The Frank Nitti Story

By | Episode Review, Season 1 | No Comments

THE FRANK NITTI STORY

Airdate: April 28th and September 22nd, 1960
Story by Harry Essex
Written by Lee Blair Scott
Directed by Howard W. Koch
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer and Robert B. Hauser
Co-starring Richard Anderson, Myron McCormick, Dick Foran
Special Guest Star Bruce Gordon
Featuring Frank de Kova, Phyllis Coates, Alex Gerry, Frank Wilcox,
Frank Albertson, Harry Harvey, Sr.

“In 1934, Prohibition had been repealed, and the Capone mob, without its leader, serving tune at Alcatraz Prison, was desperate for new sources of revenue. With the instincts of jackals for an easy kill, they picked the nation’s small theater owners for their prey. The type of operation used, was one they knew best: extortion.

“On a quiet street in Oak Park, Illinois, suburb of Chicago, Harold Coldman was closing his theater. Coldman was the owner and operator of two small motion picture houses. He thought he hadn’t an enemy in the world. But he was soon to learn that he was mistaken. To put their extortion plan into operation, the Capone mob had chosen Frank Nitti, long-time enforcer for Scarface Al Capone, and Nitti’s shadow and triggerman, Louis Campangna.” Read More

Head of Fire – Feet of Clay

By | Episode Review, Season 1 | No Comments

HEAD OF FIRE – FEET OF CLAY

Airdate: April 21st and September 29th, 1960 
Written by Ben Maddow 
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Charles Russell
Director of Photography Charles Straumer 
Special Guest Star Jack Warden
Co-starring Nehemiah Persoff, Madeline Rhue
Featuring Leo Gordon, Virginia Christine, Adrienne Marden, Norm Alden, Lawrence Maldonado, George Chirello, Patsy Kelly

“Eliot Ness, chief of the special unit known as the Untouchables, had not eaten in twelve hours. These were the twelve hours that the jury had been out deciding the case that Ness had prepared so carefully against a mobster named Johnny Fortunato. At 9 p.m., the jury came back and delivered its verdict: not guilty.” Read More

Desiluland

By | Podcast | No Comments
Against mounting financial pressure, Desi Arnaz gambles on a Prohibition-era cops-and-robbers drama for his struggling Desilu Playhouse program. After facing down Al Capone’s son, he gathers a talented assortment of Hollywood creatives to produce The Untouchables, but with principal photography only hours away, Arnaz still has yet to secure an actor for the role of Eliot Ness.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE

Read More

The Underworld Bank

By | Episode Review, Season 1 | No Comments

THE UNDERWORLD BANK

Airdate: April 14th and August 18th, 1960
Written by Aben Kandel
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Produced by Josef Sbaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Thomas Mitchell
Co-starring Virginia Vincent, Peter Falk
Featuring Val Avery, Ernest Sanacino, Penny Santon, Raymond Bailey, Frank Gerstle, Bernard Kates, Vince Barbi, Lennie Bremen

“On the afternoon of September 23rd, 1933, at a fashionable midtown hotel in New York City, a secret meeting of financial giants was scheduled to take place. The six men gathering at this secret meet were modest in their speech and very circumspect in their behavior, but a sharp-eyed detective with a memory for mug shots could have named them all: Harold Vishman, behind the scenes operator and political power in the State of Louisiana; Ralph Louchey, old-time rum-runner, once a leader of Detroit’s Purple Gang; Big Augie Epstein, Kansas kingpin of Miami gambling; Dino Matero, pinball and slot machines, Kansas City; Art Martin, jukeboxes, numbers, prostitution, Seattle and the northwest. And Milo Sullivan, retired hoodlum. His shrewd manipulations had made him business consultant for the nation’s underworld. These six men were meeting to organize the underworld bank. At their control were the lush profits acquired during the Prohibition days. Now with Prohibition and its illicit offspring, bootlegging, nearing their dismal finish, they sought other profitable fields of investment for their illegal millions.”
Read More

Portrait Of A Thief

By | Episode Review, Season 1 | No Comments

PORTRAIT OF A THIEF

Airdate: April 7th, 1960
Written by Herbert Abbott Spiro
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Joseph Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Featuring Henry Jones, Charles McGraw, Edward Andrews

“1931 found America and the world hitting the depths of Depression. Men begged for jobs when there were none to be had. In the larger cities, bread lines formed and soup kitchens fed the hungry and the homeless. Apples were sold on street corners. But 1931 also saw man soaring to the heights: the Empire State Building was rising fourteen hundred feet to tower above the island of Manhattan. In Chicago, Eliot Ness and his Untouchables had cracked the bootleg empire of Al Capone, only to learn that thousands of gallons of illegal alcohol were flowing into the city from some mysterious source. Ness took his problem to Beecher Asbury, the federal district attorney.” Read More

The Doreen Maney Story

By | Episode Review, Season 1 | No Comments

THE DOREEN MANEY STORY


Airdate: March 31st, 1960
Written by Jerome Ross
Directed by Robert Florey
Produced by David HeUweil
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Anne Francis
Co-starring Christopher Dark, Connie Hines. Featuring George Mitchell, Richard Rust,Robert J. Stevenson, Jim Hayward, Lovyss Bradley

“On the evening of June 8th, 1933, at the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York City, Max Baer knocked out Max Schmelling in the tenth round of their scheduled fifteen-round fight. At the gate, $240,000. One hour later an armored truck left the stadium. It was on its way to the warehouse where the box office receipts would be kept until morning for deposit in the bank. As the truck turned onto Cromwell Avenue, a female pedestrian stepped off the curb. What was seemingly an accident was really the first step in a well-planned hold-up. A tear gas bomb dropped into the rear of the truck forced the guards out of the vehicle. Then, in complete silence, but with well-rehearsed precision, the transfer of the money began. The four members of the holdup gang were Doreen Maney, Glen Carson and the leader of the gang, Shiek Humphries. Picked up for this particular job was Jake Logan, triggerman.” Read More

Three Thousand Suspects

By | Episode Review, Season 1 | No Comments

THREE THOUSAND SUSPECTS


Airdate: March 24th, 1960
Written by Jerome Ross
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Charles Russell
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Leslie Nielsen
Featuring Bruce Gordon, Mary Sinclair, Burt Freed, Peter Leeds, Ned Glass, James Flavin

“September, 1932; the federal penitentiary al Leavenworth, Kansas, 430 miles from Chicago. In this violent period, law enforcement had become a big game hunt. The quarry was the most dangerous marauder of them all: the big-time racketeer. For Eliot Ness and his Untouchables, the trophy room was a federal prison. And, one of their prizes was a man named Nick Segal. Because of collusion and protection in political circles, this vicious killer of at least six people was serving three years for violation of the Volstead Act. And, Nick Segal was now eligible for parole after serving one year of this sentence.” Read More

The White Slavers

By | Episode Review, Season 1 | No Comments

THE WHITE SLAVERS

Airdate: March 10th, 1960
Teleplay by Leonard Kantor
Directed by Walter Grauman 
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer 
Special Guest Star Betty Field Featuring Dick York, Mike Kellin, Nita Talbot, Jeremy Slate, Paul Langton, James Anderson, Natividad Vacio, Sarita
Vara, Robert Gibbons, Mona Knox, and Theona Bryan.

“Prohibition was dead, but mobster Mr. Big, Al Capone, operating from a federal prison where he was doing time for income tax evasion, was still active. The top money-maker in his new empire was a Chicago white slave ring run by Capone’s partner, Mig Torrance. March 31, 1934; Eliot Ness led a raiding party on one of Capone’s houses of prostitution. It was the seventh such raid since federal man Ness had been assigned to break up the ring. Inside the house, the inmates having been tipped off by certain corrupt police officials in the city government were escaping through a trap door in the cellar leading to a tunnel on the waterfront. In one of the rooms a girl lay dead. Mourning at her side was twenty-one year old Ernie Torrance, kid brother of Mig Torrance.”

Read More

Part Two of The Unhired Assassin

By | Episode Review, Season 1 | No Comments

PART TWO OF THE UNHIRED ASSASSIN

Airdates: March 3rd and September 15, 1960
Teleplay by William Spier
Directed by Howard W. Koch
Produced by Joseph Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Robert Middleton
Featuring Joe Mantel, Robert Gist, Bruce Gordon, Lee Van Cleef, Frank de Kova, Percy Helton, Sterling Holloway

“The men behind the attempted murder of Cermak were the gang who had served Al Capone in enforcing a reign of terror during 13 years of Prohibition. In the absence of Capone, serving time in Atlanta, his hatchet man, Frank Nitti, ruled the roost. Nitti’s board of directors in the operation of horse parlors, gambling joints, bawdy houses and other rackets were Louie ‘Little New York’ Campagna, enforcer of protective rackets; Frank Diamond, protege and devoted disciple of Al Capone, one of the original Capone gunmen; ‘Three Finger’ Jack White, Eddie Zion, general troubleshooters for the organization. Crusading activities of Chicago’s mayor had stepped up the processes of law enforcement to such a point as to severely cripple the operations of Nitti and company. And, rendered desperate, that gang had agreed that Cermak must die. The failure of the first assassination attempt only meant that greater care would be taken next time.” Read More

Why The Untouchables Are Unbeatable – TV Guide

By | Vintage Archives | No Comments

Show’s producer reveals reasons for the appeal of Eliot Ness and company


The Untouchables
, tele­vised last year in two parts on Desilu Playhouse, turned out to be a sleeper – one of those rare shows to which that old publicity cliche “acclaimed by critics and public alike” applied accurately. It was so well-liked that ABC promptly ordered an hour-long series, a thought which 37-year-old executive producer Quinn Martin solemnly swears never entered his head at the time he was making the original.

Martin, a pleasant-looking man who talks quietly with a sort of half-smile, takes considerable pains to describe The Untouchables series for exactly what he thinks it is.

“Eliot Ness,” says Martin, “would be a bore if you just made him up. It would be sort of like a ballet form of good and evil, as depicted by the TV Western. The fact that Ness actu­ally existed is the real stuff of this series.

“I don’t like the word ‘message’ per se,” he continues thoughtfully. “I think a soap box is a bore. We are concerned first with entertainment. But if, through this entertainment, we are able to leave a feeling, some kind of stimulation of thinking, then I think we can be of value both to our own industry and to the country.

“To do a show on crime for crime’s sake is as big a bore as the soap box. It is an unwritten law in TV that the bad man must wind up with his just deserts. In The Untouchables, without actually making it our primary pur­pose, we are showing why the bad man winds up as he does. It’s a cliche, but the man who lives by vio­lence generally dies by violence, but not specifically because he lives by violence. He winds up defeated, in most instances, because there were ­and still are-men like Eliot Ness and what the newspapers called his ‘Un­touchables’ – men of unquestioned integrity, who happened to believe im­plicitly in law and order and who couldn’t be bought over to any other way of thinking.

“It’s not the proper thing to say publicly, I suppose, but the fact re­mains that crime today does seem to pay in some areas. Back in the Twen­ties crime was pretty much out in the open. You could see it and you could go after it. Today it is much better organized and much less recognizable. It has a variety of respectable fronts. As such, it is actually more dangerous today than it was 30 years ago. It’s easy enough for the private citizen to become enraged when a car full of goons swings down a street spouting machine-gun bullets. It’s not so easy to become enraged when people are quietly and effectively-being fleeced of millions of dollars without realizing it and, sometimes, actually enjoying it.”

Starting with the real-life character of the late Ness (leader of the seven ­man squad of incorruptible Treasury agents), who is played by Robert Stack, The Untouchables bases many of its stories on incidents from the lives of real-life gangsters. “Of course,” says Martin, “we have certain prob­lems, largely legal problems. We don’t want to hurt anyone –say, for instance, the still-living sister or other close relative of one of these men who really never knew just how bad he was. And naturally, we don’t want to leave ourselves open for libel.

In­dicative of the problems Martin faces is a $1,000,000 damage suit recently filed by the estate of Al Capone against Desilu, Inc., CBS and Westing­house Electric Corp., the sponsor, alleging Capone’s name, likeness and personality were used for profit by the defendants in their original production of “The Untouchables” without con­sent of the Capone family.

“There is also a certain amount of dramatic license. If we have a scene in which a Lepke is talking to a Schultz, for instance, we naturally have to make up the dialog. We try to stick to the facts as closely as possible, but we can’t let the facts steer us away from our primary pur­pose-which is dramatic entertainment or let them do harm to anyone, including us.

“After all,” Martin says reflectively, “the FBI gets its appropriations on the basis of the job it does, and it’s understandable that they’d object to credit being given to someone else. We now have a gentleman’s agreement on the subject and we have never since then written Ness into a story that involved the FBI.”

“Early in the season, too, ABC was asked by the United States Attorney’s office in New York not to broadcast the planned third episode, The Noise of Death, until after the trial of the gangland leaders who had been nabbed at Apalachin, N.Y. The episode featured J. Carrol Naish as a fading Mafia leader and the Government felt its showing at that time might conceivably influence the jury. ABC and Desilu agreed to the postponement, even though it was a difficult rush to get a substitute episode filmed.

The Noise of Death was finally aired in mid-January when the Appalachian trial was over. One sponsor, incidentally, thought the episode was so horrifying that it withdrew its participation.”

To date, The Untouchables has touched on the lives of such “name” gangsters as Dutch Schultz, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, Wally Lagenza (head of the Tri-State gang), Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik, Bugs Moran and Al Capone – who was the subject of the original two-part Desilu Playhouse.

“Most of these gangsters,” Martin muses, “came to pretty sorry ends. Although never proved, it’s generally accepted fact that Schultz was shot and killed by an organized mob. Coll was shot to death in a phone booth by his own gang. He was so crazy that they were afraid he’d turn on them. Lagenza finally went to the electric chair. Guzik died of a heart attack a few years ago. Moran recently died a natural death in prison. Capon, of course, died pretty much a raving maniac. He would up a physical and mental shell.”

Martin’s staff does a great amount of research, and he himself now knows “more about crime than I ever thought I’d know.” Many of the research reports that come to his desk trace a fascinating trail from the Twenties directly to the present time, complete with names, dates and places, which for obvious reasons, he’d just as soon not even mention, let alone put on film.

“After all,” he says, smiling about halfway, “we’re in the entertainment business.”

Originally published in February 27th, 1960 issue of TV Guide