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Fuhgetaboutit: America's Love Affair with the Mob

NCJ Number
College Park Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: Fall 2002 Pages: 36-41
Tom Ventsias
Daniel Cusick
Date Published
6 pages
This article briefly discusses the American public’s fascination with big-name criminals, thugs, and mobsters since the 1920's and their cultivation through print media and films.
For much of the last century, the American public has cultivated an interest in big-name criminals, such as Vito Genovese, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, John Gotti, and Bill Bonnano. Prior to 1928, there were several silent gangster films. However, with the advent of new sound enhanced films the attractions grew between filmmakers and the public. During the Depression, it was recognized by filmmakers that a large part of its audience was rooting for the criminals, not for love of criminal activity, but because the Depression had left the public with a sense of uncertainty on whether a lawful and organized society was working. Following World War II and good reporting, organized crime regained the American public’s attention with a Pulitzer Prize in 1949 on bribery, extortion, kickbacks, and loan-sharking and an academy award winning film, “On the Waterfront.” In 1971, a journalist detailed the life of Bill Bonnano, the heir of major New York mafia boss Joseph Bonnano, followed shortly by the academy award winning “The Godfather” with the mafia themselves starting to buy into the public image raising it to a level of American mythology. These films are a study of control and power and of criminals doing things others would not dare dream to do.


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