we have many idealised notions about what we are going to be when we grow up. naturally, a firefighter, police officer and all-round hero make our list (like they do everyone’s, right?). we’ve also entertained the idea of being an author, an artist, a tight-rope walker (until we watched man on a wire and then we were too fraidy-cat and thought it a profession best left to the monsieur petits of the world), and a gypsy fortune-teller. oh, and, more recently, a gangster.
we soon realised, however, that we weren’t exactly, er, gangster material and that if we were going to be in any way convincing we’d have to get our gangster steez sorted. acting and talking like a gangster’s half the battle won. right?
we got about halfway through the gangster speak flashcards before another thing-to-do-when-grown-up occured to us (a gun moll. all will be revealed) and we discarded the idea. but this is what we learnt on our travels, should you care to flirt for the day with being a gangster.
essential terms for gangster wannabes
(complete with real-movie examples, courtesy of the gangster speak flashcards)
the screws: strong pressure
for example, in the 1938 film racket busters ruthless crime czar John Martin (Humphrey Bogart) puts the screws to truck driver Denny Jordan (George Brent) until he coughs up the payola.
nose: a spy
in the 1949 film white heat, undercover cop Hank Fallon (Edmond O’Brien) finds out the hard way that gangster Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) doesn’t like to be duped by a nose.
gun moll: a gangster’s mistress (you see?)
crime kingpin Sam Belmonte (Jean Hersholt) taught his gun moll Daisy (Jean Harlow) not to squeal to the cops, even when the heat’s on her, in 1932 film the beast of the city.
what do you want to be when you grow up?