What about mob molls?

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Say mob moll, and the face of some movie actress or other comes immediately to mind. Who do you see?

“When I think typical moll, I think of Lorraine Bracco and the other wives in “Goodfellas”– especially when Bracco goes shopping and Ray Liotta asks her how much money she needs, and she indicates with her fingers the width of the wad of cash she wants,” writes Susan Wloszczyna. “But there are serious questions to be asked about how much women are marginalized in mob films, and what impact their roles have.”

Joanna Langfield gets some answers from screenwriter Terence Winters, best known for having created the mob molls attached to “The Sopranos” family. But it’s a bit surprising that in his feature, “Brooklyn Rules,” a semi-autobiographical tale tracing the lives of a trio of Italian boys who come of age in mob-ruled Brooklyn, Winters’ featured female is a sort of anti-moll, a Wasp-y coed (Mena Suvari) who uproots one of the young men (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) away from his neighborhood, his buddies and a prospective life of crime.

“In mob movies we love, the moll typically gets a grapefruit mashed into her mug (“The Public Enemy“), sexually provokes the hero (“Scarface,” “Bugsy,” and “The Big Heat“), or pours the coffee when the fellas get together to summit (“The Godfather“),” writes Carrie Rickey.

Singling out Jamie Lee Curtis in Katheryn Bigelow’s “Blue Steel,” Kathleen Turner and Angelina Jolie as hit women in “Prizzi’s Honor” and “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” respectively, Rickey suggests, “Girls with guns can be seen as transgressive images in movies, as the gun is a phallic signifier. You could write a treatise on that. But just free-associating, I’d say there’s nothing like a pistol-packin’ mama, whether glamorous like Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie Parker in “Bonnie and Clyde,” (where Bonnie had to have a gun of her own because Clyde was shooting blanks) or Dorothy Provine, whose Bonnie was more fashion plate than bank robber in “The Bonnie Parker Story.”

Gena Rowlands as “Gloria,” the moll-turned-mobster who uses a gun to protect a kid who witnessed a mob hit on his parents, raises the question of how mob molls function as moms.

“With the possible exceptions of Nancy Marchand as Tony Soprano’s mom and Angelica Huston as Maerose Prizzi, most females in mob movies are monster moms,” says Rickey,” typified by Margaret Wycherly in “White Heat“ or Shelley Winters in “Bloody Mama.“ Or, like Michelle Pfeiffer in “Scarface” and “Married to the Mob” or Gloria Grahame in everything, they’re trophies. As Tony Montana says, first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the girl.”

Yeah, but what– other than that inch or two-inch wad of money or half a grapefruit– does the girl get? And what does she go through to get it?

We’re interested in knowing what you think. Please leave your comments here, or send them to us by email at awfjinc@gmai.com.

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  • leslie martin

    I want to learn more, what you have said in this is extremely interesting to me.

  • Dorothy Suffel Fiorenza

    I was the furthest thing from what I understood a “mob moll” to be, but that is how I was portrayed by the media in my case. While a mob moll is defined as a “girlfriend of a gangster” the term implies much more of course, in terms of complicity in the criminal enterprise. In my case, I was a 28 year old lawyer, had practiced law for 3 years when I got personally involved with alleged members of organized crime for the first time in my life. The media – none of whom inteviewed me, described me as a “mob moll” and a ditsy mob groupie. Every article written made me look like a complete fool and a tragic figure and not one journalist even tried to inteview me yet many wrote articles and even chapters about me in books. So I think there is a tendency to portray what people want – and instead of art imitating life, or life imitating art, when it comes to “mob molls”, art (film) winds up “interpreting” life the way we want it to be, or the way we think will sell, or to support the message we want to send – which is rarely a positive one when it comes to women.