Dan Seymour as Angel Garcia, gangland gofer
Key Largo, Florida, Summer 1948
Film: Key Largo
Release Date: July 16, 1948
Director: John Huston
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
One of the most familiar—if under-credited—faces of the 1940s, the distinctive-looking character actor Dan Seymour was often cast as a sinister local in an “exotic” setting. Seymour’s most prominent movies starred his friend Humphrey Bogart, including his performance as Moroccan doorman Abdul in Casablanca, a corrupt Martinican official in To Have and Have Not, and mob lackey Angel Garcia in Key Largo, John Huston’s moody noir set in a storm-isolated tropical hotel.
Despite his name, Garcia is no angel, though—in contrast to his intimidating appearance—he’s arguably the least dangerous of Johnny Rocco’s gang of killers that take over the Hotel Largo in the Florida Keys. While he packs a piece, he’s hardly as trigger-happy as Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) himself, instead relegated primarily to more mundane tasks like serving drinks and shaving the boss. Perhaps as a result, Garcia proves to be the hardiest of Rocco’s lackeys, surviving all but his boss… only to be felled by one of Rocco’s own bullets when he refuses to stand as cannon fodder against the vengeful Frank McCloud (Bogart).
What’d He Wear?
Among Rocco’s criminal cohorts that include “Toots” Bass (Harry Lewis), “Curly” Hoff (Thomas Gomez), and “Ziggy” (Marc Lawrence), only Angel Garcia is coded to be Latino. Though his nationality is never stated on screen, Garcia’s heritage is reinforced by his costume as he spends the movie wearing an unbuttoned guayabera, the classic Caribbean summer shirt primarily characterized by the alforzas (pleated strips) running vertical over its front and back.
The guayabera almost certainly originated within Latin America, separately attributed to Cuba and Mexico, though some sources cite its development from the Filipino barong. Conventional guayabera design consists of the aforementioned alforzas, in addition to either two or four pockets with aligned pleats and decorative buttons. Considered warm-weather dress shirts that could even be worn in lieu of suits, guayaberas are typically made of cool-wearing fabrics like linen, cotton, and lightweight silk and almost always produced in solid colors like the customary white as well as black and the occasional pastel tone.
Garcia’s white cotton guayabera follows most of the traditional design, with the multi-pleated alforzas replaced by a wide box pleat that extends down each side of the front and back, intercepted at the top by a button-detailed pointed shoulder yoke and at the bottom by a button-detailed pointed waist hem yoke. The shirt has four patch-style pockets, each detailed with a center box pleat that neatly aligns with the alforza-style pleat down each side. A pointed yoke detailed with three vertically aligned buttons envelops each pocket pleat.
Garcia wears guayabera’s seven-button front placket totally unbuttoned to reveal his white ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt. Jockey had introduced these as A-shirts (for “athletic” shirts) a decade earlier, though they would be forever disparaged as “wife-beaters” following the well-publicized 1947 mugshot of a Detroit uxoricidal killer who was wearing one of these undershirts.
As guayaberas can be either short- or long-sleeved, Garcia wears a long-sleeved version that closes with two-button barrel cuffs. Traditional guayaberas have long been designed to be worn untucked, often indicated by the presence of buttoned vents along the sides of the straight hem; Garcia’s shirt is thus detailed by a slit on each side that’s fastened by a triple-buttoned tab.
The color of Garcia’s medium-toned gabardine trousers is lost to history, but we can discern that they have a high rise to Dan Seymour’s natural waist line, where he holds them up with a dark leather belt that closes through a shining metal single-prong buckle. The pleated trousers also have side pockets and turn-ups (cuffs) on the bottoms.
Garcia’s light lace-up derby shoes complement the summery outfit, likely constructed with the creamy nubuck uppers characteristic of classic “white bucks”.
Unlike the more trigger-happy Johnny Rocco, Garcia keeps his rod tucked away until things get truly desperate for the henchman. Even then, he seems more prepared for defense than offense by the time he’s drawing his Colt Official Police… a revolver whose ubiquity in the hands of so many screen criminals (and real criminals!) proves that its nomenclature was ultimately meaningless.
As gangland violence erupted through the roaring ’20s, Colt and Smith & Wesson vied for dominance in arming the American law enforcement agencies tasked with fighting crime. Smith & Wesson had changed the game with the introduction of the .38 Special round alongside the Military & Police revolver (later renamed the Model 10) around the turn of the 20th century.
In 1927, as revolvers were being phased out of military service, Colt retooled its medium-framed Army Special revolver and reintroduced it as the improved Colt Official Police, which would swiftly become one of the most popularly adopted service revolvers by police agencies and even some military units when it was issued to Allied military intelligence, police, and commando units during World War II.
Despite its designation, the Colt Official Police and its snub-nosed cousin (the Colt Detective Special) also quickly found favor with gangsters, who appreciated the reliability and—in the case of the Detective Special—easy concealment.
How to Get the Look
While there have been more elegant executions of guayaberas on screen, the white open long-sleeved shirt sported by Dan Seymour as a henchman in Key Largo marks a prominent early cinematic appearance for this classic Caribbean summer shirt, particularly significant as it may have been chosen to reinforce his character’s heritage.
- White cotton long-sleeved guayabera with wide point collar, four box-pleated pockets, and two-button barrel cuffs
- Medium-colored gabardine pleated trousers with belt loops, straight/on-seam side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- Off-white nubuck leather derby shoes
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless A-shirt/undershirt
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.