THE NICK ACROPOLIS STORY
Airdate: June 1st, 1961
Written by Curtis Kenyon and John Mantley
Directed by Don Medford
Produced by Lloyd Richards
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Special Guest Star Lee Marvin.
Co-starring Bruce Gordon, Constance Ford,
Johnny Seven. Featuring Carl Milletaire, Leonard Stone, Michael Granger, Lindsay Workman, Arthur Kendall.
“In the late summer of 1931, while the Capone organization reaped a golden harvest through the sale of illegal beer and booze in a hundred Chicago speakeasies, an obscure bookmaker, whose headquarters was a small flower shop on the west side of the city, was quietly developing into a new underworld titan. In eighteen months, he had organized the bookmakers of Illinois and half a dozen surrounding states, into a mammoth combine, which brought him a gross business of over $2 million a month. It also brought his interstate organization into the jurisdiction of Eliot Ness and the Untouchables. By the end of August, in an attempt to discover the identity of this new underworld power, Eliot Ness had two of the largest bookmaking parlors under surveillance, and Ness succeeded in tapping the phone lines of a third.”
Annoyed with his brother-in-law for using syndicate money to cover his gambling losses, Nick Acropolis (Lee Marvin) confronts bookmaker Louie Manzak (Leonard Stone) in his office, where he is beaten and threatened with further abuse should he fail to return it.
Desperate for cash, Louie approaches Sully Hinds (Michael Granger) for a loan, but the bookie laughs in his face. Though easily intimidated, Louie produces a gun and threatens to kill him. Assuming Louie hasn’t the taste for violence, Hinds picks up the phone to call Acropolis. Through the phone tap, Rossi hears the gun go off and rushes to the scene. Louie escapes with a bundle of cash, but abandons his expensive cane enabling Ness to trace it back to Louie’s sister, the former Stella Manzak—Mrs. Nick Acropolis (Constance Ford). When confronted about it, she recalls the cane as a gift to her husband, which he subsequently lost, but the connection establishes a link. Sully Hinds’ murder also gets the attention of Frank Nitti, who offers the embrace the Capone syndicate in exchange for a large cut of the gambling business. Acropolis reluctantly agrees.
In response to his frantic call, Stella arrives at Louie’s apartment with additional cash for him to pay back her husband. When Louie confesses to the bookie’s murder, she orders him to pay what he owes and leave town. Hiding outside Louie’s window, Acropolis’ right hand man, Frankie Fershman (Johnny Seven), who overhears the entire scenario. Instead of reporting back to his boss, Fershman plots to use Louie to gain Nick’s confidence in a scheme to take over the business. Confronting Louie with the intention of revealing him as Hinds’ killer, Fershman cons him into planning
Meeting Acropolis in his car to deliver the money, Louie pulls out a gun, but Fershman, watching in the mirror, runs the car off the road and shoots Louie. Dumping his body in a park, they return to the flower shop, where Fershman is made full partner in the business. Soon Ness arrives, needles Acropolis over the cane and departs with his account books, which reveal little.
Learning that her husband was involved with her brother’s murder, Stella packs off enraged. After another unpleasant meeting with Nitti, Acropolis leaves to track down his wife. Seizing the opportunity, Fershman dispatches two hoods to deliver a “message” to Nitti, then phones Nitti to warn him that Acropolis plans an attempt on his life. Arriving at a barber shop to deliver the message, the men are blown to bits by machine guns hidden under the aprons of two of Nitti’s men. Meanwhile, the Untouchables have run across a safe deposit box belonging to Acropolis that contains a large cash horde, and Ness secures a warrant for his arrest.
Tracking Acropolis down at his home, Nitti prepares to do him in when Ness arrives to interrupt the proceedings. Acropolis slips out to even the score with Fershman, who he finds at the flower shop. Terrorizing Fershman for a time with clever gamesmanship, Acropolis is wounded, but his quarry is killed trying to escape when the Untouchables arrive.
“Nick Acropolis, big-time racketeer, had a unique distinction among men of his kind – he was deeply and truly loved, which was attested to by the fact that his marriage survived a conviction for income tax evasion, and the twelve years he spent in a federal penitentiary. He was released on March 4th, 1942, and he outlived both Frank Nitti and the Capone empire which had tried to destroy him.”
In the first of his three appearances in the series, Lee Marvin guest stars in the dual role of mobster and loving husband in the fascinating Nick Acropolis Story. Tightly co-written by John Mantley, the bookie parlors are as authentic and busy as any featured 14 years later in the Academy Award-winning feature film, The Sting (1974). The characters are engaging and finely developed, especially the whimpering, frightened mouse of a brother-in-law, Louie Manzak, as played by Leonard Stone. Lee Marvin is as ruthless, physical and dour-faced as ever. His threat to cut Fershman’s heart out while he threateningly snaps together pruning sheers is darkly comedic.
The program features one of the best gangland rubouts of the series in the barbershop massacre. Arriving to deliver nothing more than an envelope, one of Acropolis’ men reaches inside his coat, as one might reach for a holstered weapon, whereupon two machine guns, hidden under the white wraps of two gents seated for a shave, burst into flame through the fabric. A double line of “bullets” rip across the wall-length mirror showering the set, and the two tumbling thugs, in a cloud of tiny glass fragments. Cleverly photographed and ruthlessly violent, but extraordinarily well-staged and classically theatrical in its composition.