Gustave Reininger

Gustave Reininger (1950-2012) was an American scriptwriter who was the co-creator of the NBC TV drama, Crime Story. It was executive produced by Michael Mann. Crime Story was based on the Mafia in Chicago,"The Outfit," and how it got off the streets and into the boardrooms of Las Vegas casinos. The show premiered with a two hour pilot - movie, which had been exhibited theatrically, and was watched by over 30 million viewers. Crime Story then was scheduled to follow Miami Vice on Friday nights, and continued to attract a record number of viewers.

Reininger was a former Wall Street international investment banker who had come to Mann's attention based on a screenplay he had written about arson investigators, and a French language thriller with Dennis Hopper that he had co-written and produced. Mann's agent somehow reached Reininger while he was traveling incognito in the Mayan Highlands of Guatemala, with a liberation theology catholic Bishop.

Reininger researched Crime Story by winning the confidence of Detective William Hanhardt who put him in touch with undercover officers in the Chicago Police Department. They sent him on meetings with organized crime figures. Reininger risked wearing a body microphone and recorder. After visiting the crime scene of a gruesome gangland slaying of bookmaker Al Brown, Reininger backed off his Mafia interviews.

In a June 1986 press conference, Mann said that the first season of the show would go from Chicago in 1963 to Las Vegas in 1980. He said, "It's a serial in the sense that we have continuing stories, and in that sense the show is one big novel." Mann and Reininger's inspiration for the 1963-1980 arc came from their mutual admiration of the 15½ hour television film, Berlin Alexanderplatz, by German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder'. Mann said, "The pace of our story is like the speed of light compared to that, but that's the idea - if you put it all together at the end you've got one hell of a 22-hour movie."

NBC chief Brando Tartikoff allowed the series to move to Las Vegas for the last quarter of the 22 episodes. The last episode is legendary as Ray Luca and Pauli Taglia are on the lam, hiding from Det. Mike Torello, in a Nevada desert shack, which is located in an Atomic Bomb test area. An A-Bomb explodes, presumably obliterating Luca and Taglia, in one of the most memorable cliffhangers in television history, leaving viewers wondering whether they were dead or alive, just as the show's creator were wondering if the series itself was dead or alive with NBC. Viewers were surprised to learn in the fall the series had returned to be permanently based in Las Vegas.

The principal characters are based on the real life head of the Chicago anti-mob unit, Det. William Hanhardt and on Chicago mobster Anthony Spilotro.

Reininger was subpoenaed to Spilotro's trial in Federal Court in Las Vegas as an unwilling material witness for Spilotro, who was alleging that the only way Reininger could have written scripts and the series "Bible" was by having access to Federal wiretaps of Spilotro. Reininger in turn discovered that his New York phones were being monitored. Reininger was served Spilotro's subpoena, and given a deadly warning, in a New York hotel bar by now infamous Hollywood private detective Anthony Pellicano, who in 2006 was imprisoned for illegal wiretapping, blackmail and harassment while representing notable entertainment figures.

Spilotro returned home to Chicago and was brutally murdered along with his brother Michael, and buried in an Indiana cornfield. The case was dismissed, and Reininger, who had sent all his Crime Story work materials to a former banking associate in Zurich, Switzerland, did not have to testify.

Subsequently, Martin Scorsese directed and produced his movie Casino loosely basing it on elements of Crime Story, which was recognized at the Casino premiere as an inspiration. Crime Story was the prototypes for today's arc-driven television series, such as 24 and The Sopranos that have continuing story lines over multiple episodes.

Read more about Gustave Reininger:  Recent Work, Background

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