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Untouchables Essay, Research Paper

During the film The Untouchables, it is easy to see the violence of the gangs that were around in the time of Prohibition. The theme of gang violence is evident in the reading of Prohibition: The Lie of the Land , but not so much in Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

Prohibition was put in to practice in the passing of the 18th Amendment in 1919. The Volstead act, which it was named, made it illegal to drink and make alcohol. It was thought that in making alcohol illegal it would make the country of America a better and safer place to live in. But the reaction was not what was expected. People found ways to get alcohol weather it be by smuggling it in form other countries or making their own. There was rise violence as especially within gangs that were at war with each other over bootlegging.

The reading that have been set are Prohibition: The Lie of the Land , by Sean Dennis Cashman, and Ardent Spirits: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition , by John Kobler. These two readings inform the reader about what happen during the years of Prohibition from the 1920 to the early 1930 s. The first, Law of the Land , is centred on prohibition in the city of Chicago. It concentrated mostly on the gangsters that made millions out of prohibition, like Al Capone and Johnny Torrio. The other, Ardent Spirits focus more on various cities in America and how everyday people were still able to get the hands on alcohol weather buying it from speakeasies or making their own. The readings give a more in depth look at the under world of crime and the gangsters that were also seen in the movie The Untouchables.

In Cashman s reading he focuses mainly on the city of Chicago and the gangsters that were involved in the bootlegging business, such as Al Capone and Jim Colosimo. Cashman gives background information on Capone and the beer wars. The beer wars of the 1920 s eliminated some gangs, attenuated others and strengthen the grip and power of Al Capone. Lie of the Land backs up what is seen in the film The Untouchables . In the film we see how gangs, especially Al Capone s would use any means to get what they wanted. The reading successfully brings out the theme of gang violence that is seen in the movie. As we see in the scene when Al Capone has sent his men to kill the character of Jim Malone in cold blood, because he has seized their liquor. Here we see how gangster got revenge on people that have wronged them.

During this time many gangsters were killed and most often were killed by other gangster, especially in Chicago. Cashman talks about this, and explains just how many were killed during the years of Prohibition in Chicago. Between 1922 and 1926, 215 gangsters were killed in Chicago in the course of their internecine feuds…In 1926 between January and October 42 gangsters were killed in city limits. Arguably the most viscous example of gang warfare was the St Valentine Day Massacre on February 14, 1929.

It was the climax of the feud instigated in 1924. Seven members of the North Side gang, now led by Bugs Moran, were mowed down by machine gun

fire in a warehouse of the S-M-C Cartage Company at 2122 North Clack street, Chicago.

In the reading of Ardent Spirits, the author, John Kobler, does not focus on one city like Cashman does. He talks about the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Pittsburg and mostly New York. Unlike Cashman, Kobler does not give many examples of gang violence and warfare. He writes more about the everyday people and recounts stories of the people who were living through this time. He tells how they were able to obtain alcohol as does Cashman, saying they either go to one of the many speakeasy or make their own at home. Although the Volstead act stoped people from openly buying and consuming liquor it did not stop people from being able to buy the equipment that was needed to make their own.

In a store on lower Fifth Avenue,…a sales girl was demonstrating to a fascinated audience a new product. On the counter before her stood a brick of grape concentrate, a gallon glass jug and various accessories. You dissolve the brick in a gallon of water… and it is ready to be used immediately. She than hastened to add some cautionary instruction. Do not place the liquid

in this jug and put it away in the cupboard for twenty one days because then it would turn into wine.

This example goes on to explain how she conventionally warns the audience not to do any of the things that would make alcohol.

The Untouchables shows Al Capone as a very violent and but also cool headed man. We see how violent he can be in the scene when he bashes and man over the head with a baseball bat. This view of him can also be found in the reading by Cashman. He talks about Capone alot and describes him as bloody, bold and resolute. But on the surface Scarface passed off everything with a shrug. Kobler does not talk about Al Capone as much as Cashman, but does refers to him to be in the public mind the depredation of Chicago gangsterism. Kobler fails to talk about gang violence and focuses more on the ways in which alcohol was made and how Prohibition did not seem to be working. Most of the gang violence was to do with the smuggling in of alcohol. Often the killings were for revenge. If one gang did something to another they would get pay back . In one instance, gangster Dion O Banion was killed because it was believed that he set up Torrio and Capone s gang to get caught in a raid by the police. Hymie Weiss, who assumed the leadership of the North Side gang, surmised that Torrio and Capone, and the Gennas had planned the assassination… Although know can say for sure if this is true as many crimes that accused Capone did not have enough evidence to know for certain.

The Violence of the gangs is evident in the film The Untouchables , and is reaffirmed in the reading of Prohibition: Lie of the Land. This reading gives a very indepth look at how the gangs worked and the important players of this time. It reaffirms the knowledge that is gain from the movie about this theme. It suggest that

the movie is portraying the period of prohibition in a realistic manner, in terms of how the gangs dominated in this time. The other reading however does not show many signs of the gang violence that was evident in this time. Kobler looks at a different angle of the 1920 to early 30 s, and does not tell of how the gangs affected the lives of the people living in this time period. He does show how ordinary people were able to gain access to alcohol and gives many accounts from different people and their views on Prohibition.

After watching The Untouchables and then reading the documents my understanding of the theme of gang violence was confirmed, although it is quite clear through the other reading that not all cities in America were ran by notorious gang members. Kobler in presenting a different view shows how not everything revolved around the gangs in this period, however it was a big part and the most well known aspect of the prohibition period.


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