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.
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. 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. 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.
The show drew harsh criticism from some Italian-Americans, including Frank Sinatra, 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.
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".
In an article titled "The New Enemies of 'The Untouchables'" 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
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.
The most prominent Untouchables were portrayed by:
- Robert Stack as Agent Eliot Ness
- Abel Fernandez as Agent William Youngfellow
- Nicholas Georgiade as Agent Enrico "Rico" Rossi
- Paul Picerni as Agent Lee Hobson, (second season on)
- Steve London as Agent Jack Rossman (portrayed in the pilot by Paul Dubov)
Other Untouchables members who were prominent at first, but didn't last past the pilot or the first season, were portrayed by :
- Jerry Paris as Agent Martin Flaherty, (first season only-portrayed in the pilot by Bill Williams)
- Chuck Hicks as Agent LaMarr Kane (first season only-portrayed in the pilot by Peter Leeds)
- Anthony George as Agent Cam Allison, (first season only)
- Keenan Wynn as Agent Joe Fuselli (pilot episode only)
- Eddie Firestone as Agent Eric Hansen (pilot episode only)
- Robert Osterloh as Agent Tom Kopke (pilot episode only)
In addition to the Untouchables themselves, there were several recurring allies in more than one episode:
- Frank Wilcox as Federal District Attorney Beecher Asbury
- Robert Bice as Police Capt. Johnson
- Jason Wingreen as Police Capt. Dorset
- Raymond Bailey as US Attorney for New York John Carvell
- Barbara Nichols as Brandy La France, showgirl and wife/widow of an informant, appearing in both the pilot and premiere
- Dane Clark as Dr. Victor Garr
- John Gabriel as Dr. Daniel Gilford
- Barbara Stanwyck as Lt. Agatha Stewart, head of the Missing Persons Bureau
- Ed Asner as Frank, one of Agatha Stewart's assistants
- Virginia Capers as June, one of Agatha Stewart's assistants
The show also had several recurrent gangsters, many of them loosely based on real life gangsters of the time period:
- Frank Nitti, Capone's enforcer who takes over the Chicago mob after Capone is imprisoned, portrayed by Bruce Gordon, and appearing in far more episodes than any other gangster
- Joe Kulak, portrayed by Oscar Beregi, Jr.
- Dutch Schultz, portrayed in different episodes by Lawrence Dobkin, Robert J. Wilke, and Warren J. Kemmerling
- Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik, portrayed in the pilot by Bern Hoffman, and in the series by Nehemiah Persoff
- George "Bugs" Moran, portrayed in different episodes by Lloyd Nolan, Robert J. Wilke, and Harry Morgan
- Louis Lepke Buchalter, portrayed in different episodes by Gene Roth, Robert Carricart, and Joseph Ruskin
- Lucky Luciano, portrayed by Robert Carricart
- Pete Konitz, portrayed by Carl Milletaire
- Frankie Resko, portrayed by Grant Richards
- Al Capone, portrayed by Neville Brand, and appearing only in the 2 hour pilot and a 2 part episode
- Louis Campagna, portrayed by Frank Dekova
- Augie Viale, portrayed by John Beradino
- Little Charlie Sebastino, portrayed by Henry Silva
- Louis Latito, portrayed by Joe De Santis
- Archie Devlin, Capone's attorney, portrayed by George N. Neise
- Lucky Quinn, portrayed by John Kellogg
- Joe Aiello portrayed in different episodes by H. M. Wynant and Grant Richards
- Phil D'Andrea, portrayed by Wally Cassell, and appearing only in the pilot and premiere
- "Fur" Sammons, portrayed by Richard Benedict, and appearing only in the pilot and premiere
- Tony "Mops" Volpe, portrayed by Herman Rudin, and appearing only in the pilot and premiere
Finally, heard in every episode, but never shown onscreen:
- Announcer: Les Lampson
- Narrator: Walter Winchell
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), was in the series since the original season-one series episode, "The Empty Chair", not from season two on as is commonly reported.
- ↑ TV's Untouchable Dies. E! Online. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
- ↑ Robert Stack. Movies.yahoo.com (April 20, 2011). Archived from the original on October 18, 2015. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
- ↑ James Mannion. The Everything Mafia Book: True Life Accounts of Legendary Figures, Infamous .... Books.google.com. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
- ↑ The Untouchables (Series). TV Tropes. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
- ↑ About.com. Netplaces.com (July 25, 2011). Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
- ↑  Template:Webarchive
- ↑ Talese, Gay: "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold", page 27. Esquire, April 1966
- ↑ 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
- ↑  Template:Dead link
- ↑ Ayn Rand. The Ayn Rand Column. AynRand.org. Retrieved on 2015-10-12.
- ↑ Etter, Jonathan. Quinn Martin, Producer. Jefferson: McFarland, 2003.
- ↑ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0239532/
- ↑ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056449/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm
- ↑ SNL Transcripts: Desi Arnaz: 02/21/76: The Untouchables. Snltranscripts.jt.org (February 21, 1936). Retrieved on 2015-10-12.