PUZZLES FLAWS & INTERPRETATIONS
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The Secretary Bailey thing is nothing compared with other implausibilities in the film. I think it was Pauline Kael who first pointed out how ridiculous it was for the gang to be using a locker at the train station as their safety deposit box (train station lockers are cleared out every 24 hours).


Someone commented that in the 1920s and 1930s it was not common practice to clear out lockers daily. Personally I've not seen any evidence either way but in those days people may not have felt as threatened by such things as bombs and drugs as they do today.

It seems fairly common in films for money to be left in train station lockers and there is a certain romance associated with stream trains and railway stations. In the book The Hoods the gang keep their cash in banks, which are not usually perceived as very romantic places.


Leone simply wanted these crucial scenes - the pact made by the boys, and Noodles' discovery of the missing money, i.e., the betrayal - to occur within the romantic milieu of a train station, with all those evocative toots and whistles in the background. I'm sure Leone was well aware of the improbable nature of this plot device, which only shows he wasn't afraid to dispense with "realism" if it happened to interfere with the cinematic effect he wanted.

On a purely aesthetic level, the plot device also allows for a rather lovely example of narrative symmetry, as the lockers play an important role in all three time periods.


And I have no problem with this. It's what we used to call poetic license. Films employ such things a lot (as, for example, when you have a running gun battle in which no one ever needs to reload). The only problem comes when the plot requires an improbable/implausible element for the story to work. That doesn't happen in the examples we've been discussing. The boys could have been putting their money in a hole in the ground and that wouldn't have changed the plot (but the train station works better aesthetically, as Vaporing notes above). Bailey could have simply been a wealthy campaign contributor or lobbyist type rather than an actual government official, with the same vague scandal taking him down (but "Secretary Bailey" sounds impressive, and it's a kind of shorthand for "Rich and Powerful Bailey"). But still, there's no reason NOT to call SL on such choices, if for no other reason than to generate a discussion such as this.


It's a bit petty to mention flaws in such a beautiful movie but there are a couple of things which should be added. Neither are massively significant.

Noodles is taken to a reformatory. The gates close behind him and Max stares at an inscription above the gates. The movie then cuts to 1968 and an inscription above the entrance of a mausoleum in Riverdale Cemetery which reads:

YOUR YOUNGEST AND STRONGEST WILL FALL BY THE SWORD

Some think that the two inscriptions are the same but the inscription above the gates reads:

THE NYS REFORMATORY FOR BOYS
NYS DEPT OF CORRECTION

In the screenplay, there is no mention of an inscription above the prison gates and the mausoleum inscription reads:

"Your men will fall by the sword, your heroes in the fight" (Isaiah, 3:25).

Continuity error when Noodles is collected from prison?

Max collects Noodles from prison in daylight but it's nighttime when they arrive at Fat Moe's.

We never know the exact timings and the location of the prison, although there is a still of De Niro outside the prison gates and a hard to read inscription "Clinton State Prison".  In any event it's not beyond imagination that Max collected Noodles at say 5.30pm and arrived at the Fat Moe's at say 7.00pm by which time night had fallen.

The two scenes according to the screenplay:

SCENE 76 - STREET IN FRONT OF A PRISON (1931) Exterior. Sunset.

SCENE 77 - STREET IN FRONT OF FAT MOE'S (1931) Exterior. Night.



You're right about the reformatory/prison plaque. I think it was shot that way intentionally so we would not be able to read it. I'm sure something could of been done with that location shot if Sergio wanted the plaque to be read by the viewer. Not sure if he decided then or afterward that the inscription would be one of his time segues. Taking the viewer from the 30's to the 60's like the peephole, suitcase, station.... In some ways the inscription has more meaning for Max. It's his point of view reading the plaque which we don't actually see. He's the one that built the mausoleum to bring back Noodles for his own purposes.

That inscription works a little better than having "Why go on living when we can bury you for $49.50".  

It becomes significant to Noodles when he enters the mausoleum because he's going back to the past behind the slamming door of the crypt instead of the slamming gates of the reformatory/prison. I think he also notices it and starts making some connections of who and why he was brought back. I think because the viewer doesn't read or see the inscription, it does in a way impress that this inscription is meaningful to Max.

In that defining scene in which Noodles kills Bugsy, Max is prepared to rush out. Noodles gets there before him. Max falls back when the police arrive. Another difference in the script. I think in the script, Max attempts to rush out to help Noodles.

In the conclusion, if you interpret the end as Max committing suicide, in a way he died by the sword or the thrashing razors of the garbage truck. He made decisions and had to live with the consequences.

Not sure about the point of whether the inscription or bible reference would be realistic for the prison/reformatory or a state facility. Sometimes we do see quotes or passages from the bible where they're modernized or rephrased for public and secular usage like this. I see where you say the script refers to Isaiah.

"Your men will fall by the sword, your heroes in the fight".

I always thought it was a reference to Little Caesar which opened with the quote by Matthew 26.52
"For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword!"

That would comment on the character of Rico and what happens to him. Sergio referring to the line also as a statement for reform. Yet the script obviously invokes Isaiah which is even darker. Not only will those die that seek violence and bear the sword, but your heroes will die as well.

I think there's another thread with some discussion on the time element. I think you're right it could be explained as late afternoon into evening. Who knows how long Noodles boiled. He would of had a lot of years of passion to displace. Maybe Max had a go. He followed Noodles more than once in this department. Maybe Max and Noodles had a heart to heart to bring Noodles forward on the business. Just another one of those situations where I don't think every minute or hour off camera needs to be accounted for. Sometimes I think the editing history of the film makes that analysis worse.

In watching the outtake of the documentary, I think James Woods points out that one of the important things for Sergio in that particular scene was he wanted the rain when Noodles is free and meets Max. Doesn't Woods say it was an overcast day but they had no idea it would actually rain? When they filmed it started to rain. He laughs and says Sergio expected and demanded it. I think in this film, Sergio subverts and destroys time repeatedly, so on the small scale of that scene into the speakeasy scene....I have no problem with it.


The scene where Noodles is taken to prison is handled well by Leone. The script is a bit  melodramatic and doesn't contain an obvious match cut to Noodles staring at the inscription on the mausoleum.  Also of course one side of the street is in Montreal Canada and the other in Brooklyn.

From the script/screenplay:

"A GUARD starts to open the gates as MAX darts away from his friends and scrambles up onto the back of the paddy wagon. Grabbing the bars on the window, he hauls himself up to look inside.  His voice breaks as he calls out,

MAX
Noodles!

NOODLES hears and sees MAX at the window. He jumps up and throws himself towards the door. His voice is just a murmur.

NOODLES
Max...

As the paddy wagon starts forward, two GUARDS grab MAX and yank him down. He thrashes against them, calling out his furious, despairing goodbye.

MAX
Noodles...Noodles...

NOODLES stares out at his friend, standing alone now in the middle of the street. Tears stream down his face as the gates of the prison close between them.

We see MAX through NOODLES' eyes, growing smaller as the paddy wagon drives away. It is this image of freedom, fraternity, and friendship that NOODLES carries with him for the next six years."


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