Program Type: 
Tough Guys: Images of Jewish Gangsters
October 03, 2010 - October 24, 2010


Gangster films are an intriguing prism through which to view one of the darker aspects of American Jewish history: Jewish gangsters and Jewish crime. Scratch the bark on your family tree and you may find a Jewish gangster, or at least someone who paid one off. This series provides an exhilarating and endlessly entertaining window into this little-discussed part of film history. Curated by Nancy K. Fishman.

Back To Top


  • Eight Men Out
    Oct 3, 2010 1:00pm
    Screening Room

    Screenwriter and director John Sayles knocks it out of the park with this drama about the intersection between baseball and the shadowy world of organized crime. Sayles explores how Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein paid off the Chicago White Sox to "throw" the 1919 World Series. The stellar cast includes John Cusack and David Straithairn on the field, and Michael Lerner as Rothstein—who views the ballplayers as marionettes at the end of his purse strings. (1988, 119 min, 35mm)

  • Murder, Inc.
    Oct 10, 2010 1:00pm
    Screening Room

    Murder, Inc. is a stylized drama about the Brooklyn mobsters who terrorized New York City in the 1930s. Based on the classic book, Murder Inc.: The Story of the Syndicate by district attorney Burton Turkus, the film features David Stewart as Louis "Lepke" Buchalter," Oscar-nominated Peter Falk as "Kid Twist" Reles, and a few minutes of jazz great Sarah Vaughn. (1960, 103 min, 35mm)

  • Little Caesar
    Oct 17, 2010 1:00pm
    Screening Room

    Edward G. Robinson (born Emmanuel Goldenberg) is riveting as the ruthless Italian American mobster Caesar Enrico Bandello in this classic gangster film set in Prohibition-era Chicago. One of the great iconic Jewish actors of the last century, Robinson seethes as Caesar (known as Rico), a maniacal, ambitious crook whose archetypal journey inspired Martin Scorsese to call the film "a morality play." Preceded by a surprise short film. (1931, 79 min, 35mm)

  • Straight Is The Way
    Oct 24, 2010 1:00pm
    Screening Room

    Straight is the Way, a remake of the 1928 film Four Walls, features Franchot Tone as Benny Horowitz, a Lower East Side kid who tries to go straight after serving a prison term. His Jewish mother encourages him to walk a path towards right living and away from recidivism, but Benny faces temptations and pressures, especially Monk—the local racketeer who originally led him astray. (1934, 65 min, 35mm)