Saturday, August 15, 2009

“Kill The Irishman” A Movie About Cleveland Mobster Danny Greene

I’ve lived in the Cleveland area all my life, and one thing that long time Clevelanders know is that this city used to be a hotbed of crime. (It may still seem that way, with all the corruption in county government these days.) I went to school (Catholic school, by the way) with some of the grandchildren of some of the most notorious criminal Italian family names in the city. One student in high school frequently bragged that her grandfather was in the Mafia; one boy in grade school was aware of his family’s mob connection but was ashamed of it. My husband – as a young boy and with his mom’s permission - got to ride in a limo with a man who turned out to be a notorious crime figure as this man went to the bank to deposit money. (I often wondered if it was mob money this person was depositing?) For many years, it was very hard for someone in the city not to know someone connected with the mob because their children and grandchildren were part of the community.

Danny Greene, one of the big names in crime in the city, was not Italian, but he was Irish-American. According to the Wikipedia entry about Danny Greene:

The Cleveland family boss, Frank "Little Frank" Brancato, brought in Greene and other gangsters of Irish heritage to act as errand boys and muscle to enforce the Mafia’s influence during the 1960s. Greene was used as muscle in enforcing the Mob’s control over the garbage hauling contracts and other Mob influenced rackets. This was a move Brancato would later grow to regret. Until his death in 1973, he regretted bringing Danny Greene into the Mob and the damage it did.

Greene went on to fuel a mob war, which caused a flurry of killings and car bombs, so much that Cleveland earned the name Bomb City USA.” Fittingly, Danny Greene was killed by a car bomb when he went to a dental appointment at a medical building in Lyndhurst, Ohio, right off of I-271, near upscale communities and office complexes. It’s not a place one would ever expect such a violent act.

Now Danny Greene will be immortalized in a new film titled "Kill The Irishman" (orginally named “The Irishman”) which is scheduled for release in 2011. It will star Ray Stevenson as Danny Greene, Vincent D’Onofrio as John Nardi, Robert Davi as Ray Ferrito, and Tony LoBianco as John Licavoli. It will also star Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer. In a weird twist, the film is not being filmed in Cleveland, likely due to the fact that Governor Strickland vetoed a bill to give tax breaks to film makers. A travesty, I say. The film is currently being shot in Detroit. (The only worse insult is if it were filmed in Pittsburgh.) Of course, right now Detroit looks more like Cleveland in the 1970s than Cleveland does at the present time. describes the film as follows:

The Irishman chronicles the rise and fall of infamous Cleveland gangster Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson), who engaged in a power struggle with the Italian mob. Greene was as an upstart longshoreman union rep and later became a cocky, legendarily difficult-to-kill troublemaker in the world of organized crime in the 1970’s. Based on the real story of mobster Danny Greene, Christopher Walken will play the loan shark and nightclub owner Shondor Birns and Val Kilmer is a Cleveland police detective who befriends Greene. The incredible ensemble cast includes Vinnie Jones, Marcus Thomas, Linda Cardellini, Laura Ramsey, Paul Sorvino, Mike Starr, Tony LoBianco, Vinnie Vella, Steve Schirippa, Jason Butler Harner, Robert Davi and Fionnula Flanagan.

I will definitely be watching this movie closely, but I will also be watching for accuracy. In 1989 I read a book called “Mobbed Up” the story of another notorious local figure Jackie Presser. I believe this book was made into a movie in the early 1990s, and if I recall correctly, the movie depicted Danny Greene being killed by a car bomb in a narrow alley. Well, I am very familiar with the location where Danny Green was killed, as I drove past it on the way to work each day in the mid-1970s and also worked only a few miles away from it in the high-rent office district of Landerhaven for a few years in the late 1990s. The parking lot where Danny Green was killed is far from a narrow alley. So if the filmmakers get this aspect of the film right, they will get my respect. But, if the picture here (a still from the filming) is of the car bomb that actually got Danny Greene, they got it wrong.

“Kill The Irishman” sounds like an interesting movie, if you have lived during those years of crime in Cleveland or not. You can follow the film’s progress at

Update March 6, 2011: "Kill The Irishman" is scheduled for limited release as follows:

Opening in Select Theaters March 11th:

New York - Landmark Sunshine Cinema
Los Angeles - AMC Broadway 4
Cleveland - Cedar Lee / Cinemark 24 Valley View / Regal Crocker Park

Opening in additional theaters March 18th:

Detroit - Landmark Main Art
Chicago - AMC River East / Century Evanston 18
Boston - Kendall Square Cinema

All Original Text Content © unless otherwise noted

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, All Things Cleveland Ohio, here.


Anonymous said...

Excellent article. for the comfort of the author, I can say for certain that the explosion pictured in the article is NOT the explosion that killed Danny Greene. That explosion was filmed in an open lot, with the explosion rigged in a similar manner to that which actually occured. I hope the article writer will be happy with the way it is portrayed. JD, Los Angeles

All Things Cleveland said...

JD - thanks for the clarification! By the way, there seems to be a lot of interest in the film here in Cleveland. It truly is a shame it wasn't filmed here.

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DaveO said...

While promoting The Irishman at, I've become intrigued by the real backstory of the characters.

I've also noticed all the attention Detroit has received for the shoot (albeit much of the commentary is about Detroit looking run down which suits the movies) much to the chagrin of Clevelanders.

Anyhow, wanted to say thanks for the hat-tip and let you know we've added a bunch of new videos from the set of The Irishman including a discussion of blowing up Danny Greene's car and stills of the explosion.

There are also interviews with actors Ray Stevenson (in the title role of Danny Greene), Christopher Walken (as Shondor Birns), Vincent D'Onofrio and Val Kilmer.

In the actors' interviews, they discuss how they got to know their real-life counterparts from the true story and shed some light on the happenings of the old neighborhood. There are even pics of the young actor playing "Cleveland Kid".

If you are interested,check out all the videos and stills from the set of The Irishman and continue to share with your audience if you find the clips interesting.


Anonymous said...

Any update as to the release date of this movie.

From Collinwood and looking forward to it.

All Things Cleveland said...

The film is cuurently listed as being in pos-production, with a release date of late 2010. No firm date that I can find as yet!

Anonymous said...

I lived in Cleveland during the 70's. I was dating the barmaid at the niteclub Christy's a place where Shondur Burns frequented. I met him about a month before he was blown up in the parking lot of Christy's. Lucky for me I was not there that night/

John Q. Public said...

Regarding the photo the car explosion shown above, that may not end up being an actual shot from the movie. Often, many cars are sacrificed as test subjects before they demolish the actual car used in the movie.
I, too, am very familiar with the parking lot at Cedar & Brainard where Mr. Greene met his demise but I wouldn't expect the movie to accurately depict the actual events. Although the movie is BASED on Rick Porello's book, the end result will likely be so "Hollywooded up" that those familiar with the actual events may not recognize most of this movie's content.
I am, however, really hoping they can stick to the facts as much as possible...

Anonymous said...

Having a relative being killed during this time and listed in the book, I am anxious to see if they get it right!

Anonymous said...

I happen to be thinking about Danny Greene today and found this site. I was working in a gun shop in the 70's and remember repairing a shotgun for Mr. Greene. Several days later I heard he was killed. I do believe it was not his car that blew up but the one next to his car that exploded and got him. He was between them at the time. I believe those are the true facts.

Anonymous said...

As a releative of Danny's, I am anxiuos to see how this film will be. We lived across from the Brainard Medical Bldg. @ the time he was killed. Hopefully, it will be as close to being accurate as Rick Perilllo's book. An article published in the Plain Dealer was not.

Anonymous said...

It is very sad that this film was not filmed in Cleveland. Being a old time resident of Collinwood. Plus a graduate of Collinwood High School where Danny also went, and living in Collinwood at the time Danny Green live on Waterloo Road about five minutes from my house across the bridge (St. Mary's) mostly a Slovenian area and near St. Clair Ave and Itialian area.
Danny's side kick, Arthur Snepinger was a very close friend of mine. Art was killed in a bomb explosion that went off before they could get it set it. I was a pall bearer at his funeral. My mom and his mom were best friends. There is so much that is not told in this movie. The real story of Collinwood and the area it so, so, great. Mafia and all.


californiadavis said...

I just saw a bio on Danny Greene, it was very tragic. You have kids and your criminal life could take their life. That's not a man, that's a coward. However; life ends the way you run it.