Casino at 25: a guide to its protagonist and other Jewish Hollywood gangsters | ExBulletin
Saturday 28th November 2020
JTA - Casino, Martin Scorseses review of crowd control Las Vegas in the 60s and 70s, debuted in theaters on November 22, 1995 25 years ago last week.
It is perhaps a check mark below Goodfellas, released five years earlier, in terms of reputation in the eyes of film historians. But the three-hour epic remains one of Scorseses' most ambitious and beautifully directed films. It is also perhaps the best detective film with a Jewish protagonist at its center.
It was Sam Ace Rothstein, the character played in the film by Robert De Niro, the mainstay of Scorsese. Rothstein is portrayed as a Jewish Chicago Outfit associate, expert bookmaker and sports handicapper sent to Vegas to run Tangier, one of the largest casinos on the Strip. The character is based on Frank Rosenthal, a true expert on Jewish Chicago gambling who had ties to the Chicago outfit and who ultimately traveled to Vegas to run casinos for them.
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While the film is somewhat fictional, Rosenthal really kicked off the idea of sports books in casinos, really survived a car bomb assassination attempt, and really had his license denied by a gaming commission. State, which was run in real life by Harry Reid. , before he became a senator.
Rothstein, as the movie shows, is sort of a gangster, and sort of not; he is part of the mafia, but not the mafia, because of his ethnic identity. Like Henry Hill, the protagonist of Goodfellas, Rothstein can never be a grown man because he is not entirely Sicilian.
However, Ace sees his job in running the casino as having a certain degree of legitimacy and constantly worries that his longtime friend Nicky (Joe Pesci), a fully made gangster, is ruining that reputation with his cowardly antics.
In the film, the viewer never hears Rothstein himself talk about his Jewishness or what it means to him, and he appears to lead a largely secular life. The subject is however raised by the character of Pescis, in a somewhat pejorative way.
I have to make sure no one is fucking the Golden Jew, Nicky said at one point. As their relationship starts to break down, he says things like ***** Jewish mother and threatens to take a piece of your Jewish ass.
Casino also featured a supporting cast filled with famous Jewish comedians, including Don Rickles, Alan King, and Kevin Pollak.
Ultimately, Rothstein is the perfect symbol of how Jews could find great success in mid-20th-century America, even in the world of crime, while still being strangers, through no fault of their own. .
After Frank Rosenthals' death in 2008, it was revealed that he had long been an FBI informant. In an interview before his deathRosenthal was asked if his heritage protected him while dealing with underworld figures.
No, when you're good at something my expertise was in thoroughbred sport and betting, you reach a very high level, he said. Some people were impressed and particularly noticed that I could beat all the odds. Having recognition, in my opinion, opened some doors for me. It put me in a semi-celebrity category.
Another fact surrounding Rothstein's character is that he was portrayed by the non-Jew De Niro, something that might have raised eyebrows today. Of course, it can also go the other way around: actor James Caan has said in interviews that he has had to turn down the Italian-American Awards of the Year several times because even though he played Sonny Corleone in The godfather, he is in fact. the son of German Jewish immigrants.
Rothstein is far from the only major Jewish character in the canon of American gangster films. Here's a quick recap of some of the others: