Learn About the Impact of Al Capone on Pop Culture

Alphonse Gabriel Capone (1899-1947) is one of the most ill-famed American gangsters of the 20th century, known by the name “Scarface”. He became famous during the Prohibition era (a nationwide constitutional ban on the importation, production, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933) as a boss and co-founder of an Italian-American crime family based in Chicago, Illinois, called “Chicago Outfit”. This organized crime syndicate is part of the larger Italian-American Mafia. Al Capone ruled for seven years as a gangster, and his reign ended when he went to prison in 1931.

Impact of Al Capone on Pop Culture

Being one of the most fascinated celebrity gangsters, Al Capone has been a part of multiple books, songs, articles, films, and TV shows. Particularly from 1925 to 1929, he enjoyed the status of the most notorious mobster in the country.

Capone’s personality and character fascinated people and media channels and have also been used in fiction as a model for criminal masterminds. His facial construction, mannerisms, accent, and physical structure are used to present numerous other gangsters in movies, comics, music, and literature. Let’s learn more about the impact of Al Capone on pop culture.

1. Al Capone in Literature

Be it crime novels, mystery comics, or historical stories, Al Capone, has been a part of all of them. The American gangster had an ever-lasting impact on literature. Let’s know more about some of the literary pieces featuring Al Capone.

  • The Godfather (1969)

Al Capone is featured in a segment of the famous crime novel, The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, as an ally of New York mobster Salvatore Maranzano. He sends two low-ranked criminals at the boss’s request to kill Don Vito Corleone, arriving in New York. However, Don Corleone murders those two men and warns Capone to not interfere again, to which Capone surrenders. 

  • Back in the USSA (1997)

A fictional alternate universe version of Al Capone appears in the famous alternate history book, Back in the USSA, by Eugene Byrne and Kim Newman. He is the second leader of a communist part of the U.S., known as the United Socialist States of America (USSA). In the book, America, instead of Russia, undergoes a communist revolution in 1917 and Capone becomes the leader of the Socialist Party of America and the USSA in 1926. 

Capone has the same role as Joseph Stalin, the Soviet political leader. He rules as a tyrant with a cult of personality and also kills his party rivals. Like Stalin, Capone also dies in office and gets replaced by another American reformist, Barry Goldwater.

  • Alternate Tyrants (1997)

Alternate Tyrants is an alternate history anthology consisting of 20 short stories. Capone is featured in one of those stories titled Boss. In it, the fictional alternate universe version of Capone decides to start a political career after seeing a chance astronomical event. He eventually gets elected President of the U.S. and starts a mob-like presidency that lasts for decades. 

Some other books featuring the renowned mobster are as follows.

  • A comic book by Hergé, Tintin in America (1931)
  • Science fiction by Peter F. Hamilton, Night’s Dawn Trilogy (1996-1999)
  • A book by Capone’s grandniece, Deirdre Marie Capon, titled Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story from Inside His Family (2010)

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2. Al Capone in Film and Television

Capone also appeared on the screen in multiple TV shows and films. The list is long and star-studded, but we’ll look at some of the mobster’s best appearances.

Al Capone is a biographical crime drama film, written by Malvin Wald and directed by Richard Wilson, starring Rod Steiger as Al Capone. The film is popular for its real and deglamorized portrayal of Al Capone. Additionally, Capone’s sister sued the filmmakers for not seeking her permission to produce the film but lost the trial. 

  • The Untouchables (1987)

The Untouchables is an American movie starring Robert De Niro as Al Capone. It is about the prohibition era and a federal agent, Eliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner) who is assigned to arrest Capone and expose his illicit liquor business. In 1989, a video game by the name of “The Untouchables” was also released by Ocean Software, based on the film. 

  • Dillinger and Capone (1995)

Dillinger and Capone is an American action film starring Martin Sheen as John Dillinger (another American gangster) and F. Murray Abraham as Al Capone. The film shows an imaginary world in which Dillinger was not killed at the Biograph Theatre and continues to work with Al Capone. The film was successful and got screened at MystFest in Italy and the Cannes Film Festival in 1995. 

  • Scarface (1932)

Scarface is another gangster film based on the 1929 novel, Scarface, by Armitage Trail, which was inspired by Al Capone. It is about an Italian immigrant gangster, Antonio Tony Camonte, shooting his way to the top of the mobs to protect his sister from criminal life.

Other screen appearances by Al Capone are as follows.

  • Due mafiosi contro Al Capone (1966)
  • The Revenge of Al Capone (1989)
  • The Lost Capone (1990)
  • The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967)
  • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)
  • Capone (2020)
  • Boardwalk Empire (2010–2014)

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3. Al Capone in the World of Music

The renowned mobster also made it to the world of music and is featured in many songs and music videos of artists from all over the world. Let’s take a peek at some of them.

  • In 1967, Jamaican ska and rocksteady musician, Prince Buster, witnessed his first hit in the UK with his single “Al Capone ”. The famous lines of the song are, “Al Capone guns don’t argue, don’t call me Scarface, my name is Capone, C, A, P, O, N, E, Capone“. 
  • In 1974, the British pop group, Paper Lace, mentioned Al Capone in its song titled, “The Night Chicago Died”. The lyrics mentioning him are “a man named Al Capone, tried to make that town his own, and he called his gang to war, with the forces of the law”.
  • In 1974, the British rock band, Queen, referenced Capone in the opening of their song titled “Stone Cold Crazy”, and the lyrics are, “I was dreaming I was Al Capone, There’s a rumor going round, Gotta clear outta town, I’m smelling like a dry-fish bone”. It became a hit and was covered by the American rock band, Metallica.
  • Al Capone is featured heavily in a song by The Alchemist Feat. Keak da Sneak & Prodigy, titled  “Al Capone Zone”.
  • In 1979, a UK ska revival group, The Specials, modified Prince Buster’s track into their first single, “Gangsters”, featuring Capone in the line, “Don’t call me Scarface”.
  • In 1987, the legend Michael Jackson also recorded a song titled “Al Capone” but wasn’t added to the album titled Bad, and Jackson reworked it into his other famous song, Smooth Criminal. However, “Al Capone” got released in 2012 as a celebration of the album’s 25th  anniversary, but Jackson wasn’t alive then and didn’t witness the release. 

4. Al Capone in Sports

Al Capone’s character was also fascinated by a lot of sportsmen and their fans across the world.

  • Fans of a Serbian football club, Partizan, use Al Capone’s character as a mascot for one of their subgroups called Alcatraz, the prison in which Capone served his sentence. Additionally, a graffiti representation of Capone also exists in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade. 
  • A Ukrainian mixed martial artist, Nikita Krylov, competes in the light heavyweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He was named “Al Capone” and had a Prohibition-era gangster getup in his Sherdog Fight Finder photo. Coincidentally, he also had his first UFC win in Chicago, where Capone spent a lot of time. 

5. Al Capone Merchandise

Capone truly had and still has an impact on pop culture, and it’s clear from different merchandise originating from his name. Capone’s gangster archetype is used by various brands to produce characterized products. These include Al-Capone t-shirts,  posters, stickers, home decor, crockery, etc. 

Al Capone – the Most Fantasized Gangster 

Al Capone is a gangster who became famous for all the bad reasons, including prostitution, gambling, bootlegging, narcotics trafficking, bribery, and murder. The fact that he was born to poor immigrant parents and rose to become one of the deadliest mobsters in American history, fascinated many people. From producers and directors to writers and singers, everyone managed to incorporate Capone in their artworks, which makes his personality/character stand out among other gangsters of his time. He has been an important part of pop culture and will forever remain so.