Friday, May 2, 2008
The First Gangster Film - Inspired By True Events.
DW Griffith's 16 minute film, 'The Muskateers of Pig Alley' was produced in 1912, and is credited as being the first gangster film ever committed to celluloid. It was apparently influenced by the nationwide press attention of the murder of gambler Herman Rosenthal, and the subsequent trials of Harry Horowitz (Gyp The Blood), Louis Rosenberg (Lefty Louie), Jacob Seidenschmer (Whitey Lewis),Dago Frank and Liet. Charles Becker. Griffith was intrigued enough to take his camera to the Lower East Side and cast, apparently, actual street hoods and gangsters from the neighborhood as extras to authenticate his footage alongside his principle actors. While thematically has very little to due with the Rosenthal case, it was the first time the Lower East Side became a central backdrop to a story on film. It's a fascinating window into the past regardless if the use of actual criminal types was just early studio marketing savvy or the truth.