For as long as
I can remember, I've always been fascinated by gangsters...
The above sentence was slightly modified from the narration which opens Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas. It has been formatted to fit our mindset. Let's face it, we have always been intrigued by organized crime; in all of American history, only the gangster holds a place as larger-than-life, or as legendary as the cowboys of the old West.
Spaghetti Western director Sergio Leone, who had made the classic Once Upon a Time in the West, later made Once Upon a Time in America, a story about organized crime; of course, very few movies have been made about real mobsters, or mob related stories, or at least, few of them would actually use the real names of the gangsters they portrayed on the silver screen. Scarface (the 1932 version starring Paul Muni) was loosely based on Al Capone, but for legal (and other reasons), the studio did not use his name.
As decades past, as gangland history became nothing more than pages in a book, and the blood had seeped deep into the concrete sidewalks, Real life mobster dramas began to emerge; movies about the classic prohibition era gangsters could now be made with actual names and events, some of them somewhat embellished for the popcorn crowd. Old school gangsters had become fair game like most historical figures and events, but what about their legacies? Gambino, Bonanno, Colombo, Lucchese, and Genovese families were still around, but if you asked anyone, there was no Mafia.
Of all the names listed above, albeit impressive and notorious for their accomplishments, none shall be imprinted in the public mind, as is the case with the Gambino family. one of the reasons theirs has become a household name is John Gotti, a.k.a. the Dapper Don, so named due to his expensive taste in suits, and a.k.a. the Teflon Don, so named because none of the charges brought against him ever stuck. That is until Sammy "The Bull" Gravano turned on him, in a tell-all testimony that would not only put Gotti behind bars for the rest of his life, but also unravel the fabric of the American Mafia.
So far, two movies have been made about the Gambino Family, Gotti, and Witness for the Mob; not to mention The Sopranos, an award winning crime drama with plotlines and characterizations seemingly borrowed from the files of the Gambino family. Not since the publishing of Joseph Bonanno's bio, Man of Honor has there been this much attention paid to the Mafia, and in regards to John Gotti, there hasn't been a mobster with this high a media profile since Al Capone.