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.
Movieset.com 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 Movieset.com
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
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