Airdates: November 3rd, 1960 and January 25th, 1962
Story by Joseph Petracca
Teleplay by Joseph Petracca and Harry Essex
Directed by Walter E. Grauman
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Costarring Micheal Ansara, Philip Pine, Joe DeSantis. Special Guest Star Luther Adler. Featuring Mario Roccuzzo, Malcolm Atterbury, A.G. Vitanza, Renata Vanni, Vincent Barbi, George Greco, Ronnie Haran.
“By the middle of 1933, Eliot Ness and his squad of Untouchables had almost checked the manufacture and sale of Illicit whiskey in Chicago. Yet, despite their success, one of the biggest and shrewdest operators continued to elude them. Through elaborate schemes and machinations, he continued to procure alcohol and process it. His name was Gus Marco, alias Guiseppe Marconi. On the surface, running a respectable taxi garage, but below the surface, under the cement floor of the garage, Gus Marco operated the largest illegal bottling and cutting plant in the country. A former gambler, he had been ruled off several race tracks for attempting a fix, Gus Marco had carried his habits into his current business. He believed in the payoff, the schmear, Gus was always one to put out a buck to make two.”
When Eliot Ness raids one of Marco’s liquor transfer operations, nearly all of Marco’s men are wiped out in the ensuing battle, including an innocent truck driver whose son Nicky Bousso (Mario Roccuzzo) vows revenge against Ness. After an attempt on his life fails, Ness permits the boy to be released from police custody, thinking that he may lead them to whoever employed his father.
Suffering a major loss after Ness’ raid, Marco (Luther Adler) is confronted by charismatic and impatient Syndicate emissary Louis Latito (Joe De Santis) and pressured to distribute another shipment of whiskey as soon as possible. Marco hires members of Detroit’s notorious Purple Gang, lead by Charlie Steuben (Michael Ansara) to insure his next shipment.
As Nicky is hired on to help at Marco’s garage, a coroner’s report and ballistics test confirm that Nicky’s father wasn’t killed by the Untouchables. Ness moves to apprehend Marco’s right-hand man Mike Marconi (Phillip Pine), who is revealed to have killed Nicky’s father. Refusing to meet with Ness, Nicky instead vandalizes and wrecks Ness’ car and errantly leads Ness to Marconi’s garage.
With pressure mounting from Latito and the Purple Gang realizing they can bulldoze Marco out of his own operation, Nicky is forced by Marco to lure Ness into a trap, but not before realizing that Marco has been using the garage as a front and that his father was, indeed, working for him and Marconi.
Charlie reveals he’s in league with Latito and the Syndicate, easily dispatches Marco, and uses Nicky as a human shield as Ness and his men arrive. Nicky eludes Charlie in time to expose the trap and warn Ness and the Detroit mobsters are gunned down.
In tears, Nicky admits he’s accepted the truth about who killed his father and walks off in protective custody with the Untouchables.
“Nicky’s tribute to his father was to reveal what Ness wanted to know about the secret workings of the Marco setup. Later that night, Eliot Ness and his men confiscated the thousands of gallons of alcohol that were delivered to Gus Marco’s garage and destroyed the underground distillery. For the record, Nicholas Bousso graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1938.”
Nicky is an entertaining and action-packed hour that gives us liquor raids, double-crossing gangsters, three attempts on Ness’ life, and colorful supporting characters left and right. In other words, it is classic Untouchables.
Thanks to a successful audition with director John Frankenheimer in 1960 for The Young Savages, Mario Roccuzzo netted an agent and within days was cast in the lead role of Nicky. In a 2019 interview, Roccuzzo recounts: “The first part they sent me out on was the number one show, The Untouchables…there was not a car on the street, everybody would be home watching The Frank Nitti Story.”
As the episode’s reluctant protagonist (and the only teenaged character ever featured in the series), Nicholas Bousso first appears trying to avenge his father’s death at gunpoint, and then having failed at that, pulls a knife on Ness, next.
Their confrontation is sharply written, with Nicky taunting Ness to arrest him. “What are those guns for, laughs?” asks Nicky, hoping to lure the federal agent in closer to the attack.
The attempt clearly leaves Ness irritated and the dynamic between a tough street kid and the icy federal agent provides an interesting contrast in characters and performances. As Ness was quickly becoming a hero to young adult viewers everywhere, it’s unfortunate that this kind of dynamic would not be repeated or explored further.
Nicky is also one of the minor installments concerning the fringe elements of the larger Chicago syndicate and also manages the first formal introduction of The Purple Gang, who only a month later would bring their own brand of Detroit-based unpleasantness to television screens in one of the season’s best hours.
The script describes the contingent’s leader Charlie Steuben as “smooth, well-groomed. He affects a relaxed manner, controlling a murderous intent.” These “specialists,” as Winchell calls them, are cut straight from a 1940s film noir and are just the Purple Gang’s first wave into Untouchables lore.
Nicky marks the first appearance of Louis Latito as an elegant, hearing-impaired, and interestingly unpleasant syndicate go-between with a disdain for just about everything including loud noises, which he turns off with a flip of his vintage bearing aid switch. When Gus Marco gets too loud, Louie kills his hearing aid leaving an animated Marco raving in virtual silence. This amusing moment filmed nearly to the letter as written. Here’s an excerpt from the script:
As inspired a character as Latito is, he will appear only once more in The Nick Moses Story later in the season.
In a review of Joseph Petracca’s excellent screenplay, very little is altered from script to screen – though Gus Marco’s name is notably changed from Gus Kroner in the final product. Proud of his Italian heritage, it’s no surprise that Petracca populates the story with Marconis, Marcos, Boussous, and Latito’s, not to mention Nicky’s protective and desperate Italian mother.
A novelist and short-story writer, it’s also no surprise that Nicky is as thematically rich as it is, tightly winding together four different stories with unique and interesting elements, from the horse carriage ride between Latito and Marco, the ballistics test of Ness’ gun, Nicky wrecking Ness’ car, the Purple Gang muscling in, and Nicky’s disgust at Marco’s insinuation that his father would have carried a gun. Ironically, Petracca was a pacifist and deplored violence as much as he did notes from the producer to punch things up with a little gunplay.
Click here to download the August 26th, 1960 teleplay. Special thanks to the Petracca Family for sharing this from their archives. Interviews with The Petracca Family and their reflections on The Untouchables will appear in a future episode of The Untouchables Retrospective podcast.
NESS: You backed a couple losers, didn’t you?
MARCO: What do you mean?
NESS: Just what I said, Mr. Marco. Mario Buso worked for you and he got it. Mike Marconi worked for you and he got it. I wonder why.
HOBSON: Chicago’s a big city, especially when you’re chasing a horse and buggy around the park.
NESS: Gus Marco?
HOBSON: Yeah. With Louis Latito.
NESS: Latito? That sounds like a marriage that won’t last.
• The script places greater emphasis on Mario Bousso’s attempt to stop Mike Marconi from firing on Ness and his men during the opening raid, but it is clear in the wide shot of the raid that they are struggling in the cab of the truck. Marconi’s execution of the guard helps place some precedent for Marconi attempting to remove witnesses that could be used against the operation.
• As the Untouchables submit their weapons to the ballistics test, the show’s signature sound design for gunfire is noticeably missing, replaced instead by a blander stock sound effect, perhaps intended to reflect that they are firing their guns in their office. The signature Untouchables sound effects are also absent in the climatic shoot out as well.
• Character actor Luther Adler is geat a hapless, almost sympathetic gangster and an otherwise bit player in the larger Chicago underworld. The scenes of him being hounded by Ness are great. Adler will be back in future episodes Murder Under Glass and Takeover.