On the night of February 1, 1933, John "the Cropper" Cropsie, enforcer for Jules Flack, boss of the West Side Combine, shot and killed David Alpine, a key booze supplier for the combine who was also providing booze to the competition. The following night, Eliot Ness has Cropsie re-enact the crime in front of an eyewitness to the shooting: Belle Alpine, David Alpine's widow. After the re-enactment, Ness asks Belle if she can identify Cropsie as the man who shot her husband. She walks up to Cropsie, slaps the crap out of him, and then says she's never seen him before in her life. Ness knows she's lying but for now there's nothing he can do.
Meanwhile, Cropsie's boss, Jules Flack, is getting ready to get out of the booze business and make the switch to narcotics since Prohibition is about to be repealed. Flack needs to convert his assets into cash so that he can tie in with Lucky Luciano in New York. Cropsie, who has worked for Flack for 13 years, wants in on the business so Flack throws him a bone: he can fill in for hospitalized collector Lefty Gorman. One of his first "customers" is Farish, an unemployed chemist. Farish can't pay now but promises to pay later. It seems that he's got a new job with Pyramid Solvents Co. which has just made 50,000 gallons of denatured alcohol under Federal license for industrial use. This news gets the wheels in Cropsie's brain to start going clickety clickety click.
Later that night, Cropsie is picked up by Dave Alpine's cousin, Murray, and his buddy, Phil Olive. They take the Cropper on a one way ride but then he informs them about the presence of the 50,000 gallons of alcohol. The three of them together can make a huge killing instead of merely working for someone else. Family loyalty goes out the window with Murray and he and Phil agree to become partners with Cropsie.
A few days later, Cropsie, Murray, and Phil, along with a few hired hands arrive at the office of Pyramid Solvents ostensibly to crack open the company safe with an acetylene torch. While the safecracker is doing this, the rest of the gang takes truckload after truckload of 5 gallon cans of alcohol from the place, dumps the booze into vats in a nearby warehouse, and then returns and fills the cans with water. Cropper and company make off with 50,000 gallons of alcohol and the company doesn't even know it. They think the target was the safe which contained only a few hundred dollars.
Meanwhile, Ness has been watching Flack who's been selling off his assets. Cropsie then meets with Flack and offers to sell him the stolen alcohol for $1 million. Flack balks and then tries to Jew Cropsie down. Investigating the theft at Pyramid, the Untouchables discover that the alcohol has been stolen when Rico accidentally knocks over a stack of 5 gallon cans stacked six feet high. Some of the cans spill their contents--water instead of alcohol.
The three partners in the alcohol theft then have a falling out. Farish the chemist had earlier figured out the true nature of the theft and discovered the location of the stolen alcohol in the nearby warehouse. He goes to Murray Alpine and Phil Olive and demands $500.00 in return for keeping his mouth shut. Murray then shuts up Farish permanently with a bullet. This angers Cropsie who says that the killing was unnecessary and will put the Feds on their trail. Farewell Murray Alpine who gets rubbed out. The three partners are now just two-the Cropper and Phil Olive.
Well, almost. It seems as though the warehouse where the booze is being stored is owned by none other than Belle Alpine--widow of the man Cropsie recently killed. Flack finally agrees to pay Cropsie $175,000 for the stolen alcohol but Belle cuts herself in for a hundred grand of that. Flack backs her up. Cropsie's big killing is getting smaller and smaller by the minute.
The Cropper then decides to pull a double cross and get all the money. Without Flack backing Belle up, he can take all the money and scram. So Cropsie calls Ness and tells him the location of the alcohol and when Flack will be arriving to pick the stuff up. On Monday morning of March 6, 1933, Phil Olive takes Flack and his boys to the booze stored in Belle Alpine's warehouse. The Untouchables raid the place. In a really foolish move, Flack decides to shoot it out and gets blasted by Rico with a chopper. Ness gets Phil Olive.
The Cropper has made out like a bandit and is laughing all the way to the bank. Or so he thinks. Fate, not top notch police work, finally brings Cropsie down. Arriving at the bank to pick up the $175,000 deposited for him there by Flack, Cropsie discovers that the bank has been closed by order of the newly inaugurated president--Franklin D. Roosevelt. It's enough to turn Cropsie into a die-hard Republican. He can't get his money because of the bank holliday.
Ness then arrives on the scene and arrests Cropsie for the murder of David Alpine. It seems as though the double dealing Belle has finally regained her memory. With Flack dead she now has no choice but to do the right thing. Shortly thereafter, the surviving booze barons of the Prohibition era would break out into other areas such as narcotics, prostitution, gambling, and extortion. Except for Jules Flack and John "the Cropper" Cropsie. They never made it. Share this article with your friends