RARA-AVIS: Re: Boardwalk Empire

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 19 Oct 2010

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    James wrote:

    > What a disappointment this program is. I don't know if Jim Doherty is still on is list, as he is the only other addict for this kind of thing that I know of, but I have been very saddened by several aspects of the program.
    > First, the show portrays Capone as a bit of psycho rebelling against Torrio's logic. This is not true at all. Capone understood perfectly what Torrio wanted to do. Torrio was, first of all, far from afraid of violence himself and his plans only stopped being implemented _after his hit on Dion O'Banion_ and after the unsuccesful hit he endured. Even after Torrio left Capone periodically attempted to implement Torrios scheme.

    Ah, the perils of knowing too much about a subject.

    As fiction, I've enjoyed BOARDWALK WALK EMPIRE quite a bit, but if it's supposed to be all based on real history, that's a whole other thing. It must ruin a lot of Prohibition-set entertainment for you, because I'll bet it's probably about par for the course. I'm assuming THE UNTOUCHABLES was always miles from being accurate.

    Which Prohibition-era flicks get it right? How about MILLER'S CROSSING?

    > Secondly, the notion that black mobsters cut a wide swath among white mobsters. They just didn't. This is a bit revisonist. Jewish, Italian, and Irish gangsters barely even regarded each other as "white". The idea that a black gangster could call a white gandlord a "motherf***er" to his face and walk away is just ludicrous. Decades later some black ganglords would _almost_ have that stroke, but not in 1920.....The year of the Tulsa Race Riot and when Birth Of The Nation was being screened in the White House.

    The way things are going they may be screening it there again in a couple of years.

    But I digress...

    The black gangster's lippiness did strike me as a little bit of revisionist wishful thinking, too. Unless he was a total psycho, it seemed unlikely he'd be so "uppity" with a white (and more powerful) business partner back then. It was funny, though, when Nucky seemed completely mystified by the term "motherfucker." I guess he never watched DEADWOOD.

    > Conversely, all white jazz bands playing for gangsters? ODJB aside, the best friends black jazz ever had were the gangs who booked 'em. The NY Times just ran a self-congratulatory article about the Nighthawks guy who scores for the show. I have as many period 78's as he does and he is all wet.
    > Individual moments in the show are well scripted and, really, very well acted. For instance, the slow lead up to Pearl's suicide when Jimmy won't say he loves her and has to swallow before he kisses her scarred face. I wish the whole show had that level of sensitivity.

    I'll just have to latch onto those moments, now that you've ruined the rest of it for me.:-)

    > Instead, they seem to think that if they have period costumes and set design they can slide on the other stuff. It's like watching a 1940s film about the Civil War.

    Well, films are almost always about when they were made and by who as much as when they're set. CHINATOWN is a prime example. Ditto M*A*S*H. THE DIRTY DOZEN. GONE WITH THE WIND. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. And on and on... Like, I've always had a problem with those cheesy, antiseptic, whiter-than-white westerns from the fifties with the Brylcreemed cowboys and the polished chrome six guns. Evidently the west was settled by dry cleaners and the Aryan brotherhood.

    Like, Nucky's denunciation of demon alcohol in the first episode is very 2010. Of course he'd support Prohibition -- it's more profitable that way. Just as now the money to fight the decriminalization of marijuana is coming from the cartels and the gangs and the DEA and the booze industry and the prison guard unions and all the others who profit immeasurably from the way things are.

    Like I said, very 2010. Meet the new War on Drugs, same as the old War on Drugs.

    Kevin Burton Smith Editor/Founder The Thrilling Detective Web Site
    "Wasting your time on the web since 1998."

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