PLAYHOUSE 90: SEVEN AGAINST THE WALL (TV)

Summary

One in this dramatic anthology series. This story presents a dramatic account of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, which occurred on February 14th, 1929 in Chicago, Illinois. In the closing months of 1928, as Chicago continues to fall under the sway of powerful crime syndicates, Al Capone becomes enraged at the competition presented by rival crime lord George "Bugs" Moran and his gang. Moran has not only been snatching up business opportunities from Capone, but also ordered the murder of Capone's close personal friend Pasqualino "Patsy" Lolordo. Capone lays out his grievances against Moran at a meeting of his gang's top officials in early 1929, including Michael Heitler, Jacob Guzik, Charles Fischetti, Frank Nitti, and "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn. Moran's campaign against Capone has included extorting bars owing protection to Capone, hijacking his beer trucks, and an attempt on McGurn's life by the brothers Frank and Pete Gusenberg, two of Moran's best hired guns. Capone orders that Moran be killed, despite the difficulty and expense involved in doing so. McGurn steps forward with information he's obtained about Moran, and on February 1st Capone places him in charge of the "execution" of Moran. McGurn sets up a headquarters on northern Chicago Avenue in the Circus Café, on the border between Capone and Moran's territories. He begins his plan by hiring Nick Serrello, a truck driver, to stage a hijacking of one of Capone's trucks and deliver it to Moran, thus gaining his trust. Serrello brings the truck to Moran's dispatch center in a garage at 2122 North Clark Street. Moran's goons come out to greet him, including the Gusenberg brothers, Moran's bodyguard Willie Marks, his associate Dr. Reinhardt Schwimmer, a non-practicing optometrist, John May, a mechanic who maintains Moran's beer trucks, and Moran's treasurer Adam Heyer. The Gusenbergs rough up Serrello a bit, but ultimately give him his payment and leave him be. Serrello reports back to McGurn, who plans to wait ten days before having Serrello offer his services again, so as not to raise undue alarm on Moran's part. He gets in touch with Capone, who is unhappy at the delay but willing to wait. Sunday, February 10th: Moran argues with James Clark, his brother-in-law and rum-runners, in his lavish apartment at the Beldon Plaza hotel. They are visited by Albert Weinshank, who manages a cleaning and dyeing business for Moran. Weinshank expresses concerns about the lifestyle he is living due to his association with Moran; he suspects he is being spied upon by Moran's enemies, and his wife is upset that he must constantly carry around a gun. Moran points out that his high-paying position inherently comes with certain risks. Weinshank is unsure of what to do, as he promised his wife he would quit, but Moran tells him to spend a few days thinking it over and meet him about it at the garage at 2122 North Clark Street that Thursday, the 14th. Serrello calls Moran and tells him he has another shipment for him. Moran lets it slip that he will be at the garage himself that Thursday, and Serrello tells McGurn, who in turn informs Capone. The time and place of the hit against Moran is set for that Thursday, and Capone is amused that it is set to occur on Valentine's Day. On February 11th, McGurn assembles the team he will use to carry out the murder. Among them are John Scalisi and Albert Anselmi, expert killers who have handled similar high-profile targets before, Alex "Bobo" Borotta and Paul Salvanti, new inductees to the gang whose job it will be to set up an observation post overlooking the garage, Ted Ryan, whose job it is to pass on the signal to begin the hit, a man known only as "Rocco," who is to drive the car they will be using, and Lou Cooley and Boris Moeller, former members of the Egan's Rats gang unrecognizable in Chicago, whom McGurn disguises as police officers. They arrange the purchase of a car of the same make and model used by the Chicago police, as well as a shed to keep it concealed until the time comes. Bobo and Salvanti rent a hotel room overlooking 2122 North Clark Street, and bring their machine guns with them disguised in instrument cases. From there they can monitor Moran and his gang's movements constantly. Ryan positions himself at a service station operated by his brother-in-law; his job is to run down to the shed after getting the call from Bobo and Salvanti to signal the others. The others set up the shed and disguise their car as a police car. Everyone reports to Capone, who is pleased with their progress. Soon the cold, snow-filled morning of February 14th arrives. The future victims of the Massacre go about their mornings, attending to various pieces of personal business. Bobo and Salvanti watch as each of them enter the garage one by one, but are still waiting on Moran. The other members of the murder squad wait anxiously for the time to be right. McGurn stays in a hotel under an assumed name, waited on by bellboys and maids in order to establish his alibi. Weinshank arrives at the garage and Bobo and Silvanti mistake him for Moran. The real Moran is about to leave his apartment but is delayed by a call from one of his suppliers in Detroit. Bobo calls Ryan, who in turns sends the signal to the others, and they take their car out of the shed. They intentionally create a minor traffic accident to clear out the street in front of the garage, and then Scalisi, Anselmi, Cooley, and Moeller move in to the garage. Cooley and Moeller, already in their policemen disguises, order the seven occupants of the garage against the wall and frisk them. They believe it is nothing more than a routine shakedown until Scalisi and Anselmi open fire with their machine guns, filling all of them with bullets. Moran sees the police cars in front of the garage and decides to go to a nearby café for some coffee until they leave. Cooley and Moeller fire shotguns at the seven victims to make certain that they are dead. With that over, the four of them leave in their fake police car, leaving a few frightened and confused passers-by to discover the seven bodies. Moran soon learns about the massacre; it is believed that he was one of the victims. Frank Gusenberg survives for two hours after being shot, but refuses to reveal who attacked them and passes away. Moran checks himself into a private suburban hospital but is later found by the press. He denies that any of the victims worked for him, and accuses Capone of being behind it all. Reporters in Miami catch up with Capone, who claims he had nothing to do with the Massacre. In the absence of any evidence or witnesses, no one is brought to trial. However, the public backlash against the gangs for these actions proves to be their downfall: both Moran and Capone spend many of their remaining years in prison for various crimes; Moran dies in prison without any attention, and Capone dies in his sleep after spending years ravaged by disease. The story ends with a message about not supporting organized crime. Includes commercials.

Details

  • NETWORK: CBS
  • DATE: December 11, 1958 9:30 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:24:00
  • COLOR/B&W: B&W
  • CATALOG ID: B:44887
  • GENRE: Drama
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Drama
  • SERIES RUN: CBS - TV series, 1956-1960
  • COMMERCIALS: TV – Commercials – Allstate insurance^TV – Commercials – Delsey toilet paper^TV – Commercials – Kleenex tissues^TV – Commercials – Crest toothpaste^TV – Promos – "The Jackie Gleason Show"

CREDITS

    • John Houseman … Producer
    • Charles H. Schultz … Associate Producer
    • Russell Stoneham … Associate Producer
    • Franklin Schaffner … Director
    • Howard Browne … Writer, Based on the book by
    • David Davidson … Writer
    • Eric Sevareid … Host, Narrator
    • Edward G. Robinson … Host
    • Paul Lambert … Cast, Al Capone
    • Dennis Patrick … Cast, "Bugs" Moran
    • Frank Silvera … Cast, Nick Serrello
    • Paul Stevens … Cast, Jack McGurn
    • Dennis Cross … Cast, Pete Gusenberg
    • Barry Cahill … Cast, Frank Gusenberg
    • Richard Carlyle … Cast, Dr. Schwimmer
    • Al Ruscio … Cast, Albert Weinshank
    • George Keymas … Cast, James Clark
    • Milton Frome … Cast, Adam Heyer
    • Wayne Heffley … Cast, John May
    • Nesdon Booth … Cast, Michael Heitler
    • Joe de Santis … Cast, Charles Fischetti
    • Tige Andrews … Cast, Frank Nitti
    • Lewis Charles … Cast, Jacob Gusik
    • Paul Burke … Cast, Paul Salvanti
    • Don Gordon … Cast, Bobo Borotta
    • Warren Oates … Cast, The Man on the Motorcycle
    • Robert Cass … Cast, The Service Station Attendant
    • Celia Lovsky … Cast, Mrs. Schwimmer
    • Jean Inness … Cast, The Landlady
    • Connie Davis … Cast, The Woman in the Street
    • Isabelle Cooley … Cast, The Maid
    • Nicholas Georgiade … Cast, Rocco
    • Tito Vuolo … Cast, Anselmi
    • Richard Sinatra … Cast, Scalisi
    • Paul Maxwell … Cast, Cooley
    • Arthur Hanson … Cast, Moeller
    • Karl Lukas … Cast, Willie Marks
    • Joseph Abdullah … Cast, Joey
    • Mike Masters … Cast, Policeman
    • Clancy Cooper … Cast, Policeman
    • Sid Cassell … Cast, Truck Driver
    • Phil Arnold … Cast, Truck Driver
    • Walter Barnes … Cast, Bartender
    • Stephen Cott … Cast, Bartender
    • Barry Jackson … Cast, The Auto Salesman
    • Joseph Haworth … Cast, The Garage Owner
    • Bob Duggan … Cast, The Bar Customer
    • Richard Venture … Cast, The Passerby
    • Warren Frost … Cast, Reporter with Moran
    • Garry Walberg … Cast, Reporter with Moran
    • Molly Dodd … Cast, Reporter with Capone
    • Jason Wingreen … Cast, Reporter with Capone
    • Barry Brooks … Cast, Reporter with Capone
    • Drew Handley … Cast, The Cigar Store Clerk
    • Gil Frye … Cast, The Capone Servant
    • Rick Ellis … Cast, The Bellboy
    • Louise Fletcher … Cast, Pete's Girl
    • Pasqualino "Patsy" Lolordo