The Rise And Fall Of Legs Diamond

  • 1960
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Biography, Crime

While not exactly documentary-like, this film does manage to get at the essence of the flamboyant New York gangster known as Legs Diamond. Played with the proper amount of verve, self-absorption, and cunning by Danton, the mobster is shown to have been something of a smooth confidence man even in his youth. While working at the Hotsy Totsy Club as a dancer,...read more

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While not exactly documentary-like, this film does manage to get at the essence of the flamboyant New York gangster known as Legs Diamond. Played with the proper amount of verve, self-absorption, and cunning by Danton, the mobster is shown to have been something of a smooth confidence

man even in his youth. While working at the Hotsy Totsy Club as a dancer, Danton constantly looks for ways to make a buck. Aided by his alcoholic, consumptive brother (Oates), Danton robs a jewelry store, and presents his girl friend with stolen diamonds. Together, the brothers continue their life

of petty crime. The ambitious Danton is determined to weasel his way into the gang headed by Arnold Rothstein (Lowery) and uses the the mobster's bored girl friend (Stewart) to win a job as one of the gangster's bodyguards. Danton's new job proves risky, however, when he and another bodyguard are

shot by rival gang members. When Danton recovers, he kills the men responsible for his wounding, and as a reward he is made Lowery's chief bodyguard. Capitalizing on his new position, Danton learns the ins and outs of Lowery's operation. He even finds time to marry his childhood sweetheart

(Steele), though he continues to have affairs. When Lowery is killed under mysterious circumstances, the gang members split his holdings among themselves. To celebrate his newfound power and money, Danton buys the Hotsy Totsy Club and makes it his headquarters. Soon wars break out among the new

gangs and the cold-hearted Danton sends the increasingly ill Oates to Denver to minimize the risk to his position. However, though Oates' tuberculosis becomes worse, Danton ignores him, refusing to pay his medical bills. Oates dies alone. During the gang wars, Danton manages to take over most of

the bootlegging rackets. His top-dog status is brief, however; while Danton travels in Europe, prohibition is repealed and the Mafia moves in on his territory. Upon his return to New York, Danton desperately tries to hang on to his business, but the challenge proves to be too much. Finally, fed up

with her husband and his dirty business, Steele leaves Danton. His career collapsing around him, Danton turns to the bottle and is set up by his former flame, Stewart, who seeks revenge for Lowery's murder. Alone, ruined, and drunk, Danton is shot to death in a hotel room by the Mafia.

In reality Diamond was killed under very similar circumstances, but the killers were probably members of the Dutch Schultz mob, a gang with whom Diamond had been feuding for some time. While some of the characters and incidents are amalgamations of the truth (Diamond rose through the ranks as

Little Augie Orgen's bodyguard, not Rothstein's, and he earned his nickname for his ability to quickly elude police, not for his dancing), the basic flavor of the film is accurate. Having completed his outstanding series of Randolph Scott-starring westerns for Renown (SEVEN MEN FROM NOW; THE TALL

T; DECISION AT SUNDOWN; BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE; RIDE LONESOME; and COMANCHE STATION), director Boetticher experimented with a different genre here. Continuing to explore the view of the hero as an intelligent though self-absorbed anachronism, Boetticher and screenwriter Landon bend the truth of

Diamond's life to fit this approach. Instead of being a casualty of a long-running gang war, Danton is destroyed by the faceless syndicate. Danton embodies the archaic notion that gangsters should be highly visible, flashy, and flamboyant, and therefore he must be eliminated. THE RISE AND FALL OF

LEGS DIAMOND presents the mobster as a strangely tragic character whose inability to see past his own desires ensures his loneliness and eventual death. Because he cannot return affection, share power, or adapt to change, Danton must die a pathetic, drunken loner. Danton reprised his role as Legs

Diamond in a film about Dutch Schultz titled PORTRAIT OF A MOBSTER (1961). Nominated by the Academy for Best Costume Design.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: While not exactly documentary-like, this film does manage to get at the essence of the flamboyant New York gangster known as Legs Diamond. Played with the proper amount of verve, self-absorption, and cunning by Danton, the mobster is shown to have been som… (more)

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