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The Garment Jungle

The Garment Jungle(1957)

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Self-made businessman Walter Mitchell, the owner of Roxton Fashions, vehemently opposes the entreaties of his partner, Fred Kenner, to allow their workers to join the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union. Kenner's organizing efforts earn him the enmity of a group of anti-union hoodlums known as "The Edge," who are paid by the clothing manufacturers to keep the union out of their shops. One day, Kenner unwittingly steps into an elevator that has been rigged to crash by The Edge and falls twenty-seven floors to his death. Soon after, Walter's estranged son Alan returns home after living several years overseas and asks to go into business with his father. When Walter states that he would prefer his son to stay out of the business, Alan feels rejected. Trying to patch up the rift between father and son, Walter's romantic interest, Lee Hackett, an influential clothing buyer, convinces Walter, with whom she is romantically involved, to welcome Alan into Roxton Fashions. Alan is then given a tour by Tony, the shop foreman, and when one of the workers complains about low wages, Tony threatens to fire him. Soon after, union organizer Tulio Renata enters the workshop and accuses Walter of paying Artie Ravidge, the ruthless head of The Edge, to suppress the union. Frustrated by his father's refusal to discuss Tulio's accusations, Alan goes to union headquarters and meets Tulio, Tulio's concerned wife Theresa and their baby daughter Maria. At first contemptuous of the "boss's son," Tulio gradually comes to respect Alan's sincerity. Later, at a secret Union meeting, Dave Bronson, the head of the organizing committee, warns that unionized shops are threatening to drop out of the union unless all the rest of the manufacturers join. Soon after, Ravidge's thugs, alerted by a union traitor, arrive and assault Tulio and Bronson. The next day, as pickets march outside Roxton Fashions, Ravidge assures Walter that the union will never gain a foothold in his shop. When Alan enters the office and calls Ravidge a thug, Ravidge protests that he is just selling protection, not coercion. To dispute Ravidge's claim, Alan ushers in the bruised and beaten Tulio, but Walter still defiantly declares that he will never unionize his business. Disgusted by his father's short-sightedness, Alan storms out of the office. When the union calls on the truckers to boycott Roxton, Tulio joins the picket line. Aware that Tulio's life is in danger, Alan goes to warn him, and soon after, Theresa, concerned about her husband's safety, also joins the picket line. Tulio asks Alan to take Theresa home, but she insists on waiting for her husband at a nearby bar. There, Theresa explains that Tulio was inspired by his late father's abiding concern for worker's rights. Theresa's words cause Alan to feel guilty about turning against his own father. After a truck crashes through the picket line, Ravidge's thugs climb out, and three traitors to the union then pin Tulio to the wall as the thugs stab him. Cowering in the shadows, George Kovan, one of the pickets, witnesses the attack and runs to the bar for help. After hearing Kovan's story, Theresa rushes to her husband, who dies in her arms. When Walter questions Ravidge about the incident, Ravidge claims that Tulio pulled a knife and was killed by someone acting in self-defense. On the day of Tulio's funeral, clothing factories are closed throughout the garment districts as workers attend services to honor Tulio's memory and protest his murder. No longer able to live in the apartment she shared with her husband, Theresa moves in with her mother-in-law. Kovan, wracked with guilt for failing to come to Tulio's defense, comes forward to testify about the murder, but soon crumbles under Ravidge's threats, and the case is dismissed for lack of evidence. Upon discovering that Tulio's betrayers have returned to work, Alan immediately fires them. When Ravidge insists that they be rehired, Walter, finally realizing Ravidge's complicity in the murders of Kenner and Tulio, breaks his ties with The Edge. Walter then tells Alan that he intends to provide the district attorney with records that will incriminate Ravidge. After Walter agrees to unionize the factory, father and son reconcile and make plans to meet for dinner. Later, as Alan works in his office, he hears gunfire and finds his father lying dead on the workshop floor. At the funeral, Lee tells Alan that she has Walter's books and arranges to deliver them later that night. When Alan escorts Theresa home from the funeral, they find an over-turned baby carriage in the street, sending Theresa flying up the stairs to assure the safety of little Maria. As Ravidge's thugs wait in a car outside Theresa's building, Lee receives a threatening phone call warning her to stay out of the Mitchell case. Early the next morning, a man disguised as a milkman delivers Walter's records to Theresa's door. The apartment has no phone, and so Alan risks his life to run to the corner to notify the police. Before reaching the corner, Alan is accosted by Ravidge's men, who force him into the car and drive off. One stays behind to watch Theresa, who slips the books into a shopping bag and descends the stairs to the street. Chased by the thug, Theresa runs back upstairs, climbs out onto the fire escape and jumps across the rooftops. Alan is brought to Roxton, where he finds Ravidge ransacking his father's desk. When Ravidge announces that he is taking control of the business, Alan informs him that he is in possession of his father's books. As Ravidge tries to beat Alan into submission, Theresa arrives with the police, who arrest Ravidge. Alan then welcomes the union to Roxton Fashions.