Al Capone: Icon

Al Capone: The quintessential self-made American man, ruthless killer, or both?

His name sparks images of pin stripe suits and bloody violence. To this day we are fascinated with this celebrity gangster. The question is why? The answer is not as simple. American’s love a bad boy; a tragic anti-hero. Al Capone is one of the originals—one of the most notorious gangsters of the twentieth century, believed to have personally murdered dozens of people and ordered the killing of hundreds of others. But that’s only one side of this complicated man. He was also a hugely popular public figure, dynamic and charismatic. So what made him a crime boss instead of a powerful politician?

His life is the personification of his times—the roaring 20s and prohibition in Chicago, a world where the gangster is not only rich, powerful, and feared, he is also adored. Capone lived a double life: hob knobbing with Chicago elite one minute, committing murder the next, but he didn’t fully belong to either world.

Dive into Al Capone’s enduring impact. His life was filled with landmark moments: the brutal St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, his arrest and incarceration for tax evasion, and the loss of his mind due to syphilis. He also opened one of the nation’s first soup kitchens, fought to put expiration dates on milk, and wrote love songs for his wife from prison. This documentary unveils his unexpected connections to modern day organized crime, law enforcement, life in Chicago, and pop culture. His is a lasting legacy that feeds America’s obsession with the mob and the men we love to hate.

ICON asks how Capone became the icon he is today. A son of Italian immigrants in New York, he grew up in a law-abiding family, but he worked his way through the ranks of local gangs until he moved to Chicago, where eventually he had politicians and cops on the take— catapulting Chicago’s crime syndicate to unbelievable power and wealth through bribery, intimidation, and murder. During Prohibition, Capone’s Chicago outfit earned millions through every illegal enterprise they could: gambling, prostitution, racketeering, and of course bootlegging.

Celebrated by high society and feared by those in City Hall, Capone controlled his public image in a way never seen before. But that all changed when the bloody images of the St. Valentine’s massacre went public, turning many of the people he socialized with against him. The massacre marked the beginning of the end for a man who rose to the highest level of power and influence that is still felt today.

This program defines Al Capone’s lasting impact and explores why he is an American icon.

Al Capone: Icon airs Sunday 26 July, 8.30pm on SBS.

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