This was one of those debates when there was no wrong answer, which made it even more enjoyable.
A recent family conversation ultimately triggered a family roundtable discussion. The conversation was centered around the best gangster/mobster movies ever made, which led to the most memorable lines from some of those films.
The conversation in question actually went on for days, and is probably still in play. Our family enjoys movies and breaking them down. My son, Geoff, is probably the most knowledgeable, but daughters Sarah, Kaysi and Melissa are not far behind, so some of these debates can get pretty heated.
My personal list of favorite gangster movies remains too large for this space, so I'll work on boiling it to down to a more manageable number for a future column. Today I would like to throw out five of my favorite mobster lines for your consideration:
º "My father taught me many things ... keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," from "The Godfather Part II" (1974).
The Godfather series provided us with numerous passages that have become a part of our daily lives. For instance, my wife, Kathy, uses this line and has no idea it came from this movie. This observation was compliments of Don Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino.
º "You can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word," from "The Untouchables" (1987).
Such was the wisdom of Chicago mobster Al Capone (Robert De Niro) in a scene when he told a journalist how he gets business done.
º "Morning, gentlemen. Nice day for a murder," from "Angels With Dirty Faces" (1938).
Growing up, James Cagney was my favorite film star, especially when he was involved in one of those Roaring Twenties mobster flicks. In this film, Cagney portrayed fictional hoodlum Rocky Sullivan, one of the all-time great gangster names.
º "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli," from "The Godfather" (1972).
This line was delivered by Peter Clemenza (Richard Castellano) to Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui), who had just killed Paulie Gatto (John Martino). Gatto had conspired with a rival crime family, was caught and ordered to be killed. That kind of act was shown to be "just part of the job." "Godfather" loyalists may remember that Peter Clemenza was one of Don Vito Corleone's (Marlin Brando) "caporegimes" and oldest friends, plus the godfather of his eldest son, Sonny.
º "I always tell the truth. Even when I lie," from "Scarface" (1983).
Tony Montana (Al Pacino) delivered this and several other memorable takes in this film, most of which can't be printed in a family newspaper. Critics and moviegoers alike loved this "gangster epic that walks a thin white line between moral drama and celebratory excess." And has there ever been a better on-screen gangster than Al Pacino?
That might very well be our next debate.