Film poster by Reynold Brown
|Directed by||Richard Wilson|
|Produced by||Leonard Ackerman|
|Written by||Malvin Wald|
Henry F. Greenberg
|Narrated by||James Gregory|
|Music by||David Raksin|
|Edited by||Walter Hannemann|
|Distributed by||Allied Artists|
|Budget||under $1 million or $550,000|
|Box office||$2.5 million (rentals)|
Steiger reportedly refused the producers' first offer to star in this film because he thought the initial screenplay inappropriately romanticized Capone and criminality. In an interview Steiger said, "I turned the picture down three times." According to TCM, he agreed to play the role only after the producers agreed to rewrite. The finished film was noted for its deglamorized portrayal of the subject.
Chicago, 1919: A young Al Capone arrives to work for mob boss Johnny Torrio. He meets Torrio's top man, "Big Jim" Colosimo, who runs business and politics in the First Ward while secretly on Torrio's payroll.
Prohibition is enacted a year later, causing Torrio and other gangsters like Dean O'Banion, George "Bugs" Moran and Earl "Hymie" Weiss to compete for profits in bootleg liquor and beer. Torrio's rivals conspire to have Colosimo and his henchmen killed.
A reform mayor is elected, so Torrio and Capone change their base of operations to Cicero, a few miles away. Capone also has O'Banion killed and makes a play for Maureen Flannery, the widow of one of Colosimo's men.
Weiss and Moran return the favor by ordering Torrio to be shot. Capone retaliates by killing Weiss and forcing merchants throughout the city to pay for "protection." A sergeant in the Chicago police, Schaefer, is promoted to captain and vows to end the bloodshed and extortion and put Capone behind bars.
With the heat on from the cops, a crooked newspaperman named Keely tries to bribe Schaefer but fails. He persuades Capone to move to Florida until things cool down. From a safe distance, Capone masterminds the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, with several of Moran's men gunned down in a Chicago garage.
Capone and Moran call a truce, but when he learns Keely has been helping a Moran plot to kill him, Capone ends the reporter's life instead. Maureen finally has her fill of Capone's corruption and violence, while Schaefer and the feds find a way to finally put Capone away--on charges of tax evasion, earning him 11 years at Alcatraz.
Films based on the lives of real-life gangsters had been banned under the Production Code. This ban was lifted in the late 1950s leading to films like Baby Face Nelson (1957). J. Edgar Hoover criticised the film and a proposed movie about Pretty Boy Floyd was dropped. However in 1957 Lindley Parons and John Burrows announced they would make a film about Al Capone for Allied Artists. Jack De Witt was assigned to write the script.
Filming started 16 September 1958.
"This isn't just another crime drama aimed at the sensational market," said Steiger. "I think its a good social document. It shows how an unscrupulous man can prey on society."
Bosley Crowther in The New York Times commented that with so many old movies about Capone, it was uncertain whether a new one was needed, but that this film had the "modest justification" that "it has a strong documentary flavor and Rod Steiger is an odious skunk in the title role."Variety called it "a tough, ruthless and generally unsentimental account" and "also a very well-made picture."
Al Capone's sister sued the filmmakers for $10 million not securing permission to make the film, citing invasion of privacy. A judge ruled in the filmmakers' favor. Capone's sister, widow and son later sued Desilu and other makers of The Untouchables for six million dollars and lost that suit too.