Mean Streets (1973)
I’ve been trying to get to the bottom about why Mafia movies are so fixated on cake. Since I’m not Italian, so far that effort has involved strenuously Googling “mafia” and “cake.” What I’ve learned so far is:
1. Birthday cakes are unlockable items in the “popular” Mafia Wars game.
2. A lot of people have made mafia-themed birthday cakes (actual quote: “I have a request to do a mafia themed cake for a girl thats turning 16. any ideas?”)
It’s hard to tell now whether actual mafia culture contributed to the uptick in cinematic instances, or whether we erroneously base our modern ideas about the mafia lifestyle on what we’ve seen in movies. Gangsters seem to favor tacky displays of wealth and luxury (often the stuff of childish wish-fulfillment), and they tend to place a lot of store in special occasions and ceremonial occasions, so cake it is then — the more the better, and if something disastrous happens to or around it… well I guess that’s not too surprising.
I’ll be posting numerous examples in the coming season, but today’s comes from Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets. Cake plays a prominent role in the film’s opening credits sequence as well. Note that mafiosos like their women the way they like their cake — gaudy, disposable, and a little boozy, like there’s a rum-soaked sponge layer in there somewhere.