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From the Pleiad, the Albion College Newspaper

Last month Al Capone was caught sitting in the balcony of the Bohm Theatre, at a booth in Cascarelli's and in a car on Elizabeth Street.

Capone, was caught not by the police, but by cameras, as hoodlum characters shot not guns, but a film, in Albion on Oct. 26 and 27.

"Turn Left on Hastings Street" is an independent film about Detroit's infamous Purple Gang, which was criminally acclaimed for safe robberies, the conspiracy to murder Senator Hooper, (who is buried in Albion's Riverside cemetery) and the distribution of bootleg liquor during Prohibition, among other allegations.

A mid-point between Detroit and Chicago, Albion was an ideal place for gangster dealings. According to Albion historian Frank Passic, the Fleisher brothers - Louis, Sam and Harry - who were highly involved in the gang, later took residence in Albion. With Sam "Stone" Bernstein, they operated a business called Riverside Iron and Metal Company (where Thompson's Brakes and the Leisure Hour Club stand in the Marketplace today) as a front for their criminal activity. The Purples frequented the Streetcar Tavern on the "west end " of town for homemade liquor and the Parker Inn on Michigan Avenue (now Burnham Brook Senior Center), which lodged gangsters traveling between Chicago and Detroit.

"Over the course of studying Albion history, I've come across particular persons in Albion who had some ëinside information,' or personal recollections of the Purple Gang," Passic said. "Some know about things they feel they don't dare talk about - even 60 years later. An aura of mystery, intrigue and folklore about the Purple Gang in Albion has developed over the years."

Early in October, filmmaker Cliff Lance acknowledged this aura when he signed the AlbionMich.com guest book, introducing his "Turn Left on Hastings Street," crediting Passic's articles and expressing interest in interviewing him for a documentary DVD to accompany the feature.
However, after talking with Passic and coming to town, Lance decided to not only feature 45 minutes to an hour's worth of Albion in the documentary but to give it five to six minutes of fame in the actual film as well.
"The Albion connection is quite extensive, and the Bohm theatre, the red brick street, and the historic homes make the locale quite fitting, " Lance said.

To assist with the filming, Public Safety blocked-off Superior Street, Richard Porter of Albion lent the use of his vintage 1931 Dodge, Albion Community Theatre members dressed in 1930's era clothing acted as extras, and Young's Menswear supplied the fedoras.

On Saturday a scene was shot at the Bohm in which a fight breaks out in front of the theatre. According to Passic, late Albion resident Helen Sharp, who was a ticket-taker at the Bohm, recalled that the Purples would frequent the theatre on Sunday nights, not to watch a movie but to conduct business. They would come with a woman called "Flapper Susie" and a small Italian lookout man named Joe.

In Lance's re-creation of this scene, Lynn Hoaglin, who happened to be eating at Piccadilly's was summoned to play Sharp, the ticket-taker, and Albion first-year Josh Eagen also had a place in the scenes. Rafael Salcedo, an exchange student from Mexico who is staying with the Miller family of Albion was even given a line: "Mrs. Sharp, Mr. Bohm would like to see you."
"I was very pleased with the professionalism of all of the actors," Lance said.

Other clips include Al Capone, played by Alex Safi, ascending the steps of the Parker Inn, a couple making-out in the vintage car, and Al Capone traveling in the car, driven by its owner Richard Porter, along Elizabeth Street. After eating lunch at Cascarelli's on Saturday, Lance also decided to shoot another fight scene in the restaurant, which has been at its Superior Street location since 1908.
"We are trying to make the film as accurate as possible yet still interesting and entertaining," Lance said.
Although "Turn Left on Hastings Street" is an independent film, Canduit Productions of Los Angeles will distribute it nationally Dec. 20. The Bohm Theatre plans to have its own gala premiere, which the Albion Chamber of Commerce is working on promoting.

"This could be good publicity for Albion, which is something we need right now," said Passic. "It really opens up possibilities for the town as a tourist site."


For more information on the Purple Gang, see

www.albionmich.com/purplegang/index.htm


Photos thanks to AVSO, Albion Volunteer Service Organization

 

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This page last updated 11/5/02.

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