Review: The Garment Jungle

The Garment Jungle is a classic film noir from 1957 mostly directed by Robert Aldrich, who did not get a credit for his work, and was completed by Vincent Sherman. This was also Sherman’s first directing credit in 5 years do to his name being on the gray list.

The stand out performance from Lee J. Cobb here is not surprising. He plays the owner of a garment manufacturer in the garment district in New York. Though this film came out the same year as Cobb’s most famous performance in 12 Angry Men, I could not help but notice some similarities to his performance in Thieves’ Highway. In both films he plays a man in charger and tries to keep the working man down. He is way more corrupt in Thieves’ Highway, and in The Garment Jungle he turns a blind eye to what is going on. Both films take a look at workers rights. Here is my review of Thieves’ Highway:

These two films would make an interesting double feature, looking at a similar problem in two different industries on opposite coasts.

This film starts out with an argument between two partners, Cobb and his partner are discussing what the workers should be paid. Cobb is against the union and his partner is for it. His partner walks away and gets in the elevator. The elevator fails and his partner falls to his death. Cobb’s son, played by Kerwin Mathews, comes back to town and wants to work with his father. When a confrontation between a union organizer, played by Robert Loggia and Cobb happens in front of Mathews on the factory floor, it gets Mathews thinking. Mathews goes to Loggia where he meets the union organizer’s beautiful wife played by Gia Scala. The three work together to break the mob, which is behind trying to keep the company union free and hired by Cobb for protection. The situation escalates and soon turns violent. Will the mob break the union or will the union break the mob? Will Cobb finally look at employees rights or will he continue to support the mob? Who will survive and who will die in this war between the two?

Richard Boone plays the mob boss Cobb has partnered with and Wesley Addy plays the head thug for the mob. Both are great in their evil ways.

Besides Cobb’s performance, Robert Loggia’s performance is well worth checking out. The dynamic between him and his wife are very interesting. Even though he is a good man trying to do what is right, he has his dark side. I really got a vibe that he beats his wife even though he was madly in love with her.

His wife played by Gia Scala is also very good in this. Scala had a short career and looks to have had a hard life with bouts of depression and turned to drugs. This eventually ended her life at a very young age.

The Garment Jungle is a good classic film noir worth checking out. It is an interesting time capsule of the union movement in the 1950’s. It is especially interesting to look at the clothing industry then and compare it to how it works now.

Review: Thieves’ Highway

Thieves’ Highway is Jules Dassin’s last Hollywood film before he moved to Europe. He became blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. This is an amazing film and America lost a great director to the old country as he went on to even make more masterpieces over seas.

This film stars Richard Conte as our hero. He comes back from traveling the world and has earned enough money to come home, get married to his girlfriend played by Barbara Lawrence and start his own little business. Unfortunately things have changed as his father has lost all his money and his ability to work. This is all do to a crooked fruit vendor up in San Francisco played by Lee J. Cobb. Conte vows vengeance for his Father and teams up with Millard Mitchell to buy some apples and truck them to San Francisco to make some money. Along the way our hero meets truck driver and overall fun-loving good guy Slob played by Jack Oakie. He also runs into Rica played by Valentina Cortese. Is Rica a femme fatale or does she have our hero’s best interest at heart? Will our hero get his revenge? Will he get burned by the same man who took advantage of his Father? Will his partner double cross him before he even gets to San Francisco?

This is an amazing film worth watching if you are a film noir fan or not. Conte and Cobb are at their best in this one. I also really liked Mitchell and Oakie in their smaller parts. Also look for a small appearance by Hope Emerson. All noir fans need to see this. I have seen a few of Dassin’s other films and have loved them all. I will be seeking out more of his work in the near future.