The Undercover Man (1949)

84-85 mins | Drama | April 1949

Director:

Joseph H. Lewis

Writer:

Sydney Boehm

Cinematographer:

Burnett Guffey

Editor:

Al Clark

Production Designer:

Walter Holscher

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The film's working title was Chicago Story , according to an 11 Mar 1948 LAT article, and it was to be shot on location in Chicago. The film begins with the following written and spoken foreword: "In the cracking of many big criminal cases--such as those of the John Dillinger, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, among others--the newspaper headlines tell only of the glamorous and sensational figures involved. But behind the headlines are the untold stories of ordinary men and women, acting with extraordinary courage. This picture concerns one of these men." This film marked the film debut of actor James Whitmore (1921--2009). A 4 May 1948 LAT news item reported that some scenes were shot at Union Station in Los Angeles. Contemporary reviews noted that this film was loosely based on the events surrounding the arrest of Al Capone. CBCS credits both Ralph Volkie and Ken Harvey with the role of "The Big ... More Less

The film's working title was Chicago Story , according to an 11 Mar 1948 LAT article, and it was to be shot on location in Chicago. The film begins with the following written and spoken foreword: "In the cracking of many big criminal cases--such as those of the John Dillinger, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, among others--the newspaper headlines tell only of the glamorous and sensational figures involved. But behind the headlines are the untold stories of ordinary men and women, acting with extraordinary courage. This picture concerns one of these men." This film marked the film debut of actor James Whitmore (1921--2009). A 4 May 1948 LAT news item reported that some scenes were shot at Union Station in Los Angeles. Contemporary reviews noted that this film was loosely based on the events surrounding the arrest of Al Capone. CBCS credits both Ralph Volkie and Ken Harvey with the role of "The Big Fellow." More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Mar 1949.
---
Daily Variety
18 Mar 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 Mar 49
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 48
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 49
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
11 Mar 1948.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 May 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Mar 49
p. 4549.
New York Times
21 Apr 49
p. 30.
Variety
23 Mar 49
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Patricia White
Joe Palma
Glen Thompson
Saul Gorss
Bernard Sell
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Robert Rossen Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
WRITERS
Wrt for the screen by
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd eng
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the article "Undercover Man: He Trapped Capone" by Frank J. Wilson in Collier's (26 Apr 1947) and a story outline by Jack Rubin.
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1949
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 April 1949
Production Date:
4 May--16 June 1948
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
15 March 1949
Copyright Number:
LP2161
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
84-85
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
13250
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Treasury agent Frank Warren attempts to contact Manny Zanger, a man with access to information that would prove that mobster "The Big Fellow," the head of a major crime syndicate, is guilty of tax evasion, but Zanger is killed before the meeting takes place. Although the police capture the killer, they are unable to hold him because none of the witnesses will testify against him. The Treasury Department hopes to apprehend The Big Fellow on tax evasion charges, and to this end, confiscates bookkeeping records from his low-level associates. The T-men then arrest all the bookkeepers who work for the syndicate in order to compare their signatures to those on certain bank deposit cards. Before the T-men can complete this effort, however, Edward O'Rourke, the syndicate lawyer, obtains the bookkeepers' release. In frustration, Inspector Herzog, a police captain, quits the force. Sergeant Shannon, a policeman who, years earlier, abandoned his attempt to fight The Big Fellow, then shows Frank the record of Salvatore Rocco, a bookkeeper for the mob, whom he arrested before he was demoted to a desk job. When Frank learns that Rocco lives in the same neighborhood as Zanger's contact, he visits the apartment. Rocco's wife, angry because he has left her for another woman, admits that Rocco knew Zanger, but adds that she does not know Rocco's current whereabouts. She shows Frank a letter from Rocco, and Frank is pleased to discover that Rocco's handwriting matches that on the bank deposit cards. Frank and his associate persuade Rocco's girlfriend, Gladys LaVerne, to talk to Rocco. Gladys tells Frank that Rocco will testify if he gets federal ... +


Treasury agent Frank Warren attempts to contact Manny Zanger, a man with access to information that would prove that mobster "The Big Fellow," the head of a major crime syndicate, is guilty of tax evasion, but Zanger is killed before the meeting takes place. Although the police capture the killer, they are unable to hold him because none of the witnesses will testify against him. The Treasury Department hopes to apprehend The Big Fellow on tax evasion charges, and to this end, confiscates bookkeeping records from his low-level associates. The T-men then arrest all the bookkeepers who work for the syndicate in order to compare their signatures to those on certain bank deposit cards. Before the T-men can complete this effort, however, Edward O'Rourke, the syndicate lawyer, obtains the bookkeepers' release. In frustration, Inspector Herzog, a police captain, quits the force. Sergeant Shannon, a policeman who, years earlier, abandoned his attempt to fight The Big Fellow, then shows Frank the record of Salvatore Rocco, a bookkeeper for the mob, whom he arrested before he was demoted to a desk job. When Frank learns that Rocco lives in the same neighborhood as Zanger's contact, he visits the apartment. Rocco's wife, angry because he has left her for another woman, admits that Rocco knew Zanger, but adds that she does not know Rocco's current whereabouts. She shows Frank a letter from Rocco, and Frank is pleased to discover that Rocco's handwriting matches that on the bank deposit cards. Frank and his associate persuade Rocco's girlfriend, Gladys LaVerne, to talk to Rocco. Gladys tells Frank that Rocco will testify if he gets federal protection and the reward. In exchange, Rocco asks his young daughter Rosa to bring him a notebook he had hidden at his former apartment, which contains the records of deposits he made for the mob. Before she can deliver it, however, Rocco is killed by the mob. When Frank returns from Rocco's funeral, his room has been searched and two waiting men beat him severely. Later, O'Rourke tries to make a deal with The Big Fellow and subtly threatens Judy, Frank's wife, who is staying at her parent's nearby farm. Deeply disturbed, Frank takes the next train to visit Judy and tells her that he intends to quit his job. After Frank's return to the city, Rosa and her grandmother visit Frank. Rosa's grandmother tells Frank that her husband died defying the Mafia in Italy, then gives him Rocco's book. A contrite Frank agrees to stay and fight The Big Fellow. The book contains almost all the evidence the Treasury Department needs to prosecute The Big Fellow. They then track down Sidney Gordon, another mob bookkeeper, in Los Angeles, and arrest him and his wife Muriel. Gordon agrees to cooperate and his testimony leads to the indictment of The Big Fellow and his associates. O'Rourke then sets out to buy off the grand jury. After O'Rourke is subpoenaed, he meets secretly with Frank and offers him a complete account of The Big Fellow's financial arrangements and also reveals that the jury has been bought. The mobsters discover his betrayal and kill him. Frank then uses O'Rourke's information to substitute a new jury for the corrupt one and The Big Fellow is sentenced to twenty years in prison. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.