Billy Bathgate (film)

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Billy Bathgate
Billy Bathgate.jpg
Original Theatrical Poster
Directed by Robert Benton
Screenplay by Tom Stoppard
Based on Billy Bathgate 
by E.L. Doctorow
Starring Dustin Hoffman
Nicole Kidman
Steven Hill
Loren Dean
Bruce Willis
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Néstor Almendros
Edited by Alan Heim
David Ray
Robert M. Reitano
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
November 1, 1991
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $48 million
Box office $15,565,363

Billy Bathgate is a 1991 American gangster film directed by Robert Benton, starring Loren Dean as the titular character and Dustin Hoffman as real-life gangster Dutch Schultz. The film co-stars Nicole Kidman, Steven Hill, Steve Buscemi, and Bruce Willis. Although Billy is a fictional character, most of the other characters in the film represent real people from 1930s New York. The screenplay was adapted by British writer Tom Stoppard from E.L. Doctorow's novel of the same name. However, Doctorow distanced himself from the film for the extensive deviations from the book.

Plot summary[edit]

Billy Behan is a poor 15-year-old kid in the 1930s Bronx. After the wealthy gangster Dutch Schultz takes him under his wing, Billy adopts the name of a neighborhood street and begins to work for the organization.

Billy is taught the ropes by Dutch's business associate Otto Berman and given menial chores. Dutch, meanwhile, is busy trying to beat a rap in court and also determine whether his partner Bo Weinberg has been betraying him. Even though he likes Bo, it is Billy who eventually helps prove that Bo lied about his whereabouts.

Dutch and his thugs take Bo captive and prepare to send him to a watery grave. Dutch proceeds to claim the attentions of beautiful Drew Preston, a married young socialite Bo has been seeing who clearly has a weakness for powerful, dangerous men.

Facing a court case in an upstate New York rural community, Dutch brings along his "protege" Billy and the sophisticated lady Drew to put up a front of respectability, ingratiating himself to the locals with good manners and money. While his boss Dutch stands trial, Billy's job is to keep an eye on Drew, a free spirit who likes having Billy's eye on her as she bathes nude in the woods.

Billy falls for her and admires his new boss, at least until witnessing first-hand exactly how ruthless a criminal Dutch really is. Unable to intervene on Bo's behalf, the best Billy can do in the end is try to save Drew's life and his own. Realizing Drew is about to be killed, Billy calls Drew's husband who comes and takes her home before Dutch's men can do anything about it.

Having beat the rap in court, Thomas Dewey indicts Dutch again on federal tax evasion charges. Dutch wants Dewey killed but gets no support from the mafia "commission", so Billy is given a wad of cash to try to pay another gangster for assistance, the way he used to, but now the bribe was rejected. As Billy is returning to the restaurant Dutch uses as a hideout to deliver the bad news, he lets it slip that he saw Drew talking to Lucky Luciano earlier and angrily slugs Billy for not revealing it earlier. Dutch's accountant Otto later fires Billy, arguing that "Dutch is charged with the hiring, and firing is my job". It's obvious that Otto likes Billy but wants to keep him out of the imminent attack from Lucky Luciano's mobsters on Dutch's gang. Otto let Billy keep the recently refused nice wad of cash as a severance payment and tells him to get lost.

As Billy is leaving, a group of mobsters take him captive, take his generous severance pay, then enter the building and shoot everyone. During the shootout, Dutch is in the bathroom and suddenly comes out shooting to try to surprise the mobsters, but they kill him first (supposedly a very accurate portrayal of Dutch's actual end). Billy is brought before Lucky (who hired the hit). Lucky likes Billy, yet he knows he has a lot of information that could get many people in real trouble. Lucky admits he's not sure what to do with Billy, so he merely mentions that he knows Billy's family but would rather not harm anyone, as long as Billy keeps quiet. He returns Billy's money and lets him leave the mobster life for good.



The film was shot in Hamlet, North Carolina and Saratoga Springs, New York.



The movie received mixed reviews.[1][2][3] It has a "Rotten" rating of 47% on Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

Box office[edit]

The movie debuted at No. 4[5] and underperformed against its $48 million budget.

Awards and nominations[edit]

The film received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture (Nicole Kidman).


External links[edit]