Monday, 27 January 2014

Al Capone

Alphonse Capone (1899 – 1947) was an American gangster who led a Prohibition-era crime syndicate. The Chicago Outfit, which subsequently also became known as the “Capones”, was dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor, and other illegal activities, such as prostitution, in Chicago from the early 1920s to 1931.

Born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City to Italian immigrants, Capone became involved with gang activity at a young age after having been expelled from school at age 14. In his early twenties, he moved to Chicago to take advantage of a new opportunity to make money smuggling illegal alcoholic beverages into the city during Prohibition. He also engaged in various other criminal activities, including bribery of government figures and prostitution.

Despite his illegitimate occupation, Capone became a highly visible public figure. He made donations to various charitable endeavors using the money he made from his activities, and was viewed by many to be a “modern-day Robin Hood”. Capone’s public reputation was damaged in the wake of his supposed involvement in the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, when seven rival gang members were executed.

Capone was convicted on federal charges of tax evasion in 1931 and sentenced to federal prison; he was released on parole in 1939. His incarceration included a term at the then-new Alcatraz federal prison. In the final years of Capone’s life, he suffered mental and physical deterioration due to late-stage neurosyphilis, which he had contracted in his youth. On January 25, 1947, he died from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke. [Wikipedia]

Al Capone (1959) was the very first motion picture based on the life of America's most notorious gangster, the great Rod Steiger bore a strong resemblance to Capone. The film doesn't always adhere to facts and Capone dies of an 'incurable disease', syphilis still a taboo word in 1959. Directed by Richard Wilson and also starring Fay Spain, James Gregory, Martin Balsam and Nehemiah Persoff.

Neville Brand with Barbara Nichols in The Scarface Mob
The Scarface Mob (1959) directed by Phil Karlson, is a TV movie and basically the pilot episode for The Untouchables, a popular 60's series which ran from 1959 to 1963 and 119 episodes. The series was based on the memoirs of Special Agent Eliot Ness (1903-1957) who was played by Robert Stack. Neville Brand played Capone, Brand would play the role again in the movie The George Raft Story (1961).

Jason Robards as Capone in The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) directed by Roger Corman and also starring George Segal, Ralph Meeker and Jean Hale. Orson Welles was the first choice for Capone but the studio bosses vetoed the deal saying Welles was 'undirectable'.

The real life massacre occurred in Chicago on February 14, 1929, seven members of the North Side Gang were lined up against the wall of a garage and machine gunned to death by a rival gang, believed to be on the orders of Al Capone though no one was ever brought to trial over the shootings.

Capone (1975) directed by Steve Carver and starring Ben Gazzara as Al Capone, with Susan Blakely, Harry Guardino, John Cassavetes and Sylvester Stallone as Frank Nitti.

Al Capone was sometimes referred to as "Scarface" Capone, a nickname he hated, as a young man he was attacked with a knife by the brother of a girl he insulted and was slashed three times on the left side of his face. Capone would tell people that the scars were 'war wounds'.

The Untouchables (1987) directed by Brian De Palma and starring Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, Sean Connery, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia and Robert De Niro as Alphonse Capone. Screenplay by David Mamet loosely based on the memoirs of Eliot Ness. Music by Ennio Morricone.

Excellent direction from De Palma and a super cast made this one of the most popular films of 1987. Nominated for 4 Oscars winning 1 - Best Supporting Actor (Sean Connery).

Capone: I'm gonna tell you something. Somebody messes with me, I'm gonna mess with him. Somebody steals from me, I'm gonna say you stole. Not talk to him for spitting on the sidewalk. Understand? Now, I have done nothing to harm these people but they are angered with me, so what do they do, doctor up some income tax, for which they have no case. To speak to me like men, no, to harass a peaceful man. I pray to god if I ever had a grievance I'd have a little more self respect. One more thing, you have an all out prize fight, you wait until the fight is over, one guy is left standing. And that's how you know who won.

Titus Welliver as Capone in Mobsters (1991) directed by Michael Karbelnikoff, starring Christian Slater as Lucky Luciano, Costas Mandylor as Frank Costello, Richard Grieco as Bugsy Siegel and Patrick Dempsey as Meyer Lansky.

The working title was 'Gangsters'.

William Forsythe played Al Capone in the TV series The Untouchables (1993-1994), directed by Tucker Gates & Charles Robert Carner, starring Tom Amandes as Eliot Ness.

The series lasted 2 seasons and 44 episodes.

Dillinger and Capone (1995) directed by Jon Purdy, starring Martin Sheen as John Dillinger and F. Murray Abraham as Al Capone. A work of fiction featuring a team up of the two notorious gangsters. Also starring Catherine Hicks and Don Stroud.

Jon Bernthal as 'Al Capone' in the fantasy comedy Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Ben Stiller, Amy Adams and Owen Wilson.

British actor Stephen Graham as Capone in the award-winning, critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire (2010-2013) created by Terence Winter and starring Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlberg and Gretchen Mol.

There have so far been 4 seasons and 48 episodes, the fifth and final season will air in 2014.

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