ABOUT THE SERIES

The Untouchables, created as the first of the made‑for‑TV movies for The Desilu Playhouse, went on to become the most expensive and ambitious weekly series of its day. With its gritty realism, it wrote the closing chapter of the medium’s golden age and ushered in television’s sensational tabloid era.

From 1959-1963, the series brought to life the nightly wars between good and evil in the streets of Prohibition Chicago. With legendary lawman Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his band of incorruptible agents leading the way for justice, famed reporter Walter Winchell providing staccato narration and guest stars breathing life into colorful underworld characters, the true story of The Untouchables became legend in a film noir mix of true history and Emmy award winning fiction.

The first of the docudramas, The Untouchables won four of six Emmy nominations in 1960 and the series put the American Broadcasting Company on equal footing with CBS and NBC and enjoyed a large and enthusiastic following of captivated and sometimes horrified viewers. Countering its appeal was a large contingent of incensed public officials, many Americans of Italian ancestry and Mafia figures who plotted an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the life of Desi Arnaz.

Originating the weekly guest star format, The Untouchables became the first successful marriage between motion pictures and television, legitimizing the medium for big screen talent and embracing production values that had been beyond the scope of the little wooden box before 1960.

For a series with such a sizable and immediate impact on the public consciousness, the original production remains largely unremembered. This project has been conceived to document the program’s unique and colorful position in television history and its considerable but often overlooked influence on the medium.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

The Untouchables Retrospective  is an extended, in-depth look at one of television’s most highly acclaimed – and despised – classics. In 2019, it will celebrate the program’s 60th Anniversary and revisit this iconic and memorable production in the digital age, combining years of research, materials, insight, and exclusive content into an exhaustive online retrospective comprised of a comprehensive website and a specially produced podcast, creating the first and only online resource dedicated exclusively to the show.

Through articles, interviews, and reflections, it is a nostalgic and detailed account of a masterpiece of American television, with production details and the reflections of the artists who made it. It is a journey into the waning days of the Golden Age of Television with the most expensive and violent series up to that time.

The Untouchables Retrospective is the story of the series that generated nearly as many headlines of its own as those of a Prohibition-era Chicago it attempted, often successfully, to dramatize. Featuring a never‑before‑published profile of its episodes with plot synopses and Winchell narrations, these enjoyable hours of television will be examined in detail with commentary by writers, directors, producers and many guest stars such, whose early appearances on The Untouchables launched or enhanced their careers.

The Untouchables Retrospective will explore the conception, production and cultural reception of Desilu’s Untouchables, as well as the elevation of the real Eliot Ness to mythic icon; the Congressional response and American indifference to violent motion pictures; the modern remakes and retelling of the classic Scarface Mob storyline; and the fingerprint of The Untouchables on The Godfather, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and even The Simpsons.

This is a story of artistic chemistry, of stunning success and crashing failure ultimately brought about by relentless criticism and attempts to improve it.

CHICAGO STORIES

The Untouchables Retrospective originally began as a 400-page book entitled Chicago Stories: A History And Analysis Of Television’s Untouchables. Written over a period of six years, the manuscript was researched and assembled from biographies, numerous other books, corporate and government documents, letters, original scripts, video footage, newspaper and magazine articles and ultimately from interviews with principal participants.

Despite access to series writers, directors, actors and others, and a wealth of critical and cultural reflections, work on the Chicago Stories manuscript was paused in the mid-1990s due to trademark concerns from Paramount. Years later, Tise Vahimagi’s book 1998 book The Untouchables notably eluded these concerns and studied the series in an academic fashion. Around the same time, author Kenneth Tucker was compiling his own book, Eliot Ness and the Untouchables: The Historical Reality and the Film and Television Depictions, which explored the non-fiction and fictional background for the series. A second edition years later included commentary and interviews with several participants.

Both of these volumes contain worthy discussions of the series, but this effort will go deeper to explore the series’ creative achievements, reception and cultural impact 60 years later from the perspective of admirer, historian, and filmmaker.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS


DAN LYNCH

Dan Lynch, whose unpublished manuscript is the foundation for this project, was a nationally syndicated political cartoonist and award‑winning features writer for The Fort Wayne Journal‑Gazette in Indiana from 1975 to 2001.

He began his career in journalism at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California, in 1966, and began drawing political cartoons at Western Kentucky University and later for Indiana University’s Daily Student in Bloomington. He joined The Journal‑Gazette in 1975, moved to The Kansas City Star in 1978, and returned to his hometown paper in 1981.

His first book, There’s Gold In Them Thar Ills, named for an item on the subject of national health care and published in 1985, features his work of ten years through the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations. His last published work, Dirty Little Secrets: Cartoons and Essays from the Previous Millennium and Beyond, chronicled his 20 years of political cartoons covering national and international events and was published in 2013.

His appreciation for The Untouchables began in 1959, when, as a seventh‑grader, he was drawn in by the stories, the gunfire, the irresistible lure of period trappings and the extraordinarily high production values suddenly available on network television for the first time. He knew even then that the program was destined to become one of television’s legendary classics.

He began collecting material for this project in 1961 but passed away in August 2014 after a long battle with the effects of a debilitating stroke.

KELLY LYNCH

Kelly Lynch is a filmmaker and digital marketing creative whose award-winning work and love for cinema were largely influenced by his early exposure to The Untouchables and his father’s own fascination with the series.

Formally trained at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles and Columbia College Chicago, Kelly has since worked for NBC/Universal, The History Channel, and CBS/Paramount, where he helped produce documentary material on The Lucy Show, with Lucy Arnaz and former Lucille Ball publicist and historian, Thomas Watson.

Like his father, Kelly has become a recognized railroad preservationist and community advocate in Fort Wayne, Indiana and works in the digital marketing and filmmaking industries as Lynchpin Creative. He currently serves as Video Creative Director for Sweetwater Sound.

Kelly began recompiling his father’s works in 2016.