The Untouchables (1987)

R | 120 mins | Drama | 3 June 1987

Director:

Brian De Palma

Writer:

David Mamet

Producer:

Art Linson

Cinematographer:

Stephen H. Burum

Production Designer:

William A. Elliott

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures
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HISTORY

The film opens with the written prologue: “1930. Prohibition has transformed Chicago into a City at War. Rival gangs compete for control of the city’s billion dollar empire of illegal alcohol, enforcing their will with the hand grenade and tommy gun. It is the time of the Ganglords. It is the time of Al Capone.”
       According to an 11 Jul 1987 LAT article, Universal Pictures executive Ned Tanen spent several years attempting to acquire film rights to the life story of Prohibition-era lawman Eliot Ness, whose memoirs inspired the Paramount television series, The Untouchables (ABC Television Network, 15 Oct 1959—21 May 1963). When Tanen became head of Paramount’s motion picture division in 1984, he immediately called his longtime friend, producer Art Linson, to develop a feature film about Ness’ takedown of legendary Chicago gangster Al Capone. Although the television show was popular among audiences for its sensational violence, the 24 Jun 1985 LAT stated that Linson was more interested in providing a “serious, authentic” depiction of Ness’ time with the Chicago Police Department, and hired David Mamet to write the screenplay.
       While a 13 Mar 1985 Var item indicated Jack Nicholson was to portray Ness, the role ultimately went to Kevin Costner. In a 31 May 1987 LAT article, director Brian De Palma stated that in contrast to Robert Stack’s “tough” portrayal on television, Mamet’s screenplay painted Ness as a “vulnerable family man” who refused to bend or break the law. Although Ness was married to Edna Staley at the time in which the story is set, his onscreen wife, “Catherine,” and young daughter were fictionalized for the film.
       ... More Less

The film opens with the written prologue: “1930. Prohibition has transformed Chicago into a City at War. Rival gangs compete for control of the city’s billion dollar empire of illegal alcohol, enforcing their will with the hand grenade and tommy gun. It is the time of the Ganglords. It is the time of Al Capone.”
       According to an 11 Jul 1987 LAT article, Universal Pictures executive Ned Tanen spent several years attempting to acquire film rights to the life story of Prohibition-era lawman Eliot Ness, whose memoirs inspired the Paramount television series, The Untouchables (ABC Television Network, 15 Oct 1959—21 May 1963). When Tanen became head of Paramount’s motion picture division in 1984, he immediately called his longtime friend, producer Art Linson, to develop a feature film about Ness’ takedown of legendary Chicago gangster Al Capone. Although the television show was popular among audiences for its sensational violence, the 24 Jun 1985 LAT stated that Linson was more interested in providing a “serious, authentic” depiction of Ness’ time with the Chicago Police Department, and hired David Mamet to write the screenplay.
       While a 13 Mar 1985 Var item indicated Jack Nicholson was to portray Ness, the role ultimately went to Kevin Costner. In a 31 May 1987 LAT article, director Brian De Palma stated that in contrast to Robert Stack’s “tough” portrayal on television, Mamet’s screenplay painted Ness as a “vulnerable family man” who refused to bend or break the law. Although Ness was married to Edna Staley at the time in which the story is set, his onscreen wife, “Catherine,” and young daughter were fictionalized for the film.
       For the role of Al Capone, De Palma reached out to Robert De Niro, with whom he previously collaborated on Greetings (1968), The Wedding Party (1969), Hi, Mom! (1970), and Mean Streets (1973, see entries). De Niro, however, had just begun his Broadway debut in Cuba and His Teddy Bear, and needed time after the show to gain additional weight. Meanwhile, De Palma began discussions with British actor Bob Hoskins, who was later compensated $200,000 to relinquish the role once De Niro became available. According to a 21 Sep 1986 article in the Chicago Tribune, an additional scene was written for Capone, per De Niro’s request. The actor gained a total of thirty pounds to play the gangster, and received $1.5 million for eighteen days’ work.
       According to a 22 Oct 1986 Var production chart, principal photography began 18 Aug 1986 in Chicago, IL. Production notes in AMPAS library files indicate that more than twenty-five locations were featured in the film, including Union Station; The Rookery; Roosevelt University and the Chicago Theater, which doubled as Capone’s residence at the Lexington Hotel; the rooftop of the Chicago Public Library Cultural Center; an abandoned storefront in New Town; and a west side warehouse, which accommodated the sets used in the final courtroom scene. The Canadian liquor raid sequence was filmed at the Hardy Bridge in Cascade, MT.
       Since Mamet was unavailable to revise the script during production, De Palma rewrote several scenes with new locations. According to the 31 May 1987 LAT, the Union Station shootout, which was an homage to the 1925 Soviet silent film, Battleship Potemkin, was originally set in a hospital.
       Principal photography was completed in thirteen weeks. LAT and the 1 Jun 1987 Film Journal estimated the production cost between $20 million and $23 million.
       On 27 May 1987, HR announced that the 5 Jun 1987 release date had been moved up to Wednesday, 3 Jun 1987. Although Paramount chose to limit the number of screenings for critics, items in the 3 Jun 1987 Var and HR indicated that press events were held 8 May 1987 and 1 Jun 1987. The world premiere took place 2 Jun 1987 at the Astor Plaza Theater in New York City.
       The Untouchables opened in 1,012 theaters, 115 of which screened the picture in 70mm. Nationwide release was scheduled to follow on 19 Jun 1987.
       The film received generally favorable reviews and was a box-office hit. According to the 5 Jun 1987 HR, opening day earnings exceeded $1.8 million. Items in the 2 Nov 1988 Var and 2 May 1988 DV noted that The Untouchables went on to earn more than $70 million in the U.S. and Canada, making it the fifth most successful release of 1987 up to that time.
       Sean Connery’s performance as “Jim Malone” earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film also received nominations for Art Direction, Costume Design, and Music (Original Score).
       The Untouchables marked the theatrical feature film debut of actress Patricia Clarkson.
       End credits state: “Special Thanks to: Illinois Film Office; Chicago Cultural Center; Roosevelt University.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Tribune
21 Sep 1986
Arts, p. 4.
Daily Variety
2 Oct 1986.
---
Daily Variety
2 May 1988
p. 28.
Film Journal
1 Jun 1987
p. 9, 36.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1987
p. 3, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Jun 1985
Section VI, p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times
31 May 1987
Calendar, p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
3 Jun 1987
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
11 Jul 1987
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
3 Jun 1987
Section C, p. 17.
Variety
13 Mar 1985
p. 24.
Variety
22 Oct 1986
p. 206.
Variety
3 Jun 1987.
p. 5, 28.
Variety
3 Jun 1987
p. 14.
Variety
2 Nov 1988
p. 3.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures Presents
An Art Linson Production
A Brian De Palma Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst photog
2d asst photog
2d cam op
Still photog
Cable op
1st company grip
2d company grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Chapman crane op
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Rigging elec
Gaffer
Generator op/Elec
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Const supv
Const foreperson
Asst prop master
Lead prop person
Lead prop person
Prop foreperson
Prop foreperson
Prop foreperson
Set dressing
Paint foreperson
Paint foreperson
Prod painter
Drapery
COSTUMES
Women's cost supv
Men's cost supv
Asst to Ms. Vance-Straker
Women's costumer
Men's costumer
Ward consultant to Mr. De Niro
MUSIC
Mus comp, orch and cond by
Mus supv
Mus rec consultant
Asst mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cable op
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Foley supv
Foley supv, Foley Artists
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dolby Stereo consultant
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst ADR ed
Apprentice sd ed
Re-rec at
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff coord
Opt eff, EFX Unlimited, Inc.
Main and end titles des by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting, Lynn Stalmaster & Associates
Visual consultant
Tech adv
Scr supv
Asst to Art Linson
Asst to Brian DePalma
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Unit pub
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod auditor
Asst prod auditor
Personal consultant to Mr. De Niro
Personal consultant to Mr. De Niro
Research asst
Research asst
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Spec equip driver
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Extra casting-Chicago
Extra casting-Chicago
Caterer
Craft service
First aid
First aid
Dailies adv
Extra casting
Film courier
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Caterer, For Stars
Caterer, For Stars
Caterer, For Stars
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the television series The Untouchables (Desilu Productions and Langford Productions, 1959--1963) and the novels The Untouchables written by Oscar Fraley with Eliot Ness (New York, 1957) and The Last of the Untouchables by Paul Robsky (New York, 1962).
SONGS
"Vestila Guibba," by Leoncavallo, performed by Mario Del Monaco, courtesy of London Records, A Division of Polygram Classics, Inc.
"Mood Indigo," by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills & Barney Bigard, arranged by Bob Wilber, courtesy of Wilkes College Jazz Archives.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
3 June 1987
Premiere Information:
New York City world premiere: 2 June 1987
Los Angeles and New York openings: 3 June 1987
Production Date:
began 18 August 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
9 June 1987
Copyright Number:
PA333109
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed in Panavision
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28287
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During the height of Prohibition in Chicago, Illinois, rival gangs vie for control of the city’s billion-dollar illegal alcohol empire. In September 1930, U.S. Treasury Department Special Agent Eliot Ness is charged with heading a program to take down the lucrative liquor trade of Italian crime boss Al Capone, whose violent business tactics have cost hundreds of lives. While most members of the Chicago Police Department are skeptical of his virtuous efforts, Ness finds an ally in seasoned Irish patrolman Jim Malone. Wary of corruption on the force, Ness and Malone recruit Giuseppe “George Stone” Petri, a prodigal young marksman at the police academy; and Oscar Wallace, a federal accountant investigating Capone’s finances. After the team successfully raids Capone’s downtown liquor cache, the press christens them “The Untouchables,” for their reputation as fearless and incorruptible lawmen. Unable to find tangible proof of murder or bribery, Wallace suggests building an income tax evasion case against Capone, who has not filed a tax return in several years. When Ness refuses a bribe from crooked Alderman John O’Shea, members of Capone’s businesses bring threats against his family. Undeterred, Ness places his pregnant wife and daughter in hiding and travels north to stop a large shipment of Canadian whiskey from entering the U.S. Aided by the Canadian Mounted Police, Ness and his team ambush the transaction and shoot several of Capone’s men. Malone captures one of Capone’s clerks and intimidates him into testifying in court. Back in Chicago, Wallace issues a subpoena for Capone and his principal bookkeeper, Walter Payne, before escorting the clerk to a safe house. As they turn to leave, however, Capone’s enforcer, Frank Nitti, murders Wallace and the clerk ... +


During the height of Prohibition in Chicago, Illinois, rival gangs vie for control of the city’s billion-dollar illegal alcohol empire. In September 1930, U.S. Treasury Department Special Agent Eliot Ness is charged with heading a program to take down the lucrative liquor trade of Italian crime boss Al Capone, whose violent business tactics have cost hundreds of lives. While most members of the Chicago Police Department are skeptical of his virtuous efforts, Ness finds an ally in seasoned Irish patrolman Jim Malone. Wary of corruption on the force, Ness and Malone recruit Giuseppe “George Stone” Petri, a prodigal young marksman at the police academy; and Oscar Wallace, a federal accountant investigating Capone’s finances. After the team successfully raids Capone’s downtown liquor cache, the press christens them “The Untouchables,” for their reputation as fearless and incorruptible lawmen. Unable to find tangible proof of murder or bribery, Wallace suggests building an income tax evasion case against Capone, who has not filed a tax return in several years. When Ness refuses a bribe from crooked Alderman John O’Shea, members of Capone’s businesses bring threats against his family. Undeterred, Ness places his pregnant wife and daughter in hiding and travels north to stop a large shipment of Canadian whiskey from entering the U.S. Aided by the Canadian Mounted Police, Ness and his team ambush the transaction and shoot several of Capone’s men. Malone captures one of Capone’s clerks and intimidates him into testifying in court. Back in Chicago, Wallace issues a subpoena for Capone and his principal bookkeeper, Walter Payne, before escorting the clerk to a safe house. As they turn to leave, however, Capone’s enforcer, Frank Nitti, murders Wallace and the clerk in the service elevator. When the Chicago District Attorney refuses to pursue the case without a witness, Ness resigns to give up the operation altogether. Determined to see justice done, Malone blackmails Police Chief Mike Dorsett into disclosing Payne’s whereabouts. That night, Capone sends Nitti to kill Malone. Although his body is riddled with bullets, Malone clings to life until Ness arrives. With his final breath, Malone reveals that Payne is scheduled to leave town on a midnight train to Miami, Florida. At Union Station, Stone watches the south entrance while Ness stakes out the staircase overlooking the main lobby. As the conductor makes the final boarding announcement, Ness becomes distracted by a mother attempting to pull her baby carriage to the top of the stairs, worried she will be caught in the crossfire. Just then, Payne enters the lobby escorted by several bodyguards. Ness and Stone open fire, killing the gangsters in a violent shootout as the baby carriage bounces backward before coming to rest at the bottom of the steps. One surviving gunman threatens to kill Payne unless Ness allows them to go free. Stone quickly shoots the man in the mouth, and the terrified Payne agrees to testify against Capone. Although the evidence appears to indict him, Capone remains unfazed by the proceedings. In court, Ness notices Nitti wearing a gun and escorts him outside, only to discover he has protection from the city’s mayor. When Nitti kills the bailiff, Ness chases him to the roof of the courthouse. Although Ness chooses not to shoot, Nitti’s taunts about Malone’s murder prompts him to push Nitti off the roof to his death. Back inside, Stone discovers that Capone has bribed the jury. While the judge initially dismisses this claim, Ness tricks him into replacing the jury with one from an adjacent courtroom. Realizing they no longer control the case, Capone’s lawyer requests a guilty plea, sending the gallery into an uproar. Capone is sentenced to eleven years in prison, and Ness packs up his office to spend more time with his growing family. +

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

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