Mobsters (1991)

R | 104 mins | Drama | 26 July 1991

Producer:

Steve Roth

Cinematographer:

Lajos Koltai

Production Designer:

Richard Sylbert

Production Company:

Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

The film concludes with the following written epilogue: “Under Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano’s leadership, peace reigned in organized crime for fifteen years. Luciano died of heart failure at the age of 65. Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel helped build the first Casino in Las Vegas. In 1947, evidence of embezzlement reached the Commission, and Siegel was gunned down. Frank Costello remained a top mob figure for 30 years. After an unsuccessful attempt on his life, he was allowed by the Commission to retire. Meyer Lansky avoided the limelight. He never served a day in jail and died peacefully, one of the richest men in America.”
       Referring to the picture by its working title, a 19 Oct 1988 DV brief announced that producer Steve Roth had optioned Michael Mahern’s Gangsters, and by 26 Oct 1988, he had brought the property to the Weintraub Entertainment Group (WEG), according to a Var news item published that day. Three weeks later, the 17 Nov 1988 DV confirmed that WEG was planning to produce Gangsters. On 16 Dec 1988, Var reported that actor Tom Cruise was a top choice for one of the male leads; however, he did not remain with the project.
       Gangsters remained in limbo at WEG until mid-1990, when a 16 May 1990 DV article announced that filming was set to begin at Universal Studios, with Mexican filmmaker Luis Mandoki as director. However, the project failed to start production over the next six months, and on 15 Nov 1990, DV reported that Mandoki had ... More Less

The film concludes with the following written epilogue: “Under Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano’s leadership, peace reigned in organized crime for fifteen years. Luciano died of heart failure at the age of 65. Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel helped build the first Casino in Las Vegas. In 1947, evidence of embezzlement reached the Commission, and Siegel was gunned down. Frank Costello remained a top mob figure for 30 years. After an unsuccessful attempt on his life, he was allowed by the Commission to retire. Meyer Lansky avoided the limelight. He never served a day in jail and died peacefully, one of the richest men in America.”
       Referring to the picture by its working title, a 19 Oct 1988 DV brief announced that producer Steve Roth had optioned Michael Mahern’s Gangsters, and by 26 Oct 1988, he had brought the property to the Weintraub Entertainment Group (WEG), according to a Var news item published that day. Three weeks later, the 17 Nov 1988 DV confirmed that WEG was planning to produce Gangsters. On 16 Dec 1988, Var reported that actor Tom Cruise was a top choice for one of the male leads; however, he did not remain with the project.
       Gangsters remained in limbo at WEG until mid-1990, when a 16 May 1990 DV article announced that filming was set to begin at Universal Studios, with Mexican filmmaker Luis Mandoki as director. However, the project failed to start production over the next six months, and on 15 Nov 1990, DV reported that Mandoki had stepped down due to “creative differences.” At that time, the title had been changed to Mobsters, and the film was listed as a Universal Pictures production. A studio insider explained that part of the conflict was due Universal’s desire for a rushed production schedule, starting 5 Dec 1990, to prepare for a summer 1991 release. Since Mandoki did not wish to speed up pre-production, he was replaced by Michael Karbelnikoff, who was known at the time as a director of television commercials. Karbelnikoff’s hiring was announced in a 23 Oct 1990 edition of Cinefile, and Mobsters was to mark his first theatrically-released feature film. By mid-Nov 1990, Christian Slater, Richard Grieco, and Patrick Dempsey had all been cast, and Australian actor Costas Mandylor was selected to play “Frank Costello” as long as scheduling conflicts with his current production, Soapdish (1991, see entry), could be resolved. DV added that the original Michael Mahern script was rewritten by Nicholas Kazan.
       According to an 11 Dec 1990 HR production chart, principal photography on the sixty-seven day shoot began five days behind schedule, on 10 Dec 1990. However, Var charts reported a 5 Dec 1990 start date. Although the film takes place in New York City, its locations were recreated in Los Angeles, CA. Production designer Richard Sylbert reportedly took six months to select parts of the city that were consistent with the film’s era. Studio production notes in AMPAS library files listed Pasadena, Hancock Park, and downtown Los Angeles as stand-ins for New York. Mott and Hester Streets were recreated on the Warner Bros. studio backlot, and the Biltmore Hotel ballroom was decorated to resemble “Zelly’s Nightclub” in 1926. The Jewish wedding scene was filmed at the Park Plaza Hotel. Other locations included the Million Dollar Theater, Angeles Crest Forest, and the cities of San Pedro and Vernon, CA. Filming also took place on Universal Studios sound stages.
       During production, a 9 Jan 1991 Var article stated that Steve Roth had already optioned the four leading men, Christian Slater, Patrick Dempsey, Richard Grieco, and Costas Mandylor, for potential sequels.
       The film made its final appearance on a Var production chart on 6 May 1991.
       Mobsters marked the feature film debut of actor Clark Heathcliffe Brolly.
       After a spate of negative reviews, Mobsters was released internationally with the addition of twenty-four minutes of previously eliminted footage, according to a 29 Aug 1991 DV brief. The sequences reportedly helped provide the backstory of the mobsters’ friendships. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Cinefile
23 Oct 1990.
---
Daily Variety
19 Oct 1988.
---
Daily Variety
17 Nov 1988.
---
Daily Variety
16 May 1990.
---
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1990
p. 1, 16.
Daily Variety
26 Jul 1991
p. 3, 25.
Daily Variety
29 Aug 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1991
p. 10, 16.
Los Angeles Times
26 Jul 1991
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
26 Jul 1991
Section C, p. 18.
Variety
26 Oct 1988.
---
Variety
16 Dec 1988.
---
Variety
9 Jan 1991.
---
Variety
6 May 1991.
---
Variety
29 Jul 1991
p. 32.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures Presents
A Steve Roth Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Film loader
Still photog
Video asst tech
Steadicam op
Chief lighting tech
Best boy elec
Rigging gaffer
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Key rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Cranes and dollies
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Primary prod illustrator
Illustrator
Asst to the prod des
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set des
Set des
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dressing prod asst
Drapery foreman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Gen foreman
Prop foreman
Propmaker gang boss
Propmaker gang boss
Propmaker gang boss
Propshop foreman
Paint foreman
Standby painter
Carpenter gang boss
Const foreman
Labor foreman
COSTUMES
Cost des by
Assoc cost des
Cost supv
Set costumer
Set costumer
Costumer
Costumer
Costumer
Costumer
Cost prod asst
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Mus coord
Orch
Sideline contractor
Mus contractor
Scoring mixer
Ellis Island Orchestra klezmer band
Ellis Island Orchestra klezmer band
Ellis Island Orchestra klezmer band
Ellis Island Orchestra klezmer band
Ellis Island Orchestra klezmer band
Ellis Island Orchestra klezmer band
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cableman
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
ADR supv
ADR ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley by
Foley artist
Foley artist
Supv re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dialect coach
VISUAL EFFECTS
Money/Blood montages and main titles by
Montage ed
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Blue screen matte painting
Main titles & opt eff
End title opticals
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
2d makeup
Makeup eff supv
Key prosthetic des & application
Hairstylist
2d hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod accountant
Asst prod accountant
Unit pub
Research asst
Loc supv
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Casting assoc
Asst to Ms. Timmermann
Casting asst
Casting asst
Dialect coach
Prod secy
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Asst to Mr. Roth
Asst to Mr. Karbelnikoff
Asst to Mr. Karbelnikoff
Asst to Mr. Karbelnikoff
Asst to Mr. Karbelnikoff
Ket set prod asst
Ket set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Prod asst
Caterer
Craft services
Set nurse
Dog trainer
Wild animal handler
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Picture car coord
Picture car mechanic
Picture car
Honeywagon driver
Prod van driver
Set dressing driver
Set dressing driver
Const driver
Const driver
Const driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
STAND INS
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
“Bashful Baby,” written by Cliff Friend and Abner Silver, produced and arranged by Dennis Dreith
“Everybody Loves My Baby,” written by Jack Palmer and Spencer Williams, produced and arranged by Dennis Dreith
“Messa Stomp,” written by Mary Lou Williams, arranged by Julian Bratolyubov and Dennis Dreith, produced by Dennis Dreith
+
SONGS
“Bashful Baby,” written by Cliff Friend and Abner Silver, produced and arranged by Dennis Dreith
“Everybody Loves My Baby,” written by Jack Palmer and Spencer Williams, produced and arranged by Dennis Dreith
“Messa Stomp,” written by Mary Lou Williams, arranged by Julian Bratolyubov and Dennis Dreith, produced by Dennis Dreith
“This Joint Is Jumpin’,” written by J. C. Johnson, Andy Razaf, and Thomas Waller, vocal performed by Carmin Twilley, produced and arranged by Dennis Dreith
“Freakish,” written by Jelly Roll Morton, piano soloist Mike Lang, produced by Dennis Dreith
“Dancers In Love,” written by Duke Ellington, piano soloist Mike Lang, produced by Dennis Dreith
“Yoshke,” performed by Ellis Island, produced by Dennis Dreith
“Firen Di Mekhutonim Ameyn,” arranged by Denis Cuniot, performed by Duo Peylet-Cuniot, courtesy of Atoll Music Productions, Paris, France
“I Got A Job For You,” composed and produced by Dennis Dreith
“Odzidayne,” performed by Ellis Island, produced by Dennis Dreith.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Gangsters
Release Date:
26 July 1991
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 26 July 1991
Production Date:
5 or 10 December 1990--early May 1991
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 December 1991
Copyright Number:
PA547203
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Arriflex 535 cameras
Duration(in mins):
104
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31225
SYNOPSIS

In 1917 New York City, working-class neighborhoods are controlled by two Mafia gangsters, Don Faranzano and Don Masseria. Their violent rule of law has paralyzed the community with fear, and citizens consider themselves helpless. However, teenager Charlie Luciano aspires to undermine the town’s brutal dictators and replace their regime with egalitarian politics. When Don Faranzano assaults Charlie’s father, and Don Masseria has his nephew murdered, Charlie recruits his Italian-American companion, Frank Costello, and the two toughest Jewish boys in the neighborhood, Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, to subvert the dons’ power. Following Charlie’s lead, the team pledges to protect the community and get rich at the same time. Five years later, the young men partner with Arnold Rothstein, a wealthy liquor salesman who takes Charlie under his wing and schools him in the art of illicit business practices. As Charlie distributes Rothstein’s “bootleg” alcohol throughout the city, he frequents a gambling club operated by his friend, Tommy Reina, and falls in love with a chorus girl named Mara Motes. When Charlie and his gang become millionaires, Don Faranzano and Don Masseira work against each other to lure the boys away from Rothstein, but the young men are wary of Faranzano’s anti-Semitism, and Masseira’s duplicity, and they choose to remain independent. However, the dons will not be denied, and one of Charlie’s liquor shipments is mysteriously hijacked by an unidentified gang. Blaming the dons, Rothstein cautions Charlie that the mobsters will find a way to take their business, and Charlie plans to send the men a warning. On the evening of the next shipment, Charlie’s gang ambushes the hijackers ... +


In 1917 New York City, working-class neighborhoods are controlled by two Mafia gangsters, Don Faranzano and Don Masseria. Their violent rule of law has paralyzed the community with fear, and citizens consider themselves helpless. However, teenager Charlie Luciano aspires to undermine the town’s brutal dictators and replace their regime with egalitarian politics. When Don Faranzano assaults Charlie’s father, and Don Masseria has his nephew murdered, Charlie recruits his Italian-American companion, Frank Costello, and the two toughest Jewish boys in the neighborhood, Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, to subvert the dons’ power. Following Charlie’s lead, the team pledges to protect the community and get rich at the same time. Five years later, the young men partner with Arnold Rothstein, a wealthy liquor salesman who takes Charlie under his wing and schools him in the art of illicit business practices. As Charlie distributes Rothstein’s “bootleg” alcohol throughout the city, he frequents a gambling club operated by his friend, Tommy Reina, and falls in love with a chorus girl named Mara Motes. When Charlie and his gang become millionaires, Don Faranzano and Don Masseira work against each other to lure the boys away from Rothstein, but the young men are wary of Faranzano’s anti-Semitism, and Masseira’s duplicity, and they choose to remain independent. However, the dons will not be denied, and one of Charlie’s liquor shipments is mysteriously hijacked by an unidentified gang. Blaming the dons, Rothstein cautions Charlie that the mobsters will find a way to take their business, and Charlie plans to send the men a warning. On the evening of the next shipment, Charlie’s gang ambushes the hijackers and orders them to stop working for the dons. However, Bugsy gets carried away and murders one of Faranzano’s henchmen. Although Charlie’s gang vowed to distance themselves from the two dons, they are now threatened with retaliation from Faranzano and must align themselves with Masseria for protection. Masseria agrees to shelter Charlie and his friends on condition that they hand over their liquor trade and kill Faranzano within six months. Charlie is obliged to consent, but he plots to undermine Masseria by curtailing the whiskey business and secretly infusing money into trade unions. When Charlie tells Arnold Rothstein about the scheme, the gentleman predicts gang warfare, but he is convinced Charlie will be victorious if he can secure Masseria’s confidence. Rothstein tells the boy that he must prove his allegiance to Masseria by finding a way to save the don’s life. Meanwhile, Masseria learns about Charlie’s plan. He has Rothstein murdered and orders Charlie to obey his authority. In response to Masseria’s new dominance, Charlie’s club-owner friend, Tommy Reina, advises the young man to align himself with Masseria’s enemy, Don Faranzano, and arranges a meeting. Despite warnings from his gang, Charlie meets his former adversary, Faranzano, only to realize he has been deceived. The anti-Semitic don is not interested in a truce and offers to shelter Charlie on condition that the boy approve the murder of his Jewish friends, Meyer and Bugsy. When Charlie refuses, Faranzano subjects him to torture, and slices his face with a switchblade, but Charlie survives. Reunited with his gang, Charlie plans to overcome Don Faranzano and Don Masseria once and for all by killing double-crosser Tommy Reina. The Reina assassination prompts a gang war between the two dons, who mistakenly blame each other for the murder. As the mobsters battle, Charlie remembers Rothstein’s advice about earning his enemy’s confidence and stages an attack in which he appears to save Masseria’s life. He uses his newfound alliance with Masseria to broker a backhanded deal with Faranzano; Charlie promises to kill Masseria if Faranzano ends the gang war and gives him a stake in his empire. With both dons under his control, Charlie orders Masseria’s assassination and is appointed a leadership role within Faranzano’s operation. However, Faranzano suspects Charlie is a threat and hires “Mad Dog” Coll to kill the young man. When Mad Dog breaks into Charlie’s apartment, he mistakenly murders his girl friend, Mara, who is hiding beneath Charlie’s bed sheets. Unaware of his error, Mad Dog returns to his hotel and is surprised when Charlie shows up to avenge Mara’s death. As Mad Dog escapes and races to Faranzano’s office, Charlie’s gang gains entry at the don’s high-rise building by pretending to be Internal Revenue Service agents, and hold Faranzano at gunpoint. Just then, Mad Dog charges inside, but Charlie is close behind, and he guns down the assassin. With Mad Dog dead, Charlie turns his attention to Faranzano and reminds the don of the assault on his father fifteen years earlier. Finally getting his revenge, Charlie orders his friends to throw Faranzano out the skyscraper window. In the wake of Masseria and Faranzano’s deaths, Charlie is next in line to become New York City’s Mafia boss, but he turns down the job. At a meeting with gang leaders, Charlie declares he is not interested in being a mobster because he does not wish to perpetuate violence. Instead, he advocates for the establishment of “The Commission,” a democratic board of leaders who vote on behalf of their community’s best interests, and the men unanimously elect Charlie as their director. +

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Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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