6.4/10
135
5 user 8 critic

The Purple Gang (1959)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama | 5 January 1960 (USA)
The story of the infamous Purple Gang, a ring of bootleggers, hijackers and killers in 1920s' Detroit.

Director:

Frank McDonald

Writer:

Jack DeWitt
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Barry Sullivan ... Police Lt. William P. Harley
Robert Blake ... William Joseph 'Honeyboy' Willard
Elaine Edwards ... Gladys Harley
Marc Cavell ... Henry Abel 'Hank' Smith
Jody Lawrance ... Joan MacNamara
Suzanne Ridgway ... Daisy (as Suzy Marquette)
Joe Turkel ... Eddie Olsen (as Joseph Turkel)
Victor Creatore Victor Creatore ... Al Olsen
Paul Dubov ... Thomas Allen 'Killer' Burke
Ray Boyle ... Tom Olsen (as Dirk London)
Kathleen Lockhart ... Nun
Nestor Paiva ... Laurence Orlofsky
Lou Krugman Lou Krugman ... Dr. Riordan
Robert Anderson ... Police Commissioner
Mauritz Hugo ... Licovetti
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Storyline

A teen-age rat pack of the Detroit slums, the Purple Gang, headed by psychotic William Joseph "Honeyboy" Willard, teams with adult hijackers during prohibition and in three years controls the city's underworld. Detective Bill Harley is given a special assignment to break the gang. To intimidate Harley, Honeyboy and his chief henchman, Hank Smith, terrorize his pregnant wife, Gladys, who loses her baby and dies. The gang moves in on the cleaning and dyeing industry, which calls in the Mafia for protection. Hank tries to tip off Harley as to where the Mafia hoods are holed up but Honeyboy, mistaking his intentions, has Killer Burke seal him alive in a coffin and drop him in the Detroit river. Honeyboy locates the Mafia headquarters in an apartment building and goes there with two of his men. They break in and machine-gun the three Mafia leaders, Licovetti, Ricco and Castiglione. Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@suddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The roaring mob of gangland's worst marauders, the 300 killers of "Honeyboy" Willard who held a gun at the heart of a city and brought the underworld to its knees! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 January 1960 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Ratten von Detroit See more »

Filming Locations:

Detroit, Michigan, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The real Purple Gang was made up of mostly Jewish members. The script of this film gave the members non-Jewish names. See more »

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User Reviews

 
A mix of fact and fiction
12 May 2012 | by AlsExGalSee all my reviews

Most of my 7/10 goes to two things - Robert Blake's effective portrayal of completely amoral, calculating, and mentally unbalanced baby-faced mobster Honeyboy Willard and to the rather detached documentary feel of this film as it is narrated by the cop that has vowed to put the Purple Gang away, Barry Sullivan as Lt. William P. Harley of the Detroit Police. It really has the look and feel of "The Untouchables" except with poverty row roots.

There really was a Purple Gang in Detroit in the 20's and 30's, although the character of Honeyboy is a fictional one - the actual power in the real gang was in the hands of four Jewish brothers. The cleaner and dyers war was a real one, except in real life the Purple Gang was allied with the union against non-union independents. There was no rather clean ending to the story of the Purples in real life. Like so many other gangs, Prohibition gave them money and power they could have only dreamed about, and its end sent them on a slow decline with the primary source of their wealth literally dried up.

This film is unusual in that there are no female leads or even substantial female supporting roles here. Women are just the subjects of particularly savage crimes by the Purples, and very little more, meant to underscore the violence of the Purple Gang.

If this film had been in wider release by a bigger studio, maybe Robert Blake wouldn't have had to wait until 1967 and "In Cold Blood" to catapult to stardom. Here he steals the show, kills everyone else, and gives a truly riveting performance of a guy who really loves his work for reasons that seem to have more to do with a need for power and a desire to be feared than just pure greed. Don't believe the low rating on this one - give it a try realizing it is a B feature from a small studio made just as the production code was losing its grip.


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