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March 8, 2009
The Return of the Irish-American Gangster to the Silver Screen
When The Godfather was released in the early 1970s, it effectively created a myth of the virtually unbeatable Italian crime family for the American public that endured for the remainder of the century. The film also effectively eliminated all other white ethnic organized gangs from the silver screen, as well as from the public's eye. But Hollywood had its history wrong in this case: The Italian Mafia was never as invincible nor did the "families" always have everything their own way when it came to illegal activities. It wasn't until the close of the last century that the film industry began to expose the old-time hoods as being fallible and besieged on all sides from new criminal elements connected with newly arrived immigrant groups. The Cubans, Russians and the Colombian hoods, along with the longer established black and Mexican-American gangs, had begun to nibble away at the turf long controlled by the almighty Italian mob.
As the paradigm of the urban underworld began to shift to reflect the new realities of the global economy, another look at the past by historians and Hollywood is revealing that the Italian gang never had absolute power as it was once commonly believed. The Irish hoodlums were actually engaged in gangland activities years before the arrival of the Italians and the Irish also competed with the Italians up until recently.