Inspiration: Gangster Icon Frank Costello

Inspiration: Gangster Icon Frank Costello


Here's an idea: the next person to say "Now that's gangsta!" gets stabbed in the temple unless they can explain who real-life gangster Frank Costello was. In case that contemporary cliche spouting douchebag happens to be you, here's a quick primer...

Costello was, along with very bad men like Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Dutch Schultz, one of the most influential gangsters in the history of American organized crime. Born in Italy, Costello immigrated to the U.S. in 1900 and after serving time as a teenager for assault and concealed weapons charges, he embarked on a successful underworld career largely devoid of violence (on his part at least). He introduced slot machines across the country and helped devise the system of odds and layoffs that bookies use to this day. He was also the inspiration for a number of gangster movies, and at least one gangsta rap song, so in honor of the 37th anniversary of his death (at the age of 82) today, we present five such artistic depictions of one of the mafia's most influential bosses.

VITO CORLEONE (MARLON BRANDO) IN THE GODFATHER (1972)
• The famed godfather from the film of the same name was based on a few gangsters, but Costello was the basis for much of the character. Like Corleone, Costello was friendly with high-ranking legal and political figures, was adamantly opposed to the mob getting involved in drug dealing, and the survivor of an assassination attempt. (In 1957, on the orders of Vito Genovese, a young Vicente "The Chin" Gigante shot Costello in the head in the lobby of his apartment building; Costello survived and would later reconcile with Genovese, while Gigante would go on to become head of the Genovese family) Brando is also reported to have taken Corleone's accent from watching tapes of Costello.

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FRANK COSTELLO (COSTAS MANDYLOR) IN MOBSTERS (1991)
Mobsters is, quite likely, the worst mob movie ever (blame Christian Slater—or whoever cast him as an Italian gangster—for that), but it's a more or less faithful (albeit excruciating to watch) depiction of the alliance between Costello, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lanksy, and Bugsy Siegel that changed the face of the American mob in the 20th Century. During the ascendancy of the New York mob in the '20s and '30s, Costello was the white collar gangster who claimed to never carry a gun.

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FRANK COSTELLO (CARMINE CARIDI) IN BUGSY (1991)
• As gangster movies go, Bugsy is only slightly above Mobsters, but is likewise faithful in its portrayal of wildly successful gangsters who craved the limelight given to Hollywood stars. Costello (played by Carmine Caridi, far left on the couch above) was no exception, although he unintentionally got his 15 minutes of fame during a set of Senate hearings on organized crime in 1950-51.

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FRANK COSTELLO (JACK NICHOLSON) IN THE DEPARTED (2006)
• Martin Scorsese based his Irish Boston gangster on still-wanted fugitive Whitey Bulger, but Scorsese did make a nod to his own NYC roots by naming the character after Costello.

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"MOBSTAS" (KOOL G RAP) OFF ROOTS OF EVIL (1998)

• G Rap drops the name of just about every famous gangster on this obscure banger, including Costello, whom he calls a "hostile fellow" who "murders while remainin' mellow." Given that Costello claimed to not carry a piece after getting locked up as a teenager, this may not be the most accurate line ever, but we've known rappers to exaggerate/get shit wildy wrong on occasion.

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Tags: frank-costello, kool-g-rap, the-departed, the-godfather
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