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Gangster Priest

Gangster Priest: The Italian American Cinema of Martin Scorsese

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    Gangster Priest
    Book Description:

    Bringing a wealth of scholarship and insight into Scorsese's work, Casillo's study will captivate readers interested in the director's magisterial artistry, the rich social history of Southern Italy, Italian American ethnicity, and the sociology and history of the Mafia in both Sicily and the United States.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8436-2
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-2)
  5. 1 The Immigrant Generations: Italianamerican
    (pp. 3-55)

    Martin Scorsese was born in Flushing, Queens, on 17 November 1942 to Charles and Catherine Scorsese, both Italian Americans of Sicilian immigrant parentage. Martin’s paternal grandfather, Francesco Scorsese, was born in Polizzi Generosa, a town near Palermo, around 1880. His mother having died when he was six or seven, Francesco upon his father’s remarriage was sent to live with a local farmer who raised him. Unwilling to remain in Sicily, Francesco chose to emigrate to the United States. After his arrival in New York City in 1901, he married a young immigrant woman named Teresa who had arrived in the...

  6. 2 Scorsese as Third-Generation Italian American Artist
    (pp. 56-68)

    As a man and artist, Martin Scorsese belongs to the third generation of Italian Americans and exhibits many of the characteristic conflicts and ambivalences that come with external as well as internal pressures to resist or embrace acculturation and assimilation. Among the first to explore the problems of third-generation Italian Americans were Rudolph J. Vecoli and Richard Gambino. In Vecoli’s view, second-generation parents produced ambivalence in their third-generation children by requiring a commitment to both family values and hard work for the sake of upward mobility. The children thus received the contradictory message: ‘Get an education but don’t change.’ This...

  7. 3 The First World of Martin Scorsese
    (pp. 69-122)

    A major influence on Martin Scorsese, of an impact nearly equal to that of his family, was his local neighbourhood on Elizabeth Street and more generally Little Italy – the environment evoked inIt’s Not Just You, Murray!,Who’s That Knocking?,Mean Streets, andItalianamerican. Acknowledging that these films perhaps overemphasized the grimness of the neighbourhood, Scorsese recalls that it was made up largely of ‘decent, hardworking people’ and in some ways resembled a true community.¹ Yet this neighbourhood was seriously flawed, as the southern Italian immigrant groups preferred to live with people from their native towns and regions and thus...

  8. 4 ‘Where’s the Action?’: Early Projects and Who’s That Knocking at My Door?
    (pp. 123-178)

    Scorsese’s first film on Italian American themes isIt’s Not Just You, Murray!, which he made in his final year as an undergraduate at NYU with partial financial backing from his father.¹ Filmed in stark black and white and only fifteen minutes long, this low-budget production had been encouraged by Scorsese’s mentor, Professor Haig Manoogian, then director of the NYU film program, who had urged him to make films based on personal experience. For Scorsese, this meant a return to the streets of Little Italy.² Besides parodying the tradition of the gangster film, for instance Raoul Walsh’sThe Roaring Twenties...

  9. 5 Season of the Witch: Mean Streets
    (pp. 179-221)

    Mean Streetswas initially conceived by Scorsese as the third instalment of a trilogy includingJerusalem, JerusalemandWho’s That Knocking at My Door?But though he and Mardik Martin had already written a script by 1966, the project remained long suspended, partly under Haig Manoogian’s advice that ‘nobody wants to see films about Italian Americans.’¹ Scorsese was also occupied in bringingWho’s That Knocking?to the screen as his first feature film, which required a radical reworking of his original student effort. Subsequently Scorsese took on various directorial and editorial tasks in order to make ends meet, including the...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. 6 The Abject God: Raging Bull
    (pp. 222-265)

    Probably the finest of Scorsese’s films,Raging Bullis inspired by the identically titled autobiography of Jake La Motta, who reigned as middleweight champion from 1949 to 1951. La Motta was born in New York’s Lower East Side on 20 July 1921 to a Sicilian immigrant father who peddled goods for a living and an Italian American mother. The family moved to Philadelphia when he was six but ultimately settled in a Bronx slum. As a child and adolescent La Motta not only experienced the poverty, squalor, and misery of lower-class life but, like his brothers, was often beaten by...

  12. 7 The Society of Transgression: GoodFellas
    (pp. 266-325)

    Scorsese’sGoodFellasis based on Nicholas Pileggi’sWiseguy, a work of journalism published in 1985 and consisting mainly of the recollections of Henry Hill, a small-time gangster associated with New York’s Lucchese crime family.¹ Pileggi gladly agreed to Scorsese’s request that they collaborate on the film, so thatGoodFellas, whose script was completed in 1987 over a five-month period and after eleven or twelve drafts, marks the first film sinceMean Streetsin which Scorsese receives credit as a scriptwriter. The title of Pileggi’s work, having been used by Brian De Palma in a 1983 film, had to be replaced...

  13. 8 Pariahs of a Pariah Industry: Casino
    (pp. 326-382)

    The inspiration forCasinoappears to have come to Scorsese through Nicholas Pileggi, who immediately upon the completion of theGoodFellasscript began thinking of a film on organized crime in Las Vegas.¹ Pileggi alerted Scorsese to newspaper articles on the professional and domestic problems of Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, a Las Vegas casino manager and a leading mob representative in that city during the 1970s. Like Pileggi, Scorsese saw in these materials the basis of a film on the fall of Italian American crime families in Las Vegas in the period when its casinos were being corporatized. Scripted by Pileggi...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 383-400)

    Martin Scorsese holds a unique position in contemporary cinema, at once for the abundance and quality of his achievement and his special, manifest relation to his ethnicity. Unlike earlier Italian American directors such as Frank Capra and Vincente Minnelli, who for various reasons largely avoided the undisguised portrayal of Italian America in their films, Scorsese is without doubt the chief exemplar of Italian American cinema, for which the main criterion is that a director of Italian American descent treat his ethnic group in and of itself on screen. This is not to deny that, in some cases, a non–Italian...

  15. Appendix
    (pp. 401-412)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 413-574)
  17. Index
    (pp. 575-600)