Cast & Crew
Lee J. Cobb
Self-made businessman Walter Mitchell, the owner of Roxton Fashions, vehemently opposes the entreaties of his partner, Fred Kenner, to allow their workers to join the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union. Kenner's organizing efforts earn him the enmity of a group of anti-union hoodlums known as "The Edge," who are paid by the clothing manufacturers to keep the union out of their shops. One day, Kenner unwittingly steps into an elevator that has been rigged to crash by The Edge and falls twenty-seven floors to his death. Soon after, Walter's estranged son Alan returns home after living several years overseas and asks to go into business with his father. When Walter states that he would prefer his son to stay out of the business, Alan feels rejected. Trying to patch up the rift between father and son, Walter's romantic interest, Lee Hackett, an influential clothing buyer, convinces Walter, with whom she is romantically involved, to welcome Alan into Roxton Fashions. Alan is then given a tour by Tony, the shop foreman, and when one of the workers complains about low wages, Tony threatens to fire him. Soon after, union organizer Tulio Renata enters the workshop and accuses Walter of paying Artie Ravidge, the ruthless head of The Edge, to suppress the union. Frustrated by his father's refusal to discuss Tulio's accusations, Alan goes to union headquarters and meets Tulio, Tulio's concerned wife Theresa and their baby daughter Maria. At first contemptuous of the "boss's son," Tulio gradually comes to respect Alan's sincerity. Later, at a secret Union meeting, Dave Bronson, the head of the organizing committee, warns that unionized shops are threatening to drop out of the union unless all the rest of the manufacturers join. Soon after, Ravidge's thugs, alerted by a union traitor, arrive and assault Tulio and Bronson. The next day, as pickets march outside Roxton Fashions, Ravidge assures Walter that the union will never gain a foothold in his shop. When Alan enters the office and calls Ravidge a thug, Ravidge protests that he is just selling protection, not coercion. To dispute Ravidge's claim, Alan ushers in the bruised and beaten Tulio, but Walter still defiantly declares that he will never unionize his business. Disgusted by his father's short-sightedness, Alan storms out of the office. When the union calls on the truckers to boycott Roxton, Tulio joins the picket line. Aware that Tulio's life is in danger, Alan goes to warn him, and soon after, Theresa, concerned about her husband's safety, also joins the picket line. Tulio asks Alan to take Theresa home, but she insists on waiting for her husband at a nearby bar. There, Theresa explains that Tulio was inspired by his late father's abiding concern for worker's rights. Theresa's words cause Alan to feel guilty about turning against his own father. After a truck crashes through the picket line, Ravidge's thugs climb out, and three traitors to the union then pin Tulio to the wall as the thugs stab him. Cowering in the shadows, George Kovan, one of the pickets, witnesses the attack and runs to the bar for help. After hearing Kovan's story, Theresa rushes to her husband, who dies in her arms. When Walter questions Ravidge about the incident, Ravidge claims that Tulio pulled a knife and was killed by someone acting in self-defense. On the day of Tulio's funeral, clothing factories are closed throughout the garment districts as workers attend services to honor Tulio's memory and protest his murder. No longer able to live in the apartment she shared with her husband, Theresa moves in with her mother-in-law. Kovan, wracked with guilt for failing to come to Tulio's defense, comes forward to testify about the murder, but soon crumbles under Ravidge's threats, and the case is dismissed for lack of evidence. Upon discovering that Tulio's betrayers have returned to work, Alan immediately fires them. When Ravidge insists that they be rehired, Walter, finally realizing Ravidge's complicity in the murders of Kenner and Tulio, breaks his ties with The Edge. Walter then tells Alan that he intends to provide the district attorney with records that will incriminate Ravidge. After Walter agrees to unionize the factory, father and son reconcile and make plans to meet for dinner. Later, as Alan works in his office, he hears gunfire and finds his father lying dead on the workshop floor. At the funeral, Lee tells Alan that she has Walter's books and arranges to deliver them later that night. When Alan escorts Theresa home from the funeral, they find an over-turned baby carriage in the street, sending Theresa flying up the stairs to assure the safety of little Maria. As Ravidge's thugs wait in a car outside Theresa's building, Lee receives a threatening phone call warning her to stay out of the Mitchell case. Early the next morning, a man disguised as a milkman delivers Walter's records to Theresa's door. The apartment has no phone, and so Alan risks his life to run to the corner to notify the police. Before reaching the corner, Alan is accosted by Ravidge's men, who force him into the car and drive off. One stays behind to watch Theresa, who slips the books into a shopping bag and descends the stairs to the street. Chased by the thug, Theresa runs back upstairs, climbs out onto the fire escape and jumps across the rooftops. Alan is brought to Roxton, where he finds Ravidge ransacking his father's desk. When Ravidge announces that he is taking control of the business, Alan informs him that he is in possession of his father's books. As Ravidge tries to beat Alan into submission, Theresa arrives with the police, who arrest Ravidge. Alan then welcomes the union to Roxton Fashions.
Lee J. Cobb
Harold J. Stone
Betsy Jones Moreland
Dale Van Sickel
Robert E. Peterson
Frank A. Tuttle
The Garment Jungle
The Garment Jungle was the second film in a three-picture deal between Aldrich and Columbia mogul Harry Cohn (the first was Autumn Leaves, 1956). Almost from the beginning, the director and the studio head clashed over casting, the screenplay and other issues. Although Aldrich had no problem with the selection of such experienced actors as Lee J. Cobb, Richard Boone, and Joseph Wiseman, he resented having to use some of the younger actors forced on him by Cohn, particularly Columbia discovery Gia Scala, Kerwin Mathews and Robert Loggia in his first major film role. Cohn also wanted to soften the screenplay's more harsh depictions of illegal and corrupt business practices and play up the "boy meets girl in a dress factory" romance between Kerwin Mathews and Gia Scala. While Cohn may have been responding to external pressures exerted by interested parties in the Garment District, he clearly wanted Aldrich to make a film which was dramatically different from the one the director had in mind.
None of this was helped by Lee J. Cobb's difficult behavior on the set. He was unhappy with his role as the tyrannical dress manufacturer with well-known ties to a union-busting syndicate. Cobb, who probably felt that his character was too close to his corrupt shipyard boss in On the Waterfront, wanted the screenplay to depict him as "more heroic and not as tough." Nothing was resolved to anyone's satisfaction, however, and Aldrich soon found himself fired from the production after missing one day of shooting due to a case of flu. Vincent Sherman was brought in as his replacement and Aldrich later surmised that the real reason he was fired was because Cohn had finally learned that Rod Steiger's crude, bullying studio mogul in Aldrich's The Big Knife (1955) was modeled on him.
At first, Sherman thought he was only being brought in to shoot some additional scenes while Aldrich was out sick but soon found himself pressured to take over the direction. According to Sherman in his autobiography, My Life as a Film Director, he was asked by Cohn what he thought of Aldrich's rough cut of the movie. [Spoiler Alert] "I pointed out," Sherman recalled, "that I was confused by Lee Cobb's character: if he knew that his partner had been killed by Boone and did nothing about it, he was monstrous and irredeemable. If he did not know or even suspect Boone, he was stupid. For a moment Cohn made no comment, then suddenly hit the desk with his fist. "I knew it!" he yelled. "I knew there was something wrong with the damned picture. That's it!" Cohn then asked Sherman, "How long will it take you and Kleiner to rewrite what we've discussed and go through the film to see what has to be reshot and what can be saved?" Sherman told him a week but was only given three days to make the changes.
Like Aldrich, Sherman also had problems with Lee J. Cobb, whom he hadn't seen since an argument they'd had years earlier over creative differences. "During the first few days of shooting," Sherman wrote, "Cobb could not have been more gracious or cooperative. For that matter, so was the entire cast. They soon realized that we were only trying to improve the picture. On the thirteenth and last day of shooting, Cobb disagreed with something I asked him to do and began to argue with me. He resisted everything I suggested, reverting to his old ways, but I fought him and insisted that he do the scene the way I wanted. He left at the end of the film and didn't say goodbye. He had behaved badly once before and repeated it this time. He was talented but stubborn and filled with his own importance."
In the end, Sherman "had reshot in the thirteen days almost 70 percent of what Aldrich had shot in thirty-one days." Despite this, the film, though not as uncompromising as originally intended, is still an effective and occasionally intense melodrama enhanced by Joseph F. Biroc's striking black-and-white cinematography, Leith Stevens' dramatic score, strong performances by Cobb, Boone (as a particularly evil racketeer) and Robert Loggia (in his second film appearance) as the dynamic and doomed young Union organizer, the idealistic son of a Latino immigrant.
While The Garment Jungle received little critical attention and was treated by most reviewers as a B picture, The New York Times did note that "until it lapses into standard gangster fare in the final third, this Columbia melodrama remains the garment sector's most savagely pictorial screen appraisal to date." It also stated that the film's "frankly carbolic viewpoint is underscored by a highly graphic integration of locally photographed backgrounds, bluntly persuasive dialogue, superior acting and continuity that often crackles" and that "the most impressive acting is rendered by two other young newcomers, Robert Loggia and Gia Scala, as a tender, explosive pair of unionist newlyweds."
After Sherman completed The Garment Jungle he said "a letter came from the Directors Guild saying that they had received word from Aldrich that I had behaved in an unprofessional manner with regard to Garment Jungle. I sent back a long, detailed reply explaining every step of what had occurred. I never heard anything more from either Aldrich or the Guild. When Garment Jungle was released, I was surprised to see that I had a solo credit on it." Aldrich, of course, disowned the picture and never bothered to see it. One can't blame him since The Garment Jungle debacle prevented him from working in Hollywood for many years and he was forced to take on work in Europe (Ten Seconds to Hell , shot in Germany, was his next project] until his fortunes improved in the early sixties beginning with the box office success of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).
Aldrich later remarked on that difficult experience on The Garment Jungle saying, "I had a great fondness for Cohn. Naturally I think he was wrong in firing me but that's beside the point. I think he ran a marvellous studio...He wasn't in the money business, he was in the movie business. I had a chance to have a reconciliation with him later - a reconciliation in terms of doing other work - and I didn't go. I've always regretted it."
Producer: Harry Kleiner
Director: Vincent Sherman; Robert Aldrich (uncredited)
Screenplay: Harry Kleiner; Lester Velie (articles "Gangsters in the Dress Business")
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Art Direction: Robert A. Peterson
Music: Leith Stevens
Film Editing: William A. Lyon
Cast: Lee J. Cobb (Walter Mitchell), Kerwin Mathews (Alan Mitchell), Gia Scala (Theresa Renata), Richard Boone (Artie Ravidge), Valerie French (Lee Hackett), Robert Loggia (Tulio Renata), Joseph Wiseman (George Kovan), Harold J. Stone (Tony), Adam Williams (Ox), Wesley Addy (Mr. Paul), Willis Bouchey (Dave Bronson), Robert Ellenstein (Fred Kenner), Celia Lovsky (Tulio's mother).
by Jeff Stafford
The Films and Career of Robert Aldrich by Edwin T. Arnold and Eugene L. Miller (University of Tennessee Press)
My Life as a Film Director by Vincent Sherman (University Press of Kentucky)
Robert Aldrich: A Guide to References and Resources by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward (G.K. Hall)
Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry (McFarland & Co.)
The Garment Jungle
The working title of this film was Garment Center. The picture opens with an offscreen narrator describing the garment district as a "teaming jungle of conflict and terror." According to August and September Hollywood Reporter news items, Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda were both considered for the role of "Alan," and Elaine Stritch was to appear as "Lee Hackett." According to a December 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Robert Aldrich directed the film until November 30, 1956, at which time he was stricken by the flu. Vincent Sherman was then hired as the fill-in director. Fearing that Aldrich might be suffering from an extended illness, the studio decided to replace him permanently with Sherman. An October 1956 ^HR news item states that Aldrich appeared as a taxi driver during the cab scene with "Alan" and "Theresa." Although a November 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item places Walda Winchell, Walter Winchell's daughter, in the cast, her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed.
Although November 1956 Hollywood Reporter news items place Don C. Harvey, Irving Gold, Joanna Barnes and Flo Vinsen in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. The Variety review notes that the funeral in the film was actual newsreel footage from the funeral of a slain union leader. Other Hollywood Reporter news items add that location filming was done in Manhattan and in the Los Angeles garment district.
Released in United States 1957
Aldrich was replaced by Sherman near the end of the shooting schedule, and much of the scenes were reshot.
Released in United States 1957