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Movies You Will Never See/Empires Of Crime/Part 24

*For Introduction with submission guidelines go to Oct 13

For the beginning of the script and older excerpts go to the home page or heywoodgould.com

*Heywood Gould is the author of 9 screenplays including “Rolling Thunder,”Fort Apache, The Bronx,”Boys From Brazil”and “Cocktail.”

EMPIRES OF CRIME

By Heywood Gould

PART IV

ACT FOUR

INT. THE STORK CLUB. NIGHT

New York’s swankiest “nitery.” Patrons in EVENING DRESS dance to a “sweet” band. Suddenly, the band stops and the room goes dark.

        BANDLEADER
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Stork
Club welcomes an old friend…

The band strikes up. A FOLLOW SPOT  picks up Charley and Gay entering the club. The CUSTOMERS leap to their feet, cheering as they are taken to their ringside table. “Go get ‘em Lucky…” etc. One man pounds him on the back, wishing him “good luck.”

        CHARLEY
Not so loud, everybody. I’m
supposed to be in jail…

Charley clasps his hand like a boxer and they applaud like mad.

INT. DEWEY KITCHEN. NIGHT.

Frances pours a glass of milk and brings it over to Tom, who is disconsolately picking at a sandwich.

        FRANCES
I think the laughter was
just a way of breaking the
tension.These people had
been listening to some
pretty horrible stories all
day.

        TOM
I was trying to get them
to sympathize with the
girls and hate Luciano.
But it backfired. You
should have seen the way
they cheered him on. Like
he was a movie star or a
prize fighter.

        FRANCES
Every man secretly wishes
he had the charm and power
of a Lucky Luciano

        TOM
That’s the problem. They
like Luciano and don’t like
me. I’ve never lost a case
or won a popularity contest
in my life.

        FRANCES
Except with me.

        TOM
Even you don’t like me
when I’m on trial…I
have to win this one,
Frances. I’m finished
if I don’t.

INT. COURTROOM. DAY

The next morning. Nancy testifies to a packed courtroom.. She is clean, modestly dressed. She turns away to avoid
Charley’s glance.

        NANCY
We would have sex once in
awhile, but he mostly wanted
to talk.

AT THE DEFENSE TABLE (CROSSCUT)

With an appreciative look, Charley leans over to Polakoff.

        CHARLEY
They dress her way down,
but she’s still the best
lookin’broad in the room.

        TOM
What did he talk about?

        NANCY
About his life, you know.
How he got started. How he
was gonna organize the
rackets into one big company
with him on top.

        TOM
Did he ever discuss the
prostitution business?

        NANCY
Once. I told him this pimp
Ralphie Liquori was beatin’
on the girls. He said he
would take care of it and
the guy never touched nobody
again.

AT THE DEFENSE TABLE

Polakoff looks to Charley for confirmation. Charley nods, ruefully.

        TOM
Did Mr. Luciano ever have
any visitors?

        NANCY
Everybody came to see him.
All the big shots, He’d make
me go into the bathroom and
run the water so I wouldn’t
hear nothin’.

        TOM
Did you ever listen?

        NANCY
I never cared what they
were sayin’?

        TOM
(prompting)
Never?

        NANCY
(picks up the cue)
Oh yeah. Well once when
Little Davey was there I
heard Charley sayin’: ‘the
take ain’t so good. We’re
gonna have to raise the two
dollar houses to three and
boost the five and ten buck
joint, too.

        TOM
Thank you, Miss Presser.
And I’d like to commend you
for the courage and strength
of character you have shown
in coming forward.

AT THE DEFENSE TABLE

Polakoff starts to rise, but Charley grabs his arm.

        CHARLEY
Go easy on her, Mo. Dewey
made her lie.

        POLAKOFF
She’s their star witness,
Charley. I’ve got to
discredit her.

He rises and walks slowly toward Nancy, demonstrating his contempt for her to the jury.

        POLAKOFF
How old are you, Miss
Presser?

        NANCY
Twenty six.

        POLAKOFF
How long have you been a
prostitute?

Unnerved, Nancy looks at Tom. He nods encouragement.

        NANCY
I started when I was
thirteen…

        POLAKOFF
Thirteen years takes its
toll. You’re not as attractive
as you used to be.

        TOM
Objection, Your Honor. Is
Mr. Polakoff running a beauty
contest?

        POLAKOFF
Withdrawn. Miss Presser, what
do you get for your services?

        NANCY
I got two bucks per visit.
We had to knock it down to
a buck fifty ‘cause of the
Depression.

        POLAKOFF
A dollar fifty. Now, Miss
Presser, would you agree
that Mr. Luciano is a well
known man about town?

        NANCY
Man about town. Yeah, sure…

        POLAKOFF
A man who is famous for
escorting beautiful women
(points to Gay Orlova)
His fiancee Gay Orlova has
been a featured performer
on Broadway. Do you really
want the jury to believe
that when Mr. Luciano was
lonesome he called a buck
fifty hooker to keep him
company?

        TOM
(leaps to his feet)
I object to Mr. Polakoff’s
insidious and demeaning
characterization…

        POLAKOFF
Withdrawn. How many times
would you say you visited,
Mr. Luciano at the Waldorf?

        NANCY
I don’t know, fifty maybe.

        POLAKOFF
Where is the Waldorf?

        NANCY
It’s on the East Side I
think. Charley always gave
me cab money.

        POLAKOFF
Fifty times, but you don’t
know the address. When you
got out at Mr. Luciano’s
floor did you turn right
or left?

        NANCY
I don’t know my left from
my right that good.

        POLAKOFF
Describe the furniture in
his suite.

        TOM
Objection, the witness is
not an interior decorator.

        MCCOOK
(reluctant)
Overruled. It’s a fair
question.

        POLAKOFF
What kind of bed does Mr.
Luciano have? Double? King?
Queen?

        NANCY
I don’t know beds.

        POLAKOFF
You should. You spend enough
time in them.

        TOM
Objection!

        MCCOOK
Sustained. Every witness in
my courtroom is to be treated
with respect.

        POLAKOFF
Especially the prosecution
witnesses You’re a heroin
addict, aren’t you, Miss
Presser?

        NANCY
No more. As of February
first I was cured, thanks
to Mr. Dewey.

        POLAKOFF
Mr. Dewey promised to send
you away to regain your
health and normalcy.

        NANCY
He’s been good to me.

        POLAKOFF
But he wouldn’t have been
so good if you didn’t
testify against Mr. Luciano

        TOM
Objection!

        POLAKOFF
And he’ll only be good to
you if Mr. Luciano is
convicted. If the jury sees
through Mr.Dewey’s little
scheme you’ll be going back
to the gutter where he found
you, won’t you Miss Presser?

        TOM
I will not permit this
woman to be abused, Your
Honor. Whatever benefit she
may derive cannot equal the
risk she is taking…

Tom’s words are lost in the excited buzz of the gallery, the pounding of the gavel and McCook’s futile calls for order.

EXT. CRIMINAL COURT BUILDING. DAY

Charley and Polakoff emerge into the late afternoon sunshine to be besieged by REPORTERS and cheered by FANS who are being kept back behind barricades. Charley waves to the crowd while Polakoff goes to the MICROPHONES.

        POLAKOFF
This is a case of an over-
ambitious prosecutor trying
to advance his political career…

        CHARLEY
Dewey wants to send me to
jail, but I’m going to send
him back to Michigan…

EXT. CARMINE’S RESTAURANT. DAY

An excited crowd greets Charley and Polakoff.

        CHARLEY
You guys hungry? You like
pizza?
(to CARMINE, the owner)
Carmine, make ten pizzas for
my friends. Ah, make it
twenty…Case of beer, too.
Not that swill I used to
sell you either…

INT. PRIVATE ROOM.DAY

Meyer, tan and fit in a light summer suit, jumps up to greet them.

        MEYER
Excuse me, Mr. Popularity,
can I have your autograph?

        CHARLEY
Look at you, Mr. Miami.
Brushin’ up on your polo
game?

        MEYER
I bet the horses. Let the
schmucks ride ‘em. So far
so good, huh? That little
tart the best they got?

        CHARLEY
It’s not her fault. She’s
a junkie, got no will power…

        POLAKOFF
You never know how the jury
reacts to that sob sister
stuff. But I’ve got the hall
maid and the manager who’ll
say she was never there…

        CHARLEY
You won’t need no rebuttal
when I get off the stand…

        POLAKOFF
(with a look at Meyer)
You’re not thinking of
testifying?

        CHARLEY
C’mon, Mo, you know I been
thinkin’ about it. That’s
why you got Meyer up here
to talk me out of it.

        MEYER
I don’t understand, Charley,
you’re doin’ great.

        CHARLEY
That’s ‘cause my lawyer’s
better than their’s.

        POLAKOFF
I should hope so.

        CHARLEY
But I don’t want people to
say Lucky’s smart lawyer got
him off. I want ‘em to say,
Charley was framed. He’s
innocent

        MEYER
What do you care what they
say?

        CHARLEY
I got my pride. I been
knockin’ around New York
since I’m eleven. I love
every loose cobblestone,
every dark alley. All the
joints, all the grifters
from the bums on the corner
to the smart guys in the
penthouses. And they love
me, too. You’ll see, they’ll
stand up for me.

        MEYER
(shakes his head)
You can handicap a race,
figure odds on a card. But
trustin’ people. That’s a
sucker bet.

INT.COURTROOM. DAY

The next day. In a hushed courtroom, Polakoff steps to the bench and with an apprehensive look at Tom:

        POLAKOFF
Your Honor, I call Charles
Luciano to the stand.

AT THE PROSECUTION

Tom and his staff look up in astonishment at their good luck. As Charley walks by with a defiant look, Tom mutters to Gurfein:

        TOM
Get me that cross examination
we prepared, Mr. Gurfein.

        GURFEIN
(shuffling through a
mountain of papers)
It’s here somewhere. I
didn’t think we were going
to need it.

INT.COURTROOM. DAY

A short time later. Charley is completing his testimony. The JURORS look on with knowing, sympathetic smiles.

        CHARLEY
When you’re a New York boy
from a tough neighborhood you
make mistakes. I sold narcotics,
but I did my time and except
for a little gambling problem
in Miami I’ve never been
arrested since.

        POLAKOFF
Do you know Flo Brown?

        CHARLEY
I do not.

        POLAKOFF
Do you know any of the men
who testified against you?

        CHARLEY
I’ve met them, but what
they said wasn’t true.

        POLAKOFF
Have you ever taken a nickel
from prostitution.

        CHARLEY
(tries a joke)
I gave, but I never took.
(then gets serious)
I swear I have never
profited from prostitution.

        POLAKOFF
Thank you, sir…

Tom rises slowly, the tension growing. He takes a dramatic pause, savoring the moment.

        TOM
Just a gambler. Broadway
Charley. Another colorful
character, is that what you
want this jury to believe?

        CHARLEY
It’s the truth.

        TOM
You started out peddling
dope, didn’t you? Prostitutes
would turn a trick and turn
their two dollars over to
you for a shot of liquid
opium, wouldn’t they?

        CHARLEY
I was seventeen. I quit
doin’ that when I got out
of jail.

        TOM
Just a harmless, colorful
character…Does the date
June 2, 1923 mean anything
to you?

Charley is startled. He begins to realize he’s made a mistake.

        CHARLEY
How’d you know about that?.

        TOM
It’s the day you sold two
ounces of heroin to Special
Agent John Lynch, isn’t it?

        CHARLEY
I was never charged…

        TOM
No. You made a deal, didn’t
you? Gave a statement that
at 163 Mulberry Street they
would find a whole trunk
full of dope. Turned stool
pigeon, didn’t you?

        POLAKOFF
Objection…Irrelevant…

        MCCOOK
Overruled.

        TOM
You weren’t peddling drugs.
You just happened to know
where a whole trunkful could
be found.

        CHARLEY
I knew things.

        TOM
Now you say that from 1920
to 1925, you weren’t doing
anything else in the world
but running a crap game.

        CHARLEY
That’s right.

        TOM
Did you ever go to the
horse races?

        CHARLEY
I went to the track, sure.

        TOM
Do a little bookmaking on
the side?

        CHARLEY
Just as part of the crap
game.

        TOM
Did you ever earn an honest
dollar in your life?

        POLAKOFF
Objection…

        TOM
Withdrawn…While you were
shooting crap and booking
horses did you ever sell
alcohol?

        CHARLEY
I got some for my friends.

        TOM
A little side business. So
the hundreds of police
reports and news articles
that identify you as the
boss of the billion dollar
bootlegging racket are
incorrect.

        POLAKOFF
(desperate)
Your Honor, may we have a
brief recess…

        MCCOOK
You may not.

        CHARLEY
You know the papers
exaggerate everything…

        TOM
And you don’t know any
bootleggers yourself…

        CHARLEY
(looking to the jury for
support)
In New York it’s hard not
to bump into a bootlegger.

        TOM
Al Capone is in Chicago.
Are you acquainted with
him?

        CHARLEY
I’ve met him.

        TOM
Met him? Isn’t it a fact
that you worked closely
with him for five years?

        POLAKOFF
Objection…

        TOM
You’re pretty well
acquainted with  Louis
Buchalter, aren’t you?

        CHARLEY
I know him. I wouldn’t say
well acquainted.

        TOM
Did you know that he and
his partner Gurrah Shapiro
are the biggest racketeers
in the clothing industry?

        CHARLEY
Didn’t know that.

        TOM
Doesn’t Buchalter have to
pay you tribute to operate
his labor rackets?

        POLAKOFF
Objection…

        MCCOOK
Overruled.

        CHARLEY
I have no business relations
with him.

        TOM
How about Bugsy Siegel?
Know him?

        CHARLEY
He’s a friend of mine.

        TOM
What’s his business?

        CHARLEY
I know he’s been puttin’
on some shows.

        TOM
(savoring the sarcasm)
Do you really expect this
jury to believe that Bugsy
Siegel makes his living
producing Broadway shows?

        POLAKOFF
Your Honor I object to Mr.
Dewey’s use of insult and
innuendo…

        TOM
Oh alright, Mr. Polakoff,
I’ll withdraw the question.
(bears down on Charley)
Ever tell a lie?

        CHARLEY
Everybody lies about little
things.

        TOM
You lied under oath to get
a pistol permit. Big or
little lie?

        POLAKOFF
Objection. Calls for a
conclusion.

        TOM
You were stopped in upstate
New York on May 11, 1927.
They found four revolvers,
a shotgun and a Thompson
Machine Gun in your car.
You told the officers you
were hunting. What were
you hunting?

        CHARLEY
Peasants…

The gallery titters at this mispronunciation. Charley winces in humiliation.

        TOM
Pheasants you mean and
they’re not usually hunted
with a Tommy Gun. How many
times have you been taken
for a ride?

        POLAKOFF
This is a violation of Mr.
Luciano’s Fifth Amendment
rights.

        TOM
Police reports say you were
beaten and left for dead on
a street in Staten Island.
You told police it was done
by a jealous husband. Was
that a lie?

        CHARLEY
It was a private dispute.

        TOM
How did you resolve it?
Kill the jealous husband?

        POLAKOFF
Objection.

        TOM
All the men and women who
have testified about you.
Were they lying?

        CHARLEY
Yes.

        TOM
Was Nancy Presser lying?

        CHARLEY
She was…confused.

        TOM
You’re an admitted liar, a
bootlegger, a gambler and
a narcotics peddler. But
you want this jury to
believe you’ve never
taken a nickel from
prostitution.

        CHARLEY
I’d never sink that low.

        TOM
It’s not low to sell heroin
to gullible girls?

        POLAKOFF
Objection.

        TOM
Do you think this jury
or anyone will believe
the sanctimonious act
you have just put on?

        POLAKOFF
Your Honor, you must stop
this abuse.

        TOM
Do you think anyone has
any doubt that before them
stands not a gambler or a
racetrack man, but stripped
stark naked the greatest
gangster in America?

        CHARLEY
I don’t deny what I am.
But I never took a nickel
off a prostitute.

        TOM
You never had a day when
you didn’t. You’re dismissed.

Tom turns away in scorn. The JURORS whisper to each other, shooting hostile looks. Charley sags, a broken man. A SOB punctures the shocked silence. All eyes turn to:

THE FRONT ROW

where Gay Orlova weeps quietly.

NEWSREEL (STOCK FOOTAGE)…Outside, the courthouse, HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE  wait for the verdict.

        NEWSCASTER
Hundreds of people gathered
in the park outside the court-
house waiting for the verdict.

INT.COURTROOM. DAY

The jury glares, stonefaced and vengeful. Charley stares with grim, unseeing eyes as the charges are read and the JURY FOREMAN responds to every one with:

        FOREMAN
Guilty…

AT THE PROSECUTION TABLE

Dewey and his staff stand at dignified attention, but there is no mistaking the triumph in their eyes.

        GURFEIN
(whispers)
You won, Chief.

        TOM
Guilty…Got a nice ring
to it, Mr. Gurfein…

INT.COURTROOM. DAY

The next day. At the Prosecution table Tom is looking at a TABLOID FRONT PAGE that reads: LUCIANO, NINETY TIMES GUILTY. Charley and Polakoff stand at the bench as Judge McCook reads the sentence.

        MCCOOK
Since there is no excuse
for your conduct and no
hope for your rehabilitation
I sentence you to a total
of thirty to fifty years in
the state prison.

The SPECTATORS shout out, some in protest, some in support.

        POLAKOFF
I strenuously object Your
Honor. The maximum mandatory
sentence for this offense
is ten years…

        MCCOOK
You can appeal, Mr. Polakoff.
But I don’t hold out much
hope for you. No judge in
this state will ever let Mr.
Luciano out on the street
again.

Charley turns and nods at Tom, crushed but defiant. As the Court Officers escort him out he turns to Meyer in the front row.

        CHARLEY
You were right, Meyer.
It was a sucker bet.


END ACT FOUR

END PART FOUR

Next: Part 25/Act 1: Dewey Makes A Move

In a new department the Daily Event will reoffer some of these scripts. Read them and decide: would you like to have seen this movie?

Our first script is EMPIRES OF CRIME. Seven years in development it is a six part mini-series commissioned by a broadcast network and later reacquired by a cable station.

The story is about the founders of Organized Crime, Meyer Lansky, and “Lucky” Luciano, their fifty year partnership and the empire they created. Their friendships and families, lives and loves. It is also about their implacable enemy Thomas Dewey, a young Republican attorney who built a political career prosecuting the Mob that propelled him to the NY Governor’s Mansion and almost to the White House.


*For Introduction with submission guidelines go to Oct 13. Use Contact Us, above, for submissions.

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