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 Bigelows Blue Steel, Kathleen Turner and Angelina Jolie as hit women in Prizzis 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, Id say theres nothing like a pistol-packin mama, whether glamorous like Faye Dunaways 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, theyre 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?
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