3/19/1943 - Mobster killings come in many forms ... the Chinese menu of mayhem finales to select from has icepicks through the ear, bullets to the heart and head, throat cuttings, strangulation, being set on fire, being blown to bits by a bomb, feet in cement swimming lessons, stabbings, and beatings ... all good for getting a crook gone ... Frank Nitti though goes out on this day in a unique manner, not content to let other hoodlums do the dirty work for him, the leader of Chicago's Outfit offs himself (not thrown off a roof by Kevin Costner as portrayed in the ludicrous movie, The Untouchables)!
Rags to riches to morgue, Nitti begins life in the small town of Angri in Italy in 1886 as Francesco Raffaele Nitto. When he is seven, the future gangster comes to America with his family. In Brooklyn he will quit school after the seventh grade, work as a pin setter in a bowling alley, a factory worker, and a barber ... and also become friends with members of another immigrant family that lives nearby named Capone. After a brief stint of lawlessness in Texas, by 1918 he is in Chicago, living on South Halsted Street and supporting himself and wife through ill gotten gains acquired as a jewel thief, fence, and liquor smuggler ... and as a liquor smuggler he soon comes to the attention of the powerful gang of racketeers being run by Johnny Torrio, and his second in command, Al Capone.
A rocket of illicit achievement, under the tutelage of his Brooklyn neighbor, Nitti quickly moves from body guard to running Capone's booze smuggling and distribution operations, earning himself the nickname of "The Enforcer" along the way for the intelligence to be found in his planning. When Capone is sent off on income tax evasion charges, Nitti becomes a part of a criminal triumvirate that keeps the operation of The Outfit rolling ... Nitti heads operations, Jake "Greasy Thumb" Guzik's tops administration, and Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo is in charge of enforcement. It is a power structure that works quite well in transitioning the mob from liquor and into gambling and other vices when Prohibition ends.
The fun ends in 1943 when Nitti's plan to use the threat of union troubles to extort money out of Hollywood studios blows up in his face. Sent to be the mob's special movie thug, goon Willie Bioff is instead caught by the FBI and indicted for tax evasion, extortion, and racketeering ... offenses the crook chooses to mitigate by informing on his Chicago pals, a decision that means big trouble for The Outfit. At a meeting at Nitti's home to discuss what to do after indictments are issued against the leaders of the mob, Accardo and underboss Paul "The Waiter" Ricca flex their muscles ... it was Nitti's plan, Nitti's lieutenant, so Nitti should do the right thing and take the fall for the scheme.
Claustrophobic, dreading going to prison for a second time (like his boss Capone, he goes behind bars due to income tax evasion, but only for a eighteen months), upset by the failure he has mistakenly orchestrated, and suffering from health issues, Nitti broods on his future and decides on a permanent solution for his troubles.
Nitti with brush
On the day before the mobster is to appear before a grand jury, Nitti has a peaceful breakfast with his wife, but when she leaves for church, he puts his final operation in motion. Downing shots of whiskey that soon have his courage up, he loads a .32 revolver, puts the weapon in his pocket, and goes out for a stroll, seeking a location that won't be mussed by his blood and brains. Five blocks from home, legs wobbly, he decides a railroad yard would be the perfect place for the goodbye he has planned ... a plan that almost goes awry when Nitti, staggering about, is almost turned into a pancake by a passing freight train. Safe for seconds, the gangster pulls his pistol out and goes to work. It will take him three shots to put himself out of his miseries ... the first misses his head entirely and only holes his hat, the second goes through his jaw, exits out of the top of his head and puts another hole in his fedora, and the third final turns him into a corpse, entering behind Nitti's right ear and mangling his brain. Taken away for processing, an autopsy reveals that the gangster's alcohol level is 0.23 at the time of his death. A suicide on a branch line of the Illinois Central railroad, the one-time leader of the Chicago mob leaves at the age of fifty-seven.