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This show's concept was hastily developed to become a one-hour weekly dramatic series after the success of the beautifully produced made-for-television movie "The Scarface Mob". At first, the producers tried filming the capture of other important criminals using Eliot Ness, the TV-film's fictionalized real-life hero, as their central character. Then they designed a unit like the 1930s "Untouchables" squad depicted in the TV-movie, a federal group combating gang activity and other crimes in Chicago, one headed by Ness (Robert Stack) who worked out of an office in the city. He had six men, with Martin Flaherty (Jerry Paris), Jack Rossman, (Steve London), Enrico Rossi (Nicholas Georgiade), Lamarr Kane (Chuck Hicks) and William Youngfellow (Abel Fernandez) as its mainstays. In the second year, Paris left to be replaced by Lee Hobson (Paul Picerni) for the remainder of the series' run, and Cam Allison (Anthony George) was added for that year only. It was also decided that Frank Nitti (Bruce Gordon) and other mob bosses would be used as the main scheming villains without a regular "Al Capone" being portrayed. Nitti was killed off four times during the series, but Gordon was so popular with the show's watchers he was resurrected each time. A stable of regular police and ganglord types was also developed, played by Oscar Beregi, Joseph Ruskin, Frank Willcox, and Nehemiah Persoff with regular police and useful guest stars being hired a number of times. As Robert Stack had feared from the beginning, the show tended to marginalize the role of the ethical Ness in favor of unglamorously and dramatically portraying the activities of the victims, criminals, or crimelords of the week. The use of a narrator, radio commentator Walter Winchell, helped to keep the ethical view uppermost in observers' minds; and frequently, Ness and his squad were able to get across the desirability of cooperating with police, as this idea finally sank in. Outside agents played by John Gabriel, Jack Lord and others were sometimes used to improve a script. But from the first, the show's outstanding quality was the abilities of writers, directors and guest actors to produce powerful hour-long series. "The Petrone Story", "The Rusty Heller Story", "Cooker in the Sky", "Ginger Jake" and a hundred others may have occasionally overdone graphic detail and use of machine guns, but they were often brilliantly cinematic. The list of directors who toiled for the series included 29 first-raters including Ida Lupino, Tay Garnett, Vincent McEveety, Paul Wendkos, Richard Whorf, Walter Grauman and Bernard L. Kowalsi among others. The writers' list included 40 names, many illustrious, such as Robert C. Dennis, David P. Harmon, Ernest Kinoy, Harry Kronman, John Mantley, Gilbert Ralston, Sy Salkowutz, Alvin Sapinsley, George Slavin, William Templeton. Guest stars such as Patricia Neal, Elizabeth Montgomery, Lee Marvin, Arlene Martel, Will Kuluva, Dolores Dorn-Heft, Robert Middleton, Ruth Roman, Brian Keith, William Bendix, Barbara Stanwyck and Joe de Santis were always an extra cause to tune in to the latest adventure. In the last year, producer Quinn Martin bowed to pressure groups and tried to replace Italian surnamed villains with others; but the top-ranked series was canceled after 4 unforgettable years. To measure the quality of "The Untouchables" against most other series is impossible; its scenes have far more power than those of almost any other series; It was not always ethical fiction; but the series always had first-rate production qualities, acting, writing and directing. It holds a very high place in U.S. film history.
Crime: The unknown nature of it all,and the agents who would stop at
to bring them to justice remains one of the greatest crime-drama shows
to come out of the golden age of television from the late 1950's,early
The Untouchables may have been one great show,but in its day it was just that..one of the most violent crime shows on television,but during its four year-run it was propelled into the art of TV greatness when it aired on ABC-TV from September of 1959 to September of 1963.
Produced by Quinn Martin and Desi Arnaz,under his production company Desilu Productions,the series produced an astounding 114 episodes,all in black and white,and stood shoulder to shoulder with such giants as Bonanza,Gunsmoke,not to mention in that same time frame,Maverick,and classic shows like Rawhide and The Riflemen and it was during the four incredible years that this show ran,won Emmys for its breathtaking scripts and incredible acting. At the time this show was on the air,Desi Arnaz's production company,Desilu was producing shows like "Make Room For Daddy"(The Danny Thomas Show),"The Andy Griffith Show", and others and would go on after The Untouchables went off the air to created the shows "Gomer Pyle","I Spy","Mission:Impossible","Star Trek", "Mannix",and would co-produced his own comedy show,"The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour",and would be in charge of production,which went un-credited for "The Lucy Show" starring Lucille Ball during the show's first two seasons.
The Untouchables was groundbreaking at its finest and it was that reason to see why this was just so. Set in the prohibition era of Chicago during the late 1920's,early 1930's,during the depression,Special Treasury Agent Elliott Ness(played by Robert Stack) and his band of crimefighters must deal with bootleggers,gangland murders,assassins,and crime figures and mob bosses like Al Capone (Neville Brand) and Frank Nitti(Bruce Gordon). Brilliantly and expertly narrated by the great Walter Winchell,this power-packed crime drama of a series got the story told without the use of the screen gore,explicit profanity and blatant violence,but this show had plenty of gunplay and some of it was maybe tone down in this day and age,but during the show's run it was very violent,for instance the breaking of glass and the ricoheting of bullets were the standard but you never got to see any blood or gory stuff on the show,which was at the time prohibited due to the censors. This would become so true when Brian DePalma did the movie version of "The Untouchables" in 1987 with Kevin Costner in the Robert Stack role and Robert DeNiro in the Al Capone character and here this version was more violent and graphic than the TV show,which by the way gave Sean Connery an Oscar for his performance.
But getting back to the TV show of the same title,
Among the superior work by Stack,Brand,and Gordon,this show had a array of special guest stars that appear on the show almost on a weekly basis and the guest list included: Jerry Paris(long before his days on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"),Telly Savalas,Oscar Beregi,Jr.,Steve London, Jason Wingreen,Jason Robards,Jack Klugman,Grant Richards,Elizabeth Montgomery(long before her collaboration on "Bewitched"),Lee Grant,Abel Fernandez,Charles Bronson,James Coburn,and so many more. This was as awesome production that was to perfection along with Nelson Riddle's theme score.
I got the chance to catch one of the episodes on video recently,and it goes to show that this series needs to seen again and needs to be put on there on DVD,especially with the first two seasons of the series. Sometimes they do show this long lost series seldom at times on New York's WOR-TV and its very sad that the cable network's A&E,Nick at Nite,TV Land,TRIO,or The History Channel doesn't air this program.
Quinn Martin, Desilu and Robert Stack propelled a crime series into the
status of TV greatness. This series ran 114 episodes long, but stands
shoulder to shoulder with such giants as GUNSMOKE and BONANZA. Set in
Chicago, late 20s and 30s during depressed times and prohibition, Special
Treasury Agent Elliot Ness(Robert Stack)and his band of crime fighters must
deal with bootleggers, gangland murderers, assassins and crime figures like
Al Capone(Neville Brand) and Frank Nitti(Bruce Gordon). Expertly narrated by
Walter Winchell, this power packed crime drama got the story told without
the use of on screen gore, profanity or blatant violence.
Besides the super work by Stack and Gordon others became familiar faces:Nicholas Georgiade, Oscar Beregi Jr., Anthony George, Abel Fernandez, Jerry Paris, Steve London, Grant Richards and Jason Wingreen. This series was so near perfection production wise. Awesome.
Note: TV Land, A & E, Nick at Nite, TNN...somebody put this back on the air for future generations.
i became aware of the untouchables in the mid-late 1970's. when it was on, i stopped everything to watch it sometimes twice a day. didn't matter that i saw each episode a million times! the stories, the acting, the theme song was the best there is. Robert stack,Paul Picerni, Bruce Gordon, Neville Brand and especially Nick Georgiade (who is my very most favorite) all did great jobs. the show still holds up today. in fact, its better than most of whats on today! it would be great if a channel would pick it up and we could watch it again. just knowing these untouchable websites exist makes me feel really warm and good. thanks for being here for us. I've been trying to locate nick georgiade to write a fan/thank-you letter but have been unsuccessful. well, i can look at him here. i miss this show.
Seeing an excerpt from 'Untouchables' on satellite TV recently brought back some memories of forty years ago, when I looked forward in eager anticipation to seeing the weekly appearance of Eliot Ness and his associates. To see them again was to see characters apparently frozen in time, operating in a mythical world where the differences between good and evil were clearly delineated and the 'bad guys' got their just deserts. Notwithstanding the fact that Capone and Ness never met, that Ness had little, if anything, to do with putting Capone behind bars, the programmes were quite well directed and acted, even though some of the supporting characters had little,if anything, to say - I can remember often waiting for some considerable time for 'Rico' (Georgiade)to say his only line ! Enjoyable,nevertheless, as cinematic curiosities, well crafted, but so far removed from historical reality as to be a rather threadbare tapestry of the events which the series purported to represent.
I had never heard of "The Untouchables" TV show until one morning
my 8th grade English teacher, Mr. Schmidt started ranting about the
graphic violence depicted in movies and on television shows such as
"The Untouchables" and what was he world coming to? From the next
broadcast, I was an avid fan. Much as in the style of the James Cagney
classic of 1933, "Public Enemy," "The Untouchables" wove a web of
mysterious gangland horror by NOT showing the graphic violence but by
instead keeping the killing in the shadows. The creators of the series
never forgot that there is nothing you can show in theater that can
measure up to the imagination of the audience. Another mysterious dimension to the series is, like "The Alfred
Hitchcock Show", "The Untouchables" had an uncanny knack of featuring
actors who would later become stars or at least very well known faces
in movies and on television. After 4 years in the air force including
a year in Vietnam, I watched the series as daily re-runs during the
summer of 1971 just before going to university in Tokyo. One episode
had Telly Savalas as an up and coming bookkeeper with The Mob run by
Frank Nitty while Al Capone was in prison. That evening other business
pulled me away from the television set and I figured I'd see the second
half of the show some other time. Because I have been in Japan ever
since, I never did find out whatever happened to the character played
by Telly Savalas. Less than two years later, however, Telly Savalas
finally made it big in television as Kojak.
I bought the first series of DVDs yesterday and until then, I never
knew there was a two-hour pilot movie about it. I always thought Robert
Stack was a better Eliot Ness than Kevin Costner. Stack's Ness was more
like a tough, no-nonsense federal agent while Kevin Costner played him
more like a nerdy accountant. This used to be my dad's favorite show
and, on nights when I didn't have school the next day, he would let me
stay up and watch it with him. When I was in college, I caught it when
it was in syndication. I hope they continue to put out these DVDs until
they have the whole series out. I'm really looking forward to it.
Life sure was simple back when this series first aired. You rooted for the good guys and hissed at the bad guys and you were glad, in the end, to see Capone and his cohorts get what was coming to them. It also shows that we have to be ever vigilant with our government officials so that this kind of evil cannot permeate our society. Great action-packed series and now lives forever in the DVD format. Now, if only THE FUGITIVE would come out on DVD.
Although the reputation of The Untouchables is that it is about
prohibition, there are more stories about murder and extortion than
about the alcohol trade, which is a background in many stories, but
central to only a handful.
These bad guys are really bad. Not only are there the commonplace shootings, but people have their cars blown up. They are knifed in the back. They are strangled in the back seats of cars. They are blinded when acid is thrown in their faces. They are hanged. They are set on fire. Good friends and reliable employees have their lives snuffed out with the villain employing less thought than he would spend on selecting the right tie to wear. As Frank Nitti (exquisitely played by actor Bruce Gordon) put it, while plotting the murder of a young man who worked tirelessly to make Nitti's enterprises succeed, "It's a matter of economics. Two of these (displaying bullets) cost 15 cents." While Frank Nitti is the best known of the criminals in this outstanding series, he appears in a tiny minority of the stories, about 25 of 118. Other actors with different personalities but equivalent levels of viciousness terrorize the innocent and not-so-innocent with levels of violence that are shocking even today, and were surely even more shocking in the 50s and early 60s.
While Bruce Gordon as Frank Nitti is the best remembered portrayer of gangsters from this show, in other episodes, veteran actors like William Bendix and Nehemiah Persoff, and then-young actors like Martin Landau and Robert Redford, put on entertaining and gritty performances that rarely disappoint. All the while, the newsreel style announcing of Walter Winchell adds enormously to the sensation of reality.
Today's viewer has the fun, not available to the viewers back then, of frequently spotting future stars in the cast, like Alan Hale Jr.(Skipper on Gilligan's Island), Elizabeth Montgomery (Samantha on Bewitched), Carroll O'Connor (Archie Bunker on All In The Family), Gavin McLeod (Capt. Steubing on The Love Boat), Jack Warden (veteran of countless movies and TV shows), Lee Van Cleef (perennial star and costar of westerns), Peter Falk (Columbo), Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies -- without his toupee). The list goes on and on.
Two often-made criticisms of the show are justified, but to my mind, unimportant. First, it is true that in real life Eliot Ness never met most of the notorious criminals that he and his men defeat on the show. However, the show is admitted to be fictional. Second, it is true that the characters of the good guys, Ness and crew, are not particularly colorful. However, the gangsters and their victims provide ample color, and the solid steadfastness of Robert Stack as Eliot Ness and the rest of his crew gives viewers an anchor of emotional security in the face of the omnipresent evil portrayed on the show. Without this, the helplessness of the victims in the face of the ruthlessness, treachery and cold-heartedness of the villains that dominate the show episode after episode might be difficult to bear.
Everyone will benefit when the operators of networks that play reruns of old series finally decide to put real quality before the viewers and begin to regularly show The Untouchables, The Fugitive, Rawhide, and the other real classics of years past.
YEAH--For all those who have been asking:
It's coming out on DVD, April 3, 2007. A four disk set, Vol one of the first season. Includes The Scarface Mob and goes up to episode 14, The Noise of Death. Check it out on amazon.
If you guys like the show be sure to buy the DVD set which will insure that they'll come out with the rest of season 1 and all the other seasons. I'm tired of watching my old not so good copies on VHS. Columbia House never had the full show on VHS anyway and the copies made from the TV of the episodes CH didn't put out are much inferior. I can't wait to see it in crisp b/w and hear that great soundtrack.
Funny thing, my 8th grade English teacher also railed on about the violence on The Untouchables, but the kids were crazy about it back then.
Chicago during the dry years (prohibition) was a venue which had a very rough exterior. Morally rigid guidelines, and a facet of poverty comprising of reprehensible destitution were unfortunate elements of American living which initiated an irascible backlash of pandemic criminal activity. Such tumultuous and illegal shenanigans embodied some extremely visceral emotions with hundreds of thousands of people who lived in Chicago! The television show "The Untouchables" dealt with hard bitten reality which evoked agitated behavior on both sides of the law! Elliot Ness was on a vigilante crusade to stop the flow of liquor into Chicago during the Prohibition era! As it turns out, Elliot Ness himself died of a heart attack which was attributable to his alcoholism! What is the point of this information? Not to depict Ness as a hypocrite, rather, to reiterate that Elliot Ness believed in enforcing the law, regardless of what his position was on any given social issue! The series, "The Untouchables" is an historically succinct account of how Al Capone ruled Chicago during a specific era! The federal agents were either bought off, or, like Ness, they were motivated by disdain and vehement objection for key members of the syndicate who were repetitively thwarting them! An onslaught of prominent actors and actresses made guest appearances on "The Untouchables". This made the series very powerful!! These special guest stars played the roles of Ness' scruple-less adversaries! More often than not, Ness would engage in an ideological diatribe with these criminals. In turn, these ruthlessly calm and collective masterminds of financially lucrative chicanery would emphatically ameliorate their reckless actions by blaming either their environment, or, the nation's prevailing circumstances! A couple of guest stars' appearances won Emmy awards for their segment performances on this series. (Elizabeth Montgomery and Robert Redford) The directing for "The Untouchables" focused on being extremely authentic! The narrating by Walter Winchell added a very wry and supercilious touch to the entire plot of each week's episode! The acting by guest stars and regulars (like Robert Stack) was outstanding! (Especially for the small screen). Chicago, in the twenties and thirties, was a city that cultivated it's identity by making nefariously illicit and felonious escapades their precariously notorious trademark!! The series "The Untouchables" illustrated such copious crimes with a very vividly pejorative and fatalistic disposition!! I loved this show, one of my favorites in all of television!! Mostly on account of the fact that as a Chicagoan, the show "The Untouchables" exudes a very definite and cynical identifiability!
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