THE GINNIE LITTLESMITH STORY

Airdate: May 17th, 1962
Written by Leonard Kantor
Produced and Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Brook Byron, Don Gordon
Special Guest Star Phyllis Love
Featuring John McCliam, Harry Swoger, Marlene Callahan, Leonard Strong, Toni Tucci, Barnaby Hale, Jeno Mate, Barbara Pepper, Linda Evans.

“May 17, 1932. Free soup kitchens were a common sight on the streets of the depression-ridden country. But this one, located in Chicago’s skid row area, was not the usual kind. This soup kitchen was the false front of a luxurious illicit establishment run by twice-convicted white slaver Chiz Goshen. Goshen’s partners, a powerful nationwide vice ring known as ‘the Group,’ were represented at Goshen’s place by Bick Cassandras. Bick’s record of arrests began with penny ante misdemeanors and ended with big-time crime.”

Moments before Ness and the Untouchables arrive to raid the place, Chiz Goshen (John McCliam), is gunned down for refusing to tum over vital business ledgers to syndicate liaison man Bick Cassandras (Don Gordon). Before he dies, Goshen tells his niece, Ginnie Littlesmith (Phyllis Love), that the ledgers will be worth at least $100,000 to the Group. Following his instructions, she flees with the ledgers.

Uneasy with the prospect of having to deal with gangsters, but seeing the money as a way out of her meager existence, she phones the Group to strike a deal. Meanwhile, Ness interrogates those he arrested in the raid and determines that Goshen may have entrusted the ledgers to his niece and sends Hobson out to locate her. From the others picked up in the raid, he is able to piece together the identities of the Group’s members.

La Rose sends Bick over to ransack Ginnie’s apartment, but finds nothing. Bick tries charm and suggests when she gets her money, they go off together. Not at all used to flirtation, she dismisses him and holds to her deal.

When Ness finally locates her apartment, he finds she has left to attend her sister’s wedding. It is for that occasion that she borrowed a slightly risque dress loaned to her by her friend Fay (Toni Tucci), a personable hooker from Goshen’s brothel. Before the Goshen raid, Fay had promised Ginnie the dress – with sequins that shown like devil’s eyes – would change her luck.

When Ness finally catches up with Ginnie at her home, she gets scared and runs back to Chicago. Upon her return, she finds Bick waiting for her with a more persuasive charm. Soon Ness arrives, but Ginnie is now ready to swear under oath that she doesn’t have Goshen’s books. The lie hurts, but Bick’s charm has worked its magic, and she refuses to tell Ness the truth. He backs off, but keeps her under surveillance.

Scared of the Group and worried that Bick may double-cross her, she frets and worries. She tries to find relief in the confessional, but runs away again. Mustering her courage, she shows up before the Group and announces that she has had the books copied to prevent them from taking retribution – and that Bic is now her partner. As the Group tries to cope with the surprise, they are alerted to Ness’s imminent arrival. In the confusion, Ginnie escapes with her cash and returns to her hotel room where Bick is waiting. He informs her that his job is to kill her, then produces tickets for two to Mexico. The magic has worked both ways and Bick has fallen hard for Ginnie. Their rapture is brief. La Rose and Enters arrive to gun Bick down, but before they can harm Ginnie, the Untouchables burst in to disarm them.

“The remainder of the half-burned books were enough to ensure stiff prison terms for the leaders of the Group, marking the end of their syndicate. As for Ginnie Littlesmith, she received a suspended sentence for withholding evidence and she led a suspended life thereafter as a model spinster. Except that on certain lonely nights, she’d pull out her dress with sequins on it that shone like devil’s eyes, and she would remember.”

REVIEW

It might be easy to pass over and dismiss The Ginnie Littlesmith Story in search of other, more action-filled adventures in this series, but it would be a mistake. One of Leonard Kantor’s subtle masterpieces, thoughtfully developed by Stuart Rosenberg, The Ginnie Littlesmith Story is one of reckless temptation.

Ginnie is trying desperately to be the straight-arrow Catholic girl, but her world is one of hookers and gangsters. She maintains a sense of righteousness by doing her good work at the soup kitchen, even though it’s really a front.

With a little work, Ginnie could be pretty, but at 32 and still unmarried, she has few clues how to catch a man and feels herself running out of time. Her uncle, bulldog-faced Chiz Goshen, the proprietor of the “illicit establishment” —a whorehouse by any other name in 1961—calls her a born looser. As he fades away, a bullet in his ample stomach, he hands her the ticket to the good life. In the end, of course, Ginnie loses everything, but Ness bags the Group.

Phyllis Love’s performance as the shy, frightened, awkward, and naive Ginnie Littlesmith, is nothing short of spectacular. Her virtue obviously intact, Ginnie dreams of a much better life than fingers smelling of bean soup.

But it puts her at odds with everything in which she believes. She falls for the cheap s01 « hood with poetic lines and, in the end, he falls for her, seeing her as his salvation.

Writer Leonard Kantor has proven to be at his best with stories featuring strong female leads. Ginnie Littlesmith rivals his charmingly ruthless Rusty Heller in overall character development. Regrettably, it is Kantor’s final effort for the series and his absence will prove harmful. On the strength of Kantor’s outline for Virginia Littlesmith, Stuart Rosenberg molded her carefully into an engaging and, most importantly, a very believable, childlike person.

Everyone has known a Ginnie Littlesmith at one time or another. Charles Straumer makes certain that Ginnie’s faith is as obvious as her virginity. The crucifix on the wall by the door is prominently displayed. It moves miraculously around the wall to remain in her shots.

Ginnie is sufficiently captivating that she nearly obscures Brook Byron’s madamesque, deliciously wicked Marie La Rose. Aging elegantly despite years of being ridden hard and put away wet, La Rose struts about in feathery satin gowns, brandishing cigarettes in slender holders, assuming she has complete control over Bick and her little shop of horrors.

The hour is held together by a haunting signature theme, repeated frequently, that accurately captures the good-girl-wanna-go-bad thesis. Used frequently to some extent in Ring of Terror, the score is rich in mournful saxophones and defines the mood with precision. Several scenes featuring discussions of the 1933 presidential campaign firmly tie Ginnie to the real world. Linda Evans makes a minor uncredited debut in this installment as one of Ginnie’s sisters.

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Kelly Lynch

Kelly Lynch

Kelly Lynch is a filmmaker and marketing professional whose award-winning work and love for cinema were largely influenced by his early exposure to The Untouchables, thanks to his father’s own fascination with the series. In addition to recompiling his father's book and research on the program, Lynch has also spent years researching, watching, collecting and studying the artistic and cultural impact of the program.