After writing last week about the upcoming summer release of ‘The Great Gatsby’, it felt only right to focus on a stylish film that doesn’t require several months of anticipation to enjoy. Currently out in cinemas is the 1940s crime drama ‘Gangster Squad’, which features a stunning array of vintage inspired costumes set against a scene of retro vehicles and Hollywood glamour. More than just another mindless action heavy saga, ‘Gangster Squad’ is a slick period production flowing alongside a dangerous love match that is blossoming under risky circumstances.
Set in Los Angeles in 1949, the film documents the highs and low of an unlikely group of policemen who work off the books, in hopes of bringing down a threatening mob king by intercepting drug deliveries, bringing down brothels, and destroying quick profit businesses. The director of ‘Zombieland’, Ruben Fleischer, leads an attractive cast including Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone and Sean Penn, to create an exciting slant on real life events.
In post World War Two America, Mickey Cohen was one of the most powerful criminals in California. A Brooklyn mobster who attempted to claim control of the west coast, he was known for having worked for legendary gangsters Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel. Something of a celebrity, Cohen was well known in Hollywood, travelling in a bulletproof Cadillac whilst surrounded by a gaggle of wannabe actresses or mixing with the likes of Frank Sinatra.
Originally trained as a professional boxer, the troublemaker rose up through the ranks, instigating over one hundred armed robberies before ever being arrested. After being targeted by an elite group of police known as the gangster squad, Mickey’s armoured Cadillac was seized and he was jailed for four years. In the 60’s he survived a murder attempt whilst he was a prisoner at the notorious Alcatraz, but despite a shocking cluster of attempts to claim his life, Cohen died in his sleep aged sixty-two from stomach cancer.
Despite having twisted certain facts for the purpose of creating a more successful cinematic experince, the fashions of the time were closely broken down and recreated to provide an accurate, striking array of garments to represent the styles of the era. Academy Award nominated costume designer Mary Zophres, known for ‘True Grit’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can’, turned to past copies of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar whilst researching the period, as she commissioned the remaking of vintage pieces to produce each actor’s costumes.
Claiming that Emma Stone’s character was inspired by Rita Hayworth, and Ryan Gosling’s by a combination of Clark Gable and Errol Flynn, Zophres had the luxury of immersing herself in fashions heavily influenced by Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’. Typically women sported nipped in waists and full skirts, whilst the men looked suave in tailored suits and fedora hats. Where possible, original footwear and accessories were used alongside the reworked 40s designs. With such dedicated attention to detail, it comes as no surprise that ‘Gangster Squad’ oozes all the charm and sophistication of the Golden Age of Hollywood that could ever be expected.
By Sophie Seymour.