Frank Vincent -- Movie Mafioso

Frank Vincent has been beaten to death by his friend Joe Pesci (in “Goodfellas”) and beaten his friend Joe Pesci to death (“Casino”) and they’re still friends, two Italian-American guys who started out doing standup comedy together in East Coast nightclubs, writes Bill Iddings of the The Muskegon Chronicle.

Now the veteran character actor -- he of the thick silver hair and black eyebrows -- is getting top billing.

Vincent stars in “Chicago Overcoat,” a movie shot in 2009 in The Windy City and being released April 20 on DVD.

At 71 years old, Vincent plays Lou Marazano, an aging hitman for the Chicago mob. Worn down by The Life, Lou seeks redemption with one last Big Job, trying to secure the future for his daughter and grandson. Lou’s weapon of choice is a Thompson submachine gun (which he calls a “Chicago typewriter”), though he’s not above blowing people away with a pump shotgun or pistol.

Whatever he has Lou’s trigger finger on, Frank Vincent must carry “Chicago Overcoat.”

“I think it has a great story,” Vincent said April 6 from his winter home in Florida. “I like the way it ended and everything. And I liked the aspect of the older guy wanting to come back and do something for his children, his daughter and his grandson.

“It had a lot of cute turns and twists to it. It was cliche in some ways, but I think the way they cut it up and the way we shot it. The photography was brilliant. And the locations were all great.”

From the famous Green Mill Cocktail Lounge to the breathtaking Chicago skyline at night, they also were new to the North Adams, Mass., native. Vincent has lent iconic support to such Martin Scorcese mobster movies as “Goodfellas” and “Casino,” and the Scorcese movie that gave Vincent and Pesci their big break, “Raging Bull.” Yet in a film career that began in the mid-1970’s, “Chicago Overcoat” marked Vincent’s introduction to the City of Big Shoulders.

Vincent with his “Chicago Overcoat” costar Kathrine Narducci, the actress who played Charmaine Bucco, restauranteur Artie Bucco’s wife, on “The Sopranos.”

“I was never in Chicago prior to being there for this project,” Vincent said. “I had quite a love affair with Chicago, too. My wife and I lived in Chicago for two months, and we went to a lot of great restaurants.

“The people are very hospitable. I’m a New Yorker, so the town is smaller, but it’s got a different personality than New York. New York’s got a little rougher edge to it than Chicago. Chicago, it’s the Midwest and the people are not as tough, or not as edgy as they are in New York.”

Vincent’s previous exposure to the Midwest preceded his filmography. When he and Pesci teamed together on stage, they toured to in Vincennes, Ind., and Cleveland, Ohio. Wherever, a lot of their gigs were frequented by men who had no jobs but somehow “drive the biggest cars and they wear the finest clothes and they have the most beautiful women and they travel and they live a pretty good life.”

Vincent and Pesci picked up on that, as fodder.

“You learn from these characters, by being around them,” Vincent said. “Some of their attitudes and some of their quirks and how they move and how they spend money and how they dress, and how they come on Friday with the girlfriend and they come on Saturday with the wife, so you couldn’t tell them on Saturday, ‘How’d you have a good time last night?’ You told his wife he went somewhere else.

“These are some things that you pick up by being in that environment, and these people are all partying and drinking and they’re at probably their worst behavior. These are things you can pick up as an actor. That’s what actors usually do, and this is how you create characters.”

And reinvent yourself. Vincent started out as a musician. Primarily a drummer, he once recorded with the late Del Shannon, the Coopersville native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

Vincent began adding comedy to his nightclub work, with Pesci as his partner. One of their friends was producing and directing a little movie, and asked them to audition. They landed roles in 1976’s “Family Enforcer,” aka “The Death Collector.” Scorcese and actor Robert De Niro, preparing the great, 1980 boxing drama “Raging Bull,” saw it.

With his friend Steven Prigge, Vincent wrote "A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man."

“They were looking for somebody to play Jake LaMotta’s brother, Joey, for ‘Raging Bull,’ and Joe Pesci fit that role perfectly,” Vincent said. “And they communicated with Joe, and when they communicated with Joe they communicated with me and they put us both in ‘Raging Bull’.

“Marty has a knack for doing that. He has a knack for picking people who are really not that well known and to develop them as actors. Joe and I had the chemistry anyway, from playing together for years. Marty used it three times: He used it there, he used it in ‘Casino’ and he used it in ‘Goodfellas.’ It was quite a nice thing for us because it brought us into the film business. And we had to learn pretty fast how to do it and what to do.”

Vincent’s best known character is Billy Batts, an ex-con who fatally goes too far by insulting Pesci (“Go home and get your shine box.”) in “Goodfellas.”

That and other roles have taken Vincent well beyond acting. He is an author, of the how-to book “The Guy’s Guide to Being a Man’s Man.” Written with his friend Steven Prigge, the book features Vincent’s interviews with such other friends as actors Vincent Pastore and Steven Van Zandt (both of “The Sopranos,” the TV series on which Vincent played the feature role of mobster Phil Leotardo), and James Caan, immortalized as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather.” “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini wrote the forward. “A Guy’s Guide to Being a Man’s Man” gives advice on everything from how to get a girl’s telephone number to how to dress to what music to listen to to how to shave to what to wear to the gym. The book is available online at and

A talking MOBble-head of Vincent as "Goodfellas" mobster Billy Batts says, in Vincent's voice, the iconic line "Go home and get your shine box."

Selling on Vincent’s web site,, is a Billy Batts bobblehead doll -- its registered trademark is MOBblehead -- that features Vincent’s voice speaking three of his “Goodfellas” lines: “”Get those Irish hoodlums a drink,” “Nobody’s breakin’ up my party” and, of course, “Go home and get your shine box.” Vincent can scarcely believe it.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d have merchandise selling on a web site,” he said. “It’s just amazing to me.”

The day after “Chicago Overcoat” is released, Vincent will be in New York City to receive an Icon Award from the Soho Film Festival. The trade publication Variety has praised him for “Chicago Overcoat” as “the most charismatic mafia murderer since Tony Soprano.” Also appearing in director Brian Caunter’s debut feature are Kathrine Narducci of “The Sopranos” and the movie “A Bronx Tale,” Mike Starr (“Goodfellas,” “Dumb and Dumber”), Armand Assante and, in a cameo as a retired cop, Stacy Keach.

“Chicago Overcoat” joins a genre that audiences can’t get enough of. The enduring allure of the gangster movie, Vincent said, is the thought, harbored by most people, of breakng the rules and getting away with it, in style.

“It’s a totally different way of life, first of all,” he said. “Women are attracted to bad boys, secondly. And thirdly, these guys don’t have a job ... I guess the aspect of being naughty and being bad is something that most people really, undercover, would like to be able to do. They’re killers, too, but they don’t just kill anybody. They kill only when they have to.”

They also dress to the nines. Men in “Chicago Overcoat” dress for dinner, in suits and ties. The women wear cocktail dresses. “Chicago Overcoat” has a certain style, an atmosphere civility and manners that today seems all but lost.

“The way these guys were raised, even though they’re gangsters and they’re killers, -- I don’t want to defend the whole sensibility of it - but they know respect, and they understand it,” Vincent said. “They’re put into the world that way by the culture. The Italian-American culture is very respectable, and this is the way they were brought up as children.

“Today it’s a whole different world. The family unit is gone, and kids are walking around with no fathers and whatever. I see beautiful couples walking and going in restaurants, and the girls are all nice and pretty and dressed up and the boys look like they slept in hampers. I wrote a book about that.”


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