American Hustle And The ’70s

This afternoon Kish and I went to see American Hustle. It’s a clever, interesting, highly entertaining movie that features terrific performances by Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert DeNiro, among many others.

Of course, one of the biggest stars of the movies gets no credit whatsoever. It’s the decade of the ’70s, of course. The movie screams out the ’70s, from the embarrassing hairstyles to the embarrassing clothing to the over-the-top decor of Irving and Rosalyn Rosenfeld’s suburban home. It’s a world of dancing and three-piece suits, gold chains, hairy chests, and skin, cocaine snorts and glitz, where bras apparently weren’t worn and a pop music soundtrack played all day and all night long.

I’m not sure that the movie got all of the lingo and looks exactly right — at the end of the film, for example, one character says “my boss knows you did him a solid,” which I don’t remember as a phrase that was used back then — but it’s clear that a lot of the fun of the movie came from that temporal setting that seems so absurd to us now.

The American understanding of the ’70s seems so fixed that I think it is likely that the decade will always be a popular setting for movies. Just as writers of thrillers and historical fiction can’t resist dipping into the Nazi story, so movie producers and writers will always have a tender spot for the era of leisure suits, elaborate coiffures, and disco.

1 thought on “American Hustle And The ’70s

  1. I agree: what’s this “did him a solid” phrase. Maybe it was an LA thing. All I can tell you is that in 1979, I knew all the street lingo from Philly, NYC and AC (most of which was the same) and I never, ever heard this term. In fact, my congress person, Ozzie Myers, was one of the ones who went down in Abscam. I was a Committee Person in Philly (one of 50 so precinct bosses), in Myers District, who complained to him when somebody did not get their social security check, etc. and who answer to a Ward Leader, who are sometimes also Congress People. I never called him but he called me several times wondering why he never heard from me. An interesting guy on many levels but not too bright. If you don’t remember him, he’s the genius from the Abscam tapes who stated, “In this business (politics), money talks and bullshit walks” while taking the briefcase of money from Mel Weinberg (Irv Rosenfeld, master con artist in the film).

    Mayor of Camden, Angelo Errichetti (Carmine), did not go down in Abscam. My recollection is that they turned him (immunity) in exchange for him arranging for every crooked politician he knew in the State (and PA) to come and be bribed. He only went down because friends of the politicians he brought down were able to show they had been bribing him for years (in exchange for immunity, of course). Some of the bribes had something to do with a sewer plant.

    As far as Errichetti being for the people of Camden and NJ, I offer as evidence that Camden was one of the poorest and most drug riddled places in the US when he became mayor and it still is forty years later (elected in 1973, took office in 1974; now 2014).


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