Robert De Niro:
A Preliminary Inventory of His Costumes and Props in the Performing Arts Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
The American actor, producer, and director Robert De Niro (born 1943) is one of the most respected actors of his generation. He is best known for his roles as the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II (1974), cab driver Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976), Michael Vronsky in The Deer Hunter (1978), casino director Sam “Ace” Rothstein in Casino (1995), and more recently as Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents (2000) and Meet the Fockers (2004). De Niro has produced more than thirty films, many of which he starred in, and directed two films, A Bronx Tale (1993) and The Good Shepherd (2006).
The Robert De Niro Costumes and Props, 1967-2005 (bulk 1990-2005), consist of approximately 8,000 costume, prop, and makeup items from fifty-six motion pictures and two theater productions. Included are items from unidentified productions for which the genre and date are unknown. The costumes and props were acquired in 2006 along with De Niro’s personal papers, moving image materials, and personal effects, which are described separately and housed in Manuscript, Film, and Personal Effects collections within the Ransom Center.
The materials in this collection provide evidence of decisions made and/or implemented by the costume designer, the wardrobe department, the property master, and the makeup artist. The collection is arranged by production title and, within each production, by item number, reflecting the order in which the material was received and/or cataloged. A list of represented productions is appended to this description. Item-level descriptions are available in a searchable database which is accessible by production, actor, and costume designer.
The collection contains 5,100 costumes, 2,350 props, 350 makeup items such as colored contact lenses and fake teeth, and 200 production accessories, a category which includes items used by De Niro in conjunction with a production but not visible on film, such as padding worn in fight scenes. Also included are about thirty personal effects such as De Niro’s personal trailer slippers used on the set of Godsend (2004). Of the roughly 300 different types of objects in the collection, shirts, pants, jackets, shoes, socks, neckties, and belts are the most prevalent.
Coverage varies from one or two items to hundreds of objects per production. Generally, older productions are represented by fewer items. With 1,000 items, A Bronx Tale (1993) is by far the most thoroughly documented production. For this film, in addition to more than 200 items worn by De Niro in the character of Lorenzo, the collection includes items worn or used by two dozen actors including Chazz Palminteri, Taral Hicks, and Joe Pesci. Other well documented productions are Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991), Guilty by Suspicion (1991), Night and the City (1992), Mad Dog and Glory (1993), Casino (1995), Heat (1995), Flawless (1999), Men of Honor (2000), Meet the Parents (2000), The Score (2001), Showtime (2002), Godsend (2004), and Hide and Seek (2005). Of the forty costume designers credited in this collection, the best represented are Rita Ryack, Aude Bronson-Howard, Richard Bruno, John A. Dunn, and Daniel Orlandi.
Many items were received at the Ransom Center with wardrobe tags attached indicating the name of the actor, the scene number, and/or change number in which the item was used, and whether the item was actually worn or used. Apart from materials representing A Bronx Tale, nearly all items were worn or used by Robert De Niro. Some items in the collection were used by De Niro’s stunt doubles or photo doubles. If an item does not have a wardrobe tag, it is very difficult to determine the exact circumstances of its use, even with the aid of wardrobe continuity books and Polaroids located in the Robert De Niro Papers.
Similarly, the sources of items in this collection are poorly documented. Most contemporary costumes were purchased off-the-rack from mainstream retailers. Some period costumes were fabricated by tailors for specific productions, notably the archbishop’s vestments from The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2004). Domonic Gherardi, Anto, and Cosprop are the best represented tailors. Vintage items may have been obtained from suppliers who specialized in providing vintage clothing to the motion picture industry. Props for stunt doubles tended to be fabricated using De Niro’s prop as a model. The manufacturer’s label is often the best, and only, indication of the source of an item if it is not indicated in the wardrobe continuity book.
Materials may be viewed in the Center’s Reading and Viewing Rooms during regular hours. An appointment is required. Please note that materials stored offsite are not available for viewing except for educational purposes. Contact staff for more information.
Item-level descriptions are available in a searchable database which is accessible by production, actor, and costume designer.
Gift of Robert De Niro, 2006-2008 (G12588), except for three items donated by Paul Schrader in 2006 (G12503)
Darnelle Vanghel, Leanda Gahegan, Helen Adair, Jill Morena, Nicole Kern, Emilio Banda, and Alan Carrier, 2006-2009
The following productions are represented in the De Niro Costumes and Props. All are motion pictures unless otherwise indicated. Please note that while a small number of items are attributed to 1900 (1976), Hi, Mom! (1970), and Schubert’s Last Serenade (Manhattan Theatre Club, 1973), the attributions for these productions are uncertain.
Wardrobe continuity books are described separately and located in the Robert De Niro Papers.