The UntouchablesOctober. 15,1959
The Untouchables is an American crime drama that ran from 1959 to 1963 on ABC. Based on the memoir of the same name by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, it fictionalized Ness' experiences as a Prohibition agent, fighting crime in Chicago in the 1930s with the help of a special team of agents handpicked for their courage and incorruptibility, nicknamed the Untouchables. The book was later made into a film in 1987 by Brian De Palma, with a script by David Mamet, and a second less successful TV series in 1993. A powerful, hard-hitting crime drama, The Untouchables won series star Robert Stack an Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1960 .
Seasons & Episode
December 24, 1930. That evening, small-time mug Hap Levinson is playing Santa Claus at the Sackman Orphan Home. Santa brings toys and ice cream to all the waifs. He walks outside, waves good-bye, and is promptly machine-gunned to death by hoods in a speeding car. Quite a shock for all the kiddies. Killing Santa is not a federal crime, but Eliot Ness investigates. Hap was a friend of Ness' for 10 years; they had sort of a truce. If Ness was on official business, they were on opposite sides of the law; unofficially, they were pals.
Joe Lassiter is the greatest inside man in the bootlegging racket. He and his sidekick, Nick Karabinos, have just arrived in Chicago by train; Lassiter traveled 1,000 miles because of a 250 grand deal: build a Ness-proof brewery. At the closed Bell Club (which Ness took apart last week), Lassiter meets with bootleg czar Louis Tully and his associates.
By mid-June 1932, Eliot Ness and his Untouchables had uncovered and shut down every champagne-producing operation in the city. 4 months later, however, champagne appears again in the fashionable Westside nightclubs. Ness is about to raid the swankiest speak, the Silver Canary. At the club, Marty Baltin is paying Charley Mailer for the last champagne shipment: $86,000 for 350 cases (that comes out to about $245 per case of 12, about $20 a bottle).
Chicago, the Summer of 1932. There are 12-million unemployed in the U.S.; with less money to spend, the price of booze goes down. The whiskey Syndicate is meeting; the chairman is the powerful gangster Vincent Tunis who runs the town. His 3 lieutenants suggest they hit the speaks. To make a point, Tunis demands a toothpick from his underling Charlie Grach; Tunis roughs him up, bloodies his nose, and points a gun at Charlie*-- demanding a toothpick.
Chicago, December 18, 1930. On the southside of town, Herbie Catcher is playing 8-ball for 50 cents a game, in a dilapidated pool joint. Herbie, not being much of a pool player, gets cleaned out by Cooker. Herbie's best friend is Josh, a nice black man who happens to be blind, who is the employee working in the pool hall. Josh tells him, ""You'd be surprised at the things I can see, I'm an owl in the dark."" (""Owl"" is his nickname.) Since Herbie can't make money shooting pool, and only has a job working as a busboy, he is in the habit of getting a few bucks by giving Eliot Ness tips.
December 12, 1929. That night, gangster Arnie Kurtz is in a car, watching a hit he ordered. Another car, speeding along and with a chopper blasting, guns down a pedestrian; but the victim pulls a gun and fires back, his bullet goes through the windshield. The car crashes; the driver is dead, but the hitman escapes. Arnie Kurtz goes to establish his alibi; at 10:35, his wife Stella drops in on her brother Benno Fisk, who owns a pawn shop. Stella has a job for him: deliver a payment of 100 Gs to a gangster in Washington, DC, for her hubby Arnie. Benno will be gone for 3-4 days, so Stella takes his 2 pet birds with her; Stella and Arnie are permanent guests at the swanky Lakeview Hotel.
Chicago. Right after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. (February 14, 1929.) Ness and his men are scouring Chicago, looking for Bugs Moran. Ness says there used to be 2 gangs in town, now there's just one. Ness figures if they get to Moran first, maybe he'll talk-- he might just be mad enough to give them the information they need.
1929.* Notorious gangster boss Charlie Radick is dying of leukemia; there'll be no mourning for him, the other overlords will be vying for his throne. All Radick wants to do is see his long-lost daughter before he dies. Ness visits Radick; Ness is afraid a gang war might break out, as rival gangs scramble to take over. Ness says, ""Turn over your books to me; names of the people in your organization, distribution points, contacts in City Hall."" Radick says while he was in prison, he left his daughter with a couple; 3 years ago she ran away.
July 4, 1930. 40,000 horse racing fans fill Arlington Park. Ness and his men have Arnold ""Spats"" Vincent under surveillance; they will close in on him as soon as he gets a piece of paper: a list with the names of officials in high places who are ready to do business with the crime cartel. 2 hoods (one tall, one short), apparently associates of Spats, approach him. The tall hood sits next to him and whispers something to him; then he stabs Spats.
Chicago, 1929. Mike Brannon's been a cop for 15 years, but now he's being suspended for hospitalizing ""one of Tony Lamberto's dope-pushing punks."" Mike thinks Captain Bellows is corrupt for not going to bat for him. There is a tense moment when the Captain asks for Mike's gun-- Mike points it at him. But then, Mike turns the gun over and leaves.
Chicago, October 1932. Within minutes of the time the Globe's top reporter Carlton Edmunds was shot, Eliot Ness and his men are on the scene. Ostensibly it appears a stray bullet in a gunfight hit Edmunds; he was just a passerby in the wrong place at the wrong time.
June 1930. Speak owner Louie Akers-- about to go dry and out of business because Guzik couldn't supply him with hooch for that last 3 weeks-- buys his booze from another supplier. Akers pays Johnny $1,142 for barrels of beer and crates of whiskey, that some deliverymen just dropped off. Just then, a couple of Guzik's boys (Sully and Mac) drive up; they start blasting at the delivery truck (which still has plenty more booze in back), just as it's pulling away.
June 1929.* A body is dumped into Lake Michigan; when it's fished out 3-4 weeks later, on July 10, the Bureau of Missing Persons has a John Doe on its hands. And so, Lt. Agatha Stewart and her sidekick Frank Benson are on the case. At the City Morgue, all the coroner can tell about the decomposed body is the approximate age, 50, and that the deceased might have had a bad heart.
1929. Eliot Ness gets another anonymous phone tip: a big meet at a warehouse on Grover Street, Nitti and all the boys will be there. At the warehouse, about 20 hoods are putting their record books into a huge trunk. Since Al Capone got nailed because of bookkeeping, from now on nobody is to keep any written records; there will only be one central file, and the bookkeeper will be Leo Stazak.
October 16, 1930. Jackson Parker is a small-time bootlegger, he has his henchman Benny deliver bottles of booze to places on a college campus: student unions, fraternity houses. Parker is arrogant, he tells Benny he could ""throw him out with the rest of the garbage."" Parker has big plans: he thinks he's meeting with Frank Nitti. At the Montmartre club, Nitti is telling his assembled lieutenants, ""And after we get that pipeline set up, the feds will have to dig up every street in Chicago to find it."" A round of laughter.
Late Summer 1930. It started in Wichita, Kansas: a staggering gait called the Jake Dance. (we see a man staggering along using a cane in each hand.) There are many different kinds of alcohol, but the only kind that is safe to drink is ethyl alcohol; many people had been drinking Ginger Jake, which is contaminated with methyl alcohol, also called ""wood alcky."" And people who drank a lot of it often suffered permanent loss of muscle coordination, and developed a staggering gait called the Jake Dance. Many died.
Jazz was born in the Roaring Twenties. It's now 1930, and on Chicago's Gold Coast there's a nightspot called ""Goose Gander's Golden Egg"" jazz club. Blues player Eddie Moon is blowing his hot cornet with the jazz band. But then mobster Lucky talks to Ray ""Goose"" Gander; Lucky wants him to carry Lou Cagan's hooch in his joint. Ray refuses, the strongest drink he serves in his place is coffee. Then Lucky's hitman plays some music of his own-- with his tommy gun; he shoots up the joint.
1933. Prohibition ends. But that doesn't mean the war on crime is over for Eliot Ness and his Untouchables. The syndicate has already moved on to a more profitable-- and more deadly-- source of income: narcotics. By September, Ness and his men had found and destroyed every major source of narcotics. By early October, the price of a bindle of heroin jumps from $20 to $50. Nitti and his boys want to take advantage of this seller's market.
Chicago, Spring 1931. That night, Ness and his men are in their car; it's an 80 mph chase to catch a guy running whiskey for Solly Girsch. The 19-year-old driver has a high-speed accident; his car overturns and explodes in flames. Solly Girsch is the king of bootleg whiskey; he has 500 ""mom & pop"" stores pushing his hooch-- all together, they form the biggest single outlet of whiskey in Chicago.
Chicago, 1931. On the Southside, on a dead end street, there is a junkyard-- but it's really a front for a narcotics empire, run by gangster Victor Salazar. Ness and his men are on the case; they keep intercepting his trucks, carrying shipments of narcotics. Barney Howe tells his boss Salazar that his problem is the operation's too spread out; but one big shipment will give him the Northside, too-- Barney says he will ""put Chicago in his pocket."" Late at night, they get a call from a hood named Kierson who has info in his briefcase: the time and route of a $2-million commercial shipment of morphine crystals to a medical research center; he's to meet them at the corner of Mohawk and 23rd in 10 minutes.
January 1932. Smalltime bootlegger Al Remp is serving 3-5 years in prison; he's done 3 years and is up for parole next week, but it seems he won't get it. The guards put him in solitary, and Remp has a visitor: Eliot Ness. Remp tells him, ""I got nothing to say to you."" But Ness tells him that if he agrees to help him nail bigtime bootlegger ""Fat"" Augie Strom, his former boss, he'll get that parole; or else 2 more years is a long time.
Racketeer Gus Ducek is fingered to be knocked off. But when the car with the hitmen drives towards him, Ducek's boys fire back with machine guns, turning the tables; one hitman dies, Boley Davis escapes. Watching the botched rubout attempt are Lt. Philip Hedden and Sgt. Davey McCain. Eliot Ness and his men are out to pin the murder attempt on Hedden, since the hitmen were driving one of his cars.
New Jersey waterfront, 1933. Johnny Mizo had been marked for death by the American crime cartel; he had fled to Brazil. Now, he has returned to America to get the $200,000 he had hastily stashed in a hideout before fleeing. The Captain tells Mizo he has exactly 11 days, and then the ship sails back to Rio de Janeiro, with or without him.
February 1, 1933. Late that night, John ""The Cropper"" Cropsie, the Enforcer for Jules Flack (boss of the Westside combine), stood in the back alley behind the Lido Burlesque house, by the stagedoor entrance-- and pumped some slugs into David Alpine, the key booze supplier for the combine (because he was also selling to the competition). On the night of February 2, Eliot Ness is having Cropsie reenact the crime in front of an eyewitness to the shooting.
April 28, 1932. Chicago. 3,500 fans are at the arena, watching the end of a 7-day bicycle race. But Ed ""Duke"" Monte is there to make a drop-off. Ness and Lee Hobson catch him, with a quarter of a million dollars in counterfeit bills in his leather bag. On May 25, Monte is sentenced to 10-15 years in the State Pen. That same day, at Monte's old headquarters (the Odeon Theatre which specializes in Burlesque), his former lieutenant, Lou Sultan, is having the guy he accuses of being the stoolie, Parrot Krebs, worked over by his thugs.
June 25, 1933. Ness and Lee Hobson are called to the Castle, a baronial estate just outside of Chicago, which is both the headquarters and home of the underworld's notorious ""King"" Frank Argos; he is one of Ness' old foes. Argos' attorney Eli Halstead explains that wealthy Frank Argos is about to die; he wants to leave his $5-million in bonds to his long-lost son.
During the blistering summer of 1931, Ness and his men are working tirelessly against both the illicit whiskey and the narcotics that are flooding the city. One morning, a despondent Capt. Jim Johnson visits Ness in his office; Capt. Johnson had been on a raid that netted 50 dope addicts-- one of them was his son Buz. Ness talks to Buz behind bars.
April 3, 1931. Vic's Diner, near the Chicago railroad yards; on the surface, no different than a hundred other diners. The blue plate special is 35 cents; a nickel would buy either a hamburger, or a cup of Joe and a sinker. The backroom is the headquarters of Victor Kurtz, bootleg czar of the Chicago southside. Right now he, along with his enforcer Holly Kester, The Torpedo, are having a meet with the boss of the northside, Monk Lyselle and his lieutenant Carl Danzig.
Chicago, January 1933. Danceland has a big sign, ""30 girls, open until 2 a.m."" Inside, customers mingle with the dime-a-dance girls. Hoofer Ellie Haskell says goodnight to the owner, Marty Pulaski; outside, she is immediately shot by a sniper on the roof of a building across the street-- the sniper is Herbie Pulaski, Marty's mentally disturbed brother. Lt. Roy Gunther is on the case, he questions Marty, who has 20% of the dancing racket. However, Marty is sure his main competitor, Vince Bogan who owns 80% of the dance racket, is responsible for the killing.
May 14, 1931. Eliot Ness and his men notice that the top bosses are leaving Chicago: Frank Nitti has gone to Atlantic City; Bugs Moran and Jack Diamond have left, too. As Ness puts it, ""The rats are leaving the ship."" Obviously, they want to be out of town when someone important is hit. What Eliot doesn't know is that he is the target.