The world has a tendency to put people and countries in
cubicles…typecasting them much as we often typecast our actors.
America. Land of the gangster and the cowboy. Proof? The year…1937.
Cornelius Vanderbilt interviews Mahatma Gandhi. Ghandi asks, “To what
class there, sire, do you belong?” Gandhi then…after seeing
Cornelius’ perplexity…qualifies his inquiry. “Well sire,” he says.
“Are you a gangster, a gentleman, or a cowboy?” And where did this
imaging come from? The movies me lads and lassies. The movies.
Aside from the violence and the anti-establishment stance of the
gangsters in the movies…aside from that was the bloodless thievery
and wearing of incredible pieces of jewelry. I bring you…dear
folks…some of the jewelry worn by the Molls of the silver screen as
they swore eternal allegiance to the tough wise- cracking likes of
James Cagney and Paul Muni and friends. Crime, if we are to judge by
the jewelry worn by the gals of that era, most certainly did pay. It
paid, and in fact, it was glorified.
The Public Enemy…starring James Cagney and Jean Harlow. She
wears a diamond and platinum brooch clipped to the “back” of her
dress. This is the height of nonchalance. When you wear diamonds and
platinum on your back, you are making a statement of utter wealth.
Anyone can wear diamonds in front. Harlow also wears a diamond and
platinum bracelet, diamond and platinum earrings, and carries a
diamond and black onyx cigarette holder.
Cagney…evidently…successfully plies his trade
Scarface. You may have see the Al Pacino version…but the
original was with Paul Muni. Suave…debonair…disease causing
cigarette dangling out of his mouth while secondary smoke fills the
room threatening to ultimately give all present lung cancer… Paul
sits at a dinner table negotiating mob control while his Moll–played
by Karen Morley–sits by bedecked with fancy-cut diamond girandole
earrings. Matching that is her ring and bracelet. Scarface is not
doing too badly either.
Saratoga. William Powell gives Jean Harlow–this is her last
screen appearance–he gives her a 150 carat cabochon sapphire
engagement ring. Don’t know much about the film, folks. Only know
about the ring.
But wait…wait. Why only women? Aw heck and gee whiz. Ain’t a guy
allowed to wear jewelry too…especially after he went to all the
trouble and work of stealin’ the stuff. You bet yer bippy he is.
- Little Caesar. Edward G. Robinson sizes up ganglord Diamond Pete
Montana and his diamond horseshoe tie tack and diamond ring. Not bad.
Edward G. then conquers Detroit. Only takes a few killings to
straighten things out. He admires the jewelry of his adversary, Little
Arnie Lorch before running him out of town. Once the deed is
done…Edward fondles his own platinum and diamond ring and says,
“Nothing phony about my jewelry.” When it comes to jewelry folks, it
would appear that men and women both love to show their stuff off.
I give you but a literary glimpse of the jewelry worn by your
successful and entrepreneurial gangster of a day long gone by and once
ennobled on the silver screen. But…but but but…some of you may
well say. But…we want to see the real thing. Something. Anything.
Hey, Benjamin…you can’t let us hang like this. Be a pal. Be a
buddy. Show us something of that day…and hey…who knows… maybe
we’ll let you in on da next deal…ya know what we mean?
Of course…with that last little invitation…hinting at a possible
promise of untold wealth on the horizon…I bring you a graphic. Not
of jewelry this time folks…but of a man who coined the phrase:
“Them as has 'em wears 'em.” The man who raised the wearing of
diamonds to a level of public vulgarity. Probably one of the best
salesmen the world has even known…the one…the only… the
late…the great…James Buchanan Brady…known to us all as Diamond
To see his picture…run…don’t walk…to my home page. Scroll down
the table menu till you get to Tidbits Graphics…and then click on
Jim. And there ya have it. That’s it for this week folks. Catch you all
next week. Benjamin Mark