Portrait Of A Mobster

  • 1961
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Biography, Crime

This wholly fictitious screen biography of New York gangster "Dutch Schultz" provides little entertainment or insight during its overlong running time. Morrow stars as a small-time punk who, along with his pal, Alden, joins the Legs Diamond gang. Diamond (Danton) sends his new recruits on several missions but begins to worry when they prove to be somewhat...read more

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This wholly fictitious screen biography of New York gangster "Dutch Schultz" provides little entertainment or insight during its overlong running time. Morrow stars as a small-time punk who, along with his pal, Alden, joins the Legs Diamond gang. Diamond (Danton) sends his new recruits on

several missions but begins to worry when they prove to be somewhat overzealous. The powerful mobster's suspicions are confirmed when Morrow kills a bootlegger without orders to do so. Morrow and Alden break with Danton's mob and begin their own gang. Soon after, Morrow learns that the man he

murdered is survived by an attractive daughter, Parrish, and the morally corrupt gangster decides to court her. Though engaged to Breck, a young policeman, Parrish is attracted to Morrow (she is unaware of his involvement in organized crime and her father's death) and agrees to see him. Despite

her wanderings, she eventually decides to marry Breck. Outraged, Morrow sets out to destroy the marriage by getting the weak-willed Breck on his payroll. Parrish learns of her husband's corrupt earnings and leaves him in disgust. Her life shattered, Parrish becomes an alcoholic and drifts into

Morrow's arms. Meanwhile, Morrow has eliminated the dual problems of Danton and the crazy "Mad Dog" Coll (McCord) from his territory. These brutal moves catapult Morrow to the top of the gangster heap in New York. Eventually Parrish discovers that it was Morrow who killed her father and she leaves

him to live in a seedy hotel where she can wash away her troubles with even more booze. A repentant Breck traces her to the hotel and convinces her that they can start over and make a go of their ruined marriage. Meantime, the Italian mobsters have had just about enough of Morrow's strong-arm

tactics and they begin to put the screws in. Desperate to maintain his position, Morrow arranges for the Mafia to kill several of his top lieutenants, including Alden. Unknown to Morrow, the Mafia plans to kill him as well. During the bloody gun battle a wounded Morrow manages to escape, but he is

gunned down by the mortally wounded Alden who shoots him by mistake. The life of the real Dutch Schultz is more fascinating than this smarmy screen fiction. Despite the portrayal in the film, Schultz never worked for Legs Diamond; Diamond got his start in Schultz' mob. A small war erupted between

the two when Diamond branched out on his own and began raiding Schultz' beer deliveries. Diamond was eventually eliminated by Schultz, as was Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll. Schultz' friend and aide, Bo Weinberg (named Wetzel in the film), broke from the gang and sought shelter with the likes of Lucky

Luciano and Vito Genovese. Schultz had Weinberg stabbed to death. Schultz actually met his end in a small Newark restaurant called the Palace Chophouse. Assassins dispatched by the Mafia gunned down the Dutchman (who was washing his hands in the bathroom) and three of his henchmen. Schultz

lingered for several hours and eventually died, ranting and raving, in a Newark hospital. Despite the fanciful nature of the screenplay, PORTRAIT OF A MOBSTER could have been a valuable look at gangsters, but it fails to deliver what its title promises. Though Morrow was a good choice for the role

of Schultz, his character is one-dimensional and never really developed. The annoying romantic triangle between Morrow, Parrish, and Breck is terribly melodramatic, uninteresting, and slows the action down to a crawl. The truly fascinating aspects of Schultz' rise to power and his struggle to keep

it are glossed over in the traditional moviegangster fashion, leaving the film devoid of any real insight. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of PORTRAIT OF A MOBSTER is that Ray Danton reprises his memorable portrayal of Legs Diamond from Budd Boetticher's superior THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS

DIAMOND (1960), lending some verisimilitude to the movieland gangster universe.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This wholly fictitious screen biography of New York gangster "Dutch Schultz" provides little entertainment or insight during its overlong running time. Morrow stars as a small-time punk who, along with his pal, Alden, joins the Legs Diamond gang. Diamond (… (more)

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