Close your eyes and imagine the pitch meeting: “Okay, so, it’s a gangster movie, and, and . . . er . . . it’s a musical, right? But get this . . . with kids! All kids!
We’ll get that little girl from Napoleon and Samantha (1972) and a bunch of twelve-year-olds with gangland accents. Goldmine!”. Obviously, at least one studio bigwig liked the idea because in 1976, Bugsy Malone hit the silver screen.
At the height of Prohibition, gangster factions led by Fat Sam and Dandy Dan are engaged in a good-old-fashioned mob war, throwing whipped cream pies in the other guys’ faces at the slightest provocation. But Dandy Dan has a new weapon, a pie-shooting Tommy gun that threatens to tip the balance of power. . .
In response, Fat Sam dispatches his up-and-coming tough, Bugsy Malone, to steal the device. Tarty moll Tallulah also works her way into the action, which frequently breaks into either a song or a huge pie fight as the gang war escalates.
Filled with rollicking tunes and loving jabs at old gangster films, Bugsy Malone featured early work from Scott Baio (later Happy Days‘ Chachi) and Jodie Foster (star of Freaky Friday, among many others) as Bugsy and Tallulah.
The film didn’t do as well as hoped in its initial release, but time, video and TV syndication have brought Bugsy Malone back into the limelight for some well-deserved recognition.
The 90’s even brought a stage revival of Bugsy Malone, complete with a new soundtrack album.
Albin ‘Humpty’ Jenkins