Sep 062014
The Gangster Wars during Prohibition Timeline

Prohibition began in the United States when the Eighteenth Amendment, which banned the production, transfer and sale of intoxicating beverages, came into effect on January 17, 1920, and it was repealed on December 5, 1933. The United States would be transformed during those thirteen years. The law was unpopular from the beginning, and speakeasies, illegal bars, quickly sprung up across the nation. The Prohibition Bureau, which had been formed to enforce Prohibition, soon became riddled with corruption. Before Prohibition, criminals had operated small gangs, limited to extortion, gambling and prostitution, and squabbling over neighborhoods, but bootlegging offered wealth beyond their wildest dreams. Despite the huge wealth, the gangs fought vicious wars over territory, until the more organized, ruthless gangsters formed a national network that would spread its tentacles across the nation by the time Prohibition was finally repealed. Here is a timeline to help understand it.
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Apr 102014
Boardwalk Empire Season Four

Another season of Boardwalk Empire, another season of watching characters die or leave the show. Mostly die. Actually, the number of dead or departed characters approached Game of Thrones-levels. This season, Chalkie White (Michael Kenneth Williams) faces the threat of Doctor Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), a gangster from Harlem, who plans to expand into Atlantic City, and is the first character on the show to question the social order that made African-Americans second-class citizens. Read More…

Sep 052013
Boardwalk Empire season Four Trailer

Eight months have passed since the climatic end of the third season, and while the series officially focuses on the life of Enoch “Nucky” Thompson (Steve Buscemi), it appears that the show will continue to explore the underworld in Chicago and New York City. Although Thompson’s evolution from corrupt politician to full-fledged gangster is interesting, all of the action took place in Chicago and New York City, not Atlantic City, so I welcome the increasing attention to the underworld outside of New Jersey.
In New York, following his betrayal by Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Charles Luciano (Vincent Piazza) works for Joe Masseria, even though Luciano loathed Masseria’s old-fashioned mindset and distrust of all non-Sicilians, especially Luciano’s partner Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef). Nucky may have eliminated the threat of Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), a New York-based gangster, but he made enemies of both Rothstein and Masseria. It seems likely that they will seek revenge. 1924 was a tumultuous year in Chicago, since Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham) expanded into Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, and the season will introduce Capone’s brothers Frank and Ralph. Aside from Chicago and New York, the show will spend more time in the African-American community. Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) has been rewarded for his support of Nucky during the war against Rosetti with permission to build a high-class club for blacks on the Boardwalk. However, Dr. Valentin Narcisse (played by Jeffrey Wright), a gangster who controls Harlem, will be muscling in on Chalkie’s territory.
Boardwalk Empire has managed to get better every season, so I have high hopes for this season.
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Feb 142013
Boardwalk Empire: Season Three

Following the dramatic end to the civil war for control for Atlantic City, the series has expanded its focus outwards, devoting more attention to the underworld in Chicago and New York, as well as the corruption in the national capital. Season three starts in 1923, roughly a year after the end of season two. Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (Steve Buscemi) has gained firm control of Atlantic City. Pressured by his government contacts to sell to a single customer to reduce attention, Nucky decides that Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) will be his sole customer, which leads to war with Gyp Rosetti (Bobby Cannavale), an astonishingly thin-skinned gangster from New York, who resents Rothstein’s new monopoly.
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Oct 152012
Al Capone

Al Capone was brought to Chicago from New York in late 1919 to help Johnny Torrio, his mentor, operate a network of brothels and gambling establishments. Torrio negotiated an agreement among the various gangs to cooperate, rather than fight over territory, but it fell apart in late 1924. The resulting Beer Wars drove Torrio to hand over the business to Capone. By late 1926, Capone’s syndicate had become the alpha gang, and he became the symbol of the lawlessness in Chicago. Convicted of tax evasion in 1931, Capone received a sentence of eleven years. His health had been badly damaged by syphilis, so he was released on November 16, 1939. Unable to take care of himself, Capone lived with his family in Miami Beach, Florida until he died from a heart attack on January 21, 1947. Read More…

Sep 132012
Boardwalk Empire Season Three Trailer

The death of a major character during the season two finale shocked many viewers but it also ended the internal struggle for control of Atlantic City that had occupied the series, thus freeing up space for new characters. The producers now have more opportunities to explore the situation in Chicago and New York City, which is where the real action took place during Prohibition.
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Jan 082012
Boardwalk Empire Season Two

Season Two of Boardwalk Empire balances the fine line between an entertaining soap opera set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City and a chronicle of bootlegging and the rapid social changes that made the 1920s such a turbulent period in American history. Read More…

Nov 102010
Boardwalk Empire Season One

I have to admit that I was underwhelmed by the much-touted pilot episode directed by Martin Scorsese, but after watching a few more episodes, the series is growing on me. I would have thought that a period gangster series would be right up Scorsese’s alley, but I just realized that I have come to expect a certain style from HBO and Scorsese’s lack of a sense of humor dragged down the pilot. Although I originally checked the show out because of the gangsters and Prohibition, I am more interested in its portrayal of the time. Read More…

Jul 192010

Rating: ★★½☆☆
Capone (1975) has surprisingly good sets for a Roger Corman production and is quite historically accurate until it invents a new explanation for the fall of Chicago ganglord Al Capone. Read More…

Jun 202010
The Untouchables

Rating: ★½☆☆☆
The Untouchables (1987) is a cliche-ridden travesty that gives Treasury agent Elliot Ness all the credit for bringing down Chicago ganglord Al Capone during Prohibition, ignoring the efforts of the IRS agents, state prosecutors, judges and brave informants who actually did all the work. Read More…