Deceitful Filmland Treatment of Dewey

By Beichman, Arnold | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 28, 1997 | Go to article overview

Deceitful Filmland Treatment of Dewey


Beichman, Arnold, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The son of Thomas E. Dewey, the three-term governor of New York State and unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate in 1944 and 1948, has justifiably rushed to defend his distinguished father's memory which is libeled in the movie, "Hoodlum." Throughout the film, Dewey is portrayed as a corrupt New York district attorney who took payoffs from the very gangsters he was sending to jail. That portrayal flouts history and ethics. The movie is Hollywood at its lowest.

Thomas E. Dewey Jr., the son, in a Sept. 18 letter to the New York Times, calls the movie "a malicious reinvention of a historical figure." He is quite right. I know how right he is because for several years during the time his father was special prosecutor first appointed in 1935 by Gov, Herbert H. Lehman and later as the elected $20,000-a-year district attorney of New York County, I was an investigator for the Citizens Committee on the Control of Crime in New York. This unofficial body, supported by then Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, was organized and privately financed by Harry F. Guggenheim and other public-spirited citizens to aid the 33-year-old prosecutor ensconced on the 14th floor of the Woolworth Building in his war against organized crime. One of the most effective weapons which helped Dewey was to provide financial support for the families of gangsters who were willing to break with the mob and turn state's evidence.

The Citizens Committee worked closely with the D.A.'s office, then at 137 Centre Street. The D.A. staff members in later life became judges and public officials of the highest probity - William Herlands, Frank Hogan, Murray Gurfein, Jacob Grumet, Stanley Fuld, Jack Rosenblum, Charles Breitel - names little known today but highly prestigious in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. As rackets-probing aides to Dewey, they would have walked out on him had they suspected that the mustached gangbuster was making deals with the mob.

But there is something else the deceitful Hollywood producers could easily have discovered had they wanted to and that is how the underworld put out a contract on Dewey worth $25,000 to any would-be future assassin.

According to his biographer, Richard Norton Smith, Dewey's wife got a call one morning instructing her to come downtown to the morgue to identify her husband's body. On another morning, Dewey received a letter threatening his life and later that afternoon his office got a follow-up call that he would be shot to death that very afternoon on his way home from work. …

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