When I saw a particular post on Twitter a few days ago, I could not believe my luck. Not only was there an opportunity for me to combine two of my passions, writing and classic films, but an opportunity to also include one of my favourite genres, organised crime.
The Hollywood Gangsters Blogathon – which runs from May 6th through May 8th 2019 – hosted by the excellent Hometowns to Hollywood – a blogging site that takes a different look at the stars and films of Hollywood – is now in its third year, and I am more than honoured to be providing an article for this years blogathon.
The early 1970’s provided us with some awe-inspiring cinema, with 1973 being an exceptional year for Hollywood releases. We saw the release of classics such as; The Exorcist and Papillon, the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, we had James Bond (Roger Moore) in Live and Let Die, Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) in Magnum Force and Paul Newman in The Sting. ’73 is also the year that we sadly lost, the incredible, 32-year-old Bruce Lee, just one month before the release of Enter The Dragon.
The film that I have focused on from that year, is one that would see the debut of a partnership, which, with the recent release of The Irishman, have seen them work together on eight other films.
The 1973 film, Mean Streets, although Martin Scorsese’s third film following; Boxcar Bertha (1972) and the previous 1967 film Who’s That Knocking at My Door (which was to be the influence behind this film) was the first of many, where Scorsese would work with Robert De Niro, who in Mean Streets plays John ‘Johnny Boy’ Civello. Having already made a brief, explosive appearance in the film, De Niro would appear in a way that would become synonymous, with future Scorsese films, with similar scenes in Casino and GoodFellas . Watch the YouTube clip below for Johnny Boy’s entrance.
The film opens with the main character Charlie Cappa (played by Harvey Keitel) at odds with his line of work and being a devout catholic, with his thoughts being narrated by Scorsese himself, “You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it”. There is a theme of guilt that runs through the film; Charlie’s relationship with De Niro’s character and the sense of responsibility he feels for him, which is despite Charlie’s uncle Giovanni (played by Cesare Danova and whom Charlie works for) being disproving of ‘Johnny Boy'(De Niro’s character). Charlie is also involved in an affair with Teresa Ronchelli (played by Amy Robinson), Teresa, who suffers from a medical condition, is not only the cousin of ‘Johnny Boy’, but because of her condition, she has been shunned by the others.
Johnny Boy’s irreverent and impulsive behaviour, eventually has Charlie, Teresa and Johnny Boy leaving town. However, an incident involving a character, ‘Jimmy Shorts’ who is played by Scorsese, ends up with police and paramedics at the scene. The plot is secondary in this character driven story, with the soundtrack alone being worth the, just under, 2 hours running time.
Mean Streets, it would seem, has been overshadowed somewhat, due to the huge successes of future Scorsese/De Niro collaborations such as GoodFellas, Casino and the like, although it may not be to everyone’s taste and if only because it heralds the beginning of a very successful partnership, it definitely deserves the label of Hollywood classic.
You can also find more of my articles on organised crime at: