I started to read a new book on the train, and the in the forward, the author was good enough to tell us that he is better at research than anybody else. He actually spends quite of bit of time discussing how awesome he is, and that everybody else got it wrong. I was a little annoyed, it seems a touch self-aggrandizing, but I was willing to give it a shot.
Once the book got going, he proposed some things that I’ve never heard before, that completely contradict everything else I’ve read. That’s cool- I understand that people get it wrong sometimes. But the problem is, our author didn’t cite any of his sources. Which drives me crazy. I could write a book only using the Weekly World News as a source, and talk all about how Bat Boy and Elvis secretly run the government with a bunch of invisible lizard aliens. That’s why it’s important to cite sources. So when somebody makes a bunch of insane claims, and then jerks off thinking about what a good researcher they are, we can then go and fact check.
So, in the vein of fact checking and getting everything wrong, here is the second part of my series:
How the movie The Gangs of New York Took a Dump on History, Part II
- We see a sign that says Satan’s Circus and are led to believe its some kind of bar or dance hall. In Reality, Satan’s Circus was a neighborhood in Manhattan, now called the Tenderloin.
- Everyone is all worried about paying off Bill the Butcher (who, again, is already dead by the Civil War) but Irish street gangs would never have paid off a member of the Nativist Party. Also, the Know-Nothing Party (as the Nativists called themselves) was pretty much over after Millard Fillmore’s presidency. Tammany ran the show, and if anyone was going to get a kickback, it was going to be them.
- There was a lot of talk about the Daybreak Boys, a gang that used to terrorize the waterfront. Basically, they were pirates and would raid any ship they came across. But, they got too greedy and the merchants ordered the cops to put an end to it. When the police formed the “Strong Arm Squad” in the 1850s, their job was to run gangs like the Daybreak Boys out of town. Which they did. By the end of the 1850s, they don’t exist anymore. So, I wouldn’t worry about them too much, DiCaprio.
- People are talking about the battle of Antietam, and how they lost family there. It seems the movie takes place around July 4th, based on the amount of fireworks. Antietam doesn’t happen until September of that year. Good going, dummies.
- We see our two protagonists having a lovely stroll down 5th Ave, next to Central Park. In 1862, the park is still under construction. The park was definitely partially underway and areas would have been close to completion, but there also would have been workers putting everything into place. It’s not until 1863 that the first section of the park is complete.
- John C. Reilly, if you look at the IMDB page, plays the cop named “Happy Jack Mulraney”, who in real life was not a cop, but a member of the Gophers, a violent uptown gang from the 1890s. It seems they took the name, and character traits of a real cop named “Clubber” Williams and smashed them together into one character.
- Bill the Butcher meets Horace Greely, the editor of the Tribune and a huge advocate of the Abolitionist movement. Bill would have spat in his face, not introduced himself nicely.
- There was this weird scene where a bunch of guys get executed because Boss Tweed orders it. They get hung in the middle of the 5 Points so everyone can see it happen. At this time, executions in New York were held in the local prison yards, not in the middle of Paradise Square, the area next to the intersection that makes up the points.
- We see the 5 Points Mission gladly welcome Catholics into their little party. In reality, the Mission would not help anyone who wasn’t protestant. They actually were criticized for that. If a Catholic was willing to convert, then they were given shoes and groceries, not before.
- Boss Tweed goes out a drinkin’ and a ho-in’, neither of which he did in real life. One of the reasons Tweed was able to get away with so much was his temperance. In fact, there is very little evidence that he ever cheated on his wife, and he never drank more that a glass of wine maybe twice a week.
- There is a sign on the old Brewery that says “Future Home of the 5 Points Mission.” The Brewery itself was torn down in 1852, and the mission was in place as of 1855.
- There’s some poor sod being drafted. Again, not until July of 1863. Jesus, why didn’t they set the movie in 1863? Doesn’t make any sense…
- Minor detail- Dead Rabbits (if they even existed) wore red stripes down their pants, not on their shirts. Mostly at this point I’m paying less and less attention.
- On voting day in NYC, there were in fact repeat voters, but it wasn’t as easy as the movie makes it look. Tammany became masters of stealing identities or even making up people for their repeaters to vote 5 or 6 times.
- Also, Bill gets the Chinese population to vote for him. Too bad Chinese people were not allowed to become American citizens at this time and therefore could not vote. Whatever.
- The cops at this time let a lot of things slide, like hookers and gambling. But murder was one crime that would be solved. When Bill the Butcher kills Monk, who was just elected into office, the cops would have been up his ass. Just sayin.
- The timetable for the draft riots are a bit off. The riots lasted for several days, and it wasn’t until troops marched from Gettysburg into the city that the riots ended.
- Yeah, the Navy never shelled the city either. That would be stupid.
Mostly this whole movie was stupid. I can’t with this.