Gangs of New York (2002)
FAQAdd to FAQ
Gangs of New York is very loosely based on The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld (1928), a true crime story written by American writer Herbert Asbury (1889-1963). It was adapted for the film by American screenwriters Jay Cocks, Stephen Zaillian, and Kenneth Lonergan and was nominated for "Best Original Screenplay" rather than as a screenplay adapted from another work (which gives an idea of what is meant by "very loosely"). One of the book's chapters is devoted to the story of the real Bill the Butcher. Edit
William Poole (1821-1855), also known as Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis), was a member of the lower Manhattan's Five Points District anti-Irish gang known as the Bowery Boys. Scorsese and his writers obviously took a small liberty with his name, since Bill's surname in the film is "Cutting." Edit
William Magear "Boss" Tweed was a real person, a Democrat politician and businessman who wielded tremendous power via the Tammany Hall administration and was at one point the third largest landowner in New York City. Tweed began to lose power after the Orange riots of 1870 and '71, a series of clashes between Irish Protestants and Catholics which left over 70 dead, Tweed outraged New York City society and the press by attempting to ban the parades rather than protect them from attack (the Orange marchers eventually solved the problem by combining their celebrations with those of Independence Day). Tweed had already been suspected of corruption and widely lampooned in newspapers as a result (he complained that satirical cartoons were the most damaging as most of his supporters couldn't read) and after the violence the campaign against him gathered momentum. He was eventually convicted of embezzling at least $25 million and possibly as much as $200 million from the city, a staggering amount in the nineteenth century and would die in prison from pneumonia in 1878. Edit
A variety of factors played a role. Irish immigrants were resented by the native-born Americans who feared they would compete for jobs and housing, especially as they were arriving in huge numbers and spoke English unlike many other newcomers. In turn the Irish immigrants resented Black people escaping to New York City from the Confederacy for much the same reasons. They also resented the prospect of being conscripted to fight in the Civil War which was not of their creation, especially as the rich could buy their way out of service by contributing money to the war effort (the so-called "$300 men"). There was also the religious motivation. Prior to the middle of the 19th century most Irish immigrants were Protestants but now Irish Catholics were arriving in vast numbers bringing Ireland's sectarian conflict with them. The riots started on the 13th of July, the day after Irish Protestant's traditional commemoration of the Battle of the Boyne during the Glorious Revolution of 1688 (the toppling of Catholic King James II by Protestant King William III resulting in a constitutional monarchy, Bill of Rights and Act of Toleration) which many Irish Catholics loathed. As a result in addition to lynching Black people and attacking the rich, the rioters burnt Protestant churches in the city. There was also a class aspect to the riot, the influx of so many impoverished immigrants resulting in a huge wealth divide in New York City, simultaneously one of the richest cities in the world but with some of the worst poverty and slums anywhere. Lastly there was simple opportunism, the mob taking advantage of the fact that many of the troops who would normally be on hand to back up the police in New York City were away at the Battle of Gettysburg whilst the police themselves were understrength as many had left to join the armed forces. Edit
Almost at the epicenter of the Five Points are twin, 25-story middle-class apartment buildings designed by I.M. Pei (built in 1965 to lure the middle class back to the city.) They're on Worth St. Opposite them is Columbus Park and the terminus of Mulberry Street. The rest of the area consists of the Tombs (an old and famous jail where many noirs were filmed) and the courthouses you see featured in every NY-based courtroom drama. Ever since Little Water St was turned into a parking lot, back around 1966 or so, it lost its five points. Mulberry is the only street with the same name. Worth and Baxter were both point streets, Baxter used to be Orange and it ran on through the intersection there. Worth ended at the intersection, and was called Anthony. Park Row used to take a slightly different path, running through that intersection and connecting Mulberry and Orange (now Baxter). Columbus Park is one of the oldest in Manhattan, dating from the 1890s, and was created largely at the instigation of noted journalist and photographer Jacob Riis. It used to be all buildings, and Riis was appalled at the fact that slum children had no safe place to play; the majority even suffered from rickets because of poor nutrition and little access to sunlight. Thanks to Riis, Columbus Park became a green oasis for poor immigrants, just as it is today, only instead of Irish or Italian immigrants, you're most likely to see Chinese immigrants playing mahjong or doing Tai Chi. Take a virtual tour of Five Points here. Edit
The first disc of the 2-disc edition of the film has a bonus feature that defines all the slang used in the film. Some of them include:
• "Got any timber?" (got a light?)
• "Bene" (alright) - it's from the Italian word meaning "good".
• "Crushers" (policemen)
• "Dust-up" (fight)
• "Rowdy-dow" (fight and as I learned mostly coined for political brawls)
• "Lay" (the thief's enterprise, often used to express any undertaking)
• "Wooden-coat" (coffin)
• "Dead-rabbit" (a brawler)
• "Sand" (courage)
• "Bingo-boy" (a drunk)
• "Mort" (a woman)
• "Frenchified-" (have a venereal disease)
• "Fishhook" (to rip an opponent's cheek open with 2 fingers)
• "Fidlam Ben(s)" (person or persons of low reputation)
• "Waistcoat" (pronounced "westcot", a men's vest) Edit
Here follows a list of the songs in the movie in the order in which they are heard.
"Brooklyn Heights Pt. 1" by Howard Shore: Played several times through out the movie as a main theme. First heard then Priest prepares for battle.
"Shimmy She Wobble" by Drum Band, Othar Turner & The Rising Star Fife: Played when the Dead Rabbits prepare for battle.
"Signal to Nose" by Peter Gabriel: The Battle Scene.
"Lament For The Dead Of The North" by Davy Spillane: Monk get's his money.
"Dark Moon, High Tide" by Afro Celt Sound System: Heard then Amsterdam is introduced to the life at Five Points. Also heard then Happy Jack is starting to look for Amsterdam and the irish build their church.
"New York Girls" by Finbar Furey: Sung in the bar.
"Morrison's Jig / Liberty" by Mariano De Simone: Amsterdam fights McGloin.
"Paddy's Lamentation" by Linda Thompson: Heard when the Irish men are conscripted into the Union army having just arrived in America.
"Beijing Opera Suite" by Anxi Jiang & Da-Can Chen: Heard during Bill's party.
"Garryowen" by heard just after Bill's knife-throwing act with Jenny Deane ends.
"Dionysus" by Jocelyn Pook: Amsterdam recovers.
"Durgen Chugaa" by Shu-De: Played outside Satan's Circus when Johnny goes to join the Natives.
"The Murderer's Home" by Jimpson and Group: Heard right after Amsterdam mercy kills Johnny and heard when McGloin prays in the church.
"Vows" by Jeff Johnson and Brian Dunning: Played then the Union Soldiers fire at the rioters.
"Brooklyn Heights Pt. 3" by Howard Shore: Heard in the final scene as the dead are taken care of and Amsterdam has his ending speech.
"The Hands That Built America" by U2 (a longer version than on the soundtrack CD with a much longer intro): Starts to play as we see New York turn into the city as we know it today and then plays over the closing credits. Edit