Danny Greene is portrayed in Kill the Irishman, a movie based upon the book To Kill the Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia, as an unusual combination of brains and brawn who has a penchant for reading serious but unidentified books, and the rudiments of a social conscience. He started his ascendency to the upper echelons of union politics and organized crime (the two walked hand-in-hand in Cleveland in the 1970s) when he stood up to some mobbed-up union bosses under whose oversight inhumane working conditions regularly caused his fellow stevedores to suffer heat prostration.
By all accounts, the book is rife with grammatical and organizational errors: I recommend the movie on account of its coherent storyline, fast-paced action, and the bonus material on the DVD, which consists of interviews with people (including his wife, two daughters, and an old classmate who became a nun, who had happened to be in church during a Holy Saturday service playing the guitar when one of the car bombs depicted in the movie went off) who knew the late Daniel Greene at various points in his life. They reveal that while the basic storyline of the feature film is true, some liberties have been taken with certain details of Greene’s biography (e.g., how and when he met his wife, the fact that their eventual separation seems to have been a mutual decision). His time in the service and work for the railroad seems to have been left out of the movie entirely.
Danny Greene is portrayed as a bad Catholic with a good heart. Though he heavily identifies with his Irish roots (people who knew him tell in the special feature of his home and office having been decorated in green, and the Irish flag flying on the flagpole), he fails to do so nearly as eagerly with the Catholic heritage, though he has ready access to a Catholic church with an Irish orientation and/or congregation. In addition to other overt villainies, Danny Greene is also depicted as a Bad Catholic. Though he seems to have grown up Catholic, he not only engages in fisticuffs, pre-marital sex, and more, in adult life, but he rarely, if ever, attends Mass. While he doesn’t wear his lapsed-Catholic status on his sleeve, it is hinted at when his wife, who regularly takes the children to Mass, tells him upon her return from church that Fr. Killian would like for him to actually come to services, “at least once this century”.
While this hardly qualifies as a letter of recommendation, it is a refreshing change from the hypocrisy embodied in any number of nominally-Catholic ne’er-do-wells on stage, screen, and in real life, who engage in all manner of conduct that neither the Church nor the law would approve of, but never miss Mass.
Greene has nevertheless absorbed the Catholic social ethic in which many cultural Catholics are political liberals but social conservatives. At a cookout he hosts upon moving to a new suburban neighborhood, Greene talks with the other men with whom he associates, about politics, economics, cholesterol, and Vietnam. He opines that the US has no business “sticking its nose in Vietnam”, which could only prove to be an economic waste anyhow, and that while certain societal ills might be caused by “the kids today smoking marijuana”, he believes that legalizing it and taxing it would be the way to solve the government’s financial problems. He believed “we’d be as rich as Croesus” if that particular policy were to come to pass. However, when the noise from a somewhat rowdier party being held by some motorcycle gang members in a vacant lot in the area disturbed his peace, he beat the ringleader of the bikers bloody.
A run-in with an old Irish grandmother type who lives in his new neighborhood who is not intimidated by the fact that she “knows what he does”, (it is to be observed that only an Irish matriarch can be so bold as to openly denounce such evildoers to their faces) portrays a different sort of Irish character and a more humble and gentle side of Daniel Greene.
Though he postures as a tough guy in the world of men, he nevertheless saves the old woman from eviction by paying her back rent. She gives him a golden Celtic cross pendent and tells of a Celtic custom of which he, as a second-generation Irish person in America, is unacquainted: the idea of leaving one’s loved ones with an heirloom before going off to do battle.

The Celtic cross the auld Irish grandmother gives to Danny Greene

Following this encounter with the old woman, though he continues to miss Mass (at St. Malachi’s) and engage in dubious activities, including a brief strategic alliance with some individuals in the mafia, Greene tries to balance out his racketeering activities with philanthropy: he gives away turkeys to poor families at Christmas and Thanksgiving, coaches youth basketball, and engages in a series of very public good works.

One of Danny Greene's public acts of philanthropy in his neighborhood and church

Seeking to legitimize himself, Danny Greene gets the idea of starting an Irish pub, and later, buying into a cattle ranch in Texas and getting into the meat processing and distribution business with the idea that the unions could form a co-op and buy the meat at a discount while he would have a ready market for the meat produced by his ranch. In order to attempt to finance the latter venture, he borrows money from a mafia-connected individual, who himself borrows it from the Gambino family in New York City. There was only one hitch in the plan: the courier whom the Cleveland mafioso hired to bring the money from NYC to Cleveland used it to finance a largish drug deal (some kilos of cocaine), got caught with a large amount of drugs, and ended up “in Riker’s Island” (one of New York’s major prisons).
Prior to this information being conveyed within the film, a street scene in the South Bronx is shown where the belfry of a Catholic church looms behind low-rise buildings in the foreground; the footage of the drug bust is shown next.
The area of the Bronx which they most likely used for that particular exterior scene would be the Melrose area of the Bronx, which has a similar-looking church, a substantial Catholic population, Catholic schools, etc., and a Missionaries of Charity convent.
He continues to act the part of the Celtic warrior, but wears the cross boldly and publicly, only relinquishing it, according to the movie, to a neighborhood child shortly before his assassination by car bomb, having advised the child who was in awe of his underworld fame not to “be like me”.

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One Response to “Kill the Irishman”

  1. Joy

    14. Sep, 2015

    Hi! I’m the shorter nun in the front…was a great day shooting that scene!

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