The Chicago Syndicate: Charles Floyd
Showing posts with label Charles Floyd. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Floyd. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Public Enemies Two-Disc Special Edition is Released

This week, among the outstanding, thematically diverse films coming to DVD is a period piece chronicling the exploits of famous gangsters and the legendary FBI inspector who captured them.

Michael Mann's Public Enemies (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Universal) spotlights both famous personalities and key events from the era when such characters as John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and Alvin Karpis captured the imagination of the public despite their criminal exploits.

Mann's lengthy (140 minutes) work mainly focuses on Dillinger (Johnny Depp), his relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and legendary FBI agent Melvin Purvis' (Christian Bale) long crusade to capture him.

The film divides its time equally between Bale's often stormy relationship with superior J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and his searches for not only Dillinger, but also Floyd (Channing Tatum), Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi) and Nelson (Stephen Graham).

Bale plays Purvis in a more relentless, less folksy manner than some previous actors, most notably Dale Robertson, whose portrayal of Purvis in both films and television shows depicted him as a larger-than-life, rollicking type who loved gambling, fancy cars and women. This Purvis is a tough, serious type who doesn't have much tine for small talk or bureau politics.

Public Enemies sometimes veers off into the unusual relationship between Dillnger and Frechette, and also shows just how magnetic Dillinger's personality was during that time. He was also quite brilliant, and among the film's highlights is the depiction of his escape from a heavily guarded prison, one that was particularly embarrassing to both prison and federal officials at the time.

The movie was based in part on Bryan Burrough's comprehensive Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI and is far more detailed and realistic than many of its predecessors.

Thanks to Ron Wynn

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The End for "Pretty Boy" Floyd

Two cars traveled down a country road towards the Conkle farm, two miles south of a small town named Clarkson on the eastern edge of Ohio. It was 4:10 on the afternoon of October 22, 1934, and history was about to unfold.

In one car were four Bureau agents, led by Chicago Special Agent in Charge Melvin Purvis. In the other were four local law enforcement officers, headed by East Liverpool Chief of Police Hugh McDermott.

The group was searching for Charles Arthur Floyd—known far and wide as “Pretty Boy,” a nickname he hated and refused to answer to, preferring “Choc”—and they quickly realized they’d found him. Wearing a navy blue suit, Floyd jumped from a car he was riding in and bolted across a rolling field, pistol in hand.

Within minutes, Floyd would breathe his last.

Law enforcement had been closing in on Floyd over the past two days. Floyd, just 30 years old, had been in trouble with the law for about a dozen years. He’d stolen money, robbed banks, and reportedly killed some 10 people. But it was his participation in the so-called Kansas City Massacre—a brazen attack in June 1933 that killed four lawmen, including a Bureau agent—that brought the FBI into the chase.

Floyd had been traveling across the country in the fall of 1934 with another conspirator in the Kansas City attack—Adam Richetti, an ex-sheriff turned bad—and their two girlfriends when the net tightened. On the wet, foggy evening of October 20, not long after the foursome had crossed into Ohio, Floyd ran their car into a telephone poll. Floyd and Richetti camped out nearby as the women went to have the car repaired. The men were eventually spotted, and law enforcement was called.

Richetti was soon captured, but Floyd ran off on foot. Hungry and tired, the fugitive ended up on the Conkle place on the afternoon of October 22 and tried to hitch a ride. That’s when the FBI and law enforcement finally caught up with him.

Fleeing the pursuing officers, Floyd zigzagged across the farm towards a group of trees. All eight law enforcement officers followed, calling on him to stop. As Floyd looked over his shoulder to see the pursuit, gunfire rang out. Floyd fell. “I’m done for, you’ve hit me twice,” he said after officers approached.

As he lay dying, Floyd was questioned. He admitted his identity, but little else. He slipped into unconsciousness and died soon after.

After his death, the legend of “Pretty Boy” just continued to grow. His myth even sparked a revisionist ballad by folk singer Woodie Guthrie, suggesting Floyd saved “many a starving farmer” from losing their homes. While Floyd reportedly destroyed mortgage notes from a bank or two that he robbed in hopes of saving a few farmers from foreclosure, his reputation as a humanitarian or a “Robin Hood” is undeserved. He robbed and stole to support a lifestyle of flash and ease and didn’t hesitate to shoot and kill when it suited him.

For the FBI, Floyd’s death was another key victory in the war against gangsters.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blackhand Strawman: The History of Organized Crime in Kansas City

“Kansas City is like a lady of former ill-repute who is ashamed to talk about her past.” –Chuck Haddix.

Haddix, longtime host of KCUR-FM’s popular “Fish Fry” program, was referring to our fair city’s notorious history as a hub of organized crime and political corruption. It seems that a lot of people would rather ignore that sordid part of our heritage.

Terence O’Malley, the local lawyer and filmmaker who enjoyed success with his documentary “Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time”, hopes to change all that.

O’Malley’s exhaustively researched documentary “Blackhand Strawman: The History of Organized Crime in Kansas City” opens on March 20th at the Screenland Theatre at 17th and Washington, KCMO.

O’Malley is a Kansas City native with a degree in English from Loyola University, one in Radio and Television Production from KU, as well as law degree from Washburn University in Topeka. His résumé also includes extensive experience as a TV reporter, pianist, and a stint as the press secretary for the governor of Alaska.

His eclectic background gives him a unique perspective as a filmmaker.

O’Malley received unprecedented access to film, photos and other documentation from family members of the very criminals that his movie profiles.

“I’d essentially proven myself to be a bona fide storyteller with ‘Nelly Don’, so that when people heard that I was endeavoring to tell the story of organized crime in Kansas City, they understood that I was probably the right guy”, O’Malley explained. “They thought, ‘Okay, he’s a good guy, he understands. We’re going to take a chance on him because we think that he is going to treat the story with the gravitas and the respect that it deserves.’”

The film incorporates this privately collected information with archived data, news footage and interviews with experts on the subject.

It was while working on his film about Nell Donnelly, the famous Kansas City dressmaker, that O’Malley became fascinated with local gangsters.

In 1931, Donnelly was the victim of a kidnapping and Missouri U.S. Senator James A. Reed recruited notorious KC crime boss Johnny Lazia to find her. “When I was researching ‘Nelly Don’, I realized, ‘Holy Cow! She was rescued by the mob, by the Mafia.’” O’Malley said. “It started fomenting in my head that nobody had ever given a serious treatment to organized crime in Kansas City before.”

The film chronicles this dark history from the turn-of-the-century when many Sicilian immigrants arrived in Kansas City, up until 1986 when the grip of crime boss Nick Civella was finally broken.

The movie’s “Who’s Who” of notorious ne’re-do-wells includes Lazia, Democratic Party boss Tom Pendergast, Charlie “The Wop” Carollo, Anthony “Fat Tony” Gizzo, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Frank “Jelly” Nash, and Nick and Corky Civella, to name but a few.

O’Malley found them all to be fascinating individuals.

“Charlie Carollo was probably a mathematical genius because he kept all of the books for all of the Pendergast sin businesses in his head,” O’Malley explained. “Pendergast didn’t own those businesses (bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, loan sharking, etc.), but he got a cut of everything that was going on.”

Anthony Carollo, Charlie’s son, was taken with O’Malley when the filmmaker knew the name of the band (the Coon-Sanders Orchestra) that played at a function for his parents in the 1920s.

Impressed by O’Malley’s knowledge, Carollo called his sister in Kansas City and said, “Give him anything he wants…give him all the access he wants.” As a result, O’Malley was able to include heretofore-unseen film and photos.

“Same story with the Lazia family,” O’Malley said. “Vince Bianchi is the great-nephew of Johnny Lazia. I had a long conversation with him about the project and told him that I was interested in the characters in more than just a two-dimensional context. “I wanted to explain how these people got to where they were. They weren’t just gangsters. It wasn’t so much about perpetrating crime as it was a mode of survival.”

Having won the trust of the families, O’Malley then went about the business of educating himself on the subject. He was aided in his inquisition by a noted group of experts.

In addition to Haddix, on-screen contributors include:

Although these authorities contributed, the actual filming was a one-man affair. O’Malley estimates that he’s spent between two and three thousand hours over a three-year period working on the movie.

“I did the camerawork at the same time that I interviewed everybody. I did all of the writing, all of the research, the field production (acquiring and digitizing the imagery), selected the music, did the narration and I did all of the editing.”

The big-screen incarnation opens on March 20th and the DVD will be available in time for Father’s Day. A companion book is set to be published in November.

“The reason “Blackhand Strawman’ is being released on March 20th is because that date coincides with the 37th anniversary of the release of ‘The Godfather’ in Kansas City,” O’Malley pointed out.

The KC Italian community, concerned about the “The Godfather” and its potential for impugning Italian-Americans, purchased all of the tickets for the film’s 1972 premier at the Empire Theatre…and then refused to attend. The movie played to an empty house while a party was held down the street instead.

O’Malley was quick to mention that most Italian-Americans were victims of organized crime, not participants.

“The overwhelming majority of Italian-Americans were not criminals or murderers by any stretch. I wanted to set that as a tone or theme so that people could enjoy the film for the stories it contains without denigrating or besmirching the Italian-American community.”

He did admit some trepidation in pursuing the project.

“I talked with people in law enforcement, and the message to me was that I have nothing to fear,” O’Malley said. “I am no threat to their ongoing criminal business enterprises. They’re not going to worry about someone like me.”

And what about those contemporary mobsters?

“That’s why I terminated the film in 1986. I didn’t want anyone to believe that this was any type of exposé on the status of organized crime in Kansas City today…because I really don’t know.”

Thanks to Russ Simmons

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