A Killer Goes to Hollywood

Warren Beatty's Bugsy is a wickedly elegant and very smart orchestration of crime, sex and other American ambiguities

To the list of tragic American Dreamers, people who martyred themselves for visions that stubbornly refused realization while they lived -- one thinks of rocket scientist Robert Goddard and car manufacturer Preston Tucker -- it seems we must now add the name of Benjamin Siegel. His great notion was the reinvention of Las Vegas, converting it from a sleepy cow town into a gaudy pleasure dome where everything that was illicit elsewhere in the puritanical U.S. of a half-century ago was openly available on a gloriously legal basis.

This was, to be sure, a dubious, not to say tacky, achievement. But...

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