My Husband, Eliot Ness – TV Guide

By Feature Articles, Vintage Archives

By Mrs. Elisabeth Ness

His widow tells of the man who was a legend in his lifetime, long before “The Untouchables” took to air

Much has been written about my husband since the great success of the ABC television program, The Untouchables. Because very little of it has been written by those who knew him, TV Gide thought you might be interested in what I could tell you about him.

I recieve many letters and phone calls from fans of the program. The letters from the young fans I enjoy the most. They are sincere, charming. They give me the good feeling that they have found more in the series than entertainment.

The most usual question concerns its truth. Is the program fact or fiction? What was Eliot Ness really like? Was he like Robert Stack?

I am very happy about Mr. Stack’s interpretation of the role. He has the same quietness of voice, the same gentle quality that characterized Eliot. At times, even Stack’s small mannerisms are similar. He smiles less, but Mr. Stack has been given less to laugh at than Eliot found in real life.

It has been explained before in this magazine how the first two-part show on television was based on Eliot’s actual experiences in Chicago soon after he graduated from the University of Chicago. The excitement of that true story, the excellence of the production, the superb casting brought us the well-deserved Emmy Awards and the weekly show.

I like the program and I wouldn’t miss it, even though I no longer know what it will be about. It is fiction, the stories are not of what Eliot was doing at that time. But since they are, in spirit, the same – the enforcement of law and order, the fights against exploitation of the law-abiding members of society, the hunting down of criminals – Eliot’s admirers should not feel let down. Read More

The Nick Moses Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdates: February 23rd, 1961 and August 10th, 1961
Written by John Mantley
Directed by Herman Hoffman
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer 
Special Guest Star Harry Guardino
Co-starring Bruce Gordon, Michael Constantine, and Joe DeSantis
Featuring Richard Bakalyan, Herman Rudin, Peter Mamakos, and Rick Marcelli

“Three weeks after the conviction of Al Capone on the ironic charge of income tax evasion, the Justice Department of the United States had called its leading law enforcers from every major city to fly to Washington to testify on behalf of an anti-racketeering bill, which would widen the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement officers, and put teeth in their fight against the underworld.” Read More

The Underground Court – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdates: February 16th, 1961, July 6th, 1961
Written by Leonard Kantor
Directed by Don Medford
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer 
Special Guest Star Joan Blondell
Co-starring Richard Devon, Frank De Kova
Featuring Eddie Firestone, Vic Perrin, John Duke, William Fawcett, Arthur Kendall

“September 8th, 1934, 5:15 a.m. The Morrow Castle, an American cruise liner returning from Cuba with 318 passengers and a crew of 231, was ablaze off Spring Lake, New Jersey. All efforts to curb the fire were in vain. At the same time, Eliot Ness, acting on reports from Cuban agents, was racing down the Jersey coast to the scene of the disaster, where passengers and crew were being pulled out of the sea. Ness was on his way to arrest passenger Valentine Ferrar, racketeer, gambler, disbarred lawyer and founder of the Big Syndicate. It was reported that Ferrar had collected for the Syndicate, then in control of most of the U. S. criminal world, over a million dollars from their interests in Havana.” Read More

Augie “The Banker” Ciamino – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdates: February 9th and June 29th, 1961
Written by Adrian Spies
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Produced by Herman Hoffman
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Keenan Wynn
Co-starring Will Kaluva, Sam Jaffe, Lee Phillips
Featuring Harry Dean Stanton, Bernard Kates, Rebecca Welles, Bernie Fein

“More than anything else the war between Eliot Ness and the ganglords was a war over the Prohibition era’s most prized liquid asset: alcohol. By 1931, with a series of slashing raids on secret distilleries, it looked as though the Untouchables were actually managing to dry up the arrogant, illegal, multi-million-dollar racket. But the nimble minds of the underworld kingpins were to regroup their angry forces. With shocking speed, the underworld bosses found another way to get their whisky made. Taking advantage of the poverty and the desperation of many immigrant families during those depression days, the racketeers had devised a home still that could be put together for less than three dollars. The man picked to run this new illicit empire was Augie Ciamino, absolute boss of Chicago’s Little Italy. In a short time, his home-cooker operation was canceling out the Untouchables’ gains. Whisky flowed from a thousand tenement kitchens. Ciamino spent most of his time counting profits—until the night of August 16th, the night of a street festival on Haver Street.”
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The Jamaica Ginger Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdates: February 2nd, 1961 and March 15th, 1962
Written by Joseph Petracca
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Brian Keith
Featuring Michael Ansara, James Coburn, Alfred Ryder, June Dayton, Jane Inness, Harry Holcomb, Jr., Clegg Hoyt, Hank Patterson, Byron Morrow.
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Part Two of The Big Train – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdate: January 12th, 1961
Written by William Spier
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Neville Brand
Co-starring James Westerfield
Featuring Richard Carlyle, Gavin MacLeod, Lewis Charles, Frank London, Lalo Rios, Russ Conway, William Schallert

“At 5 o’clock in the morning of August 19th, 1934, a transcontinental train journey began which was to be unique in history. Its destination was the new escape-proof prison on the island of Alcatraz, and its passengers were 54 case hardened and desperate criminals, headed by the gangster overlord whose deeds had given him the undisputed title of Public Enemy no. 1: Scarface Al Capone. With the aid of his Chicago organization and a dishonest guard named Lafferty, Capone had conceived a monumental plan, one that would affect his delivery from the train and ultimately land him safely out of the country.”

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The Tommy Karpeles Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdate: December 29th, 1960 and April 6th, 1961
Written by George Bellak
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Produced by Herman Hoffman
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Joseph Wiseman
Co-starring Harold J. Stone, Murray Hamilton, Madlyn Rhue. Featuring Vic Morrow, Vladimir Sokoloff, Gage Clark, William Newel, Herman Rudin.

“May 8th, 1931. The Fast Mail Special of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, running out of Rock Island, was stopped by emergency signal flares near Hillsdale, Illinois. The Hillsdale mail robbery netted the gas-masked criminals almost a million dollars in negotiable securities. The murder of Nelson Grenhoff, postal clerk, was a dividend.
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The Otto Frick Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdate: December 22nd, 1960
Written by Leonard Kantor
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Jack Warden
Co-starring Francis Lederer, Richard Jaeckel. Featuring Erika Peters, Stacey Harris, Fred Numey, John Wengraf, Willis Bouchey, Joseph Mell, Molly Roden.

”At a traveling carnival thirty-five miles out of Cleveland, Ohio, Franz Eberhardt, twice convicted out of fifteen arrests for armed robbery and dope peddling, was shooting ducks with deadly precision. Eliot Ness, a squad of his Untouchables and members of the local police, took their positions for a raid.

“It was May 3rd, 1934. Eliot Ness, after seven months of investigation and raids was finally ready to move in on Otto Frick, whose thirty-seven traveling enterprises were a front for the most widely-flung, most tightly organized, most lucrative dope ring of the first half of the 20th century. Although Eliot Ness had closed off his sources south of the border and from Canada, Otto Frick was by no means out of business. He had already made arrangements for a new and even greater source of supply. Aided by his new contact, Frick and his no. 1 helper, Hans Eberhardt, lost no time in resuming their operation. For the Untouchables, the new upswing in Frick’s activities meant beginning all over again: grueling weeks of raids, round-ups, and investigations. It meant retracing old steps.”

“Acting on a new lead, Ness covered legal drug manufacturers and dealers to ascertain if there might be some way their supplies were being leaked to Frick. One such dealer in New York was Manning Loder, president of one of the largest drug importing companies in the country.”

In return for free narcotics supplies, drug king Otto Frick (Jack Warden), agrees to recruit German-Americans for the Nazi movement in the United States at the behest of a well-known roving ambassador for the Third Reich. Admonished by the State Department to exercise caution in dealing with German nationals, Eliot Ness finds his efforts to capture Frick are impeded by the directive while Frick’s operation temporarily flourishes.

But while Frick maintains no political objectives of his own, it is Franz Eberhardt (Richard Jaeckel), who takes up the cause, persuaded by lovely young Hedda Messlinger (Erika Peters), who appears to be Messingler’s niece, but is instead his wife, and used willingly as a lure. Unable to convince Frick of the importance of their goals, the three plot his removal, but Hedda’s dual identity is soon revealed to a disillusioned Hans Eberhardt who had planned to marry her. Their grandiose plans come apart when Ness arrives at a Nazi rally, but not before Frick, wounded by Eberhardt at Messlinger’s order, arrives to pay the Nazis back for double-crossing him.

“It was the end of the partnership. Hedda Messlinger told her story to the authorities. Frick and Messlinger had paid with their lives; she was deported back to Germany. Hans Eberhardt, as a three-time loser, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Aside from being the end of a vast dope ring, it was one of the first major thrusts of the Nazi Fifth Column in America and helped alert us all to the dangers ahead. Yet even now, after Hitler’s dreams of world conquest have been thwarted by a war, the totalitarian voices are not silent. You can still hear them if you listen.”


Although The Otto Frick Story begins quite forcefully, it wanders around and loses focus early on. 

It is the only program to address the Nazi phenomenon in its infancy. The assembly of German Nazis and American gangsters does have historical precedent, but this installment, severely underplayed with three small characters and a token assault on a Jewish-owned delicatessen, doesn’t capture the epic of the scope of the drama. Because the historical events portrayed in this episode largely took place in the late 1930s, The Otto Frick Story is one of the most alarming to students of history.

Already suffering from overexposure in the series, Jack Warden plays Frick as a small-minded, small-time hood, rather than someone clever enough to head up a national drug cartel. Francis Lederer, a Czech actor who was no stranger to film noirs and Nazi intrigue, unfortunately, embodies a consummate Nazi stereotype in his role as the aristocratic Messlinger, and today comes off funnier than it is serious. At any moment he appears ready to break into a “Ve haff vays of making you talk” routine. The amount of film given over to the seduction of Hans Eberhardt by fiercely Aryan Hedda Messlinger is unwarranted, even if it is fun to watch her at work.

Even with the potentially sensitive subject matter, very little is changed from script to screen. A scene of anti-Semitic graffiti and a swastika is awkwardly filmed and cropped to obscure the full phrase, which is written explicitly in the screenplay. Gratuitous use of “Sieg Heil baby” is left unused. The true nature of Hedda and Walter Messlinger’s relationship is not revealed until midway through the conclusion, though in the script it is revealed much sooner. 

The script also specifically notes a location as being on Desilu’s 40 Acres backlot and the name of a book store is changed in the script to match that of one shown in stock footage.

Speaking of stock footage, this episode features an excellent (and seemingly rare) use of double exposure and rear projection when Ness arrives at Lange’s Book Shop.

First, the establishing shot is taken from a mid-1940s source (as evidenced by the visible automobile in the lower right-hand corner). 

Second, the passing trolley helps the transition from an establishing shot to a medium shot of a window that says Lange’s Book Shop. 

As Ness, Hobson, and Rico walk past the window, they can see inside the book store. The interior footage of the book store is from a separate source. Meanwhile, the reflection in the window shows a second source, with a streetcar passing to match the establishing shot.

This subtle trick passes by in a brief moment and is not the only clever use of stock footage in the hour. The insertion of actual archival footage from the Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, where Hans’ taunts to “Sieg Heil!” are synced to the rally’s actual audio track.

As part of The Untouchables Retrospective, we’re pleased to present this August draft of Leonard Kantor’s The Otto Frick Story. 



MESSLINGER: Are you placing me under arrest?
NESS: Unfortunately, it’s my duty to try and save your life.


In this episode, Eliot Ness is a known entity to the Nazis both international and domestic – but history shows that the Nazis may have actually known who Eliot Ness was.

This episode begins with the Untouchables in Cleveland, Ohio where the real Eliot Ness would become Safety Director in 1935 (one year after this episode takes place).

During Ness’ time as Safety Director, a grisly series of murders known as the Torso Murders or the Kingsbury Run Murders weighed heavily on his career in Cleveland. As part of its anti-American propaganda, the German press mocked the police’s inability to solve the killings.


While the episode lacks punch, its closing narration is notable for many reasons.

Narrator Walter Winchell, like many among Desilu’s creative time, was Jewish. In his career as a radio correspondent, Winchell eagerly assailed pro-fascists, pro-Nazi, and their enablers throughout the 1930s including the German American Bund and Charles Lindbergh. Winchell’s real-life crusade in the press against the Nazis gives extra gravitas to his finely written concluding narration,

The Nazis did in fact host a rally at New York’s Madison Square Garden on February 20th, 1939 and this is the rally seen in the episode’s archival footage. (There was a similar rally held a few months later in Chicago, though the footage from Madison Square Garden is better known.) It is the use of this footage and the attempt to intertwine the story of the Nazi Fifth Column and gangsterdom that perhaps best illustrates the show’s growing tendency to stretch historical credibility, making it seem almost Twilight Zone-esque that Ness would ever fight the Nazis.

However, the National Socialist German Party was alive in well in Chicago in the late 1920s and early 1930s, where immigrant Fritz Gissebl would later graduate from organizing fellow countrymen in the German-American “Free Society of Teutonia” organization to goosestepping with Hitler’s SS in Poland years later. The first major gathering of Nazis in Chicago was the Friends of New Germany convention and by 1934 had grown to 500 members. In 1932, Teutonia become the Friends of the Hitler Movement.

It’s too bad we never see Ness spoiling Fritz’s schnitzel, instead of Frick’s.

Actual Illinois Nazis in front of the Chicago Field Museum in the 1930s.


The Larry Fay Story – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdate: December 15th, 1960
Written by Harry Essex
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star June Havoc
Co-starring Sam Levene, Larry Gates, Robert Emhardt.
Featuring Robert Karnes, Tommy Cook, Francis De Sales, Allen Jaffe, Jay Adler.

“1931. Business, racketeer style. The business: milk. The tycoon: Capone student Larry Fay. He matriculated from cabs to beer to milk, which had been selling at ten cents a quart. Although on those dark depression days even that was a high price. Fay succeeded by organizing certain unscrupulous milk companies into a monopoly and raising the price of milk as much as three cents a quart. Two of those cents went to Fay. Stores that refused to deal with the new monopoly were shown the Capone method. For the majority of respectable milk companies who stuck to fair prices, in spite of threats and warnings from Fay, disasters piled up one on top of another in actions that threatened the highways off our states. The style was Al Capone, but the signature was Larry Fay. One of those who refused to tremble before Fay was Wayne Owens, whose family had headed a small but successful dairy company for 100 years. “
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Kiss of Death Girl – Episode Review

By Episode Review, Season 2


Airdate: December 8th, 1960
Written by Harry Kronman
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Alan Armer
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Jan Sterling
Co-starring Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert H. Harris, and David J. Stewart. Featuring John Conte, Lester Miller, Joseph Ferrante, Celia Lovsky, Baruch Lumet, Wesley Lau

“On the night of September 8th, 1932, four trucks crossed the Canadian border at a remote spot and headed for Chicago. They carried a thousand cases of scotch, the McCoy. Value: over one hundred thousand dollars. Acting on word from a Canadian agent, Eliot Ness and the Untouchables were covering the highway outside of town. And seven or eight miles up ahead of Ness, someone else was waiting: Phil Corbin, owner of Chicago’s Club Continental. A man with ambition, tonight, he was expanding his operation. In charge of the convoy was a small-time mobster, Whitey Barrows, running the whiskey in for his boss, Lou ‘the Rooster’ Scalisi. Scalisi was a new power in Chicago. During the past year, he had cut himself a juicy slice of what used to be Capone’s personal pie.”

Convinced he can corner the market in high quality imported Scotch, small-time club Phil Corbin (Robert H. Harris) owner hijacks a shipment intended for his supplier, Lou “The Rooster” Scalese (David J. Stewart), and attempts to win the affections of a Francie McKay (Jan Sterling) who is known to frequently lose boyfriends to underworld catfights.

“Henny Combs did make it. Two months later, he was well enough to open a small cleaning establishment with Francie; Francie McKay, who used to be called the kiss of death girl.”


Jan Sterling would seem like the perfect actress to grace The Untouchables, but she is wasted by a first-draft screenplay.

Jan Sterling guest stars in this wannabe heart breaker in which she roams sadly about, losing boyfriends as fast as they can be shot up for one reason or another, complaining how her men are only interested in her for her pretty face while displaying one seriously without charm. It is the eternal double-cross that does in the principle characters who, apart from Lou “The Rooster” Scalisi, are not particularly enthralling.

This episode feels like a first draft badly in need of a rewrite and highlights that it doesn’t matter how many hoods are running around if none of them are particularly interesting, dramatic, or cunning. This episode completely wastes the award-winning Sterling, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in The High in the Mighty (1954) and appeared in numerous film noirs a decade earlier as “cheap floozies, hard-bitten dames, and lethal schemers.”

While there are a few good lines in Harry Kronman’s script (Ness duping Scalese in his phone call is hilarious), this is the only one-star episode in the entire Second Season. Nonetheless, Kronman will quickly adapt to The Untouchables and author 17 episodes. Apart from Kiss of Death Girl, the rest of Kronman’s scripts are exceedingly memorable. His ultimate contribution will come in the form of the Second Season’s powerhouse season finale 90-Proof Dame.


CORBIN: You got no respect for the dead.
NESS: Sometimes even less than the living.


At the conclusion of each hour, The Untouchables teased each new episode with exciting trailers. These expensive little previews had their own theme music, often featured alternate takes of scenes, and sadly were completely absent in the so-called Columbia House’s “Collectors Edition” of The Untouchables on VHS and the subsequent DVD releases. Here, Stuart Fanning has preserved the ending of The Untouchables as it originally aired, complete with bumpers, commercials, and the trailer for “The Larry Fay Story.”

As a part of The Untouchables Retrospective, we’ll be archiving and publishing the trailers we can locate from the remaining 16mm prints of The Untouchables.


While there’s no record of a “Kiss of Death Girl” in American crime, the title was bestowed to a woman named Nellie Cameron, an Australian prostitute who consorted with various undesirables in Sydney in the 1920s and 30s, five of whom were targeted for assassination. What a heartbreaker.