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Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

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charliechaplinfan
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Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby charliechaplinfan » October 29th, 2012, 11:42 am

This idea for a thread spun off from a discussion on the precode thread. I've got a huge fondness for precodes and Warner prison and crime dramas and I know I'm not alone. I've also got a fondness for the 1930s and the books of John Steinbeck. The poverty of the era, created by man's greed and natural disaster, left the ordinary folk hungry and sometimes desperate, their entertainment came from the pictures, dime store novels and magazines. Their heros, the people they saw on the screen and the real life Robin Hood type criminals like John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd. We are lucky on this board to have an expert on the era, our very own Western Guy, who has written a book called Dustbowl Desperados - Gangsters of the Dirty 30s which goes into detail about criminals like John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde and more, bandits who terrorised the country taking their cue from the old West. Stone also knows a considerable amount about the gangsters of the 30s, I thought it would be interesting to have an ongoing discussion thread about the men that inspired some of the stories.

What struck me from reading Stone's book is a lot of what I took for artistic licence in the 30s crime films wasn't at all. Prison breaks happened with regularitiy, some criminals escaping more than once and from high security prisons, others just walking off work details even though they were known to be dangerous. Shoot outs were regular happenings too, it was a risky time to be a law enforcement officer, corruption was rife and J Edgar Hoover, well he wasn't squeaky clean.

The films I'm thinking about usually starring screen gangsters like Cagney, Robinson, Muni and Raft have great energy, sometimes great realism, sometimes honour amongst criminals, sometimes not, sometimes lawmen who are worse than the criminals, sometimes a system that won't let a man go straight, tales of poverty whilst others have plenty, bootlegging, protection rackets, corrupt lawyers etc.

I know our discussion started with John Dillinger, I knew the name, I knew he'd watched Manhattan Melodrama before he was shot, or was he? Our discussion started half way down this thread

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1482&start=3090

Don't confine yourselves to the 1930s, please bring to this thread any discussions on the films and/or the criminals that inspired them.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

RedRiver
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby RedRiver » October 29th, 2012, 1:19 pm

Great topic! I've seen three films about Dillinger, and like them all. Monogram Pictures released a very low budget drama with Lawrence Tierney in 1945. DILLINGER is surprisingly effective, and relies on, rather than compensates for, the meager facilities and technical shortages that haunted the studio. Close shots, suggested action, depth of character enhance this rather intimate story.

The recent Johnny Depp vehicle, PUBLIC ENEMIES, is just fine with me. Tense, exciting, well paced for a long story, with some creative visuals. Not one of the all-time greats, but I like it. My favorite of the three is also called DILLINGER, and stars Warren Oates under John Milius' direction. Extremely well assembled, this tight, thrilling story is almost as good as BONNIE AND CLYDE. Ben Johnson is in hot pursuit as agent Melvin Purvis. In fact, Milius followed with a TV movie called MELVIN PURVIS, G-MAN, and damned if that one's not pretty good! It's hard to go wrong with this subject matter.

The phenomenal movie year 1967 saw the very best of the "more or less true" crime stories. Arthur Penn's ground-breaking BONNIE AND CLYDE kicked off some revolutionary techniques in telling a spell-binding and fascinating story. The famous editing is priceless, creating breath taking suspense. The pace is exhilarating; the action so intense you want to duck for cover! The film romanticizes the criminals, as do the others I've mentioned. I very much doubt that these murderers had hearts of gold. But the goal of a Hollywood movie is to entertain. Would we enjoy hating the main characters?

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JackFavell
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby JackFavell » October 29th, 2012, 2:29 pm

I love the idea of a thread for this sort of discussion! As a history buff and a classic film fan, this is a great crossroads topic. Alison, that was a super duper introduction you wrote! I too hope that we are not the only 3 (or 4) who visit this thread.

I found that article that I used to carry around with me, even at the bank where I worked, lol, all about Pretty Boy Floyd, who I have loved ever since I heard the Woody Guthrie song of that title. I have no idea of the veracity of the article or the song, but I thought the author was wise to go to the family members to get their remembrances.

Pretty Boy Floyd
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

If you'll gather 'round me, children,
A story I will tell
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee,
A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,
An' his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
Along the river shore,
Hiding on the river bottom
And he never come back no more.

Yes, he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starvin' farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand-dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

"Well, you say that I'm an outlaw,
You say that I'm a thief.
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief."

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.


Homage to An Outlaw

By David Grogan

Remembered by the Kinfolk Who Loved Him, Pretty Boy Floyd Didn't Just Rob Banks, He Stole Hearts


BACK WHEN JOHN DILLINGER, BABY FACE Nelson and Bonnie and Clyde roamed the land, aerating the scenery—and the occasional bank guard—with their trusty submachine guns, Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd was the most fabled bandit of all. Described as a murderous "rat" by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and given the title Public Enemy No. 1, he was gunned down from behind on Oct. 22, 1934, at age 30, after G-men caught up with him in an Ohio cornfield. But to the scores of aging relatives and friends who decorated Pretty Boy's humble grave-site with a colorful array of artificial flowers last month, he lives in memory as a genial mischief- maker who shared his spoils with dust bowl farmers in need. "Charley was fun to be with," says Mary Carlton, 80, his younger sister. "He always made me laugh."

For Pretty Boy's kinfolk, the reunion last month had an air of sweet vindication. In a new biography, Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd, author Michael Wallis contends the Depression-era bandit was indeed something of a sagebrush Robin Hood who was generous to the farmers who gave him shelter and who delighted, during bank heists, in tearing up mortgages. According to Wallis, Pretty Boy pulled some 50 bank robberies and heists during a 10-year period and was implicated in one documented case of murder. On April 9, 1932, he shot Erv A. Kelley, a retired lawman turned bounty hunter who had trapped him in an ambush. But Wallis claims Floyd was wrongly accused by Hoover of participating in the Kansas City Massacre of 1933, a gangland shootout in which five people, including an FBI agent, were killed. "Charley was not the mad-dog killer he was portrayed to be," Wallis says.

Floyd was nicknamed Pretty Boy by a female admirer when he showed up at a poker game sporting a new suit and tie and hair slicked back with fragrant pomade. But his relatives insist he was cut from a different cloth than his flamboyant contemporaries, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who killed at least 13 people during a bloody rampage through the Southwest in the '30s. Pretty Boy's nephew Jim Lessley, 56, who runs a café in Sallisaw, Okla., where clan members often congregate to tell stories, says Bonnie and Clyde came there several times, hoping Floyd would join up with them. "Don't tell them where I am," Floyd supposedly told his late brother E.W. "It's people like them that give bandits a bad name."

Not that Pretty Boy was an angel. On Nov. 1, 1932—All Saints' Day—practically the entire clan gathered in Sallisaw to watch him rob the local bank. His grandfather Charles Murphy Floyd took a seat of honor at the train depot, directly across from the bank. "My uncle and Grandpa had a joint savings account, and they lost their money in the crash of 1929," says Lessley. "Charley told Grandpa he was going to get the money back." On his way out of the bank Pretty Boy spilled some money and told his accomplices to leave it for the school-kids. Meanwhile, Grandpa Floyd was so busy jawing with his friends that he missed the whole show.

One of seven children raised by Mamie and Walter Floyd, a cotton farmer who made his own corn whiskey, Pretty Boy often played the fool as a boy. His sister Mary Carlton says he was especially fond of disgusting talk at the dinner table. "He would laugh while the rest of us became sick at our stomachs," Carlton says. Married at age 20 to Ruby Hardgraves, a long-legged, dark-eyed, part-Cherokee beauty, Pretty Boy dreaded spending his life behind a mule and a plow. In September 1925, eight months after the birth of his only child, Charles Dempsey "Jack" Floyd, he traded five gallons of moonshine for a pearl-handled pistol and stole $11,929 from a St. Louis payroll fund. Arrested a few weeks later, he did four years in a Missouri penitentiary. Following his release, Pretty Boy went on another crime spree and was sentenced to 15 years for an Ohio bank robbery but escaped by jumping from a train en route to prison.

Though Ruby had divorced Pretty Boy and remarried during his absence, she didn't hesitate to rejoin him when he showed up on her doorstep again in 1931. Jack Floyd, now 67 and a card club manager from Vacaville, Calif., who missed the recent family reunion while recovering from heart surgery, has never forgotten his secret first rendezvous with his father at age 6. "He smelled so good," Jack says. "I liked him right from the start."

Posing as a traveling salesman, Pretty Boy settled with Ruby and Jack first in Fort Smith, Ark., and later in Tulsa. Often he would disappear for weeks on end. "One day he said, 'Listen, I have a sack of coins out there and if you can bring it in, you can have it,' " Jack says. "It must have weighed 15 pounds. After I dragged it in, he said, 'Now hide it. When you want to take your friends out for an ice cream, you go right ahead.' " It wasn't long, though, before Jack's mother discovered his slash. "She took the money into town and bought me a suit and short pants," he says. "I hated that suit."

During his visits home, Pretty Boy was a doting dad. "When I was around 7 or 8, we went fishing and couldn't catch anything," says Jack. "So Dad got out his machine gun and said, 'You know what? We'll shoot 'em.' He let me pull the trigger. 'Well, we still didn't get any,' Dad said afterward. 'But we scared the hell out of 'em.' "

Pretty Boy was a soft touch when it came to discipline. One time when Jack angered Ruby by staying out after dark, Pretty Boy took him into the bathroom for a good whipping, but he hadn't the heart for it. "Dad whispered, 'When I hit this raincoat, you holler,' " says Jack. "I hollered like crazy and Mom tried to break down the door. 'I didn't mean for you to kill him,' she said. We never did tell her what happened."

In February 1932 Pretty Boy narrowly escaped a police dragnet in Tulsa, but Jack and Ruby were taken in for questioning and soon became the talk of the tabloid press. As Pretty Boy's notoriety continued to grow, further contact became extremely dangerous. In June 1933 an evangelist persuaded Ruby to put together a vaudeville show with Jack called "Crime Doesn't Pay." Mother and son went on the road as a secondary attraction at movie houses. "I'd come onstage in a blue blazer, white pants, and white shoes. I'd introduce Mom and she'd talk about the hard life," Jack says. "We went to some fine hotels, and I had my fill of raspberry sherbet, which was my favorite thing in the world. We heard that my dad came to see the show once, in a disguise, and really liked it."

Ruby and Jack gave their final show in September 1934. A few weeks later, Pretty Boy came home to Sallisaw—in a box. "We waited all night at the train station," Jack says. "I kept hearing the whistle blowing from far away, and I saw them unload the coffin." After stopping to wipe away a tear, Jack adds, "For years, every time I heard a train whistle, it reminded me of that sad night."

DAVID GROGAN
BOB STEWART in Sallisaw and CARLA MARINUCCI in Vacaville

RedRiver
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby RedRiver » October 29th, 2012, 3:12 pm

Ma Joad mentions "young Floyd" in a positive light in GRAPES OF WRATH. These themes of corporate crimes vs. those committed at gunpoint played heavily in Steinbeck's fiction, as well as the movies we love. HIGH SIERRA, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE, and the most poetic example, I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG. Mervyn LeRoy's gut twisting tragedy is not only THE great prison drama, it's one of the finest, most thought-provoking films ever made. I marvel when comparing this work from prehistoric 1932 to the computer generated blockbuster of today. Is there a lesson here?

corporate crimes vs. those committed at gunpoint

Come to think of it, this becomes more of a concern in real life every day.

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JackFavell
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby JackFavell » October 29th, 2012, 3:25 pm

Yeah, funny how it all comes around again.... or not so funny.

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ChiO
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby ChiO » October 29th, 2012, 3:38 pm

A couple that immediately come to mind:

THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND (Budd Boetticher 1960): Not up to Boetticher's best Westerns, but still engaging tale of the flamboyant East Coast bootlegger. Starring Ray Danton, with Jesse White and Warren Oates. Shot by the marvelous Lucien Ballard.

BABY FACE NELSON (Don Siegel 1957): Gang leader, bank robber, murderer, and Dillinger compatriot -- portrayed as only Mickey Rooney could. With Carolyn Jones, Cedric Hardwicke, Jack Elam, Ted de Corsia and Elisha Cook, Jr.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby CineMaven » October 29th, 2012, 3:43 pm

Alison, your set-up is great!!! I think one of TCM's themes in November will be movies adapted from books which feels similar to films inspired by criminals. I hope I have something substantive to add to your thread. What first comes to mind is "Bonnie & Clyde."
"You build my gallows high, baby."

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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby RedRiver » October 29th, 2012, 3:45 pm

Was there a credible Pretty Boy Floyd movie? I'm sure there was one. But something well thought of?

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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby CineMaven » October 29th, 2012, 3:52 pm

THE REEL and REAL BONNIE & CLYDE:

Image Image
"You build my gallows high, baby."

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RedRiver
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby RedRiver » October 29th, 2012, 3:56 pm

"We rob banks."

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ChiO
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby ChiO » October 29th, 2012, 3:57 pm

Do you mean that a Larry Buchanan movie (see, for example, COMMON LAW WIFE, NAUGHTY DALLAS, MARS NEEDS WOMEN) entitled A BULLET FOR PRETTY BOY (1970), with Fabian (Forte) as Pretty Boy Floyd, might not be something well thought of?
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

RedRiver
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby RedRiver » October 29th, 2012, 4:16 pm

I'm writing one myself. A notorious bank robber settles in Mayberry and opens a hair salon. PRETTY BOY FLOYD THE BARBER!

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ChiO
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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby ChiO » October 29th, 2012, 5:01 pm

Ooooo...Andy. Let me just shoot a little off the top there....
Last edited by ChiO on October 29th, 2012, 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Everyday people...that's what's wrong with the world. -- Morgan Morgan
I love movies. But don't get me wrong. I hate Hollywood. -- Orson Welles
Movies can only go forward in spite of the motion picture industry. -- Orson Welles

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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby CineMaven » October 29th, 2012, 6:15 pm

RedRiver wrote:I'm writing one myself. A notorious bank robber settles in Mayberry and opens a hair salon. PRETTY BOY FLOYD THE BARBER!


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Re: Crime on film and the Criminals that inspired the writing.

Postby charliechaplinfan » October 30th, 2012, 8:25 am

Let's start with Bonnie and Clyde, I love that film but it's as far from the truth as Clyde Barrow's likeness to Warren Beatty. I love what Warren Beatty did with that movie, it's the perfect package, it romanticises Bonnie and Clyde and if I'm not mistaken uses poetry written by Bonnie Parker (quite good) below. Petty crime must have rife in a time when poverty hit hard, Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger for me had some redeeming qualities to their characters, Bonnie and Clyde, well Bonnie loved her mother, there's no redemption in their characters and when they did raid banks they seemed to be the least successful of their contemproraries, they weren't even liked amongst their kind either and they spent most of their time on the road or huddled round camp fires.

I liked the film characters Bonnie and Clyde, even though they were killers, I wanted them to keep getting away.

You've read the story of Jesse James
of how he lived and died.
If you're still in need;
of something to read,
here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde.

Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang
I'm sure you all have read.
how they rob and steal;
and those who squeal,
are usually found dying or dead.

There's lots of untruths to these write-ups;
they're not as ruthless as that.
their nature is raw;
they hate all the law,
the stool pigeons, spotters and rats.

They call them cold-blooded killers
they say they are heartless and mean.
But I say this with pride
that I once knew Clyde,
when he was honest and upright and clean.

But the law fooled around;
kept taking him down,
and locking him up in a cell.
Till he said to me;
"I'll never be free,
so I'll meet a few of them in hell"

The road was so dimly lighted
there were no highway signs to guide.
But they made up their minds;
if all roads were blind,
they wouldn't give up till they died.

The road gets dimmer and dimmer
sometimes you can hardly see.
But it's fight man to man
and do all you can,
for they know they can never be free.

From heart-break some people have suffered
from weariness some people have died.
But take it all in all;
our troubles are small,
till we get like Bonnie and Clyde.

If a policeman is killed in Dallas
and they have no clue or guide.
If they can't find a fiend,
they just wipe their slate clean
and hang it on Bonnie and Clyde.

There's two crimes committed in America
not accredited to the Barrow mob.
They had no hand;
in the kidnap demand,
nor the Kansas City Depot job.

A newsboy once said to his buddy;
"I wish old Clyde would get jumped.
In these awfull hard times;
we'd make a few dimes,
if five or six cops would get bumped"

The police haven't got the report yet
but Clyde called me up today.
He said,"Don't start any fights;
we aren't working nights,
we're joining the NRA."

From Irving to West Dallas viaduct
is known as the Great Divide.
Where the women are kin;
and the men are men,
and they won't "stool" on Bonnie and Clyde.

If they try to act like citizens
and rent them a nice little flat.
About the third night;
they're invited to fight,
by a sub-gun's rat-tat-tat.

They don't think they're too smart or desperate
they know that the law always wins.
They've been shot at before;
but they do not ignore,
that death is the wages of sin.

Some day they'll go down together
they'll bury them side by side.
To few it'll be grief,
to the law a relief
but it's death for Bonnie and Clyde
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin


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