing his tie and unbuttoning the neck of his shirt.

Eddie's bad day just got worse when he looks up to see a wild-eyed Slim Grissom approaching him with a knife.

Eddie’s bad day just got worse when he looks up to see a wild-eyed Slim Grissom approaching him with a knife.

Again, Eddie stays true to himself by foregoing solid trousers in favor of a pair of beige-on-tan bengal-striped trousers that add an additional element of colorful chaos to his neutral-toned ensemble. The flat front trousers rise to his natural waist, where he wears not only a black leather belt through the 1/2″-dropped belt loops but also a redundant set of solid burgundy suspenders (braces) with gold adjusters and brown leather hooks that fasten to buttons along the inside of the trouser waistband.

Per the old expression, Eddie’s practice of “belt and braces” is excessive as only one of these devices is really needed for holding up one’s trousers. In context of the fact that Eddie regularly wears a tan leather shoulder holster for his Colt, he should have foregone the suspenders as they only interfere with the holster. The rig itself clearly connects to the belt as well, looping around the belt on the right and left sides and fastening through a gold single-prong buckle, proving that the belt is necessary while the suspenders are only a potential hindrance.

Belt, braces, and holster for Eddie Hagen.

Belt, braces, and holster for Eddie Hagen.

Eddie’s striped trousers have straight pockets along the side seams, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms. We don’t get a good look at his shoes, but they appear to be black lace-ups, possibly in napped leather, worn with black socks.

Black footwear indeed coordinates with Eddie’s belt, but the gangster would have better served his neutral-toned outfit by sporting a belt and shoes in shades of brown leather.

Eddie tops off his look with his usual natural-colored straw fedora with its pinched crown, short brim, and colorfully striped band in beige, burgundy, and brown on a lavender ground. He also wears a gold tank watch with a white squared dial and tan leather strap.

The Gun

Eddie’s holstered “heater” is what draws him back to his and Anna’s shared apartment, and it’s Chekhov’s Colt that marks the endgame for Eddie Hagan as his argument with Anna escalates to both pulling pistols on each other but the semi-professional Eddie has the faster draw and quickly ventilates Anna with three shots from his nickel-plated Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless semi-automatic pistol.

Eddie spies his trusty Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless that he had left behind in its holster.

Eddie spies his trusty Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless that he had left behind in its holster.

By the era that The Grissom Gang was set, the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless had grown to be one of the most popular handguns in the United States over the quarter-century of its existence to that point. The attractive pistol’s safety mechanisms and ease of use made it attractive to civilians while its relatively high capacity of eight .32 ACP rounds in the magazine (or seven for .380 ACP models) in an easy-to-conceal package ensured its popularity among the criminal element, particularly urban-oriented gangsters like Eddie.

Per its name, the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless often did not require a holster for ease of carry, and infamous bank robber John Dillinger was rumored to have a .380-caliber model in his trouser pocket when he was cornered by the FBI and killed on July 22, 1934 (though there remains some dispute as to whether or not Dillinger was actually armed.)

At 1.5 pounds, this small Colt pistol was light for its era but heavy by modern standards, all but eclipsed by lightweight polymer-framed “pocket pistols” like the Kel-Tec PF-9, Ruger LCP, and Smith & Wesson Bodyguard, all capable of carrying .380 ACP and 9x19mm Parabellum ammunition in subcompact frames that weight considerably less than a pound.

How to Get the Look

Neutral tones aren’t always safe and boring… Eddie Hagen’s final, and arguably flashiest, outfit is this somewhat chaotic summer-oriented combination of a tan sports coat with a printed tie, and striped trousers, all over-accessorized with collar pin, tie bar, and the redundant duo of belt and braces, opting for a brash sartorial approach that communicates his ability to buy loud clothing during the early 1930s when many in the country could hardly afford to buy even the most sober attire.

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

Tony Musante as Eddie Hagen in The Grissom Gang (1971), holding his freshly fired Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless. After a recent struggle, he’s lost his hat and his tie was dislodged from its gold clip.

  • Tan subtle plaid single-breasted 3-button sport jacket with straight-gorge short peak lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, spaced 2-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • Beige (with sets of six gray stripes) linen shirt with pinned point collar, plain front, and stacked two-button squared cuffs
    • Gold collar pin
  • Cream silk tie with abstract red-and-black amoebic pattern
    • Gold tie bar with ID plate
  • Beige-on-tan bengal-striped flat front trousers with dropped belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Black leather belt with wide gold rectangular single-prong buckle
  • Burgundy suspenders with gold adjusters and brown leather button-hooks
  • Tan leather shoulder holster with gold single-prong buckle belt straps
  • Black napped leather lace-up shoes
  • Black 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

Dumb, Anna. You were really dumb.

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