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The Untouchables Cast

The Untouchables is the name of a television series that ran from 1959 to 1963 on the American Broadcasting Company. Based on the memoir of the same name by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, it fictionalized the experiences of Eliot Ness, a real-life Prohibition Agent, as he fought crime in Chicago in the 1930s with the help of a special team of agents handpicked for their courage & incorruptibility, nicknamed "The Untouchables". It was remade into a 1987 film reboot directed by Brian De Palma also called The Untouchables, with a script written by David Mamet, which co-starred Kevin Costner as Ness, Robert De Niro as Capone, with Sean Connery as Jimmy Malone.

A powerful, dynamic, hard-hitting action drama, and a landmark crime series,[1] The Untouchables won series star Robert Stack an Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1960.[2]

Series overviewEdit

The series originally focused on the efforts of a real-life squad of Prohibition agents employed by the United States Department of the Treasury and led by Eliot Ness (Stack), that helped bring down the bootleg empire of "Scarface" Al Capone, as described in Ness's bestselling 1957 memoir. This squad was nicknamed "The Untouchables", because of their courage and honesty; they could not be bribed or intimidated by the Mob.[3][4][5] Eliot Ness himself had died suddenly in May 1957, shortly before his memoir and the subsequent TV adaptation were to bring him fame beyond any he experienced in his lifetime.

The pilot for the series was a two-part episode entitled "The Untouchables" originally aired on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse on April 20 and 27, 1959. Later retitled "The Scarface Mob", these episodes, which featured Neville Brand as Al Capone, were the only episodes in the series to be more-or-less directly based on Ness's memoir, and ended with the conviction and imprisonment of Capone. CBS, which had broadcast most of Desilu's television output since 1951 beginning with I Love Lucy, was offered the new series following the success of the pilot film. Chairman William S. Paley rejected it on the advice of network vice president Hubbell Robinson. ABC agreed to air the series, and The Untouchables premiered on October 15, 1959.[6] In the pilot movie, the mobsters generally spoke with unrealistic pseudo-Italian accents, but this idiosyncratic pronunciation was dropped when the series debuted.

The weekly series first followed the premise of a power struggle to establish a new boss in Capone's absence (for the purpose of the TV series, the new boss was Frank Nitti, although this was contrary to fact). As the series continued, there developed a highly fictionalized portrayal of Ness and his crew as all-purpose crime fighters who went up against an array of gangsters and villains of the 1930s, including Ma Barker, Dutch Schultz, Bugs Moran, Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, Legs Diamond, Lucky Luciano, and in one episode, Nazi agents.

The terse narration by gossip columnist Walter Winchell, in his distinctive New York accent, was a stylistic hallmark of the series, along with its melancholy theme music by Nelson Riddle and its shadowy black-and-white photography, influenced by film noir.

ControversyEdit

The show drew harsh criticism from some Italian-Americans, including Frank Sinatra,[7] who felt it promoted negative stereotypes of them as mobsters and gangsters. The Capone family unsuccessfully sued CBS, Desilu Productions, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation for their depiction of the Capone family. In the first episode of the first season, the character of "Agent (Rico) Rossi", a person of Italian extraction who had witnessed a gangland murder, was added to Ness's team.

On March 9, 1961, Anthony Anastasio, chief of the Brooklyn waterfront and its International Longshoremen's Association, marched in line with a picket group who identified themselves as "The Federation of Italian-American Democratic Organizations". In protest formation outside the ABC New York headquarters, they had come together to urge the public boycott of Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company (L&M) products, including Chesterfield King cigarettes, the lead sponsor of The Untouchables. They expressed displeasure with the program, which to them vilified Italian-Americans, stereotyping them as the singular criminal element. The boycott and the attendant firestorm of publicity had the effect Anastasio and his confederates wanted. Four days after the picket of ABC, L&M, denying it had bowed to intimidation, announced it would drop its sponsorship of The Untouchables, maintaining the decision was based on network-scheduling conflicts. The following week, the head of Desilu, Desi Arnaz (who had attended high school with Capone's son Albert), in concert with ABC and the "Italian-American League to Combat Defamation", issued a formal three-point manifesto:

  • There will be no more fictional hoodlums with Italian names in future productions.
  • There will be more stress on the law-enforcement role of "Rico Rossi", Ness's right-hand man on the show.
  • There will be an emphasis on the "formidable influence" of Italian-American officials in reducing crime and an emphasis on the "great contributions" made to American culture by Americans of Italian descent.[8]

The series also incurred the displeasure of the powerful director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, when the fictionalized scripts depicted Ness and his Treasury agents involved in operations that were actually the province of the FBI. The second episode of the series, for example, depicted Ness and his crew involved in the capture of the Ma Barker gang, an incident in which the real-life Ness played no part. The producers agreed to insert a spoken disclaimer on future broadcasts of the episode stating that the FBI had primary responsibility for the Barker case.

The Untouchables was an unusually violent program for its time and its excessive violence and surprisingly frank depictions of drug abuse and prostitution were described by the National Association for Better Radio and Television as "not fit for the television screen".[9]

In an article titled "The New Enemies of 'The Untouchables'"[10] Ayn Rand argued that the persistent, superficial attacks received by The Untouchables were due to its appeal and its virtues: its moral conflict and moral purpose.

Episodes and castEdit

File:The Untouchables cast 1961.JPG
File:Neville Brand as Al Capone The Untouchables 1959.JPG

The series had 118 episodes which ran 50 minutes each. Though the book chronicled the experiences of Ness and his cohorts against Capone, and in reality the Untouchables disbanded soon after Capone's conviction, the series continued after the pilot and book ended, depicting the fictitious further exploits of the Untouchables against many, often real life, criminals over a span of time ranging from 1929 to 1935. The television episodes were broadcast in no chronological timeline, but were set mostly in the early 1930s (for example, one episode, "You Can't Pick the Number", begins with Winchell's words, "October 1932: the depth of the Depression"). A few episodes were set primarily in a locale other than Chicago (such as the one dealing with the shootout involving Ma Barker and her gang.) Characters and "facts" in the majority of the episodes were more often than not entirely fictitious or loosely based composites of true-life criminals of that era. The gripping theme music was by Nelson Riddle.

Quinn Martin produced the show's first season, which contained elements that could be found in future TV series produced by Martin.[11]

The most prominent Untouchables were portrayed by:

Other Untouchables members who were prominent at first, but didn't last past the pilot or the first season, were portrayed by :

In addition to the Untouchables themselves, there were several recurring allies in more than one episode:

The show also had several recurrent gangsters, many of them loosely based on real life gangsters of the time period:

Finally, heard in every episode, but never shown onscreen:

Paul Picerni and Nicholas Georgiade were cast as gangsters in Capone and Nitti's mob in the 1959 pilot before being cast in the series.

* Contrary to popular belief, Steve London's character of Untouchable Jack Rossman (played in the "Scarface Mob" pilot by Paul Dubov),[12][13] was in the series since the original season-one series episode, "The Empty Chair", not from season two on as is commonly reported.

** The character of Untouchable William Youngfellow, portrayed by Abel Fernandez, has been mistakenly referred to by Saturday Night Live actor Dan Aykroyd as "Youngblood". This name is incorrect.[14]

ReferencesEdit

  1. TV's Untouchable Dies. E! Online. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
  2. Robert Stack. Movies.yahoo.com (April 20, 2011). Archived from the original on October 18, 2015. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
  3. James Mannion. The Everything Mafia Book: True Life Accounts of Legendary Figures, Infamous .... Books.google.com. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
  4. The Untouchables (Series). TV Tropes. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
  5. About.com. Netplaces.com (July 25, 2011). Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
  6. [1] Template:Webarchive
  7. Talese, Gay: "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold", page 27. Esquire, April 1966
  8. Harris, Jay S., in association with the editors of TV Guide, "TV Guide: The First 25 Years," Simon & Schuster, 1978, p. 52-53, Template:ISBN
  9. [2] Template:Dead link
  10. Ayn Rand. The Ayn Rand Column. AynRand.org. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
  11. Etter, Jonathan. Quinn Martin, Producer. Jefferson: McFarland, 2003.
  12. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0239532/
  13. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056449/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm
  14. SNL Transcripts: Desi Arnaz: 02/21/76: The Untouchables. Snltranscripts.jt.org (February 21, 1936). Retrieved on 2015-10-12.

External linksEdit

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