Edited by Dan in the MW on 9/2/2015, 7:24 am
It was remarkable how many of the schools and theaters associated with Robert Ryan's childhood and adolescence were with one or two miles (North) of the Music Box Theater where were gathered. One exception is his Jesuit high school, Loyola Academy, which still exists, left the far North Rogers Park neighborhood and the university campus and relocated to suburban Wilmette, Illinois. The Goudy and Swift elementary schools are still in existence (Harrison Ford also attended Swift). The Riviera Theater is now a venue for live music. The Bryn Mawr Theater has closed. Years ago I attended movies at both locations. The Essanay Movie Studio Building is now part of St. Augustine University.
It amused to read that Ryan's great uncle was the ward committeeman of the 19th Ward (when that designation applied to the West Side -- later, following a remap, the 19th Ward number was assigned to the far South Side). When the population of the ward shifted from the Irish to the Italians, the ward was nicknamed "the bloody 19th" because bombs and murders became staples of local political campaigns. Ryan's father and uncles ran a construction company that received numerous lucrative contracts from the Metropolitan Sanitary District headed by the corrupt future Mayor Edward "Sewer Pipes" Kelly.
Ryan learned to box at the Illinois Athletic Club on South Michigan Avenue (now closed), which was founded by William Hale Thompson, Jr., and his friends after he made his name as an outstanding amateur athlete at the Chicago Athletic Association. Later, he turned his attentions to politics and in "The Racket" the unseen character of "the Old Man" is supposed to be patterned after Mayor Thompson, himself.
As for the films, the remake of "The Racket" is notable for being the first Robert Mitchum feature to be screened at the Noir City festival in Chicago! That being said, it is really Robert Ryan who carries the movie. The stage play and the original film version of "The Racket" were clearly patterned after Prohibition Era Chicago. The credited director, John Cromwell, acted in the original Broadway production and Edward G. Robinson made his name playing the criminal Nick Scarsi. In the updated retelling of the story, Howard Hughes wore out several directors and screenwriters. Scarsi was transposed to "Nick Scanlon" to accommodate Ryan's casting (is the gangster's limp a nod to Dean O'Banion?) and some topical material about an investigatory crime commission is added for good measure. As much as I like "The Racket," the film is something of a mess with one foot in the Roaring Twenties and the other in the Fifties.
Hughes had engaged Sam Fuller to write and direct "The Racket," but wound up rejecting his screenplay and reassigned the movie to several others. Nevertheless, Fuller would still have an opportunity to work with Robert Ryan on another remake. "The House of Bamboo" is reworking of "The Street With No Name." Fuller and Daryl F. Zanuck moved the setting from the USA to postwar Tokyo.