Chicago Crime 1925 – 1932

Scarface, Tommy guns and Chicago’s gangster mystique in film

by Michael PhillipsChicago Tribune

Al Capone 1931 at a football game AP

Al Capone 1931 at a football game AP

In a a few, bloody years — 1925 to 1932, from the rise of Al Capone to the release of the film borrowing Capone’s nickname for a title — Chicago cemented its image in the popular imagination. The Cubs come and go; Chicago’s gangster mystique remains steadfast.

Here are six stops on the timeline of those key years in the making of Chicago’s corrupt, violent popular image.

1925: Brooklyn-born Alphonse Capone, later nicknamed “Scarface” by a Tribune reporter, takes over the Chicago activities of New York racketeer Johnny Torrio. By 1927, Capone is the world’s most revered and famous gangster, coddled by Chicago mayor Big Bill Thompson until Thompson considers Capone a drag on Thompson’s political advancement. By 1928 Capone relocates to Florida and spends most of the ’30s behind bars.

1926: Ex-Tribune police reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins writes a comedy about a couple of Chicago killers. Originally titled “Play Ball,” the play is renamed “Chicago” and opens on Broadway. Cecil B. DeMille produces a silent film version in 1927; Ginger Rogers stars in a 1942 film adpatation, “Roxie Hart”; Bob Fosse directs and choreographs the 1975 stage musical; the movie version of the musical wins the Academy Award as best picture of 2002.

1927: Another Chicago crime reporter, Bartlett Cormack, writes “The Racket,” a play set in a police precinct on Chicago’s outskirts, about an honest cop beset by corrupt superiors and pliable politicians in league with local bootleggers. The character of underworld kingpin Nick Scarsi is a thinly disguised Capone stand-in. Edward G. Robinson plays the role on stage; when the touring production of “The Racket” is banned from Chicago, reportedly at Capone’s urging, it travels instead to LA and the movies discover Robinson, who stars in “Little Caesar” in 1930, after the medium learns to talk and spit lead at high volume.

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Need for gun control recognized in 1930’s

Knoxville News Central

by Ina Hughes

Back in the early 1930s, lawmakers decided they’d had enough with the recent rise in gun violence: the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929; the near assassination of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933; wholesale gangster wars on the streets of New York and Chicago.It’s stuck in my mind ever since I read it, an article in The New York Times headlined “Proof that gun control can work.” And it sent me to the history books.

They decided to do something about it. They passed the National Firearms Act of 1934, which required owners of firearms to be checked and registered, as well as be severely taxed at $200 (in today’s dollars, that would be $3,538).

Weapons specifically mentioned as needing to be “regulated” by government included machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, grenades and — get this — other military-type “destructive devices.” Read more.

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