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Film / Bugsy

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"I only talk this much before I kill someone."
Bugsy Siegel

Bugsy is a 1991 film directed by Barry Levinson, which starred Warren Beatty as real-life Gangster Bugsy Siegel and Annette Bening as his mistress, Virginia Hill.

It tells the story of how he and his associates built the Las Vegas Strip. It starts with Bugsy visiting L.A. and being entranced by starlet Virginia Hill. After visiting a humble gambling joint in Las Vegas, he decides to create the Flamingo Casino Hotel. Because of Siegel's extravagance, and Virginia embezzling some of the funds, the budget for the hotel swells to $6 million, riling the mob.

This film features examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Bugsy Siegel is presented as a mostly congenial fellow who is superficially nice to people around him... until he's not.
    • Meyer Lansky is also shown to be like this, even more so taking into account that the character never loses his cool demeanor unlike Siegel.
  • Artistic License – History: Needless to say, the film plays pretty fast and loose with the actual history of Siegel and Las Vegas.
    • Las Vegas wasn't empty desert before Siegel arrived like depicted in the film. There were already several casinos and resorts, including the beginning of what would become the Strip.
    • The film completely omits Billy Wilkerson, the originator of The Flamingo. A Los Angeles real estate mogul, restaurant owner and compulsive gambler, he was halfway finished with construction of the hotel before running out of money, at which point Siegel and his "partners" bought a majority stake in the project investing $1 million (which ballooned to $6 million) and effectively took over.
    • In the film, Siegel is killed the same night the Flamingo opens. In real life, this didn't happen until nearly six months later.
    • Siegel's assassination occurred in Virginia Hill's house, and she was likely the one who ratted him out to the mob in first place, unlike in the film where she has no involvement in his death and her Stunned Silence reaction of his death is Played for Drama.
    • The real Siegel killed Harry Greenberg and was subsequently aquitted in 1939. The film depicts this as happening years later, during World War II. The murder itself is also inaccurate. In real life, Siegel was accompanied by Whitey Krakower and Frankie Carbo, and was likely only the getaway driver. He was also killed in his house's driveway, not in a trainyard.
    • The Hoover Dam had already been completed for five years before the El Cortez was opened.
    • There's no evidence Siegel ever intended to assassinate Mussolini. He was, however rumored to have considered killing Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbles, whom he'd been acquainted with during the 1930s while involved in arms smuggling.
    • It's generally believed that Virginia Hill didn't actually embezzle $2 million, but that Siegel used her name to cover up his own embezzlement.
    • The ending implies Virginia committed suicide shortly after Siegel's death. She did kill herself but it was in 1966, almost 20 years later.
  • Berserk Button: Do not, under any circumstances, call him "Bugsy".
  • The Casino: The Flamingo Hotel.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Barry Levinson plays the casting director who tries to order Bugsy off the set of the movie George Raft is shooting, and writer James Toback plays Gus Greenbaum.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Per the real-life man, Bugsy never liked his nickname.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Bugsy gets one of these when he gets the idea for the Flamingo Hotel and building it in Vegas.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Bugsy might be a gangster and a murderer, but he's still fervently against Mussolini and Hitler.
  • Eye Scream: One of the shots that kills Bugsy exits out his eye.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Bugsy is definitely someone you don't want to cross; this was the basis for the nickname Bugsy, he got bugged out by many things. Calling him that, of course, made him more angry.
    • Mickey Cohen is a bit of a hothead himself.
  • Kosher Nostra: Bugsy Siegel and his associates are Jewish gangsters.
  • Pretty in Mink: Virginia wears a huge white fox wrap for a date.
  • Protagonist Title: Bugsy is about Bugsy Siegel.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Bugsy gets off for killing Harry Greenberg by bribing the only witness, a Taxi Driver.
  • Serious Business: One of Bugsy's many girlfriends has access to Mussolini, and Bugsy wants to use this access to plot to assassinate him. Meyer, of course, thinks he's crazy, and warns him not to talk about this to anyone else.
  • Shout-Out: The movie includes a sequence of George Raft shooting Manpower, a real movie he did with Edward G. Robinson and Marlene Dietrich.
  • Third-Person Person:
    Virginia: Now what exactly does Mr. Esta (Bugsy's wife's name) want with Miss Virginia?
    Bugsy: Right now, Mr. Esta is having a hard time figuring out what he doesn't want from Miss Virginia.
  • Wicked Cultured: Before buying the house of famous opera singer Lawrence Tibbett's from him, Bugsy tells Tibbett about how much he and his wife loved hearing him sing.