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The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond
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Index 13 reviews in total 

21 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

One of the Best of the sixties Depression Era Crime Films

7/10
Author: Allen J. Duffis (sataft-2) from USA
4 March 2001

For the record, this film is historically inaccurate: not for the events, but for the true life character portrayals and interactions.

For instance, there is no evidence in the record of the time that Arnold (The Big Bankroll) Rothstein ever formally met with Jack "Legs" Diamond. Nor is there any record of Diamond having anything to do with Rothstein's girlfriend or his gangland assassination.

Despite these gaps in historical fact, this is one of the most highly entertaining ( of the 1960's crop) of films ever made of that era. In fact many film critics hold to the opinion that most, if not all, of the gangster films of the sixties, were poor attempts to copy the style and success of this one. The production is tightly written, well paced and beautifully filmed by a director (Bud Boetticher) who knew his way around black and white photography. And they couldn't have picked a better subject of the Prohibition Era than Jack "Legs" Diamond.

Jack Diamond was not called "Legs" because he worked for a short time as a dancer, but for the fact that he was initially a highly successful 'snatch and run' thief in the garment district. But he did eventually get caught and served a stint in prison. But forget the historical inaccuracies and enjoy this never boring gangster film.

Ray Danton, one of the most highly underrated actors of his time, gives a riveting fast paced portrayal of Diamond that will be hard to surpass. Not only is he believable in the outrageous stunts he pulls, but he just as easily exposes a manic and tragic side to his character as well: all without missing a beat.

This unusual film also allows you to see some of the screens most memorable character actors at their best. But most of all, you get to see two soon to be famous actors on their way up.

This was actress Dyan Cannon's first film, in a memorable role as the character,Dixie. And soon to be veteran character Warren Oates makes his third appearance in the movies as "Legs" Diamond's brother, Eddie. A careful study his early acting skills in this role, clearly defines why he went on to become one of the most endearing and recognizable character actors of all time.

Trust me on this one, fans. Whether you like Depression Era gangster films or not, you will be constantly entertained by this one. Don't miss it!

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21 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

The biographical gangster picture returns, chilly and detached

6/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
5 April 2003

The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond is Budd Boetticher's cold look at a cool customer. The low temperature extends to Lucien Ballard's crisply composed black-and-white cinematography and to Ray Danton's chilly assumption of the title role. With his `matinee-idol' looks and devil-may-care attitude, he prefigures another kind of `cool' that would arrive on screen a year or so later, that of James Bond.

Like Bond, Diamond thinks faster than anybody around him; his quick wits and ready charm get him out of scrapes as a jewel thief who came down the Hudson from Albany to try his luck in Manhattan. But that luck fails him and he ends up doing a short stretch; when he gets out, he resolves to steal from only those who `can't call the police' - other criminals. And he starts his way up in the Arnold Rothstein operation.

His fatal flaw is that he cares for nobody but himself, using people ruthlessly. The women in his life (Karen Steele, Elaine Stewart and the young Dyan Cannon) suffer particularly from their sub-zero lover, but even his sickly brother (Warren Oates) ends up cast out into the blizzard. Diamond's estrangement increases apace with his sense of his own invincibility; having survived, against all odds, a spray of bullets, he convinces himself that he can't be killed. He's wrong.

Though he's right for Boetticher's conception of the part, Danton had less of a career than he might have. He appeared in a few late films in the moribund noir cycle (as the psychotic killer in The Night Runner and as the Aspirin Kid in The Beat Generation) but, after this film, worked mostly in European cinema (by which such names as Fellini, Bergman or Godard should not be inferred).

Boetticher has a few noir credentials as well (Behind Locked Doors, The Killer is Loose) but seems uneasy in how, on the cusp of Camelot, to spin this jazz-age tale. He opts for detachment, structuring the movie as a choppy series of vignettes - almost tableaux - that don't flow (several of the incidents clamor for more explanation, but he leaves us to fill in the missing pieces). And finally, neither director nor actor gives a sound accounting of the changes in Diamond: How the winsome scoundrel of the opening turns into the cold-blooded shark of the finish.

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15 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Terrific entertainment! Ray Danton and Warren Oates are both wonderful.

Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia
6 August 2003

I'd never heard a thing about this one before I put it in my video player. I knew Warren Oates (one of my favourite character actors - 'The Shooting', 'The Wild Bunch', 'Two-Lane Blacktop', 'Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia',etc.) was in the supporting cast and that was enough for me to give it a go. I know absolutely nothing about the real life exploits of 1930s gangster Jack 'Legs' Diamond, so this movie is more than likely utter fiction, but hey, I didn't watch it for a history lesson, I watched it to be entertained, and it certainly did that! It's a terrific picture, very cool and constantly engaging. Oates plays Legs' sickly "lunger" brother Eddie and he's very good, as are the three sexy women in Legs' life (Karen Steele, Elaine Stewart and a young Dyan Cannon). There are also several familiar faces in the supporting cast that you'll recognize from half forgotten old movies , but Ray Danton completely steals the film as Diamond. I'm very surprised after watching this that Danton didn't go on to be a major star as he is very charismatic and a credible actor. If you like crime movies try and find 'The Rise And Fall Of Legs Diamond'. It may be obscure but it's a really good b-picture and not to be overlooked.

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16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Discarding People Along the Way

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
23 April 2006

Jack "Legs" Diamond was the alias of John T. Noland (1897-1931) who had one spectacular career in the underworld of the Roaring Twenties. Though we are far from seeing the real story of Legs Diamond, Ray Danton gives us a riveting portrayal of a totally amoral man who uses and discards people in his rise to the top. Diamond's career and this film about him is very much a harbinger of stuff like Goodfellas in the last decade.

Right around this time Hollywood took a nostalgic interest in the gangster era. A whole lot of films like Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly an early Charles Bronson starrer, Dutch Schultz Portrait of a Mobster, and Murder, Inc. among others came out at this time. There was even a good series from Warner Brothers television that came out called The Roaring Twenties that starred Dorothy Provine. And of course heading the list was The Untouchables. The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond is part of this trend.

This came from Warner Brothers and they certainly had the best gangster films back in the day. Had this been done back in the thirties, James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson would have been the star. However the best guy for the part back then would have been Tyrone Power. That is the Tyrone Power of Nightmare Alley. Ray Danton's portrayal of Diamond borrows a lot from Power's Stan Carlisle.

This part and Danton's role in the George Raft Story should have made Danton a star, but it didn't, who knows why. Danton gave up acting and settled for life behind the camera, directing lots of television shows.

Other good portrayals in this are Robert Lowery as Arnold Rothstein, Warren Oates as Diamond's brother, Karen Steele as his much used and abused wife, and Frank DeKova in one riveting scene as Lucky Luciano. DeKova is only identified as the "chairman" in the film as Mr. Luciano was very much alive when this came out.

However the best supporting part is Jesse White's as a gangland rival. White who normally plays comic tough guys very well really does a fine job as a rival who Diamond makes crawl for mercy.

Good portrayal of the tumultuous Roaring Twenties though not the real story of Legs Diamond.

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A Gangster that did not Love Anybody

7/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
25 April 2010

In the 20's, the ambitious smalltime thief Jack Diamond (Ray Danton) and his sick brother Eddie Diamond (Warren Oates) arrive in New York. Jack meets the dance teacher Alice Shiffer (Karen Steele) and uses dirty tricks to date her and steal a necklace in a jewelry store. After spending a period in prison, he asks Alice to work with her in the dance school during his probation. Then he decides to work as bodyguard of the powerful gangster lord Arnold Rothstein (Robert Lowery) that dubs him Legs, with the intention of stealing his illegal business of bootleg, drugs and gambling. When Arnold is murdered, Legs Diamond sells protection to the gangs. When he travels to Europe with Alice on vacation, he sees in the news the changes in New York underworld with the National Prohibition Act and returns, finding a different city that he does not understand.

"The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond" is a good gangster movie based on the biography of the criminal Jack "Legs" Diamond. The gangster is described as a man that did not love anybody and believed that he could never be killed, ending his life alone without friends and betrayed by a lover. This movie was released on VHS in Brazil by Continental distributor. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "O Rei dos Facínoras" ("The King of the Ruffians")

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Real life gangster granted immortality by clever film

10/10
Author: mlraymond from Durham NC
26 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A well known racketeer of the Twenties and early Thirties, who has served as inspiration for a novel and a Broadway play, as well as this movie, Jack "Legs" Diamond is still remembered today. This film is a tightly written and well played gangster drama, with a surprisingly strong vein of black comedy running through it. Director Boetticher said in an interview that he wanted to make a gangster picture unlike any other, that had a sense of humor, and he claimed to have learned a lot of funny anecdotes from real hoodlums who had known Diamond, and incorporated them into the picture. Ray Danton is unforgettable as Diamond. His startlingly good looks make an ironic contrast with his ruthless pursuit of money and power. Legs is able to charm any woman into helping him, and conning other gangsters who think they're smarter than he is. His deep voiced delivery can be either amusing when he makes a wisecrack ,or genuinely menacing when it's obvious Legs isn't kidding about his demands. The other real life mobsters are played broadly, with actors best known for their comedy roles, including Jesse White as Leo, Diamond's primary obstacle to overcome. Robert Lowery portrays Diamond's boss Arnold Rothstein as a cynical and world weary man, who can get more out of one line of dialogue than pages of it. His giving an expensive watch to Diamond with the bitterly polite remark " Just consider it a token of how much I trust you" is a moment that lingers after the movie is over. Joseph Ruskin is quite sinister in his role of Matt Moran, Diamond's deadliest enemy. The scene in which they finally meet for a fatal encounter is a brilliant example of taut, suspenseful direction. The musical score by Leonard Rosenman is very effective, with its jaunty main theme that occurs in several variations throughout the picture. One interesting touch is that the tense, spooky music that accompanies one of Diamond's early crimes, the burglary of a jewelry store, sounds remarkably like the planetarium music Rosenman composed for Rebel Without a Cause some five years earlier. The Twenties backgrounds are believable and the action scenes are exciting. The film does falter a bit toward the end, as Diamond seems to go downhill too rapidly. The filmmakers were obviously trying to mollify the censors by showing Diamond as getting his comeuppance in an overly dramatic way, after basically showing him as the hero we've been rooting for for the greater part of the film. One more observation should be made: the performance by Warren Oates as Eddie, Diamond's consumptive younger brother, is very good, and his slightly more honorable attitudes show Legs up even more as the ruthless , egocentric criminal he is. This is an excellent movie that should appeal to anyone who likes the old gangster pictures with Cagney, Robinson, Raft, and Bogart.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Danton gives Diamond legs.

6/10
Author: st-shot from United States
26 October 2010

Ray Danton brings a suave cold charm to the title role of this film about the Roaring 20s gangster. The usually wooden Danton, nattily attired with a pair of shoulder holsters, cuts quite a figure as he shoots, seduces and betrays his way to achieve his ambitious goals.

Jack Diamond and his handicapped brother come to the big city in search of a new start as jewelery thieves. This venture get's him jailed but it fails to dampen his desire for fast cash and he begins to rob crooks in order to eliminate police involvement. He catches the eye of big time gambler Arnold Rothstein, fixer of the 1918 World Series. He goes to work as a bodyguard for Rothstein who is later murdered thus expediting Leg's rise.

Budd Boeticher directs economically, benefiting both pace and story line as well as Diamond's sharkish style self assuredly delivered by Danton. He also does a nice job of keeping Diamond's involvement in the rub out of Rothstein ambiguous (an unsolved murder to this day) as he attempts to follow the factual outline of his career. In addition Lucien Ballard's photography gives the studio interiors and exteriors an extra touch of grit and noir in one of the better gangster pictures made during a period when the genre was in a bit of a funk.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Legs is a good Flick!!

8/10
Author: MStillrage from United States
6 March 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Good film. Warren Oates does well, and the photography is superb. A Scorsese caliber picture, before the Don of Urbana surfaced!! A well worth watching movie. It has the truth without the shine. It never slows or gets dull. Amazing for a movie with guys that were unknowns @ the time. Although it's a true story,it is depicted like a newsreel from the 30's. You feel like Legs himself.He has a contagious ambition, and he is naive to what new powers exist. He is heartless but always ambitious. His coldness towards others that are on his side amazes anyone. He wants to get ahead sooo bad, and he does. The story never gets dull, and ends with prophecy/look back.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Nothing Memorable

5/10
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
5 July 2013

As the title states, the film follows the rise and fall of the 1920's narcissistic gangster, Legs Diamond.

Warner Bros. certainly knew how to make gangster movies—Little Caesar (1930), Public Enemy (1931), High Sierra (1941)-- but this entry is a long way from these classics. It's a decent enough crime drama, but lacks the grit and menace of the classics. As a result, the story unfolds in entertaining but unmemorable fashion. Danton tries hard, snarling when he needs to, yet he may be a little too sleekly handsome to be convincing. After all, Cagney, Bogart, etc. were hardly matinée idols, and in a way that didn't clash with their expressions of toughness. Neither, however, is the movie helped by casting the faintly comical character Jesse White (Butch) as Legs' chief rival.

Too bad the movie doesn't make better use of Warren Oates who's kind of shoved aside as Legs' sickly brother. He would have made an excellent toughie as his career later showed. Also, it's worth noting the film was directed by western ace Buddy Boetticher, who certainly knew how to drive action and suspense in his Ranown cycle of westerns. Here, however, he doesn't appear particularly engaged.

For some reason the late 50's and early 60's were fascinated with real life gangster stories— Al Capone (1956), The Untouchables (1959-1963), Murder Inc. (1960), et. al. This 100- minutes is one of that cycle. But oh well, no matter what the movie's shortcomings, at least the girls provide plenty of eye candy.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond: A Real Flop of A Fall **

4/10
Author: edwagreen from United States
3 November 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Picture starts out with a promising mission: It was to show the rise and fall of Legs Diamond. At once, the guy is shown to be a selfish cad. Ray Danton looks almost glassy-eyed here in his portrayal of the noted gangster.

Jesse White, as Leo, is totally miscast. White sounds like he is almost ready to do another Maytag commercial. He is totally unconvincing as a gangster.

The picture quickly dissolves into a shoot them up action film. The characters are not given any chance to develop, especially the part of Arnold Rothstein.

Karen Steele does well in the part of the abused wife. She really drinks her way down a downward path.

Rather weak writing does this 1960 film in. Ray Danton, 5 years before, you made your film debut as Susan Hayward's ill-fated attorney-boyfriend in the classic "I'll Cry Tomorrow." You were voted most promising actor. Then, you began to make films of lower quality and you were soon washed up as an actor. As far as this film, while we realize that Legs is portrayed as someone not capable of loving anyone, it is never fully explained why he turned on his sickly brother.

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