6 Movie Speakeasies That Evaded The Law

Wednesday, March 20 by Lee Keeler


Knock three times and say the secret password, it’s time to sneak past the prohies and get a whiff of something stiff! From Bogart to Big Boy Caprice, we gots the goods on these speakeasies that evaded the law!


The Back Room – “Goodfellas” (1990)


“It was a glorious time”. Young Henry Hill meets Jimmy the Gent and all gangsters in the room have nary a care in the world. Despite their pull in nightclubs and bars around town, this is a place where wiseguys could let their hair down, play some roulette and lie to their wives about their winnings. This environment is an important visual component to the upswing of the soft, playful innocence that comes crashing down in raw, bloody tumbles in the second half of the film.



Mars’ Casino – “The Big Sleep” (1946)

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Sometimes it’s best just to drink at home…especially when that home has a bar and a casino with Lauren Bacall slinking around in it. Low-key gangster Eddie Mars runs a tight little operation in his house on the hill until Phillip Marlowe shows up and starts asking the wrong questions. The valets tend to get a bit aggressive if you hit the jackpot, FYI.



Babette’s Supper Club – “Boardwalk Empire” Pilot (2010)

When HBO makes TV, they don’t mess around. The budget for this 73-minute, Scorsese-directed pilot alone was $18 million dollars. Throughout the series, and with this “film” in particular, Babette’s serves as a safe haven for the gangsters and politicians who wanna keep their wolf whistles wet. Things usually end with a bang at this speakeasy, for better or worse.



Club Ritz – “Dick Tracy”  (1990)


Just so you know, “Goodfellas” and “Dick Tracy” were released in the same year, opening a wormhole from which Paul Sorvino would never escape. Sorvino, in a ton of makeup, plays doomed club owner Lips Manlis, a guy who has to hand over his girl and his nightclub to Al Pacino in a ton of makeup. Then Madonna, also in a ton of makeup, dances around while other actors, mostly unrecognizable because of their tons of makeup, party until they all get busted in a raid by Warren Beatty. I mean, I’d say Warren Beatty came out on top…he had only a moderate amount of makeup on.


The Cotton Club – “Jazz” (2001)

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Ken Burn’s documentary spins the majestic yarn of this Lenox Avenue nightclub, from its establishment by former heavyweight champ Jack Johnson to its role in the Harlem Renaissance. It its heyday, the club boomed with titans of jazz, counting swing luminaries like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington amongst the alumni. These days Ken Burns stands in front of it and slowly zooms in with his iPhone while a well-respected black actor narrates over his shoulder.


Jay Gatsby’s Mansion – “The Great Gatsby”  (1990)


Yes, there will be another Gatsby in 2013. It will feature saucy flapper girls tossing their bob haircuts to and fro while Leo DiCaprio tosses dreamy looks around. Meanwhile, the 1974 version with Redford and Waterston will be quietly, subconsciously decreed “the dude version” by a nation of men who’d rather choke on an old sandwich then sit through a minute of a Baz Luhrmann film.

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