THE ST. LOUIS STORY
Airdates: January 28th and June 30th, 1960
Teleplay by Joseph Petracca
Directed by Howard W. Koch
Produced by Josef Shaftel
Director of Photography Robert B. Hauser, A.S.C.
Special Guest Star David Brian
Co-starring Leo Gordon.
Introducing Anthony George as Cam Allison. Featuring Richard Bakalyn, Rita Duncan, Frank Wilcox, George Neise, Bernard Fein, Danny Meehan, Percy Helton, Lillian Bronson
“On a peaceful evening in the Spring of 1931. Gang warfare had broken out with sudden violence on the streets of St. Louis. Tim Harrington, long-entrenched as the undisputed boss of the city, was fighting the challenge to his leadership. And the challenger was an upstart hoodlum: Joe Courtney. The most outraged citizen in St. Louis was Dink Conway, the owner of the swanky Jockey Club, a fashionable club house attached to the old Maxwell Race Tracie, converted into the finest restaurant and nightclub in the State of Missouri.”
Escalating gang warfare disturbs Oink Conway (David Brian), enough to invite the troublesome parties to a truce meeting. Part of the problem is solved when gang leader Tim Harrington (Bernard Fein), is the first to dismiss the idea of one large and peaceful organization and is rubbed out. But the temptation to wander is too great for Joe Courtney (Richard Bakalyn), who plots an armored truck heist. That brings Eliot Ness in to investigate.
“Dink Conway’s dream of organizing SL Louis ended in the parking lot of an old race track. He was just another also-ran. “
David Brian (1911-1993), was a tall, lanky New Yorker who once worked as a lowly doorman. He made his film debut in 1949 with Joan Crawford in Flamingo Road, in which he played apolitical boss of the type be would reprise for this series later in Testimony of Evil. Brian appeared in more than a dozen other films including The Damned Don’t Cry (1950), in which he played a ganglord, but he is best remembered for his brief syndicated television series, Mr. District Attorney in 1954 and 1955.
If the trailer for The St. Louis Story wasn’t enough to give the viewer pause the same drive-by shooting of moll Rita Rocco was repeated in the opening teaser, and then again within the body of the program. While this scene is just a little corny, it remains a lot very vicious. Hapless Rita is deposed in a rain of machine-gun fire from a moving auto in an alley. The lifeless Rita flops over a street barricade like a rag doll. Nasty. And remember, 1960 is only days old. Nobody had been killing off women with machine guns on television during the conservative Eisenhower ’50s.
Throughout its run, The Untouchables had plenty of gunfights, most of them occurring somewhere near the conclusion in a sort of grand finale. Of the 118 series episodes, only three had no fireworks at all. The St. Louis Story may win the title for the most cleverly (and efficiently staged) choreographed shootout of them all.
At the end, Ness and his men get the drop on a Conway’s men near the old race track and orders them to “hold it!” They all reach for their weapons at once, the powder flies and the hapless group goes down in a ballet of roaring smoke and dust. Filmed at night with arc lamps lighting the scene, the brief pistol duel, wherein over 20 shots are fired in four seconds, is visually striking in near silhouette.
Of interest is a change in personnel for The Untouchables. Anthony George picks up as Cam Allison, a young, boyishly handsome and altogether much too eager federal agent from SI. Louis. He will remain, slightly uncertain, in this role for 12 more installments until throwing himself on the proverbial grenade for Eliot Ness in The Frank Nitti Story at the close of the first season. (As originally aired, George got a spot in the opening billboard. For the network rerun, he got cut out.)
This is the last episode for Martin Flaherty who found himself transferred to the Cleveland Bureau. (But as it turns out, he didn’t move to Cleveland, he went further east to New Rochelle, changed his name, became a dentist and bought a house right next door to Rob and Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show.)
• The character of Cam Allison is an interesting attempt to deepen Ness’ relationship with one of his men. Admittedly “eager and inexperienced,” the 39-year-old actor is meant to portray a Federal agent on his first case and perpetually wears his hat tilted back at an attempt at appearing youthful. While the inexperienced nature of his characterization grates some and he often becomes an exposition machine, Anthony George does a respectable job and manages to make Ness smile on more than one occasion.
• The St. Louis Story features several particularly cold-blooded murders, including Rita’s death in the alleyway, Joe Courtney’s execution of the postal truck driver and the assassination of Tim Harrington at the race track. Notably, screenwriter Joseph Petracca was often resistant to include more violence than necessary in his scripts.
• Percy Helton, who cameos as Mr. Meyer, will return in Part 2 in The Unhired Assassin as a drunk who tries to alert the police to a crime. Likewise, actor George Neise will appear in the Part 1 of The Unhired Assassin, has a client who winds up dead in the Missouri River. In The Unhired Assassin, Neise’s character winds up in a river of his own.
• Guest cinematographer Robert Hauser employs a few great film-noir close-ups of faces and dutch angles in his second episode for the series.