William Donati is an English professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) and author of the just-released book: “Lucky Luciano: The Rise and Fall of a Mob Boss” By William Donati For ticklethewire.com
LAS VEGAS –– Hollywood was criticized in the thirties for films like Public Enemy and Little Caesar: Gangsters were portrayed too sympathetically complained citizens.
In modern times, we have the Godfather, Goodfellas, Scarface, and the Sopranos offered as popular entertainment. Motion pictures reflect cultural values. The recent film Dillinger was criticized for its moral ambiguity. The cops are just as rotten as the crooks. Is that true?
Do citizens believe that? If so, society is in deep trouble.
Of course, the real heroes are the police and prosecutors. Film audiences do not feel the actual pain criminals inflict as killers, extortionists, thieves, and drug dealers.
When I was writing my book about the Lucky Luciano case, a literary agent said it was too “law and order,” as if I had transgressed by portraying Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey as a hero. But he was indeed an American hero. Yet, in the film Hoodlum (1997), a screenwriter falsely depicted Dewey as corrupt – an absolute lie.
I examined over 40,000 archival documents to investigate the Luciano case, and I can assure readers that Dewey was defamed.
In Las Vegas, where I live, Mayor Goodman’s unfinished Mob Museum will open next year. The official name will be the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.
Alright, let’s hope it is a fine presentation. However, just announced is the Las Vegas Mob Experience where family members will tell what their gangster kinfolks “were really like” – the human side of Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. According to press reports, it will be an interactive experience where visitors might even be “made” or “wacked.” Gee, will they sell junior Mafioso badges?
Federal prosecutors should visit high schools and clearly state: “I represent you. I represent the People. Let me explain my job.” Let students see your faces and understand that prosecutors are the ones who defend citizens’ rights and freedoms.
A sweeping media campaign should be initiated by law officers to remain atop the pedestal of citizen opinion; a good start would be a statue of Thomas E. Dewey in Times Square.
As Dewey commented concerning Luciano’s deportation in 1946: “I sent him out of the country like the rat he was.”
Thank you. To hell with gangster glamour.