Biography - Al Capone: Scarface (A&E DVD Archives)
In this 'Biography' special, its host, John Mahoney, chairs the life and times of Al Capone, and explains the rise and fall of this one time mobster. Of course, this task is aided and abetted with numerous pieces of archival footage, voice over narration, plus one on one interviews with people who knew of his murderous pastimes. This includes such individuals as: Tony Berardi, Laurence Bergreen, John Binder, Matthew Luzi, Art Petacque, Robert Joseph Schoenberg, and Robert St. John.
What now follows is a basic breakdown of how this documentary plays out.
was Al's early life like? On a
certain level, it must have been fairly normal I suppose. His mother and
father were common day hardworking folk living in
Brooklyn, who brought up Al and his siblings in a very traditional manner similar to their Naplesroots.
- Did Al show any signs of becoming a hoodlum when he was young? Yeah! You can safely say that he must have visualised himself as being some type of Robin Hood' figure really. Stealing from the rich, and giving to the poor for some profit.
was Johnny Torrio? Johnny was the
New Yorkgangster who took Al under his wing, and then took him and his fledgling family over to Chicagoto start up a new criminal empire over there.
- Define 'Empire'? Bootlegging. Prostitution. Gambling. Mob hits. And anything else that took Al away from his family and into a life of crime.
- Did Capone see himself a criminal then? No. Not at all. He saw himself as a businessman of sorts, who was surrounded by people who did 'tasks' for him as he saw fit.
- So when did Al first hit the headlines? In 1922, when he was arrested by a police officer for being drunk and disorderly. Of course this charge never stuck.
- Why? During this time Al and Johnny carved out a rather well organised criminal empire for themselves, by bribing statesmen, unifying rivals, and basically doing whatever they had to do to stay afloat.
- Was there any opposition to this 'unification'? Yes. Not that this did them any good. Again and again Al arraigned for these characters to get 'whacked' under mysterious circumstances. By gun or by bat.
when did Al take over from Johnny?
Sometime in the mid 1920's after Al branched out into the suburbs and
built up 'his own empire', whilst Johnny was away in hotter climes. He didn't
have Johnny 'done in' though. Oh no. Johnny gave up his life of crime when
he was shot at and then spent some time in prison for prohibition
violations. He finally spent his last days in
- What was the 'Valentines Day Massacre'? It was a hit Al arranged on a rival mobster called Charles O'Banion, who didn't want to play things Al's way. Furthermore, due to this mass slaughter, public unrest propelled the Capone criminal organisation into disarray. The public started to hate him. Other mobsters placed a bounty on his head. And the only way that Al could get himself out of trouble, was to get himself deliberately arrested so nobody could touch him.
- And did this work? Yes. In a roundabout way it did. But once he was eventually released from prison, the IRS started to hound him for unpaid taxes, and the rest is now history.
Al Capone died of syphilis a couple of years after he was set free. And although he's now gone, he's surely not forgotten.
Now as per usual with these 'Biography' specials, I did enjoy the manner in which this one presented the criminal life and crimes of the one and only, Al Capone. Granted, this feature wasn't a in depth study on what he was like as a person, or how he acted towards his family. Yet, whilst saying that, it did manage to relay some very interesting facts about Al and his underhanded ways, which got me to thinking about why he became a crime boss in the first place.
Well, by all accounts, his parents were your everyday garden variety 'nine to fivers'. Plus he himself was charming, fairly well educated, and had a very large and warm family unit surrounding him, that appeared to stick together through thick in thin.
Come on. Let's face it. In many ways this 'illness' explains away why Al was the way he was. On the one hand he thought of himself as a businessman / whilst on the other hand he was a very high profile criminal. On the one hand he gave away money to charity / whilst on the other hand he had to commit some pretty dastardly deeds to get the money in question. On the one hand he had and wanted a loving family / whilst on the other hand he was more than willing to cheat on them and put their lives in danger. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.
Then again, I could also be speaking out of my own ass. But I don't think I am you know. No. Not really. Most of history's villains think of themselves as heroes, and this -- in my opinion -- is one of the only decisive factors that links people like Al to Hitler, to any other serial killer that was born to kill. Trust me. I read a lot. And that's why I'm sticking with his Biography series like glue to a drug addict.
Please stay tuned. There's more to come from this great-great series.