Another story about the “dark side of the American dream” begins in “Boardwalk Empire” Season 1 Episode 1 “Boardwalk Empire.” The story, of course, involves gangsters, corruption and murder. It’s a theme as old as “The Godfather.”
It’s 1920 and liquor is about to become illegal in America. This somewhat ill-advised attempt to enforce sobriety on the American public is proving to be an opportunity for many of the entrepreneurial bent, not the least of whom is Nucky Thompson, the Treasurer of Atlantic City, actually the absolute ruler of that same tourist town.
Nucky is a master politician. One moment he is speaking gently before a meeting of a ladies’ temperance group about how the banning of adult beverages will bring about a new era in America. The next moment he is in one of the upper rooms of his favorite club with all the ward bosses, cussing up a storm, and laughing about how bootlegging is going to make everybody a lot of money. Downstairs people are having a wake for the end of legal booze. Things will be smoothed by Nucky’s brother, the local sheriff.
Atlantic City, a sea port close to New York and on a direct train line to Chicago, is well-suited as a transit point for Canadian booze. People will pay a premium for strong drink, no matter what the Volstead Act says.
Nucky, a man already corrupt to his eyeballs with his other enterprises, meets with some of the like-minded entrepreneurs from New York and Chicago to set up distribution, payments, and so on. Included are a couple of young fellows named Lucky Luciano and Al Capone, about whom history will record a lot by and by.
Nucky has a driver named Jimmy Darmody, a soldier returned home from the trenches, somewhat haunted by his experiences, somewhat adrift having coming home with no marketable skills besides killing people. Jimmy is begging Nucky for an opportunity to advance.
“This is America,” Nucky responds. “What’s stopping you?” Nucky will learn to regret his advice.
Nucky also receives a supplier by the name of Margaret Schroeder, a poor woman from the auld sod who is married to a brute and a drunk. Nucky’s somewhat charming efforts to help Margaret results in her near beating death by the Brute and Drunk. The Brute and Drunk quickly learns that one does not do that to a friend by Nucky Thompson.
Arnold Rothstein is the capo of New York and thinks he can cheat in Nucky’s casino and take him for 90,000. Minus the 60,000 that he owes for the first booze shipment, Rothstein figures he is only owed 30,000.
That first booze shipment is hijacked by a party of masked men on a dark road to New York. Rothstein’s men are all killed and the booze spirited away. The Feds, led by the zealous Agent Van Alden, are distracted by a tip of a clandestine distilling operation run out of a funeral home. The man who phoned in the tip is the same man who led the hijacking, none other than Jimmy, who is taking his bosses’ advice to heart. Jimmy even gives Nucky a piece of the action in the form of a money-stuffed envelope.
Nucky is nothing if not nimble on his feet. Margaret’s brute of a husband is disposed of off shore and becomes the patsy for the hijacking. Rothstein will likely not be mollified, but at least he will not know that one of Nucky’s boys will be to blame.
It is going to be a long Roaring Twenties.
Source: Boardwalk Empire, TV.Rage