IMDb > The Purple Gang (1959)

The Purple Gang (1959) More at IMDbPro »


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5.9/10   103 votes »
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Jack DeWitt (written by)
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Release Date:
5 January 1960 (USA) See more »
When machine gun mania rocked the nation! See more »
The story of the infamous Purple Gang, a ring of bootleggers, hijackers and killers in 1920s' Detroit. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
(2 articles)
Kubrick's "The Killing" and More DVDs
 (From MUBI. 19 August 2011, 3:49 AM, PDT)

Aip Composer Paul Dunlap Dies
 (From Famous Monsters of Filmland. 24 March 2010, 12:34 PM, PDT)

User Reviews:
A mix of fact and fiction See more (4 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Barry Sullivan ... Police Lt. William P. Harley

Robert Blake ... William Joseph 'Honeyboy' Willard
Elaine Edwards ... Gladys Harley
Marc Cavell ... Henry Abel 'Hank' Smith
Jody Lawrance ... Joan MacNamara
Suzanne Ridgeway ... Daisy (as Suzy Marquette)

Joe Turkel ... Eddie Olsen (as Joseph Turkel)
Victor Creatore ... Al Olsen
Paul Dubov ... Thomas Allen aka Killer Burke
Ray Boyle ... Tom Olsen (as Dirk London)
Kathleen Lockhart ... Nun
Nestor Paiva ... Laurence Orlofsky
Lou Krugman ... Dr. Riordan
Robert Anderson ... Police Commissioner
Mauritz Hugo ... Licovetti
James Roosevelt ... Himself in Prologue (as Congressman James Roosevelt)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
George Baxter ... Judge Stone (uncredited)
John Close ... Policeman George Murphy (uncredited)
Fred Coby ... Policeman at Call Box (uncredited)
John Damler ... Police Detective (uncredited)
Don Easton ... Joe Milford (uncredited)
Ella Ethridge ... Martha (uncredited)
Eddie Foster ... Hood in Montage (archive footage) (uncredited)
Craig Fox ... Harry Keys (uncredited)
Don Haggerty ... Minor Role (uncredited)
John Indrisano ... Castiglione (uncredited)
Ray Kellogg ... Police Desk Sergeant (uncredited)
Saverio LoMedico ... Al Capone (uncredited) (voice)
Walter Maslow ... Wright (uncredited)
Paul McGuire ... Florist (uncredited)
Harold Miller ... Man at Line-Up (uncredited)
Norman Nazarr ... Ricco (uncredited)
Ralph Sanford ... Fish Scofield (uncredited)
Jeffrey Sayre ... Man in Judge's Office (uncredited)
David Tomack ... Mac, Panhandler / Undercover Man (uncredited)
Michael Vallon ... Ely (uncredited)
Cecil Weston ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Allen Windsor ... Irving Mills (uncredited)

Directed by
Frank McDonald 
Writing credits
Jack DeWitt (written by)

Produced by
Lindsley Parsons Jr. .... associate producer
Lindsley Parsons .... producer
Original Music by
Paul Dunlap 
Cinematography by
Ellis W. Carter  (as Ellis Carter)
Art Direction by
Dave Milton  (as David Milton)
Set Decoration by
Frank Lombardo 
Makeup Department
Willard Colee .... makeup artist
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Lindsley Parsons Jr. .... assistant director
Art Department
Jerry Fuller .... property master
Sound Department
Tom Lambert .... sound recordist
Joseph Keener .... sound recordist (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Lloyd Garnell .... electrician (as Lloyd L. Garnell)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Forrest T. Butler .... wardrobe
Nanette Smith .... wardrobe (uncredited)
Editorial Department
Maurice Wright .... editorial supervisor
Music Department
Paul Dunlap .... conductor
A.H. Gibbs .... composer: song "Runnin' Wild" (as A. Harrington Gibbs)
Other crew
Bobbie Sierks .... script supervisor
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
85 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Did You Know?

The real Purple Gang was made up of mostly Jewish members. The script of this film gave the members non-Jewish names.See more »


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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful.
A mix of fact and fiction, 12 May 2012
Author: calvinnme from United States

Most of my 7/10 goes to two things - Robert Blake's effective portrayal of completely amoral, calculating, and mentally unbalanced baby-faced mobster Honeyboy Willard and to the rather detached documentary feel of this film as it is narrated by the cop that has vowed to put the Purple Gang away, Barry Sullivan as Lt. William P. Harley of the Detroit Police. It really has the look and feel of "The Untouchables" except with poverty row roots.

There really was a Purple Gang in Detroit in the 20's and 30's, although the character of Honeyboy is a fictional one - the actual power in the real gang was in the hands of four Jewish brothers. The cleaner and dyers war was a real one, except in real life the Purple Gang was allied with the union against non-union independents. There was no rather clean ending to the story of the Purples in real life. Like so many other gangs, Prohibition gave them money and power they could have only dreamed about, and its end sent them on a slow decline with the primary source of their wealth literally dried up.

This film is unusual in that there are no female leads or even substantial female supporting roles here. Women are just the subjects of particularly savage crimes by the Purples, and very little more, meant to underscore the violence of the Purple Gang.

If this film had been in wider release by a bigger studio, maybe Robert Blake wouldn't have had to wait until 1967 and "In Cold Blood" to catapult to stardom. Here he steals the show, kills everyone else, and gives a truly riveting performance of a guy who really loves his work for reasons that seem to have more to do with a need for power and a desire to be feared than just pure greed. Don't believe the low rating on this one - give it a try realizing it is a B feature from a small studio made just as the production code was losing its grip.

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