Boardwalk Empire Season 5: What The Great Depression Setting Means for the Show

Boardwalk Empire's final season moves to 1931, and this is what we expect. Potential Boardwalk Empire Season 5 spoilers await.

It was recently revealed to Den of Geek that when Boardwalk Empire returns in September, season five will begin in 1931. That’s seven years after the end of season four and two years into the Great Depression. So far, Boardwalk Empire has Charlestoned through the roaring twenties. Booze was illegal and speakeasies ruled the night, and the day, for those who couldn’t wait for sundown. The party ended when Wall Street crashed and even Eddie Bartlett, James Cagney in the film The Roaring Twenties, was reduced to driving a cab. So what does this mean for the gangsters in Atlantic City, Chicago, and New York on Boardwalk Empire?

Let’s start with who ain’t gonna be around no more. AR. Arnold Rothstein. AKA “The Brain,” “Mr. Big,” “The Fixer,” “The Man Uptown,” “The Big Bankroll,” and the Moses of the Jewish gangsters. Rothstein bought it in 1928 after losing in a fixed poker game on 54th Street and Seventh Avenue. Rothstein lost $319,000 and tried to parlay it on the November election results. Rothstein never got to make good on his marker. On November 4th, 1928 he was ambushed at the Park Central Hotel on 55th Street and Seventh Avenue.

Rothstein never squealed in his life, not even on his own killers. When the cops asked him who filled him full of lead, Rothstein said “My mother did it.” His mother, Edith, had an air-tight alibi, she didn’t see nothing. Arnold Rothstein died on Election Day, Nov. 24, 1928, at the Stuyvesant Polyclinic Hospital in Manhattan. Now word on the street, which was picked up by crime reporter Paul Sann in his book Kill the Dutchman!, is that Rothstein was killed by Dutch Schultz as payback for the hit on Joey Noel, by Legs Diamond. So, I predict that Dutch Schultz will be a player in the new season.

We’re also not going to be seeing Joe The Boss much longer. He should last until about the middle of the season. Joe Masseria ate his last plate of linguini and clam sauce on April 15, 1931. He was dealt the ace of spades at an after dinner game with Charlie “Lucky” Luciano. Luciano went to take a leak between hands and by the time he finished washing his hands Joe Masseria was served twenty slugs at the Nuova Villa Tammaro restaurant in Coney Island. According to the book Murder Inc., by Sid Feder (page 77), “The Boss (ex) was slumped over. His right arm was pushed out straight, as if it had been his play with the cards. His hand laid frozen on the gleaming cloth. The lone bright spot of the Ace of Diamonds sparkled up from his lifeless palm.”

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The New York Daily News reported that the card was an ace of spades. Legend has it Benny Siegel, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, and Joe Adonis were the shooters. Ciro Terranova drove the getaway car. This will endthe Castellammarese War in New York. Salvatore Maranzano will tell everyone that he’s the capo di tutti capi, the boss of bosses. But he’ll say that in Chicago and Lucky won’t hear it. What Lucky will hear will be some whisperings from Joe Adonis that he’s next on the hit parade and whack out Maranzano first. Joe Bonnano will basically give his blessing and look the other way. So Charlie Lucky is going to end the series as the big cheese, if not the Boss of Bosses.

Public Scumbag Number One, J. Edgar Hoover will also cut some big cheese. By the middle of the thirties Hoover will take credit for the killings of John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, and a whole generation of regular guys who were sick of being abused by the banking industry. If they were alive today, maybe they’d all be part of Occupy Wall Street. So we’ll see Hoover running roughshod over justice and probably get a sneak peak at the legendary sex picture that the Mafia used to blackmail him. Hoover’s alleged lover, Clyde Tolson, was named assistant director in 1931, making the pair inseparable. So, love should bloom at FBI HQ.

If Boardwalk Empire is set in 1931, which most reporters are reporting, then it’s the last year on the outside for Al Capone. Scarface was riding high in 1931, he was the boss of Chicago and was feeling kinda bulletproof after surviving execution attempts from Frankie Yale. Capone would be thumbing his nose at the courts too. On Oct. 17, 1931, Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000. He was pinched for vagrancy and it got him a contempt of court charge. He started doing time as a shoemaker in May 1932 at the Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary. He wouldn’t be fighting the law any more. He’d be fighting little bugs that were messing up his head.

Capone was a partier. He happily screwed around and caught himself a case of the clap. He also had to start his jail stint doing detox for his heavy coke habit. Capone would spend most of the thirties on Alcatraz.

I’d like to see “Slick” Willie Sutton on Boardwalk Empire if they can find an excuse to write him in. Sutton robbed banks with an unloaded gun. In his entire career as a criminal, and you can look this up on his impeccable resume, Sutton never killed anyone. He was a master of disguises who’d show up for jobs dressed like a cop or a janitor or delivering the mail.

Slick was also an escape artist. He pulled three Houdinis. One time he escaped from jail by climbing over the wall dressed as a prison guard. He was caught by the spotlight in the middle of his climb and still got away. He just yelled down “It’s okay” and the other bulls figured, well, it was okay. Let the man climb.

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Why did Sutton rob banks? “Because I enjoyed it. I loved it. I was more alive when I was inside a bank, robbing it, than at any other time in my life. I enjoyed everything about it so much that one or two weeks later I’d be out looking for the next job. But to me, the money was the chips, that’s all” or so some reporter said he said.

Sutton liked robbing banks so much he even did it while he was on the lam. Too bad Baron Lamm died in 1931. He revolutionized the art of bank robbery before he was surrounded by 200 cops and shot himself in the head instead of going quietly.

Nucky Thompson is a fictitious character loosely based on Enoch Johnson, who basically ran the political machine in Atlantic City. He’s gonna lose a big cash cow with the end of prohibition and he’ll be pulling in most of his scratch from numbers. In 1931, he’ll be fighting tax charges and William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate that Citizen Kane is based on. Seems that Enoch was sticking his Johnson in one of Hearst’s favorite showgirls. As far as Nucky’s tax aversion, the feds liened on Johnson’s property in 1933 to get back taxes.

Boardwalk Empire is going to skip completely the reason for its being. The 1929 meeting of The Big Seven. The Atlantic City summit that Nucky hosted so all the big gangsters could split up the criminal empire of America. Meyer Lansky got married in May 1929, Mazel Tov by the way, and he spent his honeymoon in Atlantic City.

Lansky knew how to throw a honeymoon too. Between May 13–May 16 all the biggest big shots danced and drank and had the time of their lives while at the same time putting together the National Crime Syndicate. Along with Lansky, the Atlantic City Conference was thrown by Johnny Torrio, Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. Rooms and entertainment were provided by  Nucky Johnson, who also paid the cops to watch the sand on the beach.

At the famous Atlantic City Conference Giuseppe “Joe Adonis” Doto and Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, who was still known as “The Mad Hatter” at the time not the Lord High Executioner, Frank “Cheech” Scalise, Vincent Mangano, Gaetano “Tommy Brown” Quarico, “Willie Moore” Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, Abner “Longy” Zwillman, Dutch Schultz, Owen “the Killer” Madden, and Frank Erickson and Benny “Bugsy” Siegel, represented New York. Capone, Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik and Frank “Frank Cline” Rio muscled in from Chicago. Irving “Waxey Gordon” Wexler, Harry “Nig Rosen” Stromberg, Max “Boo Boo” Hoff, Irving “Bitzy” Bitz and Charles Schwartz took a train in from Philadelphia. Morris “Moe” Dalitz and Louis “Lou Roddy” Rothkopf came in from Cleveland. The Purple Gang came in from Detroit. Santo Trafficante and Sylvestro “Silver Dollar Sam” Carolla came in too.

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Any of these men would be great additions to the Boardwalk Empire cast of rogues. We’ll keep our eyeballs peeled.

Al Capone and Nucky Johnson almost got into a fight over hotel accommodations. What a party. What a shame it won’t be featured.

I also predict Jack Diamond will show off his “Legs” this season. Legs Diamond’s partner, Charles Entratta, was shot dead in Brooklyn in February, 1931 and Legs was whacked on December 18.

Little Caesar starring Edward G. Robinson, The Public Enemy starring James Cagney and Smart Money starring Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney all came out in 1931. Expect the gangsters to assemble to watch ’em and make cracks. I predict they will love these movies and, just maybe, Martin Scorsese will direct that episode.

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