The Valachi Papers


2h 3m 1972

Brief Synopsis

A criminal who gets on the bad side of a mob boss must take desperate steps to protect himself in prison.

Film Details

Also Known As
Joe Valachi: I segreti di cosa nostra
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Crime
Drama
Historical
Release Date
Nov 1972
Premiere Information
Chicago premiere: 20 Oct 1972; Los Angeles opening: 25 Oct 1972; New York opening: 5 Nov 1972
Production Company
Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica S.p.A.; Euro France Films S.a.r.l.-Paris
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
France, Italy, and United States
Location
New York, New York, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Rome,Italy
Screenplay Information
Based on the book The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas (New York, 1968).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 3m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

In 1962, soon after his arrvial at the Atlanta State Penetentiary, New York mobster Joseph Valachi is accosted by fellow inmates and accused of being a police informant. Furious over the charge, Joe asks to speak with his longtime Mafia boss, Don Vito Genovese, who is serving time for the same drug charges that landed Joe in prison. Joe's request is refused, however, and after thwarting would-be assassin Salerto in the prison showers, Joe is sent to solitary confinement for protection. Later, Joe beats another convict to death, mistakenly believing the man was about to ambush him. Although prison authorities threaten to remove him from solitary confinement if he does not cooperate with federal investigators, Joe remains silent and again demands to see Genovese. The don, who is treated like royalty by the prison guards, is disbelieving when Joe insists that he did not set Genovese up and, after giving Joe the "kiss of death," puts a $20,000 price on his head. Hurt and enraged by Genovese's lack of trust, Joe finally agrees to talk with FBI agent Ryan and is transferred to another prison. There, Joe, now serving a life sentence, shares his past with Ryan: In 1929, Joe, who grew up poor in New York, lands in Sing Sing following a botched robbery. Sharing his cell are tough mobsters Tony Bender and Dominick "The Gap" Petrilli, who tell him about the sprawling criminal enterprise called Cosa Nostra and the warring Italian gangs that dominate the Eastern seaboard. Upon his release, Joe returns to crime and leads a small gang of thieves in a silk shop break-in. When one of his men tries to rob some unsuspecting passersby, Joe berates him, delaying his own escape. During the ensuing chase with police, Joe drives his getaway car into the nearby river. He then shows up, dripping wet, at the Italian restaurant where Gap, Bender and Cosa Nostra boss Salvatore Maranzano are dining. Joe disguises himself as a waiter and, with Maranzano's help, avoids arrest. Impressed by Joe's quick thinking, Maranzano engages him in a plot to eliminate Steven Ferrigno, one of rival gangster Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria's men. Joe rents an apartment near Ferrigno's, and with Bender, Gap and a hired gunman, watches his comings and goings. One night, when several members of Masseria's gang show up at Ferrigno's apartment, Joe tries to convince Bender to have them all killed at once. Bender refuses, however, saying that Maranzano ordered only one murder. Ferrigno is slain, and Maranzano, while acknowledging Bender's unquestioning obedience, commends Joe for his initiative. Soon after, during a meeting with his many underlings, Maranzano formally invites Joe to join his organization. Joe pledges his loyalty, burning a piece of paper in his hand to symbolize his commitment to omerta , the vow of silence. Maranzano announces that Gaetano Reina has been chosen as Joe's personal goombah , or crime mentor, and assigns Joe to be Reina's driver. Maranzano then declares that Masseria must be eliminated, as he has refused to make a deal that would end the gang war. Over the next few months, the war rages, until Reina is gunned down. During Reina's funeral, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, one of Masseria's lieutenants, shows up and offers to make peace with Maranzano. Maranzano refuses, and two months later, Masseria is slain by Luciano and Genovese, another one of his lieutenants. Soon after, Maranzano, now the undisputed boss of the New York underworld, brings all the mobsters together and spells out rules of conduct for his new "family." After demanding that his men "forgive and forget," Maranzano stipulates that no family member may attack another. The well-read Maranzano then picks Joe to be his driver. Ignoring his own rules, Maranzano orders Joe and Gap to kill Genovese, whom he suspects is plotting against him. Before Joe and Gap can carry out the deed, however, Genovese and Luciano arrange for Maranzano's murder. Worried that he may now be suspected of betraying his boss, Joe asks Reina's widow to hide him in her attic. While hiding out, Joe spends time with Reina's daughter Maria, and the two fall in love. Joe is soon cleared of suspicion and, with the blessing of Genovese, his new boss, becomes engaged to Maria. Joe receives a mob promotion, running slot machines in East Harlem, but is also obligated to participate in more killings. One of his victims is the husband of singer Donna Petrillo, to whom Genovese is attracted. Genovese makes Donna his mistress and oversees Joe and Maria's festive wedding. Years later, Genovese and Luciano are forced to flee New York to avoid arrest. During Genovese's exile in Italy, Joe grows more "legitimate," becoming both a restaurateur and a horse owner. At the same time, Gap becomes romantically involved with Donna. One day, Joe angers interim boss Albert Anastasia when he refuses to throw a race in which his horse is running, and the two fight. Although Joe ultimately wins the argument, he knows he has made an enemy of Anastasia. Genovese then returns to America and, aware of Donna's affair, has Bender castrate Gap. When Joe finds his friend writhing in pain, he reluctantly ends Gap's misery with a fatal bullet. Later, feeling that his cohorts are "closing in on him" but unable to break from the mob, Joe sends Maria and his young son away while continuing to work for Genovese. The FBI, meanwhile, decide to use Joe to get to Genovese and, posing as city officials, threaten to close his restaurant unless he gives them $30,000. Desperate, Joe asks Bender for a loan and agrees to meet him at the docks, where Genovese's next shipment of heroin is due. Police raid the docks, and while Joe and Genovese escape, they are later arrested, having been betrayed by both Bender and Donna. Back in the present, Ryan persuades Joe to testify before a Congressional hearing on organized crime. Although Joe, who now has a $100,000 price on his head, appears before Congress without incident, his televised testimony proves more show than substance. Depressed, Joe tries to hang himself in his holding cell, but is saved by Ryan. The agent then convinces Joe that staying alive will be the best possible revenge against the don.

Film Details

Also Known As
Joe Valachi: I segreti di cosa nostra
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Crime
Drama
Historical
Release Date
Nov 1972
Premiere Information
Chicago premiere: 20 Oct 1972; Los Angeles opening: 25 Oct 1972; New York opening: 5 Nov 1972
Production Company
Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica S.p.A.; Euro France Films S.a.r.l.-Paris
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
France, Italy, and United States
Location
New York, New York, United States; New York City, New York, United States; Rome,Italy
Screenplay Information
Based on the book The Valachi Papers by Peter Maas (New York, 1968).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 3m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Articles

The Valachi Papers


Charles Bronson used to say he got his start because of his ability to belch on command. That's how he got the job in You're in the Navy Now in 1951. Or so he says. The point isn't whether or not that's true but that Bronson told it as if it was and anyone telling that story isn't trying to look like a glamorous star. Bronson wasn't and never would be. He was a tough, working class guy, strong and muscular but with a face that veered away from the traditional idea of a handsome leading man.

Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky but changed his name in the fifties to avoid sounding too Russian in an age dominated by Red Scares and McCarthyism. Again, that's just Bronson's story. He could've changed it for the same reasons so many other actors with ethnic or hard-to-pronounce names did - studio pressure or better marquee potential. But Bronson probably liked the "I wanted my name to sound more American" angle of the story and went with it. One thing about Bronson: He knew what he wanted and wasn't afraid to ask for it. When he felt he wasn't getting the lead roles he deserved, he began seeking them out wherever he could, even if it meant leaving Hollywood and heading to Europe, which is, in fact, just what he did.

In 1968, he made the film Adieu, L'Ami (Farewell, Friend) with Alain Delon and suddenly, in Europe, he was a hit. Movies with Bronson in supporting roles, like The Magnificent Seven [1960], The Great Escape [1963] and House of Wax [1953] began playing in theatres across the continent to exploit his newfound stardom. Hollywood studios soon gave Bronson the lead roles he desired and The Valachi Papers (1972), based on a non-fiction book published in 1968, was exactly the project he'd been looking for.

The film version of The Valachi Papers wasn't released until 1972 but was in development from the moment the book, written by Peter Maas (Serpico), became a bestseller. The story was one that riveted American readers, giving them an inside look at the dealings of organized crime, which had attracted major media attention in recent years. While everyone knew there were organized gangsters out there, from Al Capone to Lucky Luciano, the actual existence of a large organization of families, La Cosa Nostra, was still only legend. That is, until November, 1957, when, quite by accident, authorities stumbled upon a meeting in Apalachin, New York attended by over a hundred underworld figures in the Mafia, from America, Canada and Italy. Suddenly, its existence was out in the open. Then, in 1963, Joseph "Joe Cargo" Valachi testified against the mob. Although he didn't provide any direct testimony that led to anyone inside the mob being convicted, in the end he provided something far more valuable: an insider's historical chronicle of a secret group. Valachi said he was testifying because it was the right thing to do while others said he was doing it to save his own skin. Whatever the reason, after the Apalachin meeting exposed the organization, Valachi provided the background.

In 1968, Valachi was still in prison and under FBI protection (he would remain there until his death in 1971). However, between the time of the publication of his biography and the plans to make it into a movie, another book on the mob proved even more popular, The Godfather, published in 1969. In fact, it was a literary blockbuster. Paramount had the rights and it was getting the red carpet treatment. No expense was to be spared for the sweeping story of Michael Corleone and his rise to power in a Mafia dynasty. Now, after having the benefits of being based on a true story and the status of being the first to break the real story, The Valachi Papers was playing catch-up to the new kid on the block but producer Dino De Laurentiis had a plan.

Terence Young was the director behind Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965). If anyone could make this movie into a hit, De Laurentiis thought, it was Young (The Valachi Papers even has Joseph Wiseman, Dr. No himself). Of course, Young had Connery but this Bronson chap was making a pretty big splash across the Atlantic and this seemed like the perfect time to put him in the lead. Young would direct and the movie would be released after The Godfather (1972) but, De Laurentiis was hoping, The Valachi Papers would be the bigger hit. It wasn't in box office terms, but it was still a winner.

The critics gave it a drubbing but audiences didn't care; they didn't even mind about obvious period mistakes like contemporary automobiles clearly visible in scenes intended to take place in the thirties. They went to it, week after week until by the end of the year, it was still one of the top moneymakers of 1972 and, more importantly, Charles Bronson was finally a bona fide star. It wasn't The Godfather, but the studios made him an offer he couldn't refuse: a three picture contract, taking home a million dollars per film, a percentage of the gross and the ability to pick his female co-star (so he could work with his wife, Jill Ireland).

The Valachi Papers gave audiences the inside look at the mob they wanted and Bronson the stardom he craved. In two years' time, he played the lead in Death Wish (1974) and his reputation as the consummate tough guy was cemented. And with Bronson, it didn't stop at the screen. In an interview with Roger Ebert in 1973, he set the tone for the interview by giving Ebert his opinion of film critics. Jay Cocks of Time magazine had written a bad review of Bronson's latest film, The Stone Killer [1973]; even worse, he singled out Bronson and director Michael Winner. Bronson said, "first it was a novel, then it was a screenplay, and there was a cinematographer involved and a lot of other people. That makes it personal, when he picks on just two people, and that gets me mad." Ebert then noted "an ominous pause" before Bronson continued, "One way or another, sooner or later, I'll get that man." Regardless, it was obvious that Bronson had finally arrived as an actor and popular star and after The Valachi Papers, he would go on to specialize in playing tough, single minded characters who followed their own code and sense of ethics as in Mr. Majestyk [1974], Death Wish and Hard Times [1975].

Director: Terence Young
Screenplay: Stephen Geller from a book by Peter Maas
Cinematography: Aldo Tonti
Music: Riz Ortolani, Armando Trovajoli
Film Editor: Johnny Dwyre, Monica Finzi
Production Design: Mario Garbuglia
Cast: Charles Bronson (Joe Valachi), Lino Ventura (Vito Genovese), Jill Ireland (Maria Reina Valachi), Walter Chiari (Gap), Joseph Wiseman (Salvatore Maranzano), Gerald S. O'Loughlin (Ryan), Amedeo Nazzari (Gaetano Reina), Fausto Tozzi (Albert Anastasia).
C-125m.

by Greg Ferrara

SOURCES:
The Mafia Mystique, Dwight C. Smith, Jr.
Esquire, "Bronson Speak, You Listen!" Roger Ebert, 1973
Wikipedia
IMDB
The Valachi Papers

The Valachi Papers

Charles Bronson used to say he got his start because of his ability to belch on command. That's how he got the job in You're in the Navy Now in 1951. Or so he says. The point isn't whether or not that's true but that Bronson told it as if it was and anyone telling that story isn't trying to look like a glamorous star. Bronson wasn't and never would be. He was a tough, working class guy, strong and muscular but with a face that veered away from the traditional idea of a handsome leading man. Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky but changed his name in the fifties to avoid sounding too Russian in an age dominated by Red Scares and McCarthyism. Again, that's just Bronson's story. He could've changed it for the same reasons so many other actors with ethnic or hard-to-pronounce names did - studio pressure or better marquee potential. But Bronson probably liked the "I wanted my name to sound more American" angle of the story and went with it. One thing about Bronson: He knew what he wanted and wasn't afraid to ask for it. When he felt he wasn't getting the lead roles he deserved, he began seeking them out wherever he could, even if it meant leaving Hollywood and heading to Europe, which is, in fact, just what he did. In 1968, he made the film Adieu, L'Ami (Farewell, Friend) with Alain Delon and suddenly, in Europe, he was a hit. Movies with Bronson in supporting roles, like The Magnificent Seven [1960], The Great Escape [1963] and House of Wax [1953] began playing in theatres across the continent to exploit his newfound stardom. Hollywood studios soon gave Bronson the lead roles he desired and The Valachi Papers (1972), based on a non-fiction book published in 1968, was exactly the project he'd been looking for. The film version of The Valachi Papers wasn't released until 1972 but was in development from the moment the book, written by Peter Maas (Serpico), became a bestseller. The story was one that riveted American readers, giving them an inside look at the dealings of organized crime, which had attracted major media attention in recent years. While everyone knew there were organized gangsters out there, from Al Capone to Lucky Luciano, the actual existence of a large organization of families, La Cosa Nostra, was still only legend. That is, until November, 1957, when, quite by accident, authorities stumbled upon a meeting in Apalachin, New York attended by over a hundred underworld figures in the Mafia, from America, Canada and Italy. Suddenly, its existence was out in the open. Then, in 1963, Joseph "Joe Cargo" Valachi testified against the mob. Although he didn't provide any direct testimony that led to anyone inside the mob being convicted, in the end he provided something far more valuable: an insider's historical chronicle of a secret group. Valachi said he was testifying because it was the right thing to do while others said he was doing it to save his own skin. Whatever the reason, after the Apalachin meeting exposed the organization, Valachi provided the background. In 1968, Valachi was still in prison and under FBI protection (he would remain there until his death in 1971). However, between the time of the publication of his biography and the plans to make it into a movie, another book on the mob proved even more popular, The Godfather, published in 1969. In fact, it was a literary blockbuster. Paramount had the rights and it was getting the red carpet treatment. No expense was to be spared for the sweeping story of Michael Corleone and his rise to power in a Mafia dynasty. Now, after having the benefits of being based on a true story and the status of being the first to break the real story, The Valachi Papers was playing catch-up to the new kid on the block but producer Dino De Laurentiis had a plan. Terence Young was the director behind Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965). If anyone could make this movie into a hit, De Laurentiis thought, it was Young (The Valachi Papers even has Joseph Wiseman, Dr. No himself). Of course, Young had Connery but this Bronson chap was making a pretty big splash across the Atlantic and this seemed like the perfect time to put him in the lead. Young would direct and the movie would be released after The Godfather (1972) but, De Laurentiis was hoping, The Valachi Papers would be the bigger hit. It wasn't in box office terms, but it was still a winner. The critics gave it a drubbing but audiences didn't care; they didn't even mind about obvious period mistakes like contemporary automobiles clearly visible in scenes intended to take place in the thirties. They went to it, week after week until by the end of the year, it was still one of the top moneymakers of 1972 and, more importantly, Charles Bronson was finally a bona fide star. It wasn't The Godfather, but the studios made him an offer he couldn't refuse: a three picture contract, taking home a million dollars per film, a percentage of the gross and the ability to pick his female co-star (so he could work with his wife, Jill Ireland). The Valachi Papers gave audiences the inside look at the mob they wanted and Bronson the stardom he craved. In two years' time, he played the lead in Death Wish (1974) and his reputation as the consummate tough guy was cemented. And with Bronson, it didn't stop at the screen. In an interview with Roger Ebert in 1973, he set the tone for the interview by giving Ebert his opinion of film critics. Jay Cocks of Time magazine had written a bad review of Bronson's latest film, The Stone Killer [1973]; even worse, he singled out Bronson and director Michael Winner. Bronson said, "first it was a novel, then it was a screenplay, and there was a cinematographer involved and a lot of other people. That makes it personal, when he picks on just two people, and that gets me mad." Ebert then noted "an ominous pause" before Bronson continued, "One way or another, sooner or later, I'll get that man." Regardless, it was obvious that Bronson had finally arrived as an actor and popular star and after The Valachi Papers, he would go on to specialize in playing tough, single minded characters who followed their own code and sense of ethics as in Mr. Majestyk [1974], Death Wish and Hard Times [1975]. Director: Terence Young Screenplay: Stephen Geller from a book by Peter Maas Cinematography: Aldo Tonti Music: Riz Ortolani, Armando Trovajoli Film Editor: Johnny Dwyre, Monica Finzi Production Design: Mario Garbuglia Cast: Charles Bronson (Joe Valachi), Lino Ventura (Vito Genovese), Jill Ireland (Maria Reina Valachi), Walter Chiari (Gap), Joseph Wiseman (Salvatore Maranzano), Gerald S. O'Loughlin (Ryan), Amedeo Nazzari (Gaetano Reina), Fausto Tozzi (Albert Anastasia). C-125m. by Greg Ferrara SOURCES: The Mafia Mystique, Dwight C. Smith, Jr. Esquire, "Bronson Speak, You Listen!" Roger Ebert, 1973 Wikipedia IMDB

TCM Remembers Charles Bronson - Sept. 13th - TCM Remembers Charles Bronson this Saturday, Sept. 13th 2003.


Turner Classic Movies will honor the passing of Hollywood action star Charles Bronson on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a four-film tribute.

After years of playing supporting roles in numerous Western, action and war films, including THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, 8 p.m.) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967, 1:15 a.m.), Bronson finally achieved worldwide stardom as a leading man during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TCM's tribute will also include THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963, 10:15 p.m.), Bronson's second teaming with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and will conclude with FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976, 4 a.m.), co-starring Jill Ireland.

TCM will alter it's prime-time schedule this Saturday, Sept. 13th. The following changes will take place:

8:00 PM - The Magnificent Seven (1960)
10:15 PM - The Great Escape (1963)
1:15 AM - The Dirty Dozen (1967)
4:00 AM - From Noon Till Three (1976)

Charles Bronson, 1921-2003

Charles Bronson, the tough, stony-faced actor who was one of the most recognizable action heroes in cinema, died on August 30 in Los Angeles from complications from pneumonia. He was 81.

He was born Charles Buchinsky on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. Although he was the only child to have graduated high school, he worked in the coalmines to support his family until he joined the army to serve as a tail gunner during World War II. He used his money from the G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia, but while working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, he landed a few small roles in some productions and immediately found acting to be the craft for him.

Bronson took his new career turn seriously, moved to California, and enrolled for acting classes at The Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was his debut in Hathaway's You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts in films like John Sturges' drama The People Against O'Hara (1951), and Joseph Newman's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952). More substantial roles came in George Cukor's Pat and Mike (1952, where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!); Andre de Toth's classic 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor); and De Toth's fine low-budget noir Crime Wave (1954).

Despite his formidable presence, his leads were confined to a string of B pictures like Gene Fowler's Gang War; and Roger Corman's tight Machine Gun Kelly (both 1958). Following his own television series, Man With a Camera (1958-60), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom when director Sturges casted him as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Bronson displayed a powerful charisma, comfortably holding his own in a high-powered cast that included Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. A few more solid roles followed in Sturges' The Great Escape (1963), and Robert Aldrich's classic war picture The Dirty Dozen (1967), before Bronson made the decision to follow the European trail of other American actors like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. It was there that his hard, taciturn screen personae exploded in full force. In 1968 alone, he had four hit films: Henri Verneuil's Guns for San Sebastian, Buzz Kulik's Villa Rides, Jean Herman's Adieu l'ami which was a smash in France; and the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West.

These films established Bronson as a huge box-office draw in Europe, and with some more stylish hits like Rene Clement's Rider on the Rain (1969), and Terence Young's Cold Sweat (1971) he soon became one of the most popular film stars in the world. It wasn't easy for Bronson to translate that success back in his homeland. In fact, his first few films on his return stateside: Michael Winners' Chato's Land, and The Mechanic (both 1972), and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1973), were surprisingly routine pictures. It wasn't until he collaborated with Winner again for the controversial Death Wish (1974), an urban revenge thriller about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are raped, did he notch his first stateside hit. The next few years would be a fruitful period for Bronson as he rode on a wave of fine films and commercial success: a depression era streetfighter in Walter Hill's terrific, if underrated Hard Times (1975); Frank Gilroy's charming offbeat black comedy From Noon Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his second wife, Jill Ireland); Tom Gries tense Breakheart Pass; and Don Siegel's cold-war thriller Telefon (1977).

Sadly, Bronson could not keep up the momentum of good movies, and by the '80s he was starring in a string of forgettable films like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Murphy's Law (1986, all directed by J. Lee Thompson). A notable exception to all that tripe was John Mackenzie's fine telefilm Act of Vengeance (1986), where he earned critical acclaim in the role of United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski. Although he more or less fell into semi-retirement in the '90s, his performances in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991); and the title role of Michael Anderson's The Sea Wolf (1993) proved to many that Bronson had the makings of a fine character actor. He was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death from breast cancer in 1990. He is survived by his third wife Kim Weeks, six children, and two grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers Charles Bronson - Sept. 13th - TCM Remembers Charles Bronson this Saturday, Sept. 13th 2003.

Turner Classic Movies will honor the passing of Hollywood action star Charles Bronson on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a four-film tribute. After years of playing supporting roles in numerous Western, action and war films, including THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, 8 p.m.) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967, 1:15 a.m.), Bronson finally achieved worldwide stardom as a leading man during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TCM's tribute will also include THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963, 10:15 p.m.), Bronson's second teaming with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and will conclude with FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976, 4 a.m.), co-starring Jill Ireland. TCM will alter it's prime-time schedule this Saturday, Sept. 13th. The following changes will take place: 8:00 PM - The Magnificent Seven (1960) 10:15 PM - The Great Escape (1963) 1:15 AM - The Dirty Dozen (1967) 4:00 AM - From Noon Till Three (1976) Charles Bronson, 1921-2003 Charles Bronson, the tough, stony-faced actor who was one of the most recognizable action heroes in cinema, died on August 30 in Los Angeles from complications from pneumonia. He was 81. He was born Charles Buchinsky on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. Although he was the only child to have graduated high school, he worked in the coalmines to support his family until he joined the army to serve as a tail gunner during World War II. He used his money from the G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia, but while working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, he landed a few small roles in some productions and immediately found acting to be the craft for him. Bronson took his new career turn seriously, moved to California, and enrolled for acting classes at The Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was his debut in Hathaway's You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts in films like John Sturges' drama The People Against O'Hara (1951), and Joseph Newman's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952). More substantial roles came in George Cukor's Pat and Mike (1952, where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!); Andre de Toth's classic 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor); and De Toth's fine low-budget noir Crime Wave (1954). Despite his formidable presence, his leads were confined to a string of B pictures like Gene Fowler's Gang War; and Roger Corman's tight Machine Gun Kelly (both 1958). Following his own television series, Man With a Camera (1958-60), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom when director Sturges casted him as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Bronson displayed a powerful charisma, comfortably holding his own in a high-powered cast that included Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. A few more solid roles followed in Sturges' The Great Escape (1963), and Robert Aldrich's classic war picture The Dirty Dozen (1967), before Bronson made the decision to follow the European trail of other American actors like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. It was there that his hard, taciturn screen personae exploded in full force. In 1968 alone, he had four hit films: Henri Verneuil's Guns for San Sebastian, Buzz Kulik's Villa Rides, Jean Herman's Adieu l'ami which was a smash in France; and the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West. These films established Bronson as a huge box-office draw in Europe, and with some more stylish hits like Rene Clement's Rider on the Rain (1969), and Terence Young's Cold Sweat (1971) he soon became one of the most popular film stars in the world. It wasn't easy for Bronson to translate that success back in his homeland. In fact, his first few films on his return stateside: Michael Winners' Chato's Land, and The Mechanic (both 1972), and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1973), were surprisingly routine pictures. It wasn't until he collaborated with Winner again for the controversial Death Wish (1974), an urban revenge thriller about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are raped, did he notch his first stateside hit. The next few years would be a fruitful period for Bronson as he rode on a wave of fine films and commercial success: a depression era streetfighter in Walter Hill's terrific, if underrated Hard Times (1975); Frank Gilroy's charming offbeat black comedy From Noon Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his second wife, Jill Ireland); Tom Gries tense Breakheart Pass; and Don Siegel's cold-war thriller Telefon (1977). Sadly, Bronson could not keep up the momentum of good movies, and by the '80s he was starring in a string of forgettable films like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Murphy's Law (1986, all directed by J. Lee Thompson). A notable exception to all that tripe was John Mackenzie's fine telefilm Act of Vengeance (1986), where he earned critical acclaim in the role of United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski. Although he more or less fell into semi-retirement in the '90s, his performances in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991); and the title role of Michael Anderson's The Sea Wolf (1993) proved to many that Bronson had the makings of a fine character actor. He was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death from breast cancer in 1990. He is survived by his third wife Kim Weeks, six children, and two grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The Italian release title of the film was Joe Valachi: I segreti di cosa nostra. The following quotation appears before the film's title: "'Crime is a question of criminals. It is not a matter of race, color or religion.' Robert Kennedy, when Attorney General of the United States." The following written statement appears prior to the end credits: "After seven years in solitary confinement Joseph Valachi died of natural causes. So did Vito Genovese...but six months earlier." Interspersed throughout the film are titles identifying the date and time of various events. The story is told as a series of flashbacks, jumping back and forth between scenes of "Joe" in the present talking with agent "Ryan" and scenes depicting Joe's past.
       For the film, many details of Valachi's life were altered. As depicted, the real Joseph Valachi (1904-1971) was born to an extremely poor New York family and dropped out of school at a young age, becoming the head of a gang of teenagers called the Minute Men. As noted in modern sources, while serving time in Sing Sing, Valachi met mobster Dominick "The Gap" Petrilli, who then introduced him to gangster Girolamo Santucci. Unlike what is depicted in the film, Valachi met crime boss Gaetano Reina through Santucci, not Salvatore Maranzano. Valachi became part of Reina's gang at the height of its war with rival Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria's gang. Maranzano invited Valachi into his operations following Valachi's participation in the contract killing of Steven Ferrigno. As depicted in the film, for his gang initiation, Valachi was forced to hold a piece of burning paper in his hands.
       Valachi's first goombah, meaning a crime boss or mentor, was not Reina, as presented in the film, but Joseph Bonanno. After Masseria's lieutenants Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Vito Genovese conspired with Maranzano to have Masseria killed, Maranzano declared himself capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses). Impressed with Maranzano's style, Valachi switched allegiances and asked to be Maranzano's driver and bodyguard. As in the film, Maranzano immediately ordered that Luciano and Genovese be killed, but was outsmarted by the pair and slain. Valachi went into hiding and although he stayed in Reina's attic only briefly, he did begin a romance with Reina's daughter Mildred.
       At the urging of Gap, Valachi eventually joined Genovese's gang, which was controlled by Luciano, the new capo di tutti capi. Valachi met Tony Bender at this time and later married Mildred. As depicted in the film, during the 1930s, Valachi expanded his gambling and loan sharking operations to include more legitimate businesses. He had a son and became an avid racehorse owner. During World War II, while his clothing factory filled orders for the military, Valachi also made money on the black market selling stolen gas ration stamps.
       Genovese, who had fled to Italy in the mid-1930s to avoid arrest on murder charges, returned to New York in 1945. Luciano had also been forced to flee, and Frank Costello took over as mob boss. Although the film suggests that Genovese's position in the mob hierarchy remained unchanged while he was in Italy, he did in fact have to re-establish himself. With Bender's help, he recruited Valachi, and during the early 1950s, Valachi, who had suffered some financial setbacks, became more heavily involved in drug dealing and mob killings. Gap was ultimately betrayed by Valachi and murdered, but was slain over a business matter, not an affair, as portrayed in the film. During Genovese's exile, his wife Anna, whose first husband was reputedly murdered by Genovese, became financially entangled with a mobster named Franse. When Anna sued for divorce in 1953 and divulged details about her husband's finances, Genovese ordered Franse killed (not castrated, as shown in the film).
       Before Genovese could eliminate him, Costello retired, and Genovese took over as boss, stepping up the gang's narcotics trade. At the same time, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics began infiltrating the Mafia, pressuring members to turn informant. In the early 1960s, Valachi was imprisoned on two different drug charges, one of which Bender was suspected of setting up. According to an October 1963 Time article, Genovese, who was also convicted on drug charges, reportedly threatened Valachi in prison and gave him the "kiss of death," as depicted in the film. Bender disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and following an incident in the prison showers, a fixated Valachi killed a convict he mistakenly believed had been sent by Genovese to murder him.
       In 1963, Valachi appeared as a witness during Congressional hearings on organized crime and narcotics traffic, led by Arkansas Senator John McClellan. Although Valachi's televised testimony did not lead directly to any arrests, he did reveal the inner workings of the Mafia and helped convince FBI director Edgar J. Hoover that a vast network of organized criminals did, in fact, exist in America. Valachi claimed that he was exposing his former bosses not out of revenge, as depicted in the film, but because they had gotten too greedy. As portrayed in the film, Valachi attempted to hang himself in prison, but the event took place in 1966, long after his Congressional appearance. In 1971, Valachi died in prison following a gall bladder attack. Although the film states that Valachi died six months after Genovese, Valachi actually outlived his former boss by over two years.
       Plans to film a story based on Valachi's testimony were announced as early as October 1963. According to a Los Angeles Times article, producer Bryan Foy, who had produced a number of gangster films in the 1930s, had the "inside track" on acquiring story rights from Valachi, but it is not known whether Valachi ever discussed a deal with Foy. According to a February 1969 Daily Variety article, the U.S. Justice Department granted Valachi permission to write his memoirs in 1965. Modern sources note that the Justice Department actively encouraged Valachi to pen his life story, hoping he would reveal useful information about the mob. Valachi then decided to work with author Peter Maas, after Maas wrote an article about him in the May 1963 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, according to the Daily Variety item.
       As noted in various news items, the Justice Department, bowing to pressure from Italian-American groups, tried to stop publication of Maas's book. The groups, including Americans of Italian Descent, argued that the book portayed Italian Americans in a defamatory manner. Maas countered that Valachi's story was about criminals, not Italian Americans. According to modern sources, the FBI finally negotiated a compromise with the protesters by suggesting that Maas's book be written in the third person and include the author's interviews with Valachi. The book, untimately entitled        The Valachi Papers , was published in 1968.
       Onscreen credits note that the picture was "An Italo-French co-production." In February 1969, Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis purchased Maas's book for $200,000, and according to a March 1969 Variety article, Valachi received fifty percent of both the film sale and the book's royalties. News items at this time also reported that Maas also was to work on the film's screenplay. An April 1971 Variety news item announced that Marcello Mastroianni had been selected for a "top spot" in the film, which De Laurentiis' company was reportedly co-producing with Castoro Film. Castoro Film does not appear to have been involved in the final production, however. The Paris-based company Euro France Films is listed onscreen and in reviews as the film's co-production company.
       According to modern sources, De Laurentiis convinced a reluctant Charles Bronson to star in the film by signing him to a three-picture contract, which guaranteed him a million-dollar per-film salary, plus a percentage of the gross and a generous expense account. The Valachi Papers marked Bronson's third and final collaboration with English director Terence Young. Their previous two films were De la part des copains (Cold Sweat), released in France in 1970 and the U.S. in 1974; and Soleil rouge (Red Sun), released in Europe in 1971 and in the U.S. in 1972. Modern sources add Franco Ressel, Gianni Medici and Ron Gilbert to the cast.
       Filming took place in New York City and at De Laurentiis' studios in Rome. In early April 1972, De Laurentiis announced that New York filming had been halted prematurely and moved to Rome because of protests from the Italian-American Civil Rights League. Although the group had earlier complained about the screenplay's inclusion of the terms Cosa Nostra and Mafia, De Laurentiis' claims of harassment were generally regarded as a publicity stunt. Modern sources contend that the production moved to Rome after it was threatened by members of the Mafia. Pre-production news items, however, indicate that De Laurentiis had planned to film in Rome after location shooting in New York. Modern sources also state that a critics' pre-release screening in Manhattan was interrupted by a bomb threat placed by the Mafia.
       Paramount Pictures, the film's original distributor, according to news items, had scheduled a February 1973 release. When De Laurentiis insisted that the picture's opening be moved up so it would overlap with the still-in-release Paramount 1972 blockbuster The Godfather and thereby capitalize on the bigger film's popularity, Paramount backed out as distributor. News items note that in August 1972, after De Laurentiis had failed to reach a distribution agreement with Warner Bros., Paramount briefly reconsidered releasing the picture. According to news items, Columbia Pictures took over as distributor in September 1972, and the picture was released nationally in November 1972. A November 1972 Daily Variety news item stated that Columbia offered De Laurentiis "$5,000,000 for 100% producer interest," but the final details of the deal have not been determined.
       According to an October 1972 Hollywood Reporter item, De Laurentiis took out a $1 million insurance policy as part of his contractual obligation to indemnify Columbia in the event of slander lawsuits resulting from the picture's release. Some of the real-life people depicted in the picture were still living, and as noted in Hollywood Reporter, De Laurentiis had not obtained releases granting his company permission to portray them on screen. In order to avoid litigation, De Laurentiis reportedly cut a few scenes for the film's U.S. release.
       Many reviewers compared The Valachi Papers unfavorably to The Godfather, which had been released in March 1972. De Laurentiis defended the originality of his picture by noting that he had purchased Maas's book long before Puzo's novel was published. Modern sources state that, despite the mostly negative reviews, the picture earned $9,400,000 at the box office during its first eight months of domestic distribution. Shortly after the film's release, Euro France Films sued De Laurentiis and Columbia for breach of contract, accounting and defamation. Euro France demanded over $13,000,000 in payment, asserting that De Laurentiis and, by extension, Columbia, had violated details of its equity participation in the distribution of the film. According to a January 1973 Hollywood Reporter article, Euro France also contended that the De Laurentiis company and Sedifo, S.A., a Swiss company, had "defamed the plaintiff by various communications and an advertisement" in the December 1972 issue of Variety, in which Euro France's financial claims were questioned. While the case was being decided, some of De Laurentiis' assets were attached, and the New York Supreme Court forbade Columbia from paying the producer any additional U.S. income. The disposition of the suit has not been determined. In 1974, the MPAA changed the film's rating from R to PG.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States 1972