Zoot Suit (1981)





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Based on a 1940s Los Angeles murder trial, this film follows the case of members of a Mexican-American gang, led by Henry Reyna (Daniel Valdez), as they are tried and sentenced to San Quentin for a murder they may not have committed.
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Drama , Musical & Performing Arts
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
MCA Universal Home Video

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Edward James Olmos
as El Pachuco
Lupe Ontiveros
as Dolores
Tony Plana
as Rudy
Kurtwood Smith
as Sgt. Smith
Tyne Daly
as Alice Bloomfield
John Anderson
as Judge F.W. Charles
Robert Beltran
as Lowrider
Charles Aidman
as George Shearer
Kelly Ward
as Tommy
Sal Lopez
as Hobo
Geno Silva
as Galindo
Julio Medina
as His Father
Juan Ríos
as Crow
Angela Moya
as Bertha
Kim Miyori
as Manchuka
Duke Stroud
as Guard
Mike Gomez
as Joey
Ed Peck
as Lt. Edwards
Abel Franco
as Enrique
Daniel Valdez
as Henry Reyna
Alma Beltran
as His Mother
Jon Thomas
as Ragman
Luis Manuel
as Cholo
Socorro Valdez
as His Girl Friend
James Hogan
as Shore Patrol
Bob Basso
as Baliff
Dennis Stewart
as Swabbie
Diane Rodriguez
as Stenographer
Jeff Reynolds
as P-Coat
Laura Leyva
as Elena
Darlene Bryan
as Little Blue
Anacani Echeverria
as Pachuca Vocalist
Bertha E. Oropeza
as Pachuca Vocalist
Candice L. Silva
as Pachuca Vocalist
Nancy Salis
as Bonita
Judy Susman
as Sugarfoot
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Critic Reviews for Zoot Suit

All Critics (3)

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November 11, 2004

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November 7, 2003
Las Vegas Review-Journal

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Full Review… | May 12, 2001

Audience Reviews for Zoot Suit


for a movie about the 40s, this had a very strong early 80s flavor to it. go figure.. I think this is a story that works much better as a play. a self-aware play a la epic theatre is much more interesting than a play within a movie, which for an audience is almost too isolating. stylistically, though, it's nice to look at. bold colors, some cool song & dance interludes, and just an overall unique presentation. Edward James Olmos plays a terrific El Pachuco, as well. Daniel Valdez is a little flat, but Olmos carries him nicely. not at all outstanding, but it's moderately entertaining

Brian Schnell
Brian Schnell

I'm only the 5th guy to write a review on this film so if you haven't heard of it, that's okay. I watched this film for my Theater in Film class. I had never heard of the play or movie before but apparently this one was Edward James Olmos' breakout role. If he wasn't in here he wouldn't have been in Blade Runner so that's a plus. Acting/characters: Meh, it wasn't anything particularly amazing. The characters were just entertaining at first, but one by one, they started to get steadily more annoying. even Olmos whose character was really interesting to watch and really enjoyable at first had lost his draw by the end of the film. It started decent, but it just got weak by the end. 4.5/10 Plot: It is mostly based off of a true story revolving around the real Sleepy Lagoon Murder Trial and the 1940s Zoot Suit Riots. I don't know enough about the two incidents so I can't say if the movie did them justice. However, like the characters, it started off really interesting and I wondered what was going to happen next, but I just ceased to care by the end. 4/10 Screenplay: The lines were very similar I thought. I had trouble caring about what they were saying. If you asked me to quote a line from the movie I couldn't do it. I wouldn't really care in any case. 3.5/10 Likableness: If oyu really feel you must see this you could do worse. But otherwise, give this one a pass. there's nothing really great about it except maybe Olmos. He was interesting the longest. I don't know how good the play is, and it may be much better than this one. Some plays just don't transfer well to film. If I had to guess, this is one of them. It was alright for a while, but it just got boring. 4.5/10 Final Score: 16.5/40 41% (M) Trivia Time: 1. The character of Henry Reyna was based upon the real-life zoot-suiter Henry "Hank" Leyvas, who was tried and wrongfully convicted for first-degree murder of Jose Diaz, after an incident on 1 August 1942. The film and the play that preceded it conformed to the facts of the actual case. The appeals court overturned the earlier verdict and Reyna and his friends were set free in 1945, following the Zoot Suit Riots and the banning of zoot suits in Los Angeles (courtesy of the Los Angeles City Council) in 1944. Many futures and outcomes for Reyna were given in the film and the play. In real life, Leyvas was convicted some years later for selling drugs. He served ten years and was released, and soon opened a family restaurant. He died of a heart attack in 1971. 2. The Broadway production of "Zoot Suit" opened at the Winter Garden Theater in New York on March 25, 1979 and ran for 41 performances. Charles Aidman, Mike Gomez, Abel Franco, Darlene Bryan, Luis Manuel, Edward James Olmos, Tony Plana, Rose Portillo, Geno Silva, Dennis Stewart, and Socorro Valdez recreated their stage roles in this filmed production. Edward James Olmos was nominated for the 1979 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actor in a Drama for "Zoot Suit" as El Pachuco and recreated his stage role in this filmed production.

Lord Naseby
Lord Naseby

Super Reviewer


a play of the history of the zoot suitor based on a true story is one classic anyone who is interested in chicano history this is a must see

b s
b s

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