Watch this famous scene from Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990:
Don’t read on until you’ve answered the following questions.
What does this scene tell you about the main character?
How does it do this? List the ‘clues’.
‘As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster’ – Goodfellas
I love this movie, it has to be one of Scorsese’s best films. I have watched it more times than I care to admit. I first saw it when I was a kid in the 90’s, probably too young to watch it but I didn’t care. I think by the time I watched it I had already seen every single horror movie of the 80’s anyway. It is one of the best gangster films. ‘The Untouchables’ directed by Brian De Palma is also incredible, might be my favourite but they both tackle the gangster scene from two very different perspectives.
The scene opens with the main character Henry Hill taking out his girlfriend on a date to the Copacabana. His girlfriend later becomes his wife.
The couple skip the front cue at the Copacabana and use the back entrance, they walk straight in through the kitchen and everyone knows who he is, this says he is well known, liked (feared), powerful, respected. When he gets inside the club, he is greeted straight away by the club manager and given a fresh table right at the front of the club next to the stage. The manager says “anything you need man, you just let me know”. Everyone wants to say hello, everyone respects him and no one messes with him.
When they get to the table another member of the audience has already bought him a bottle of wine.
When asked by his date what he does for a living he says he “works in construction” but as she feels his hand, she knows he is lying, he says he is a “Union delegate” a half truth you could say.
Of course by this point in the movie the viewer already knows what and who Henry really is.
The scene opens with the song ‘And then he kissed me’ by the Crystals, a hit from the early 1960’s, this suggests a period in time and with them being an American Group you could say a place as well; America. The Crystals were a New York group and the large Copacabana sign we see in the far left of the first part of the clip suggests we are in New York, as does the characters accent. The song is fitting as we see a young couple going out on a date. The song plays through the majority of the scene up until around the point the couple are seated at the table, so it plays a key part in the scene.
The costumes, make up, props:
The clothing, costumes, make up and hairstyles used in the scene provide evidence of the period, the 1960’s. The girlfriends haircut and clothing is very 1960’s fashion as are the men’s suits, hairstyles, glasses, ties and the décor.
The lead character Henry played by the actor Ray Liotta is constantly handing out cash. He gives cash to the valet, the doormen, the bar manager, all of the waiters, etc, etc. This strongly implies that the character is rich and powerful; he doesn’t have a problem handing out cash or walking around with large amounts of cash, he doesn’t care that people can see him handing out cash, in many ways, he wants them to see it.
I love the way we walk through the scene, the ‘long shot’ makes you feel immersed in the characters world, its masterful.
‘Goodfellas’ film by Martin Scorsese