Saturday, March 03, 2012

Reel People: Sean Penn is Mickey Cohen

The film is The Gangster Squad. The historical bio-pic about Los Angeles Police Department and the East Coast Mafia is based off Tales of the Gangster Squad by Paul Liberman. The Gangster Squad is directed by Ruben Fleisher (Zombieland), and screenplay adaptation by Will Beall (story editor and writer of many episodes of TV's Castle).

Mickey Cohen

Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen was born September 4, 1913. He grew up in a poor orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. By the age of six, Mickey's mother moved the family out of Brooklyn to Los Angeles where instead of selling newspapers on the street corner, Mickey and his brothers could help with the pharmacy the family had opened. It was prohibition at that time, and older Cohen brothers ran a small gin mill and Mickey would be the runner delivering the moonshine.

As a teenager, Mickey left Los Angeles to go be a boxer, training back in New York. He fought all across the United States in the the early 1930s and picked up the name "Gangster Mickey Cohen."

Cohen turned in his prize fighting gloves and went to Chicago where his fights were less likely to be in the papers. He ran one of Al Capone's gambling operations associated with the Chicago Outfit. After a short time in prison in Chicago, and conflict with some Chicago gamblers, he moved to Cleveland temporarily before returning to Los Angeles, at the direction of Louis Rothkopf, an associate for Bugsy Seigel.

In addition to being the muscle for Bugsy, Mickey Cohen also set up the sports books at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada as well as setting up the Las Vegas race wire.

When Bugsy died in 1947, Mickey Cohen still remained a big part of the mafia scene in the West, with connections to Jack Dragna and other mafia members. He hired his own body guard, the playboy Johnny Stompanato (until Stompanato was killed by his girl friend and actress Lana Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane).

In 1950 and 1951 Senator Estes Kefauver headed the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce. This caused him to convicted of tax evasion with four years in prison, but upon release was more popular than ever. He even appeared in a Mike Wallace TV interview in May of 1957. Time magazine also covered a meeting Mickey Cohen had with evangelist Billy Graham.

In 1961, Cohen was again convicted of tax evasion, and this time sent to Alcatraz where he was attacked by another inmate with a lead pipe that caused him to become partially paralyzed.

In 1972 Cohen was released from prison. Mickey Cohen died in his sleep July 29, 1976.

The Gangster Squad

The film according to Patrick Goldstein for the LA Times Blog describes the film saying: "The $70-plus million movie, filming here at such iconic locations as Griffith Park Observatory, City Hall and Olivera Street, is something of a throwback. In today’s Hollywood, studios are focused on global conquest, churning out a stream of superhero fantasy films, nearly all scrubbed clean of any specific references to American culture. So “The Gangster Squad” is something of a commercial gamble. It's a hero story, but one where the heroes, a bunch of hardball-playing 1940s cops, bend all the rules, acting a lot like gangsters to oust the worst gangster of them all."

In addition to Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen the film also features Ryan Gosling (Sgt. Jerry Wooters), Emma Stone (Grace Faraday), Nick Nolte (Bill Parker), Giovanni Ribisi (Conway Keeler), Josh Brolin (John O'Mara), Anthony Mackie (Coleman Harris) and Michael Peña (Navidad Ramirez).

Harvey Keitel was nominated for an Oscar for portraying Mickey Cohan in the 1991 film Bugsy. Will Sean Penn follow suit and receive his sixth Oscar nomination, and potentially his third win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

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