Who is this Chicago gangster known as ‘Scarface’?
At the battlefront, Chicago, April 16
Meet Big Bill. Blatant, muddle-headed, obnoxious, incoherent. A big noise in a big hulk. Some say he is the Spirit of Chicago. That charge held good until Tuesday, April 10. On that memorable day something came up and hit him. Now he has that touch of melancholy so essential to the art of a clown.
Meet Abie Arends. In the mauve decade he was the masculine madame of a house of prostitution. More recently he has moved up a notch and has been engaged by Bill to teach the populace the plaintive song-poem of Packing-town :
Scanning hist’ry’s pages, We find names we love so well, Heroes of all ages– Of their deeds we love to tell. Who is the one, Chicago’s greatest son? It’s Big Bill, the Builder—
And so on, for, fourteen verses.
Meet Al Capone, called “Scarface.” Ruler of the realm of racketeering. Overlord of the underworld. The man to whom 3,000,000 people pay tribute—$75,000,000 annually. The man in charge of the procurers and the killers who manage the elections.
Meet Harry Gusick. He and his woman were once convicted of pandering, of selling a bewildered country girl into the pit that has no bottom. Len Small’s pardon saved them from the stigma of doing a stretch in prison. Now Harry is one of the main cogs in the machine of Al Capone.
Four of the principals in our offering for this evening: a melodrama of intrigue and adventure, of suspense and conflict, of thrills and super-thrills, of passion and plunder—and pineapples.
The plot has its beginnings in the making of a machine that is to become the most formidable, the most menacing, in all Chicago’s history. The plot ends in the smashing of that machine on the rocks of its own placing. Threaded through the recital runs an amazing tale of the rise of open terrorism, of almost unbelievable corruption, of demagoguery and thuggery, of a government of clowns and a super-government of crooks.
For the setting we have a city which some of us believe is destined to be the greatest in the world, but which today, we all admit, is still the callow youth of the plains. A city dominated by a stockyards aristocracy. A city suffering from growing pains. A city with a bad-boy complex, smoking its first cigar. Give it time; it will come out all right.
ACT I: The Rise of Terrorism