The St. Valentine's Day Massacre


The actual garage in Chicago in which the real massacre took place in 1929, was torn down just three months after this picture’s release in 1967. Gangland killings had been commonplace in Chicago during the 1920s, but the execution of seven men by opposing gang members masquerading as police officers was something quite different. Society in general was appalled and for several reasons. First, the newspapers blared titillating headlines that sold thousands of papers and kept the atrocity in the public’s eye. Second, until this mass execution, the media had always drawn the line at showing the faces of murdered mobsters. Until now they had always been partially obscured by a large ‘X’, but the St Valentine’s Day Massacre’ resulted in graphic photographs, totally uncensored, being displayed in the tabloids – and the public ate them up! Third, rival gang leader George ‘Bugs’ Moran, when asked by a reporter who he felt was responsible for the gunning down of his gang members, replied without hesitation: ‘You must be new to this town, mister. Only Al Capone kills like that!’ Such statements only fed the sensationalist press and its feeding frenzy. In fact, Capone was thousands of miles away in Miami when the killings took place. He had certainly ordered the hit but was far too cagey to be there in person when his orders were carried out.

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) – Mike's Take On the Movies ………. Rediscovering Cinema's Past

Jason Robards as Al Capone

Even so, the man was known to personally kill in fits of rage, although only rarely. The movie mostly adheres quite rigidly to the truth except with regard to one issue, the murder of Joe Aiello. In real life he was not personally killed by Capone aboard a train as he tried to leave town. The very frightened Mr. Aiello, desperate to skip town, had indeed got a cousin to purchase a train ticket for him but his luck had well and truly run out. Capone had machine-gunners finished him from a window opposite his apartment building as he emerged on his way to the railway station. The film’s producers indulged in a further slice of poetic license. Aiello was actually murdered on October 23, 1930, almost twenty-one months after the massacre – not before it, as depicted here.

Al Capone - Movies, Quotes & Son - Biography

Al Capone

Director Roger Corman wanted Marlon Brando to play Capone, then chose Orson Welles when Brando turned him down. Jason Robards, Jr. was set to play Moran. Fox soon vetoed the Welles deal, however. They felt Orson was ‘undirectable’ and they may well have been right. Consequently, Robards became Capone and Ralph Meeker was brought in to play Moran. Beautiful Jean Hale landed the female lead, playing George Segal’s moll, Myrtle. She was married to actor Dabney Coleman at the time and was already gaining a reputation for being averse to playing sex kitten roles that required her to wear skimpy outfits to accentuate her shapely body. This movie involved a fight scene between her character and George’s; a scene in which studio head Richard Zanuck wanted Jean to wear very revealing, see-through lingerie. She refused, but managed to talk them into allowing lace to be sewn onto areas of the lingerie that covered certain parts of her anatomy. That same year she turned down a role in Valley of the Dolls because of the semi-nudity requirement. She also missed out on playing Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the role going to Faye Dunaway instead. When she turned down a Playboy magazine spread that required her to model men’s pyjama tops for an In Like Flint promotion, the annoyed heads at 20th Century Fox released her from her contract.

Jean Hale

Jean Hale

Jean and Dabney produced three children but separated in the early sixties, although they did not actually divorce until December 1984! Singer Quincy Coleman is their daughter. No longer contracted to Fox, Jean returned to the small screen, picking up guest appearances in several popular series such as, ‘Perry Mason’, ‘Mod Squad’, ‘Hawaii Five-0’, ‘Cannon’, ‘The Virginian’, ‘Batman’, ‘The Fugitive”, ‘My Favourite Martian’, ‘The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’, McHale’s Navy’, ‘Hogan’s Heroes’, ‘Wagon Train’ and ‘Bonanza’. On a rather curious note, a woman decided to impersonate her in 1965 and steal $10,000 worth of merchandise from several boutiques in Los Angeles. The culprit was caught and imprisoned. Released several years later, she again began impersonating Jean, but with a different project in mind. This time the lady, pretending to be the glamorous actress, married a total of ten men across Texas and Oklahoma!

Who is Dabney Coleman dating? Dabney Coleman girlfriend, wife

Jean’s ex-husband Dabney Coleman

At the height of Prohibition, Chicago boasted more than twenty thousand ‘speak-easies’; the name given to illegal joints that sold booze to the public. Society was split down the middle on the issue. On one side were the ‘dries’, mostly church-going Protestants, who believed that alcohol consumed by Irish, Italian and German immigrants in particular, was responsible for much of the violence and criminal activity in America. On the other side were the ‘wets’, many of whom were Catholics who favoured the consumption of alcohol as a God-given right. As organized crime took a stranglehold on the illegal booze-making industry; as rival gang members began killing one another in pursuit of the millions of dollars there for the taking; as both police and politicians accepted bribes to look the other way, the scene was set for an explosion. The massacre in a Chicago garage provided that explosion.

Up until February 1929, Capone had wooed the press and public alike. He was actually quite popular, despite his reputation as a violent crime lord. When the Wall Street crash of 1929 put millions of Americans out of work, it was Capone who opened a soup kitchen in Chicago that offered three free meals a day to the down and out. It was a public relations exercise that worked until Valentine’s Day exposed him for what he was. It was a major mistake. The US Government had had enough. A band of ten hand-picked Treasury agents, led by Elliott Ness, was instructed to go to Chicago and bring him down in whatever way they could. It took until 1931 before these agents could arrest him for income tax evasion. In October 1931 he was found guilty and sentenced to eleven years prison. In May 1932, the 33 year-old crime boss was packed off to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary where he was immediately diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhoea. He was later moved (in August 1934) to Alcatraz State Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay. Neuro-syphilis eventually eroded his mental faculties until, in November 1939, he was paroled. He died in January 1947.


  1. Pardon the typos. I violated my own rule of taking several breaths before sending anything. Both Marsha Hunt and the Queen lived impressive spans of time, but neither was around in the 11th century.

  2. Craig’s comment sent me directly to Wikipedia (I know, I know), to check out Roger Corman. It’s such a long article I’ll have to finish it later, but I wanted to mention a couple of things.
    First, he is still alive, although he is 16 days older than the late Queen! The demographic swing towards longevity continually amazes me.
    Second, I am surprised that though he was born in Detroit, he is a Stanford man by education (that used to mean a lot out here on the West Coast, and still does to many people. Though an engineering graduate, he veered into show business, with an emphasis on BUSINESS.
    Third, cheesy his products may be, but he fostered, mentored, and encouraged a lot of less cheesy filmmakers.
    Fourth, I’m reminded that he is a direct encounter on my very limited list of celebrity sightings. I spotted him at breakfast in a 50’s-style diner in Santa Monica a few years ago, and as the place was pretty well cleared out I walked over and spoke to him for just a minute. I honestly don’t remember the conversation, but he was as warm and gracious as anyone could imagine. He was genuinely self-effacing, which I regard as a high human attribute. Big fan since then.

    Speaking of Her Majesty, the day before she passed, a wonderful actress and great person died. Marsha Hunt was a month and a half from her 105th birthday. Made a lot of fun movies in the 1030s and 40s, but then became a real victim of the Hollywood blacklist. If you are not familiar with her, please read a bit about her. My favorite factoid is that she lived in the same home in suburban Sherman Oaks for 76 years. At some point she and her husband resisted being bought out by developers and her lot remains one of the few original properties in a sea of tract homes from the 1960s. But she was no Baby Jane or Norma Desmond. She was active in many human rights and social issues and stayed working on the stage for decades after the accusations that cut her loose from “the Golden Age of Hollywood.” RIP, Marsha.

    Good Day to all!

    • I first saw Marsha Hunt in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ (1940), Dan, when she played Greer Garson’s sister Mary. Although she was never called before the HUAC, she became the victim of a ‘Reds’ smear campaign (her husband, too), when they refused to talk about ‘suspected’ reds in the movie industry. When ‘invited’ to do so they both declined (as did Dalton Trumbo and 17 others), and from then on found work hard to come by in the industry. Both Marsha and her screenwriter husband were supporters of free speech and anti-nuclear armament, which were two more black marks against them in those troubled times. The spineless studio heads hung them out to dry. The couple spent the rest of their lives working for UNICEF and The Red Cross. Two great humanitarians and great Americans.

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