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GARMENT JUNGLE, THE (director: Vincent Sherman; screenwriters: from a series of articles “Gangsters In the Dress Business” by Lester Velie/Harry Kleiner; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editor: William Lyon; music: Leith Stevens; cast: Lee J. Cobb (Walter Mitchell), Kerwin Mathews (Alan Mitchell), Gia Scala (Theresa Renata), Richard Boone (Artie Ravidge), Robert Loggia (Tulio Renata), Valerie French (Lee Hackett), Joseph Wiseman (Kovan), Adam Williams (The Ox), Harold J. Stone (Tony), Wesley Addy (Mr. Paul), Willis B. Bouchey (Dave Bronson), Robert Ellenstein (Fred Kenner), Celia Lovskv (Tulio’s mother); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Kleiner; Columbia Pictures; 1957)
“A powerful film on the influence of racketeers in the garment industry.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Robert Aldrich was replaced by Vincent Sherman a week before the end of the shoot for refusing to compromise a tough screenplay, and shooting then continued for 16 days. Nevertheless, the result was a powerful film on the influence of racketeers in the garment industry. Though The Garment Jungle covers a familiar film noir topic of racketeers, it’s helped considerably by terrific performances by Lee J. Cobb as the befuddled legit boss who made a bargain with the Devil and Richard Boone as the ruthless mobster.

Alan Mitchell (Kerwin Mathews), the handsome son of union-busting garment center boss Walter Mitchell (Lee J. Cobb), returns from army service in the Korean War and joins his widowed father’s dress firm. Dad lectures him that “Being a boss means first to arrive, last to leave.” Fred Kenner (Robert Ellenstein), Walter’s partner, has just been murdered for seeking a union shop. He’s found dead in an elevator freight that plummeted down the shaft without control, which was arranged by the mob but without Walter’s knowledge. Alan goes ape when he learns his dad is paying “protection money” to Artie Ravidge (Richard Boone) in order to stop the union from organizing in his shop. The kid is also upset when he learns that his dad is serious about high-powered fashion buyer Lee Hackett (Valerie French).

All hell breaks loose when Ravidge’s goons kill union organizer Tulio Renata (Robert Loggia). The liberal-minded Alan sides with the union people, and befriends Tulio’s attractive Italian widow and infant daughter. When Walter finally realizes that he can’t continue to deal with the violent mobsters and breaks with them, he is murdered by Ravidge’s men. Alan, who reconciled with his dad just before he was murdered, uses his father’s accounting books to bring evidence to the authorities that exposes the killers and their extortion practices.

This pro-union pic can be seen as a counter argument to On The Waterfront’s anti-union stance (both Columbia releases). The film’s main strength lies in the intensity among the main characters who fight for power and not to be bullied by either mob or garment bosses.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”