Jewish Gangsters

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Interview Magazine | Paul Anderson

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Paul Anderson (Panda) talks about The Revenant, Peaky Blinders, Legend and Tom Hardy. Legend comes out November 20 and The Revenant will be out in limited release on December 25 and wide release January 8, 2016. Season 3 of Peaky Blinders is also due out in 2016.

*Top photo shared by Paul on instagram. Tom and Panda on the set of The Revenant (2014). @biggierayman “Another one!!!”

Paul Anderson and Team Arthur

As the protagonists of Steven Knight’s Birmingham-set television drama Peaky Blinders, the Shelby siblings haven’t had it easy. Tommy (Cillian Murphy), the second brother in age and the first in everything else, drowns his World War One shell shock with opium. His younger brother John (Joe Cole) is trying to raise his young children following the death of his wife. Ada (Sophie Rundle), the only sister, defies her brothers and marries local communist Freddie Thorne only to have him die unceremoniously between seasons. Finn, the last of the lot, is too young to be a part of the Shelby brotherhood yet remains at risk from their enemies. Then there is Arthur, played by Kennington, South London native Paul Anderson. As the eldest sibling, Arthur should be the patriarch, but he’s not, because Tommy got all the family smarts and Arthur got all the family rage. While he might not be smoking opium, he does plenty of self-medicating with whisky, cocaine, and visceral violence. By the end of the show’s first two seasons, Arthur has accidentally killed a young man in the boxing ring, tried to hang himself, and almost been murdered by Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons (Tom Hardy). Occasionally, however, Arthur channels his energy more productively as Tommy’s right-hand man. When he does, it’s infectious; he’s Arthur fooking Shelby, the sort of character that inspires YouTube supercuts. And because you never know quite where he’s going to fall, there is a certain audience affection reserved only for Arthur. As one YouTube commentor writes,  "The actor playing Arthur does a great job at making him really likeable even when he’s doing dumb shit.“

Until about seven years ago, Paul Anderson wasn’t an actor at all; he was a ticket scalper. "I loved it. A wealth of experience,” he recalls in his thick South London accent. “I earned a lot of money out of it, but that was all I got out of it. Artistically, there was nothing in that for me, so I’d always wanted to do something else.” Anderson did not, however, want to be an actor; “I always wanted to be a frontman in a band,” he says. “Not a footballer. Not an actor. Certainly not a policeman or a fireman. I wanted to be a lead singer. Nothing else,” he continues.

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WHAT TIME IS IT IT’S UPDATED BOOK REC LIST TIME FUCK YEAH! Alright so I’ve recced quite a few of these before, primarily here and here, but I’m just gonna relist all the stuff I’ve read and found worthwhile here anyway, because updated lists are great. This is three goddamn pages in Word, so I’m gonna put it under a cut to spare your dashes because I’m nice like that you are all welcome. Under the cut: over a dozen book recs with rambly occasionally-capslocky reviews for most of them. All book titles link to the book’s Amazon page. Buy them. Be scholarly. You don’t need food. Updated 07-21-15; “buy or borrow” notes added!

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I find that most semi-casual viewers (or at least the ones not obsessed with gangster history) tend to love Boardwalk’s fictional characters best: Jimmy Darmody, Richard Harrow, Gyp, Van Alden, Eli Thompson, Chalky White.  And while I do agree that these are all fascinating individuals and well-deserved of the attention (and while I’d also love to throw some spotlight onto the lovely and complicated ladies of Boardwalk Empire), some small part of me always cheers when, against all odds, people name Arnold Rothstein as their favorite.

But, really, why wouldn’t he be?  Arnold Rothstein is just cool.  Like Charlie said, “he was real smooth.”  He was a rock star.  And the real Rothstein?  Even cooler.  Unfortunately, the facts that he fostered a whole generation of ambitious Jewish gangsters and actively encouraged Charlie Luciano to be his own man and discovered Meyer Lansky at a bar mitzvah and essentially fathered the boy from then on had to be sacrificed at the altar of narrative progression.  So I feel like I can’t meta AR fairly.  I’d much rather gush.

Then without further adieu…Arnold Rothstein, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways

271. That the whole image makes him look as alien as it does impressive – the bow ties and the widow’s peak and the vampiric pallor. 

48. That people came over probably expecting a Goodfellas rip-off and instead discovered their Season 1 mob boss was a debonair self-made gentleman with a far-too-serene demeanor who never indulges.

112. That he somehow sustains himself exclusively on milk and cake, and that there’s clearly something in it for him beyond enjoyment.  How he loves to make Nucky scramble to fulfill his culinary demands…

61. That he and his wife discuss digestive issues around the breakfast table.

29. That he has to compose himself before putting on his “gangster” face.  That moment in What Does The Bee Do? where he clears his throat and practices his “Mr. Thompson” greeting is basically my favorite moment of anything.  You get a sense that loving husband is as much as mask as ruthless bootlegger and you can’t really decide which is flimsier.

306. That if you think Meyer Lansky’s smile is dangerous, you’ve never seen Arnold Rothstein’s.

7. That he visits his horses in the stable, and pets them, and feeds them treats.

94. That he plays to win.

220. That he believes in the lost art of phone etiquette and calls his legal advice “Lawyer” Fallon.

15. That he has such an odd relationship to children – he makes those snide comments about them saying “unexpected and amusing things” but watches the trick-or-treaters almost wistfully, and here he is, raising up all these self-inflicted orphans to consider him a father figure.

65. That you would never want a performance review from him.

66. Nor would you ever want him to be your dentist.

100. That he’s always three steps ahead of his opponents.  The little side-eye of subdued victory when Nucky demands the D’Alessios’ heads minutes after he thinks he’s won the war in A Return To Normalcy?  While all the while we know this has just made Rothstein the richest loser in New York City?  I’m over the moon.

452. That he’ll pretend to bury the hatchet, but all the while he’s really searching for a good place to bury you.

70. That he deals with Margaret at first as an amusement but also as an able partner.

501. That he’s part middle school principal, part guidance counselor, part stone-cold killer.

825. That he strikes the fear of God into every man, woman, and child.

608.That you should fear him most when he grows quiet and composed.

124. That he cracks lawyer jokes.  That he enjoys jokes, generally – and writes them in his little notebook to spring upon his unsuspecting enemies at a later date.

50. That he’s forever dispensing advice to people who will never listen.

646. That he tells Nucky he enjoys his company and, like, two episodes later, can’t even keep up the façade a second longer.

377. That Nucky doesn’t even register on his list of headaches and after laying into him, he’ll go ahead and do that thing anyway.

100. That he handles matters in NEW YORK.  WHERE THINGS ACTUALLY MATTER.

83. That he can outmaneuver anyone, always, and so skillfully that when the story demands otherwise, you cry foul.

1. That he once caused a stranger to choke to death for his own amusement.

1001. That he’s played with aplomb by should-be national treasure Michael Stuhlbarg, a man so incredible he can transform from a loveable dork who laughs at Schrodinger’s Cat into this gangster with ice in veins, who can tie his bow ties on screen and pot his shots and menace the hell out of the rest of the cast just by breathing.

So in short, I love him like I love the best villains – because if you’re going to make him a bad guy, then he’s going to be the best damn bad guy around.

auxchords  asked:

hey, since I'm not Jewish, I just wanted your opinion on this... I noticed that media (books, movies, tv) seems fixated on telling stories of the holocaust and Jewish suffering, but I don't see much contemporary representation... do you feel like this is problematic? like I appreciate those stories to remind us of the history, but I feel like it tells a single story of a really complex group of people... (sorry if this is off-base or poorly worded!)

I agree with you, actually. First of all, there are many stories of Jewish suffering that have nothing to do with the Holocaust and while it’s incredibly important that we never forget it, we also need to understand and teach that anti-semitism and Jewish suffering didn’t begin or end with it. The media focusing so intensely on the Holocaust as the be all and end all of Jewish suffering can have something of a counter-productive effect. Everyone knows about the Holocaust, it seems, but virtually no one knows about the far more recent anti-semitism perpetrated against the Jews of the Soviet Union or Ethiopia, for example. And as much as the Holocaust has affected my family personally, being the grandson of Holocaust survivors, we need to understand that it didn’t happen in a vacuum and that horrible anti-semitism existed before and since. Our media depictions don’t reflect that well. 

I watch a lot of TV and the portrayal of non-Nazi related anti-semitism is pretty uncommon. The most prominent example I can think of is the character of Anton Baklanov, a Jewish refusenik scientist on the show The Americans. There isn’t programming about what happened to the Jews of MENA for example. There isn’t programming about Jews from Ethiopia, Nigeria or Uganda. These portrayals need to be created and shared and not with one significant work, but with many.

Now if we’re talking about portayals of Jews that don’t necessarily have to do with anti-semitism or suffering, contemporary representation of Jews tends to fall into a few safe categories.


1. The Jewish nerd. Wears glasses, into the sciences. Likes to use multi-syllable words. Most commonly seen in action and dramas. Think of Felicity Smoak and Martin Stein on the DC tv shows.

2. The evil Jewish banker/lawyer representing a deep corruption in the system. This dips pretty deep into the anti-semitism well, but it hasn’t gone away. Think Maurice Levy on The Wire.

3. The evil Jewish gangster (mostly in historical pieces, but not exclusively). Think HBO stuff like Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos

4. The awkward, self-loathing neurotic Jew, usually played for comedy. This is probably the most prevalent nowadays. Popularized by Woody Allen, but seen in everything from Seinfeld to Transparent

This characters will be invariably be White Ashkenazi Jews though the actors themselves being Jewish seems to be optional. I can’t think of any significant portrayals of non-White and/or non-Ashkenazi Jews in popular media off the top of my head despite the presence of a number of Jews of Color in the music, movie and tv industries like Zoe Kravitz and Rashida Jones. 

Now why we’re trapped in those boxes is a good question. Part of it is that those portrayals end up in popular works that are then replicated. So if an alien were to come to Earth and judge Jews just from what they see in our popular media portrayals, they’d see Jews as nerdy, prone to criminal and unethical activity, deeply self-loathing, and only hailing from Central and Eastern Europe.

Unfortunately, since there are so few of us, making up less than .2% of the world’s population, most people will never meet a Jew, so those portrayals are pretty powerful.

As is the case with many groups who get boxed in a lot in popular media, these stereotypes can be pretty damaging and take effort to unlearn. 

Review: Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams (Rich Cohen)

 

Tough Jews

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Brooklyn, much like the rest of NYC, just before the start of the twentieth century until around World War II, was a nexus of throwaway violence and petty crime. ‘Wiseguys’ ruled the corner much like young thugs rule today’s corners in certain neighborhoods of Chicago, Boston, and East New York. Though the names and faces have changed, the basic primal aphorisms have largely remained: loyalty above all else. Though seemingly unheard of for today’s generations the phrase ‘Jewish Gangster’ seems hyperbolic, yet many turn-of-the-century criminals fell under that banner. Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter, Arnold Rothstein, Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles…these were the characters that saw fit to take matters in their own hands, shaping a violent destiny from which only two outcomes were seen: untimely death or jail. Tough Jews follows the escapades of such characters, describing the rise and fall of such likeminded people whose only preoccupation, it seems, was to make money and bust heads.

Though the narrative is disjointed, skipping back and forth through a litany of prime-time gangsters, some receiving their deathly comeuppance early on only to reappear through another’s back story, the main players begin to emerge over its 270 pages. The story begins at Nate & Al’s, a west coast diner where second generation Jews like Larry King (the Larry King) cavort with old friends from the Bensonhurst area where they sit and reminisce about the past, before jumping into the lives of fifteen year olds Abe Reles and Buggsy Goldstein. These two would eventually link up to the crime syndicate Murder Inc (none of that Ja Rule bullshit) under Bugsy Siegel and Lansky, an organization that perfected contract killing.

An enlightening read for anyone that’s ever wondered what Brooklyn and Manhattan was like in the 20’s and 30’s, at a time when immigrants came rushing from the boat into the melting pot of NYC into the domain of what has now become known as the Jewish Mafia.

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Tom Hardy on the set of Peaky Blinders, Liverpool March 2014

Looking ridiculously cool. I love the absurd combination of his Jewish gangster costume and his own clothing and sunglasses. And I LOVE that he wore the hat while driving (or not driving, as been pointed out… I’m just too used to the steering wheel being on the other side).