The Untouchables is an American crime drama that ran from 1959 to 1963 on ABC. Based on the memoir of the same name by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, it fictionalized Ness' experiences as a Prohibition agent, fighting crime in Chicago in the 1930s with the help of a special team of agents handpicked for their courage and incorruptibility, nicknamed the Untouchables. The book was later made into a film in 1987 (also called The Untouchables) by Brian De Palma, with a script by David Mamet, and a second less successful TV series in 1993.
Series overview[edit | edit source]
The stories often revolved around Ness' enmity with the criminal empire of Chicago mob boss Al Capone, and many focused on crimes related to Prohibition. The show stars Robert Stack as Eliot Ness and was narrated by Walter Winchell. Neville Brand played Al Capone in The Desilu Playhouse episodes, and in a few episodes of the regular series.
The pilot for the series - a feature length TV movie later marketed as "The Scarface Mob"—was first broadcast on January 22, 1959. It dealt with Ness's crusade to put Al Capone in prison. The weekly series first began broadcasting on October 1959, with the plotline commencing from the power struggle within the mob to establish the new mob boss in Capone's absence (for the purpose of the TV series, the new boss was Frank Nitti, although this was contrary to fact). In the pilot movie the mobsters generally spoke with a Chico Marx-style Italian accent, but this idiosyncratic pronunciation was dropped when the series itself debuted. Early in the first season of the series, perhaps also in response to some public criticism, the character of "Agent Rossi", identified as a person of Italian extraction, was added to Ness's team as a driver, despite Rossi having no previous training or experience in law enforcement. Rossi was given a back-story— that of a barber who was deeply traumatized when one of his customers, and a young co-worker, a manicurist named Tessie DiGiovanna, were machine-gunned by mobsters.
Controversy[edit | edit source]
The show drew harsh criticism from some Italian-Americans including Frank Sinatra, who felt it promoted negative stereotypes of them as mobsters and gangsters. The Capone family sued the show for $1,000,000 for its unauthorized use of Al Capone's likeness for a profit.
On March 9, 1961, Anthony Anastasio, chief of the Brooklyn waterfront and its International Longshoremen's Association, marched in line with a picket group who identified themselves as “The Federation of Italian-American Democratic Organizations.” In protest formation outside the American Broadcasting Company, (ABC) New York headquarters, they had come together to urge the public boycott of L&M, (Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company) products, and its Chesterfield King cigarettes, which sponsored "The Untouchables". They expressed displeasure with the program, which to them vilified Italian-Americans, stereotyping them as the singular criminal element.  The boycott and the attendant firestorm of publicity had the effect Anastasia and his confederates wanted. Four days after the picket of ABC, L&M, denying that they had bowed to intimidation, announced it would drop its sponsorship of "The Untouchables", maintaining their decision was based on network-scheduling conflicts. The following week, the head of the production studio Desilu, Desi Arnaz, in concert with ABC and the “Italian-American League to Combat Defamation,” issued a formal three-point manifesto:
- There will be no more fictional hoodlums with Italian names in future productions.
- There will be more stress on the law-enforcement role of “Rico Rossi,” Ness’s right-hand man on the show.
- There will be an emphasis on the “formidable influence” of Italian-American officials in reducing crime and an emphasis on the “great contributions” made to American culture by Americans of Italian descent.
The Untouchables was considered one of the most violent television shows when it aired and was described by the National Association for Better Radio and Television "not fit for the television screen".
Episodes and cast[edit | edit source]
The series had 118 episodes which ran 50 minutes each. Though the book it was based upon chronicled the experiences of Ness and his cohorts over a span of time ranging from 1929 to 1935, the overwhelming majority of the television episodes were broadcast in no chronological timeline, but were set in the early 1930s (for example, one episode, "You Can't Pick the Number", begins with Winchell's words, "October 1932 ... the depth of the Depression"). A few episodes were set primarily in a locale other than Chicago (such as the one dealing with the shootout involving Ma Barker and her gang). Characters and "facts" in the majority of the episodes were more often than not entirely fictitious or loosely-based composites of true-life criminals of that era. The gripping theme music was by Nelson Riddle.
The other Untouchables were played by:
- Abel Fernandez as Agt. William Youngfellow (not "Youngblood")
- Nick Georgiade as Agt. Enrico "Rico" Rossi
- Paul Picerni as Agt. Lee Hobson, (2nd season on)
- Steve London as Agt. Jack Rossman*
- Jerry Paris as Agt. Martin Flaherty, (1st season only)
- Chuck Mitchell Hicks as Agt. LaMarr Kane (1st season only)
- Anthony George as Agt. Cam Allison, (1st season only)
Other recurrent actors were:
- Bruce Gordon as Frank Nitti
- Frank Dekova as Jimmy Napoli
- Neville Brand as Al Capone
- Announcer: Les Lampson - Very distinctive dramatic voice.
- Narrator: Walter Winchell
* Contrary to popular belief, Steve London's character of Untouchable Jack Rossman (played in the "Scarface Mob" pilot by Paul Dubov), was in the series since the original season 1 series episode, "The Empty Chair", not from Season 2 on as is commonly reported.
Guest stars[edit | edit source]
A significant number of guest-stars from The Untouchables were and became major motion picture and television stars:
- Edward Asner as Fedor Bartok in episode 3.16 "The Death Tree"
- Martin Balsam in episodes 3.3 "Tunnel of Horrors" and 3.21 "Man in the Middle"
- John Banner as Franz Koenig in episode 3.17 "Takeover"
- William Bendix as Wally Legenza in episode 1.9 "The Tri-State Gang"
- Charles Bronson in episode 3.16 "The Death Tree"
- Victor Buono as Melanthos Moon in episode 2.25 "Mr. Moon" and as Pamise Surigao in episode 3.13 "The Gang War"
- James Caan as Keir Brannon in episode 4.10 "A Fist of Five"
- Dyan Cannon as Mavis Carroll in episode 3.14 "Silent Partner"
- Mike Connors in episode 4.7 "The Eddie O'Gara Story"
- Russ Conway in episodes 2.12 and 2.13 "The Big Train", 2.25 "Mr. Moon"
- Francis De Sales in episodes 1.23 "Three Thousand Suspects" and 2.9 "The Larry Fay Story"
- Robert Duvall in episode 4.17 "Blues for a Gone Goose"
- Peter Falk in episode 1.26 "The Underworld Bank" and as Nate Selko in episode 3.1 "The Troubleshooter"
- Herbie Faye in episode 3.12 as Lefty in "Fall Guy"
- Anne Francis as Doreen Maney in episode 1.24 "The Doreen Maney Story"
- Clu Gulager as Vincent 'Mad Dog' Coll in "Vincent 'Mad Dog' Coll"
- Richard Jaeckel as Hans Eberhardt in episode 2.10 "The Otto Frick Story"
- Conrad Janis as Sticks in episode 2.5 "The Mark of Cain"
- I. Stanford Jolley as Pete Laffey in episode 4.21 "The Man in the Cooler"
- Robert Karnes (also a co-star of The Lawless Years) in episodes 2.9 "The Larry Fay Story" and 4.15 "Snowball"
- Jack Klugman as Morton Halas in episode 3.6 "Loophole"
- Martin Landau as Larry Coombs in episode 3.6 "Loophole" and as Jerry Fanning in episode 1.7 "Mexican Stake-Out"
- Cloris Leachman as Mrs. Mailer in episode 3.7 "Jigsaw" and episode 3.21 "Man in the Middle"
- Robert Loggia as Leo Mencken in episode 3.17 "Takeover"
- Jack Lord in episode 1.3 "The Jake Lingle Killing"
- Lee Marvin as Nick Acropolis in episode 2.31 "The Nick Acropolis Story"
- Gavin MacLeod as Whitey Metz in episode 3.6 "Loophole"
- Ricardo Montalbán as Frank Makouris in episode 2.27 "Stranglehold"
- Elizabeth Montgomery as Rusty Heller (for which she received an Emmy Award nomination) (1960)
- Barry Morse as Michel Viton in episode 2.30 "The King Of Champagne" and as Larry Bass in episode 4.18 "Globe Of Death"
- Patricia Neal as Maggie Storm in episode 3.20 "The Maggie Storm Story"
- Leslie Nielsen as Tom Sebring in episode 1.23 "Three Thousand Suspects"
- Leonard Nimoy as Packy in episode 3.17 "Takeover"
- Lloyd Nolan as 'Bugs' Moran in episode 1.4 "The George 'Bugs' Moran Story"
- Carroll O'Connor as Barney Lubin in episode 3.2 "Power Play"
- Nehemiah Persoff as Jake Guzik in three episodes, episode 1.1 "The Empty Chair", episode 2.29 "The Seventh Vote" & episode 4.12 "Doublecross"
- Gregg Palmer as Paul Di Marco in episode 2.12 "The Big Train: Part 1"
- Robert Redford in episode 4.15 "Snowball"
- Cliff Robertson as Frank Halloway in episode 1.12 "The Underground Railway"
- Telly Savalas in episodes 2.20 "The Antidote", 3.5 "The Matt Bass Scheme" and 4.14 "The Speculator"
- Henry Silva as "Little Charlie Sebastino" in episode 2.5 "The Mark of Cain" and as Joker in episode 3.15 "The Whitey Steele Story"
- Barbara Stanwyck in episodes 4.8 "Elegy" and 4.13 "Search for a Dead Man"
- Jan Sterling as Francie McKay in episode 2.8 "Kiss of Death Girl"
- Suzanne Storrs in "Jack 'Legs' Diamond" and "Vincent 'Mad Dog' Coll"
- Frank Sutton as Benny Stryker in episode 3.18 "The Stryker Brothers"
- Roy Thinnes as Denny Brannon in episode 4.10 "A Fist of Five" and as Red Thomas in episode 4.19 "An Eye for an Eye"
- Rip Torn as Harry Strauss in episode 2.14 "The Masterpiece"
- Claire Trevor as Ma Barker in episode 1.2 "Ma Baker and Her Boys"
- Lee Van Cleef in episode 1.20 "The Unhired Assassin"
- Jack Warden as Otto Frick, in episode 2.10 "The Otto Frick Story" and as Larry Halloran in episode 1.3 "The George 'Bugs' Moran Story
- Steven Hill as Jack "Legs" Diamond, in episode 2.2 "Jack 'Legs' Diamond"
Broadcast history[edit | edit source]
The series aired on Thursdays during its first three seasons and was switched to Tuesday evenings for its final season. It aired at 9:30 Eastern each season except for the third season, when it was placed at the 10 p.m. slot after the failed sitcom Margie, starring Cynthia Pepper.
Episodes[edit | edit source]
- Main article: List of The Untouchables (1959 TV series) episodes
DVD releases[edit | edit source]
DVD releases[edit | edit source]
CBS DVD (distributed by Paramount) have released the first three seasons of The Untouchables on DVD in Region 1. The first two seasons have also been released in Region 4. Season 4 volumes 1 & 2 were released on July 24, 2012 in Region 1.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 4|
|Season 1- Volume 1||14 + pilot||April 10, 2007||September 30, 2009|
|Season 1- Volume 2||14||September 25, 2007||September 30, 2009|
|Season 2- Volume 1||16||March 18, 2008||September 30, 2009|
|Season 2- Volume 2||16||August 26, 2008||September 30, 2009|
|Season 3- Volume 1||16||August 25, 2009||N/A|
|Season 3- Volume 2||12||November 10, 2009||N/A|
|Season 4- Volume 1||15||July 24, 2012||N/A|
|Season 4- Volume 2||15||July 24, 2012||N/A|
Region 2[edit | edit source]
Paramount Home Entertainment has released the first three seasons of The Untouchables on DVD in the UK. These releases are full season sets as opposed to Region 1 and 4 where each season has been split into two volumes.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|Season 1||28||August 18, 2008|
|Season 2||32||September 14, 2009|
|Season 3||28||September 20, 2010|
|Season 4||30||July 24, 2012|
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Tucker, Kenneth. Eliot Ness and the Untouchables: The Historical Reality and the Film and Television Depictions. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-7864-0772-7
- Vahimagi, Tise. "The Untouchables" London, England: BFI Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-85170-563-4 (Detailed study of the series and episode guide)
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Talese, Gay: "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold", page 27. Esquire, April 1966
- Harris, Jay S., in association with the editors of TV Guide, “TV Guide: The First 25 Years,” Simon & Schuster, 1978, p. 52-53, ISBN 0-671-23065-4
- The Palm Beach Post - Jul 16, 1961, pg 5, http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=tgAjAAAAIBAJ&sjid=K80FAAAAIBAJ&pg=901,2668583&dq=
- Etter, Jonathan. Quinn Martin, Producer. Jefferson: McFarland, 2003.
- "Special Collectors' Issue". TV Guide (June 28-July 4). 1997.
[edit | edit source]
|40x40px||Wikimedia Commons has media related to: The Untouchables (1959 TV series)|
- The Untouchables at the Internet Movie Database
- Encyclopedia of Television
- Episode Broadcast Dates
- The Untouchables complete unedited program open
- The Untouchables complete unedited program close
- The Untouchables complete unedited program open 4th Season
es:Los Intocables (serie de televisión) fr:Les Incorruptibles (série télévisée) it:Gli intoccabili (serie televisiva) ja:アンタッチャブル (テレビドラマ) pl:Nietykalni (serial telewizyjny 1959) pt:The Untouchables (série) sh:The Untouchables (TV serija 1959) fi:Lahjomattomat (vuoden 1959 televisiosarja)