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I made a mistake of reading about Ma Barker before watching this second
episode in the first season of The Untouchables. It kind of ruined
things, because this story is almost entirely fabricated for dramatic
purposes. In real life, Ma Barker never was directly involved in any of
her boys' crimes and certainly wouldn't be firing a machine gun as she
does in the dramatic shootout in Florida.
Also, this episode is disappointing because I want to see Robert Stack as "Elliott Ness" and his "Untouchables" in action in Chicago and this turns out be the Claire Trevor show as we see the life of her and her boys, mainly in Oklahoma. Trevor plays the kind of character atheist Hollywood loves to show: a church-going person who is nasty, violent and downright evil. Yes, in real life Barker came from a religious background, but this episode goes to such extremes in its distorted way to show a hypocritical woman that it's laughable. In truth, Ma was nothing more than an accomplice, unable to rat her boys out.
Trevor was always good playing nasty women in film noirs so she is effective in that role here, especially at the "advanced" age of 49. Speaking of that number, Trevor plays a character very similar to "Ma" in the 1949 movie "White Heat." Margaret Wycherly played that role and, frankly, I would choose her over Trevor.
Anyway, this was a departure from most of stories in this series, and a little too bias (and overacted by Trevor) to suit me, although it certainly wasn't boring.
Actually, there was one very neat thing in here. One of the Barker boys, "Doc," wound up with a girlfriend whom he married. She was a beautiful young woman, very sexy, and looked familiar. I just couldn't place where I knew her. The ending credits told me. It was Louise Fletcher, of "Nurse Ratched" fame in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest." Fletcher was about 24 when she filmed this episode.
Two Oscar winning actresses from different generations, Claire Trevor
and Louise Fletcher, star in this wildly fictional tale of how Eliot
Ness and his Untouchables aid in the taking down of that notorious bank
robbing family the Barkers. Anyone with a modicum of knowledge knows
Ness had nothing to do with that operation. When Frank Sinatra and J.
Edgar Hoover both object to a program that's taking in a lot of
Still Trevor gives one great expansive performance as the infamous gangster mother of the year, Ma Barker. She turns out to be the male role model as opposed to poor ineffectual Vaughn Taylor who she and the four sociopathic sons she raised. Louise Fletcher is the girlfriend of one of them who Trevor makes most definitely unwelcome. Ain't nobody good enough for her lovely sons.
That final shootout that has gone down in gangster lore when the family opens up the family arsenal is classic. This family could have been the poster family for the NRA.
There was a woman named Ma Barker (Claire Trevor) and he had several
evil children who terrorized folks and were career criminals. Apart
from that, most of what's in this episode is pure hooey. While it's
debatable how much Ma Barker was in charge of the Barker Gang (most
sources say she was stupid and unable to lead anyone....J. Edgar Hoover
described her as the brains of the family), what isn't is that the FBI
killed her in a shootout and Elliot Ness had absolutely nothing to do
with this...nothing. Now if you can look past that it's all fictional,
then you'll probably enjoy this show. As for me, I like the even
crazier version of Ma that you see in "Ma Barker's Killer Brood"-- but
this performance by Trevor is pretty silly and frequently over the top!
Overall, fun and worth seeing but hardly accurate in any way--and the
ending is just insane. But I do wonder how in the opening scene Ma
could toss a grenade ONTO an agent and it explodes...and he's STILL
By the way, as the blanket is about to be put over one of Ma's dead sons, pay attention---you can CLEARLY see him blink!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Kate "Ma" Barker was born Arizona Donnie Clark on 8 October 1873 at Ashgrove, Missouri and died 16 January 1935, aged 58 years old. The actual degree of her criminality is in doubt. Though her children were undoubtedly criminals and their Barker-Karpis Gang committed a spree of robberies, kidnapping and other crimes between 1931 and 1935, it appears that the popular image of her as the gang's leader and mastermind is a myth. Though she must have known of the gang's activities and did help them before and after them after they committed their crimes, there is no evidence that she was ever an active participant in any of the crimes themselves or involved in planning them. Alvin Karpis ("Old Creepy") was born Alvin Korpowicz 10 August 1907 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and died 26 August 1979. He was the leader of the Barker-Karpis Gang, he said Ma Barker did not have the known-how to rob a bank. Her son Herman Barker was born 30 October 1893 and died 29 August 1927, by suicide during a gun fight with the police, not as a teenager as on the "Untouchables." Lloyd Barker was born in 1898 and was killed by his wife on 18 March 1949, and Arthur "Doc" Barker was born in 1899 and died in 1939, not in 1935 as in the "Untouchables." Fred Barker was born in 1902, he did die in 1935, but not the other two brothers.Ma Barker did die in Oklawwaha, Florida as suggested in the "Untouchables," they got that part right! Nonetheless, it is still an entertaining version of "a" Barker and her boys! The FBI did shoot it out with Ma and Fred, but it is not recorded Eliot Ness was there or not? Sarge Booker of Tujunga, California
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