Beyond Notorious On-Screen Characters: The Mob's Contribution to 5 Well Known Films

Beyond Notorious On-Screen Characters: The Mob's Contribution to 5 Well Known Films
Snapshot of the film Cotton Club, Scarface and Poster of the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre | Image Source: Getty Images, YouTube

When the mafia played a larger role beyond providing storylines in Hollywood

 Salvatore Corsitto as Bonasera, James Caan as Santino 'Sonny' Corleone and Marlon Brando (1924 - 2004) as Don Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather' | Getty Images | Photo by Silver Screen Collection
Salvatore Corsitto as Bonasera, James Caan as Santino 'Sonny' Corleone and Marlon Brando (1924 - 2004) as Don Vito Corleone in 'The Godfather' | Getty Images | Photo by Silver Screen Collection

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While the mafia has been both romanticized and vilified on the screen in equal measure, their role behind the camera has been significant in Hollywood. From the fascination of filmmakers with the Chicago Outfit's notorious ringleader Al Capone to the popular show “Sopranos”, the mafia goes far beyond the characters seen on screen. Here are films that actually had the blessings of mobsters.

1. Texas Chainsaw Massacre

A poster for Tobe Hooper's 1974 horror film 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' | Getty Images | Photo by Movie Poster Image Art
A poster for Tobe Hooper's 1974 horror film 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' | Getty Images | Photo by Movie Poster Image Art

The mafia had reportedly been involved in the making of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” franchise, right from the beginning. The producer of the film Louis "Butchie" Peraino was allegedly involved in the mafia-funded pornographic film “Deep Throat.” As per Movie Web, Peraino used the funds from “Deep Throat” to open the Bryanston Distributing Company, which made the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The actors accused the producers of stealing pay, but despite the controversy, the film led to the establishment of a multi-million-dollar franchise. Later, it was discovered that Peraino had ties with the Colombo crime family and he was met with obscenity charges for his involvement with Deep Throat, after which the Bryanston Distributing Company.

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2. Winter Kills

Winter Kills (1979) ORIGINAL TRAILER | Image Source: @Unseen Trailers
Winter Kills (1979) ORIGINAL TRAILER | Image Source: @Unseen Trailers

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“Winter Kills” is a dark comedy centered around a fictionalized version of the JFK assassination. As per mob researcher John Fleming, the film was produced by two alleged drug dealers named Robert Sterling and Leonard Goldberg, Grunge reported. The duo was also aided by other mobsters, but the film was hit by an unfortunate turn of events when Goldberg was kidnapped and killed midway through the film’s production. The film was quietly released in a few theatres after the original distributor pulled out, and lost a colossal sum of money as a result.

3. From Here To Eternity

From Here to Eternity (1953) Trailer | Image Source: YouTube @Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers
From Here to Eternity (1953) Trailer | Image Source: YouTube @Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers

At a time when mobsters were at the peak of their involvement with Hollywood, it was reported that Johnny Roselli, who was an alleged associate of Marylin Monroe, had insisted Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn sign her to kick-start her career. It was known that the Chicago mafia had a virtual stranglehold on the production, as per Grunge. For the film “From Here To Eternity,” Roselli reportedly insisted on Frank Sinatra being cast in a key supporting role. Thus, Sinatra got the part and even won an Academy Award for his work in the film.

4. The Cotton Club

The Cotton Club Encore | Trailer | Image Source: YouTube @Film at Lincoln Center
The Cotton Club Encore | Trailer | Image Source: YouTube @Film at Lincoln Center

Produced by Robert Evans, and starring Richard Gere, Nicolas Cage, and Laurence Fishburne, “The Cotton Club” was not a commercial success. However, it was lauded by critics, and it won several Golden Globes and Academy Award nominations. As per Gangster Report, producer Evans, was a 50/50 partner on the film with Roy Radin, a concert promoter. The two were brought together by Evans' then-girlfriend, Lanie Jacobs, who was a drug dealer. As per the LA Times, Jacobs felt she was owed a cut in the film, and she went on to kidnap and kill Radin. Following this, Evans, then went to "hotel owners" Eddie and Freddie Doumani who were known to have connections with the mob for the film's funding.

5. Scarface

Actor Al Pacino stars in 'Scarface' | Getty Images | Photo by Michael Ochs Archives
Actor Al Pacino stars in 'Scarface' | Getty Images | Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

The legendary crime drama starring Al Pacino was initially based on Armitage Trail's 1929 novel of the same name which followed Italian mobster Antonio "Tony" Camonte. However, the film was thought to be inspired by known mob leader Al Capone, who reportedly sent his men to Hollywood, to convince producers to not portray him as the mafia in an offensive or "cheap" manner. The film’s screenwriter, Ben Hecht admitted to meeting Capone's men and it was then named “Scarface”. The film reportedly went through a quality check by Al Capone and after he was satisfied, the production went ahead with Capone’s “blessings”, as per Movie Web.

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