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For other uses, see Bugsy (disambiguation).
Bugsy poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Barry Levinson
Produced by Barry Levinson
Warren Beatty
Mark Johnson
Screenplay by James Toback
Based on We Only Kill Each Other 
by Dean Jennings
Starring Warren Beatty
and Annette Bening
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Allen Daviau
Edited by Stu Linder
Christopher Holmes (Extended)
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • December 13, 1991 (1991-12-13)
Running time 137 minutes[1] (Theatrical cut)
150 minutes (Extended cut)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[2]
Box office $49,114,016[3]

Bugsy is a 1991 American crime-drama film directed by Barry Levinson which tells the story of mobster Bugsy Siegel. It stars Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel, Ben Kingsley, Elliott Gould, Joe Mantegna, Bebe Neuwirth, and Bill Graham.

The screenplay was written by James Toback from research material by Dean Jennings' 1967 book We Only Kill Each Other.

There is a Director's Cut released on DVD, containing an additional 13 minutes not seen in the theatrical version.


Gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who works for the New York mob, goes to California and instantly falls in love with Virginia Hill, a tough-talking Hollywood starlet. The two meet for the first time when Bugsy visits his friend, actor George Raft, on a film set. He buys a house in Beverly Hills from opera singer Lawrence Tibbett, planning to stay while his wife and two daughters remain in Scarsdale.

As a representative for his associates Meyer Lansky and Charlie Luciano, Bugsy is in California to wrestle control of betting parlors away from Los Angeles gangster Jack Dragna. Mickey Cohen robs Dragna's operation one day. He is confronted by Bugsy, who decides he should be in business with the guy who committed the robbery, not the guy who got robbed. Cohen is put in charge of the betting casinos; Dragna is forced to admit to a raging Bugsy that he stole $14,000, and is told he now answers to Cohen.

After arguments about Virginia's sexual trysts with drummer Gene Krupa and a variety of bullfighters and Siegel's reluctance to get a divorce, Virginia makes a romantic move on Bugsy. On a trip to Nevada to visit a gambling joint, Bugsy comes up with the idea for a hotel and casino in the desert. He obtains $1 million in funding from lifelong friend Lansky and other New York mobsters, reminding them that in Nevada, gambling is legal.

Virginia wants no part of it until Bugsy puts her in charge of accounting and begins construction of the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, but the budget soon soars to $6 million due to his extravagance. Bugsy tries everything to ensure it gets completed, even selling his share of the casino.

Bugsy is visited in Los Angeles by former associate Harry Greenberg. Harry has betrayed his old associates to save himself. Harry has also run out of money, from a combination of his gambling habits and being extorted by prosecutors who want his testimony. Though he is Harry's trusted friend, Bugsy has no choice but to kill Harry. He is arrested for Harry's murder, but the only witness is a cab driver who dropped off Harry in front of Bugsy's house. The driver is paid off to leave town, escorted to the train station by Cohen.

Lansky is waiting for Bugsy outside the jail. He gives a satchel of money to his friend. "Charlie doesn't have to know about it," he tells Bugsy, but warns, "I can't protect you anymore." The Flamingo's opening night is a total failure, and $2 million of the budget is unaccounted for, whereupon Bugsy discovers that Virginia stole the money. He tells her to "keep it and save it for a rainy day." He then tells Lansky never to sell his share of the casino because he will live to thank him someday.

Later that night, Bugsy is killed in his home by several gunshots. Virginia is told the news in Las Vegas and knows her own days could be numbered. An epilogue states that Virginia returned the missing money a week later and committed suicide at some point after that. It also states that by 1991, the $6 million invested in Bugsy's dream of Las Vegas had generated revenues of over $100 billion.



Portions of the film were shot in the Coachella Valley, California.[5]


Critical Response[edit]

Bugsy received very positive reviews from critics. It currently has an 88% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews.


Bugsy won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Dennis Gassner, Nancy Haigh) and Best Costume Design.[6] It was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Warren Beatty), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Harvey Keitel and Ben Kingsley), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Music, Original Score, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.[7] It received eight (8) Golden Globe nominations and won for Best Picture – Drama. The Silence of the Lambs won many categories where Bugsy received nominations in 1991. The film was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival.[8]


The film shows Siegel closing the Flamingo on Christmas of 1946 for improvements and being murdered that night alone at Virginia Hill's house. While Siegel did close the hotel that day, his murder took place six months later in June 1947. Furthermore, he was with associate Allen Smiley.

The film also completely ignores the role of William Wilkerson ('The Man Who Built Las Vegas') in the building of the Flamingo; Siegel is shown gazing over an empty desert and deciding to build the Flamingo, but the hotel was conceived and constructed wholly by Wilkerson — Siegel only became involved as it neared completion (Wilkerson owned 48% of the Flamingo until he sold out much later).


External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Dances with Wolves
Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama
Succeeded by
Scent of a Woman