JACK “LEGS” DIAMOND
Airdates: October 20th, 1960 and May 15th, 1961
Story by Harry Essex
Teleplay by Charles O’Neal
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-Starring Steven Hill, Norman Crane and Suzanne Storrs. Featuring Lawrence Dobkin, Robert Carricart, Peter Whitney, Oscar Beregi, Ted Berger, Lee Patrick, Tony Carbone.
“By 1931, the country’s era of wonderful nonsense was over. The Great Depression was steadily sinking its fangs deeper into the nation’s economic life with each passing day. Unaffected by the growing unemployment, gangster owned and operated speakeasies and nightclubs continued to flourish. Prohibition had spawned a new mobster aristocracy. Hoodlums with money had become knights of the submachine gun. One such prominent mobster was Jack “Legs” Diamond, known to the mobs as the Clay Pigeon, because of the great number of times he had been shot at and survived. Legs had a wife, but most of his time now was spent in the company of Dawn Dolan, young and glamorous nightclub canary.”
As a member of the East Coast crime cartel that plans to smuggle a large shipment of heroin into the country from Greece, Legs Diamond (Stephen Hill) has been generating too much publicity to suit his associates. When he survives another attempt on his life arranged by his partners Oscar Benjamin (Oscar Beregi), Big Bill Swinney (Peter Whitney), Dutch Schultz (Lawrence Dobkin), and Lucky Luciano (Robert Carricart), he attempts to make peace but is instead advised to go home and retire quietly with his estranged wife (Norma Crane), in the Catskills, far from New York City and his girlfriend Dawn Dolan (Suzanne Storrs.)
Diamond returns temporarily to his requested alcoholic spouse Alice, who badly wants him back, but their relationship goes from bad to worse. He soon returns to New York and Dolan, who is prepared to help him cover his tracks as he plots to make certain he gets his share of the dope ring’s proceeds.
In New York to gather evidence on the smuggling racket, Eliot Ness discovers that the heroin shipment he had been tracking has been hijacked and the fingers point to Diamond. But Ness is unable to prove that Diamond stole the dope or killed the truck driver who had transported it from the ship.
Clearly in a position to call the shots, Diamond attempts to ransom the dope back to his furious partners and escape the country with Dawn, but his vengeful wife alerts Ness to the particulars and the Untouchables arrive on the scene to capture the ransom money and ascertain the location of the heroin.
“Eliot Ness and his Untouchables arrived in time to smash the dope ring’s attempt at organized smuggling of narcotics, but not in time to save the life of gangland’s Clay Pigeon. Another form of retribution overtook Oscar Benjamin. He died shortly thereafter, with a slug in his stomach, administered by parties unknown. Lucky Luciano was deported to Italy. And Dutch Schultz dies as he had lived: by the submachine gun. Only Dawn Dolan, the Broadway moll who had loved Legs Diamond not wisely, but too well, and had said to him, ‘whatever happens to you, happens to me’ lived on. But the heart in her bosom was as dead as if gangster bullets had pierced it, too.”
Jack “Legs” Diamond is an absorbing hour due more to the performances than through any novelty of story which resembles the Mafia’s retire-or-die concept. John Peyser, who directed the series premiere episode The Empty Chair, approaches the hour with the prerequisite amount of film noir flourishes, including Diamond’s assassination of a driver wherein the victim vanishes in a blast of shotgun smoke, leaving Diamond to tower over the camera.
The “Legs” Diamond story came nine months after Warner Brothers’ The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond premiered, and while this episode does little to add to his story, the inclusion of Lucky Luciano and Dutch Schultz, played by the same actors that would portray them in other Untouchables episodes, gives this episode an extra degree of continuity and verisimilitude.
Steven Hill isn’t the most dynamic performer (especially when playing someone who was in real life a dastardly Irish malcontent) but Norma Crane and Suzanne Storrs return after their bit parts in the First Season to bring some liveliness to the hour. Diamond’s abusive relationship with his wife is dark, even for The Untouchables, as he strikes her twice in this hour (once just barely off-camera), enough to leave a black eye that drives her thirst for blood vengeance later in the episode.
Ness’ outrage at Diamond using his girlfriend as an alibi gives us the hour’s most memorable exchange, as he slaps Diamond halfway across the set. Ness’ disgust is reserved entirely for Diamond, however, and the concluding Winchell narration otherwise ties up her ending nicely. Ness’ anger at the corruption of an innocent is a main-stay in this characterization of Eliot Ness, though we only see a glimmer of it here. For more on Diamond’s mistress, check out the interview below with her protective mother, who is also portrayed in this episode.
DIAMOND: You cops get real brave when you hide behind a badge.
NESS: I’ll make you a standing offer, Diamond. You get out from behind your girlfriend’s skirts and I’ll get out from behind the badge.
• O’Neal’s original title to this episode was The Clay Pigeon. It was likely re-titled to take advantage of the name recognition from the Warner Brothers’ film.
• Oscar Beregi, Jr. has a bit part as mob leader Oscar Benjamin, but Beregi will reemerge later in Seasons Two and Three as Joe Kulak, who has the distinction of being a recurring villain on The Untouchables who would appear in seven episodes total.
• The exposition scene between the Untouchables is a nicely staged change of scenery, as is the scene of Ness and Rico sparring at the gym. While present during the proceedings, Hobson is relegated to the sidelines leaving Rico to pal around New York with Ness.
• When confronting Diamond and his wife at their home, the image of Robert Stack is flipped horizontally to make his eye-line match the opposing shot.
• One of several assassination attempts on Diamond is shown in this episode, though it occurred at The Hotsy Totsy Club on July 14th, 1929. While Diamond survived this and several other encounters like it, two bystanders did not. Diamond also was co-owner of the Club.
• Diamond’s showgirl mistress was named Marion “Kiki” Roberts.
• Ness reflects on Diamond having been kicked out of Europe, which happened when the German government escorted him out in 1930. As discussed in the episode, Diamond’s trip to Europe was made with the intent to establish a source for a drug deal.
• It is suspected that Jack Diamond was murdered by crooked cops in December 1931. Mrs. Diamond didn’t endure much longer than her husband – she was killed in 1933 – likely by Diamond’s former associates.