|Gangster Squad (John O'Mara on bottom row/1st on left)|
However, upon leaving the theatre, never having heard of this “Gangster Squad” or the intricate details of Mickey Cohen’s reign of terror (or end of his reign), it left me asking questions. Since I just happen to be an investigative writer, who happens to love history, I took it upon myself to look into this story and found so many discrepancies.
|Jack Whalen aka Jack O'Hara|
Take for instance, the part of the movie where Mickey Cohen’s muscle Karl Lennox swarms into mafia boss Jack Dragna’s residence and murders him and his wife on the floor, that didn’t happen. The history of Dragna’s death does not even come close to the portrayal in the film. In fact, Dragna died from a heart attack in his Los Angeles home on February 23, 1956.
|Rondelli's on Ventura Blvd.|
Another discrepancy was Jack Whalen’s death. In the movie you see Jerry Wooters’ love interest (played by Emma Stone) who is hiding from Mickey Cohen at Jack Whalen’s home, waiting to get out of town. In the movie, Cohen and two of his thugs show up at Whalen’s home and a fight ensues. Of course, Whalen takes down the two thugs and offers Cohen a shot at boxing one last time. Remember, Whalen was known for saying he was called "The Enforcer" because he was "so tough he didn't need a gun." As the scene plays out, Cohen laughs and says “My boxing days are over,” while pulling out his pistol and shooting Whalen in the gut. He then throws him in the pool and shoots him two more times.
This is not how Jack Whalen died in real history. In fact, Whalen didn’t die for another 10 years! He met his end at Rondelli’s in Sherman Oaks (13359 Ventura Blvd.) when Cohen and some of his associates: Sam Frank LoCigno, George Piscitelle, Roger Leonard and Joe de Carlo, among others were present as a Whalen took a bullet in between the eyes. Of course, although Cohen and his thugs were charged for the murder they were later acquitted.
As far as the actual Gangster Squad:
John J. O’Mara was a real person, and yes he headed the gangster squad, but it was even admitted by the writer of the screenplay that the many exciting shootouts in the movie didn’t actually take place in real life. Lieberman did admit that O’Mara did sleep with a Tommy Gun under his bed, though.
As far as the rest of the squad- Jerry Wooters was married, so the idea he was sleeping with Cohen’s “etiquette teacher” is absurd. It was also said that according to Wooters’ military file, he was shot down over the ocean during WWII and he did float along on a raft until being rescued….how much of that is a fact we may never know for sure being that most military files are confidential and I find it highly unlikely that a journalist just happened to get the military to make an exception to open his file just for him. Maybe that story is true, maybe it isn’t, but I am not going to argue on that.
Conway Keeler, the member of the gangster squad who was the wire tapping genius, didn’t get murdered in his home as the movie portrays. In fact, he may be still alive, since I read he was interviewed by the screenwriter Paul Lieberman when he was researching to write the story.
I tried to look into old newspaper archives to see what I could dig up on Max Kennard, the iconic Texan who joins the gangster squad and came up on nothing. I was actually disappointed about that, being he was my favorite character in the movie. The other two characters, Officer Ramirez and Officer Harris seem to be added characters to the cast that probably didn’t exist as I cannot find any information on them as well.
The Shootout at the Park Plaza Hotel
In the near final scenes of the movie, O’Mara attempts to serve an arrest warrant for the murder of Jack Whalen (which in fact doesn’t happen until 1959) at the Park Plaza Hotel. The gangster squad and Cohen’s thugs shoot it out on the street in front of the hotel and in the lobby of the building.
I have looked into this, and cannot find any proof that this happened. In fact, there was mention of a shoot out at the Hotel Roosevelt in 1947 after Bugsy Siegel’s murder. It was said that Cohen showed up at the lobby of the hotel and demanded that Siegel’s assassins come down and face him. He allegedly fired many rounds into the lobby, however no one came down to face him.
In the movie, the scene at the Park Plaza hotel is supposedly set in 1949. It’s obvious that if O’Mara had served a warrant, it wasn’t for the homicide of Jack Whalen, being that Whalen didn’t die for another 10 years. I know that Cohen was arrested in August 1949 for “disturbing the peace” in Los Angeles where he paid the $100 bail out of his own pocket to be released, but there is no mention of him shooting or causing a ruckus during his capture. Cohen was arrested again in Chicago at the Ambassador Hotel in August of 1950, alongside Johnny Stompanato aka “Johnny Stomp,” and later arrested and sent to prison for a short four years after being convicted for tax evasion through the Kefauver Commission U.S. Senate Committee that indicted him.
Once Cohen was released he became a celebrity and owned many “legitimate” businesses in the L.A. area. Unfortunately, Cohen couldn’t seem to keep his hands clean and when Jack Whalen died, he was thrust into the spotlight again as a notorious criminal. Although he was acquitted on murder charges, he later faced more tax evasion charges and was convicted on those charges in 1961, when he eventually was sent to Alcatraz. It was then that another inmate attempted to end Cohen’s life with a lead pipe to the head. Cohen survived the attack.
|Cohen arrested for the murder of Whalen|
--(Copyright 2013- J'aime Rubio, Dreaming Casually)