Mean Streets (1973)

R | 110 or 112 mins | Drama | October 1973

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Season of the Witch . The film begins with a black screen, with voice-over narration relating the thoughts of the character “Charlie”: “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.” Following is a brief scene in which Charlie wakes, as if from a nightmare, and inspects his face in a mirror before returning to bed. The opening credits then appear as an old projector in a darkened room plays home movies of Charlie interacting with his friends and family in his Little Italy neighborhood. In the opening credits, only Cesare Danova, whose credit reads “with Cesare Danova as ‘Giovanni’,” is listed with a character name. Actor Victor Argo is listed in the opening credits as “Vic.” Following the opening credits are vignettes introducing the four main, male characters, with the character name of each appearing onscreen at the end of the individual sequences. The names of composers Guiseppi di Stefano and Ray Barretto were misspelled in the end credits.
       In addition to the occasional voice-over narration from Charlie relating his thoughts, particularly about religion, in the sequence introducing him in the church, brief voice-over narration by director Martin Scorsese is heard, reciting part of a prayer. In modern interviews, Scorsese has noted that his voice is intercut with Keitel’s to supply Charlie’s narration. During the film, Giovanni frequently speaks Italian with his associates and to Charlie. English subtitles translate the dialogue. The film does not have a ... More Less

The working title of this film was Season of the Witch . The film begins with a black screen, with voice-over narration relating the thoughts of the character “Charlie”: “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.” Following is a brief scene in which Charlie wakes, as if from a nightmare, and inspects his face in a mirror before returning to bed. The opening credits then appear as an old projector in a darkened room plays home movies of Charlie interacting with his friends and family in his Little Italy neighborhood. In the opening credits, only Cesare Danova, whose credit reads “with Cesare Danova as ‘Giovanni’,” is listed with a character name. Actor Victor Argo is listed in the opening credits as “Vic.” Following the opening credits are vignettes introducing the four main, male characters, with the character name of each appearing onscreen at the end of the individual sequences. The names of composers Guiseppi di Stefano and Ray Barretto were misspelled in the end credits.
       In addition to the occasional voice-over narration from Charlie relating his thoughts, particularly about religion, in the sequence introducing him in the church, brief voice-over narration by director Martin Scorsese is heard, reciting part of a prayer. In modern interviews, Scorsese has noted that his voice is intercut with Keitel’s to supply Charlie’s narration. During the film, Giovanni frequently speaks Italian with his associates and to Charlie. English subtitles translate the dialogue. The film does not have a traditional musical score and instead features a variety of songs.
       At the end of the film, after the shooting and car accident, various images are shown quickly, such as Giovanni watching television, “Diane” smoking in a diner and a concert at the Feast of San Gennaro. Although some critics have speculated that the film's end implies that the characters will die, in interviews, Scorsese has always maintained that the characters live. The end credits contain a long list of thanks to many individuals, including Brian De Palma, Catherine Scorsese, Barbara Weintraub and Dr. Robert Kahn, who was Scorsese’s analyst, according to a 16 Dec 1973 NYT article. Special thanks is also given to the San Gennaro Feast Committee. In modern interviews, Scorsese has stated that film’s title was suggested to him by writer Jay Cocks, and that it was taken from a line in the essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” written by Raymond Chandler and first published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1944: “But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”
       Snippets of three films are seen within Mean Streets . In the first sequence set in a movie theater, “Tony,” “Michael” and Charlie watch The Searchers (1956), and in the second, Charlie and “Johnny Boy” see The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). At the end of Mean Streets , as Giovanni relaxes in front of the television, a brief clip from The Big Heat (1953) is glimpsed (see entries above and below for all). According to a 10 Jun 1973 Var article, Scorsese initially wanted to use a clip from Donovan’s Reef in Mean Streets , but John Wayne refused to allow use of the clip because Mean Streets was rated R. Scorsese then substituted the snippet from The Searchers , although it was not a scene that featured Wayne. Scorsese previously had included a number of clips from Wayne movies in his first film, 1968’s Who’s That Knocking at My Door? (see below).
       In the 16 Dec 1973 NYT interview, Scorsese related that he and co-writer Mardik Martin had worked on the screenplay for Mean Streets for seven years. In 1975, at a seminar at the American Film Institute, Scorsese related that he and Martin originally wrote an outline for the film in 1966 and worked on it for numerous years but were unable to interest anyone in producing it. After completing Boxcar Bertha (1972, see above), Scorsese was encouraged by his friend and mentor, John Cassavetes, to return to a more personal style of filmmaking, as he had done with Who’s That Knocking at My Door? Scorsese reported that he first approached the New York branch of AFI, which was just starting a feature branch there, for funds to make Mean Streets , but the project was turned down. He then approached Joseph Brenner, the distributor of Who’s That Knocking at My Door? , but Brenner also declined.
       Eventually, Scorsese showed the screenplay for Mean Streets to Roger Corman, who had produced Boxcar Bertha and agreed to supply the budget if Scorsese would rewrite it as a black-oriented film. Scorsese demurred, at which point he was introduced by friend Verna Bloom to Jonathan T. Taplin. Taplin, who made his bow as a movie producer with Mean Streets , then turned to E. Lee Perry for the funding, with part of the budget also coming from Consolidated Film Industries, which provided all of the laboratory facilities and processing on a deferment basis, according to the AFI seminar information. Although Corman did not fund the film, he did initially agree to distribute it, which helped Taplin obtain financing.
       As noted by a 3 Sep 1973 Box article, Mean Streets was then produced independently and picked up for distribution by Warner Bros. after completion. The article quoted Taplin, who previously was a concert producer and road manager for performers such as Bob Dylan, as stating that Mean Streets was a “full union production, made on a reasonable budget and shot wholly on practical locations.” In a 24 Feb 1974 NYT article, Taplin revealed that he raised the $480,000 budget for Mean Streets “from acquaintances in Cleveland, his hometown.”
       In the AFI seminar and in his commentary for the film’s 2004 DVD release, Scorsese related that the picture was shot primarily in Los Angeles, on studio sets and practical locations, although “maybe seven or eight” days of the approximately twenty-seven day production schedule were shot on location in New York City. Scorsese cited the high cost of shooting in New York as the reason for the location switch, and explained that Anna Uricola, the mother of his friend Robert, allowed them to film in the hallways and courtyard of the building for which she was a superintendent. Anna has a bit role in the film as "Mrs. Uricola, angry neighbor at window." Several other friends in the neighborhood of Little Italy, where Scorsese was reared, also cooperated with the shooting and allowed him to film for little or no money, although the Feast of San Gennaro Committee demanded such a high fee for a shooting permit that he had to borrow the required funds from his friend, fellow director Francis Ford Coppola.
       In a 1973 short film entitled “Martin Scorsese: Back on the Block,” included as added content on Mean Street ’s 2004 DVD release, Scorsese stated that in addition to filming in Mrs. Uricola’s building, he shot some scenes in the cemetery of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In the AFI seminar, Scorsese revealed that the beach sequence was shot on Staten Island, and the scene in which Johnny Boy blows up the mailbox was filmed by a second unit in San Pedro, CA. The filmmakers’ ability to transform the Los Angeles locations and sets to resemble New York was so complete that a number of contemporary reviewers believed that the entire picture had been shot on location in Scorsese’s former neighborhood. Among them was Vincent Canby of NYT , who reported in his Oct 1973 review that Mean Streets “was shot entirely on its New York locations.”
       During the AFI seminar, Scorsese revealed that Jon Voight was cast as Charlie, even though he originally had written the part with Keitel in mind. Upon learning that Voight had turned down the role, Scorsese immediately cast Keitel and shot the San Gennaro footage in three days in Oct 1972. Modern sources add when the casting was still in doubt, Scorsese was considering Keitel for the part of Johnny Boy. Although the part eventually went to Robert De Niro, De Niro initially wanted to play Charlie, the main character. In modern interviews, De Niro has asserted that he took the secondary role because he wanted to work with Scorsese.
       As discussed in an 8 Feb 1976 NYT article, and elaborated on by Scorsese at the AFI seminar and in his DVD commentary, the director encouraged his actors to improvise during the rehearsal period of Mean Streets . After taping the rehearsals and having the audio tapes transcribed, the director then often incorporated the improvisations into the screenplay. In his DVD commentary, Scorsese added that the sequence in which Johnny Boy makes a long, rambling speech to Charlie about why he cannot make that week’s payment to Michael was not in the original script and was entirely improvised by De Niro and Keitel. It was the last sequence filmed and was shot after Scorsese pleaded with Taplin and Perry for funds to shoot for one more day.
       At the time of the film’s production, Scorsese and Sandra Weintraub, who is credited onscreen as “Pre-production and post-production coordinator,” were romantically involved. According to the 16 Dec 1973 NYT article, Weintraub suggested casting David Carradine, who starred in Boxcar Bertha , as the drunk who gets shot in Tony’s bar, and Scorsese stated in the article that she did some of the editing on Mean Streets . According to modern sources, Weintraub and her sister Heather played the two girls whom Johnny Boy takes to Tony’s bar toward the beginning of the film. Modern sources also include Ron Satloff in the cast as “Carl.”
       In the AFI seminar, Scorsese revealed that he, not Sid Levin, edited the picture, but due to regulations set by the Directors Guild of America, Scorsese could not receive onscreen credit as the editor. Scorsese added that, in addition to receiving help from Weintraub, his friend, director Brian De Palma, aided in the editing process. Like De Palma, several people who receive onscreen thanks were listed by Scorsese at AFI as assisting in the production, such as Alec Hirschfeld, whom he said acted as the cinematographer for some of the New York sequences. Scorsese has noted in multiple sources that the crew for the New York shoot consisted mainly of students and friends from New York University, in order to keep costs down.
       At the time of the film’s release a number of contemporary sources commented on its autobiographical nature, and in the 1973 short, Scorsese revealed that the picture was based on his life in Little Italy and his friendships, in particular those with Robert Uricola and Joe Moralli. Many contemporary and modern sources have pointed out that Scorsese, who was reared a Catholic and seriously considered entering the priesthood, used Charlie as an alter ego to express his mixed feelings toward religion, sin, forgiveness and his Italian-American heritage. Similarly, critics have noted that, along with 1972’s The Godfather (see above), Mean Streets was one of the first films to portray a portion of Italian-American culture from the point of view of someone who had experienced it daily. In 1998, in a review of the film’s twenty-fifth anniversary re-release, the Village Voice review called Mean Streets “a piece of urban ethnography, a realist rendering of a subculture that had never been shown on screen in such detail before.”
       In an interview printed in 1980, Scorsese is quoted as stating that he conceived Mean Streets as the third part of a trilogy about religion and growing up in Little Italy, with the first part being a screenplay entitled Jerusalem, Jerusalem , which was never produced, and the second part being Who’s That Knocking at My Door? , which also starred Keitel in the leading, autobiographical role. At the 1975 AFI seminar, when Scorsese was questioned about his upcoming projects, he reported that he and Martin were working on the screenplay for a sequel to Mean Streets , but that picture was never made.
       Mean Streets received many glowing reviews, with some critics comparing it to the work of Scorsese’s friends and contemporaries such as Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich and George Lucas. Several reviewers also noted that the young directors were among the first to have been trained at film schools rather than through studio system apprenticeships. Although some contemporary critics quibbled over Scorsese’s ability to engage the audience’s emotions with characters that were not fully realized, the Cue reviewer proclaimed that Scorsese possessed a “raw, unrelenting fury and a high-voltage talent that promises to be a jolting force in contemporary American cinema.” Despite good reviews and the acclaim the film received at the Oct 1973 New York Film Festival, it was not a success at the box office upon its initial release.
       In the 24 Feb 1974 NYT article, Taplin complained that because Warner Bros. did not have a large financial stake in the film, the studio was not very aggressive about marketing it, and that at that time, the filmmakers were “having problems” with the studio “because they don’t want to open the film in Europe.” During the AFI seminar, Scorsese concurred with Taplin’s assessment, explaining that he felt the distribution problems were due to the film’s complex theme, the filmmakers’ inexperience and Warner Bros.’ deeper interest in its own big-budget productions such as The Exorcist (1973, see above). He added that, at that time, he and Taplin were in negotiations to purchase back the foreign distribution rights. Although modern sources claim that when Scorsese and Taplin showed Mean Streets in the Cannes Film Festival Directors Fortnight series on 10 May 1974 and obtained a foreign distribution deal with the help of noted Italian director Federico Fellini, that information has not been confirmed.
       On 21 Nov 1973, Var reported that Mean Streets was the first motion picture to be rated by CORE, the Congress on Racial Equality “from a black perspective using black standards as a gauge of excellence.” Citing the portrayals of “Davis,” the corrupt black policeman and Diane, the topless dancer, CORE declared the movie “extremely offensive” and gave it a “very poor” score of twenty-five out of a possible one hundred.
       Many modern sources credit Mean Streets with igniting the careers of Scorsese and the actors appearing in it, noting that De Niro was cast in The Godfather Part II (1974) because of the accolades he received for Mean Streets , and that writer Paul Schrader, also impressed with Mean Streets , agreed to have Scorsese direct his screenplay of Taxi Driver (1975). Mean Streets marked the first teaming of Scorsese and De Niro. The pair went on to make seven more films together, including Taxi Driver , Raging Bull (1980) and GoodFellas (1990, see above and below for all). As of Jul 2008, they were collaborating on another project, due to be released in 2009. Although Mean Streets also marked the screen-acting debut of Amy Robinson, she wrote in a 24 Mar 1974 NYT article that she did not receive the same attention as did her director and male co-stars. By the late 1980s, she had become a successful motion picture producer. Additionally, Mean Streets marked the feature film debuts of David Proval and Richard Romanus.
       In 1997, Mean Streets was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, and in 1998, it was re-released theatrically to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary. A special, re-mastered DVD, featuring commentary by Scorsese and Robinson, was released by Warner Home Video in 2004 as one of five films comprising “The Martin Scorsese Collection.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Sep 1973.
---
Box Office
15 Oct 1973
p. 4632.
Cue
15 Oct 1973.
---
Films and Filming
May 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1972
p. 31.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 1973
p. 44.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 1973
p. 3, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 2004
p. 6.
LA Weekly
13-19 Mar 1998
p. 38.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
27 Oct 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Oct 1973
Section IV, p. 1, 13.
Los Angeles Times
13 Mar 1998.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Oct 1973.
---
New Republic
27 Oct 1973
p. 22.
New Times L.A.
12 Mar 1998.
---
New York Times
3 Oct 1973
p. 15.
New York Times
14 Oct 1973.
---
New York Times
18 Oct 1973.
---
New York Times
16 Dec 1973.
---
New York Times
30 Dec 1973
Section D, p. 11.
New York Times
24 Feb 1974.
---
New York Times
24 Mar 1974.
---
New York Times
8 Feb 1976.
---
New Yorker
8 Oct 1973.
---
Newsweek
15 Oct 1973.
---
Newsweek
22 Oct 1973.
---
Penthouse
Feb 1974.
---
Real Paper (Boston)
7 Nov 1973
p. 34.
Rolling Stone
8 Nov 1973
p. 80.
Time
5 Nov 1973.
---
Variety
10 Jun 1973.
---
Variety
3 Oct 1973
p. 15.
Variety
21 Nov 1973.
---
Village Voice
17 Mar 1998.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Martin Scorsese Movie
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Cam op
Asst cam
2d asst cam
Key grip
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Visual consultant
Asst visual consultant
FILM EDITORS
SET DECORATOR
Prop master
COSTUMES
Clothing consultant
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles, opt & processing
PRODUCTION MISC
Pre-prod and post-prod coord
Prod coord
2d unit prod coord
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Animal trainer
Asst to the prod
Asst to the prod
Asst to the prod
Prod secy
Loc services by
New York City prod crew member
New York City prod crew member
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Hideaway" by Freddie King and Sonny Thompson, performed by Eric Clapton, courtesy of R.S.O. Records.
SONGS
"Jumpin’ Jack Flash" and "Tell Me You're Coming Back," music and lyrics by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, performed by The Rolling Stones, courtesy of ABKCO Records
"I Love You So," music and lyrics by Sonny Norton and Morris Levy, performed by The Chantells, courtesy of End Records
"Addio Sogni di Gloria," music and lyrics by Carlo Innocenzi and Marcella Rivi, performed by Giuseppe di Stefano, courtesy of Decca Records
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SONGS
"Jumpin’ Jack Flash" and "Tell Me You're Coming Back," music and lyrics by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, performed by The Rolling Stones, courtesy of ABKCO Records
"I Love You So," music and lyrics by Sonny Norton and Morris Levy, performed by The Chantells, courtesy of End Records
"Addio Sogni di Gloria," music and lyrics by Carlo Innocenzi and Marcella Rivi, performed by Giuseppe di Stefano, courtesy of Decca Records
"Canta pe me," music and lyrics by Ernesto De Curtis, Ennio Morricone and Libero Bovio, performed by Giuseppe di Stefano, courtesy of Decca Records
"Munasterio e Santa Chiara," music and lyrics by Alberto Barberis and Michele Galdieri, performed by Giuseppe di Stefano, courtesy of Decca Records
"Marruzella," music and lyrics by Renato Carosone and Enzo Bonagura, performed by Renato Carosone, courtesy of E.M.I. Records
"Scapricciatiello," music and lyrics by Ferdinando Albano and Pacifico Vento, performed by Renato Carosone, courtesy of E.M.I. Records
"Please Mr. Postman," music and lyrics by Robert Bateman, Brian Holland and Freddie Gorman, performed by The Marvelettes, courtesy of Motown Records
"I Looked Away," music and lyrics by Bobby Whitlock and Eric Clapton, performed by Eric Clapton, courtesy of R.S.O. Records
"Desiree," music and lyrics by Leslie Cooper and Clarence Johnson, performed by The Charts, courtesy of Everlast Records
"Rubber Biscuit," music and lyrics by Nathaniel Epps, Paul Fulton, Kinrod Charles Johnson, Shedrick Bubbie Lincoln and Samuel Edward Strain, Jr., performed by The Chips, courtesy of Josie Records
"Pledging My Love," music and lyrics by Don D. Robey and Ferdinand Washington, performed by Johnny Ace, courtesy of Duke Records
"Ritmo Sabroso," music and lyrics by Ray Barretto and Louis Ramirez, performed by Ray Barretto, courtesy of Tico Records
"You," music and lyrics by David Goddard and Larry Vannata, performed by The Aquatones, courtesy of Fargo Records
"Ship of Love," music and lyrics by Leroy Griffin and Martin B. Wilson, performed by The Nutmegs, courtesy of Herald Records
"Florence," music and lyrics by Paul Winley and Julius McMichaels, performed by The Paragons, courtesy of Winley Records
"Mala Femmena," music and lyrics by Toto and George Brown, performed by Jimmy Roselli, courtesy of U.A. Records
"Those Oldies but Goodies (Remind Me of You)," music and lyrics by Paul Politi and Nick Curinga, performed by Little Caesar and The Romans, courtesy of Brave New World
"Ronde Ronde," music and lyrics by Shirley Reeves, Addie Harris, Doris Coley and Beverly Lee, performed by The Shirelles, courtesy of Sceptor Records
"Be My Baby," music and lyrics by Jeff Barry, Phil Spector and Ellie Greenwich, performed by The Ronettes, courtesy of Philles Records
"Mickey's Monkey," music and lyrics by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Edward J. Holland, performed by The Miracles, courtesy of Tamla Records
"It's in His Kiss," music and lyrics by Rudy Clark, performed by Betty Everett.
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DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Season of the Witch
Release Date:
October 1973
Premiere Information:
New York Film Festival screening: 2 October 1973
New York opening: 14 October 1973
Los Angeles opening: 26 October 1973
Production Date:
mid November 1972--mid January 1973 in New York City and Los Angeles
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 October 1973
Copyright Number:
LP43626
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
110 or 112
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23765
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the Little Italy neighborhood of New York City, Charlie works as a collector and numbers runner for his uncle Giovanni, a high-profile organized crime leader. A Catholic, Charlie is deeply religious but also skeptical about the Church’s ability to mitigate sin and guilt. Believing that the penances imposed by the priests are “just words,” Charlie, who is obsessed with the eternal fires of hell, promises God that he will “do my own penance for my own sins.” Complicating Charlie’s desire for a less morally ambiguous life are his friendships with bar owner Tony, loan shark Michael and Johnny Boy Civello, an aimless drifter and compulsive gambler who owes money to many people in the neighborhood, including Michael. Although he is twenty-seven, Charlie still lives with his mother, who gives him clothes and spending money. One night, after an unsatisfying prayer session in church, Charlie goes to Volpe’s, the topless bar run by Tony. Michael asks Charlie to persuade Johnny Boy to repay the money he owes, as Charlie vouched for him and, by the code of the streets, is therefore responsible for Johnny Boy’s debt. Although Charlie, who is known as a peacemaker, assures Michael that he will get his money, he cannot explain why he feels compelled to help Johnny Boy, stating that it is a “family thing.” Just then, the often childish and belligerent Johnny Boy struts in, accompanied by two women. When Charlie questions him about his late payments to Michael, Johnny Boy rambles on about his gambling losses, the pressures of his other debts and his desire for new clothes. Although he is irritated ... +


In the Little Italy neighborhood of New York City, Charlie works as a collector and numbers runner for his uncle Giovanni, a high-profile organized crime leader. A Catholic, Charlie is deeply religious but also skeptical about the Church’s ability to mitigate sin and guilt. Believing that the penances imposed by the priests are “just words,” Charlie, who is obsessed with the eternal fires of hell, promises God that he will “do my own penance for my own sins.” Complicating Charlie’s desire for a less morally ambiguous life are his friendships with bar owner Tony, loan shark Michael and Johnny Boy Civello, an aimless drifter and compulsive gambler who owes money to many people in the neighborhood, including Michael. Although he is twenty-seven, Charlie still lives with his mother, who gives him clothes and spending money. One night, after an unsatisfying prayer session in church, Charlie goes to Volpe’s, the topless bar run by Tony. Michael asks Charlie to persuade Johnny Boy to repay the money he owes, as Charlie vouched for him and, by the code of the streets, is therefore responsible for Johnny Boy’s debt. Although Charlie, who is known as a peacemaker, assures Michael that he will get his money, he cannot explain why he feels compelled to help Johnny Boy, stating that it is a “family thing.” Just then, the often childish and belligerent Johnny Boy struts in, accompanied by two women. When Charlie questions him about his late payments to Michael, Johnny Boy rambles on about his gambling losses, the pressures of his other debts and his desire for new clothes. Although he is irritated by Johnny Boy’s irresponsibility, Charlie is swayed by his friend’s charm and joins him in drinking with the girls. The next day, Charlie confronts Oscar, the owner of an upscale, uptown restaurant. Oscar informs him that he will not be able to make that week’s payment to Giovanni, and that because of his partner’s desertion, the business is doing so poorly that he may have to turn it over to Giovanni. Charlie, who is hoping to be given the restaurant by Giovanni, is excited, as it represents a way out of the close-knit neighborhood he both loves and loathes. Charlie then makes his way home, walking along streets crowded by participants enjoying the annual Feast of San Gennaro. At his uncle’s deli, Charlie tells Giovanni that Oscar is unable to pay and while Giovanni advises him to be patient, he also tantalizes Charlie with the question of whether he likes restaurants. Soon after, Charlie and Tony drive their friend Jimmy to see Joey, a numbers runner who has refused to pay a winning bet placed by Jimmy. Overcoming the tense atmosphere, Charlie placates Joey and persuades him to pay, but Johnny Boy’s aggression and insults infuriate Joey, prompting him to renege. A brawl breaks out, although when two policemen arrive, Joey bribes them to prevent any arrests. That night at Volpe’s, the men laze around while a customer, completely drunk, sprawls on top of the bar. Tony teases Charlie about believing a cautionary tale told by a priest that turned out to be false, and Charlie retorts that he was angry because the priest lied to him. Tony opines that religion is just a business, but Charlie refuses to listen, stating that priests are not supposed to be like everyone else. At closing time, a young man enters and watches the drunk, who wanders into the bathroom. Following him, the youth shoots him several times but his target is so drunk that he is impervious and charges his assailant. Holding onto each other, the two tumble into the main room, where everyone reacts in fear. The youth shoots the man again, but he continues to charge forward before collapsing in the gutter outside. To avoid the police, Tony douses the bar’s lights and everyone exits through a back window. As they walk along the streets, Charlie and Johnny Boy reminisce about a boyhood encounter with the police, during which Johnny Boy was badly beaten while Charlie ran away. They go to Charlie’s, where Charlie stops Johnny Boy from climbing the fire escape to the apartment across the courtyard in which his aunt, uncle and cousin Teresa live, because he does not want Johnny Boy entering through Teresa’s bedroom window. Unknown to any of his family or friends, Charlie is romantically involved with Teresa, who is looked down upon because of her epilepsy and headstrong ideas. Because she is in love with Charlie, Teresa resents having to keep their relationship a secret, although she meets with him at a hotel that afternoon to have sex. Torn between his obligations to Giovanni, who does not want him to date Teresa, and his feelings for Teresa, Charlie refuses to say that he loves her, nor will he make a commitment. After they leave, Charlie goes to his uncle’s restaurant, where the father of the young killer begs Giovanni for protection, claiming that the boy was avenging a slight against Mario, Giovanni’s right-hand man. Giovanni reluctantly agrees, although he orders the man to send his son away for a year. The next day, Charlie and Teresa walk along the beach, where she tells him that she is determined to move away from her parents to an uptown apartment. Teresa implies that she wants Charlie to come with her, but Charlie insists that he must stay in the neighborhood to help his uncle. The couple also argues over Charlie’s involvement with Johnny Boy, whom Teresa regards as dangerously unstable, but Charlie maintains that no one else will help her cousin if he does not. That night, at Volpe’s, Charlie asks Diane, one of the topless dancers, to dinner to discuss her becoming a hostess at his restaurant, but because she is black, he is afraid to be seen with her and stands her up. At Oscar’s, Charlie dines with Giovanni and Mario, and Giovanni warns him about associating with Johnny Boy, even though Johnny Boy is his godson, telling Charlie that “honorable men go with honorable men.” Giovanni also tells him that while he should watch over Teresa, he should not become too involved because he regards her as being “sick in the head” due to her epilepsy. The next day, Charlie tells Teresa that he can no longer see her, although he does not share his uncle’s opinion of her. Teresa reacts angrily and Charlie asserts that he will be ruined if his uncle learns about their relationship and the extent of Johnny Boy’s debts. When Teresa asks him to leave the neighborhood with her, Charlie states that he must first gain control of the restaurant, and then their lives will become easier. Charlie then meets with Giovanni, who relays that Oscar’s partner committed suicide. When Michael attempts to interrupt their conversation, Giovanni dismisses him, embarrassing him. Charlie attempts to placate Michael afterward, but Michael states that he is fed up with Johnny Boy’s insolence and nonpayment. Upset to hear that Johnny Boy no longer shows up at the job he arranged for him, Charlie promises Michael that he will resolve the matter. That night, Charlie attends a party thrown for a friend who has returned from Vietnam, and when Johnny Boy, who had promised Michael he would be there to pay his debt fails to appear, an angry Michael informs Charlie that Johnny Boy owes him $3,000. Charlie is shocked to learn the real amount of his friend’s debt and entreats Michael to accept $2,000 instead. Michael relents, although he warns that if Johnny Boy does not offer a payment on the next pay day, he will break his legs. As the party continues, Teresa arrives to tell Charlie that Johnny Boy is on a roof, randomly shooting a pistol into the air. Arriving on the roof, Charlie convinces Johnny Boy to give him the weapon, and they then hide in a nearby cemetery to avoid the police. Although Charlie orders Johnny Boy to return to work, Johnny Boy complains, requesting that he ask Giovanni to arrange for his debts to be forgiven. Charlie refuses, much to Johnny Boy’s ire. Soon after, Teresa and Charlie, waiting for Johnny Boy at Charlie’s apartment, grow upset by his tardiness, while on the fire escape, Johnny Boy watches Charlie comfort Teresa and deduces the nature of their relationship. He taunts the couple, especially when Charlie slaps him for his insinuating remarks, and threatens to tell Giovanni. As they are screaming and shoving each other, the men’s fight unnerves Teresa so much that she has an epileptic seizure in the hallway. Instead of staying to help Teresa, Charlie summons a neighbor, then chases the fleeing Johnny Boy. On the street, Charlie yells about how much he does for Johnny Boy, who retorts that he only does it to make himself feel better. Eventually the pair calms down and Charlie makes sure that his friend has thirty dollars to give Michael. When they arrive at the bar, however, Johnny Boy spends most of the money on drinks and has only ten dollars to offer Michael. Insulted, Michael tosses the bill at Johnny Boy, who sets it on fire while insulting Michael. When Michael leaps at him, Johnny Boy pulls a pistol, and the infuriated Michael leaves with his friend Shorty, a hired killer. Even though the pistol was not loaded, Charlie is horror-stricken by Johnny Boy’s actions, as Michael will surely seek revenge and word will reach Giovanni. Charlie and Johnny Boy hide at a movie theater, then call Teresa, asking her for money so that they can leave town for a while. She insists on coming with them, and soon the trio is driving through Brooklyn. They are followed by Michael, however, who orders Shorty to shoot them. Shorty hits Johnny Boy in the neck and Charlie in the hand, and their car spins out of control, hitting a hydrant and throwing Teresa into the windshield. After Michael drives away, Johnny Boy staggers into an alley while Charlie lurches from the car. Help arrives, and as Charlie is led to an ambulance, he looks back to see the badly wounded Teresa being helped from the car by policemen. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.