New Image For Scarface
June 4, 2014 by Katie Prentiss
New image for Scarface: From Chicago producer Rich Larsen, and RBR Films comes THE CAPONE TREASURE GERALDO NEVER FOUND, a documentary film that aims to shatter the image that most Chicagoans have of legendary gangster Al Capone.
In 1986, there was a Tribune Co. broadcast of “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults” hosted by Geraldo Rivera. The special broke Nielsen records at the time by teasing that on air they would find Capone’s treasures in a mysterious vault he left behind, but when Geraldo opened the vault, there was no treasure to be found.
Larsen’s film intends to show the real treasure of Capone - not his riches - but his large and understated influence on the jazz scene in Chicago.
“As I continued to read more and more, I realized what a driving force he was in the development of Jazz music here in Chicago,” Larsen said. “Major, big time, and close friends to a lot of jazz musicians.”
Capone became a financial sponsor of many up and coming Chicago musicians. He had his people kidnap Fats Waller from the Sherman Hotel for his birthday party. He kept Fats Waller playing for three straight days, sending over hundred dollar bills quite frequently. Capone was known to throw lavish parties with live bands, and conduct the bands himself, wildly waving the baton. Capone also developed relationships with players such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Milt Hinton, and Nat King Cole, inviting them to play at his clubs and treating them as good friends. Some scholars credit Capone with legitimizing the Chicago jazz scene because he introduced up-and-coming black musicians in white clubs. You can still sit at Capone’s old booth at The Green Mill.
Larsen, who also runs caponefanclub.com, has done extensive research into the musical history of Al Capone. One day, he received a piece of sheet music in the mail from the son of a priest who befriended Capone while he was in Alcatraz. The music was a song called Madonna Mia, which was written by Capone while he served his sentence. It was a love song for his wife Mae. That song will be featured in the documentary with the help of Chicago Recording Company. Larsen will use this as another way to add complexity to the historical character of Capone that lives on in the minds of Chicagoans.
“I think people are sick and tired of seeing the same stuff over and over again, and I’ve got something new and interesting,” Larsen said.
Larsen hopes to have a TV broadcast for the documentary, which is currently in production. He is collaborating with director Ron Karpman and writer Robert McCrea. He is looking to partner with local editors, actors, post-production experts, and any interested Chicago film students.
Katie Prentiss is a journalist and documentary filmmaker in Chicago working with Kartemquin Films as the Associate Producer of Mormon Movie (Working Title). Follow Katie at @prentkat