Once in a while, a movie adaptation creates a character that is drawn so well it becomes an archetype, a measuring stick for all other similar characters. Think John Wayne, the western tough in "True Grit," which was adapted from the Charles Portis novel. Or Ray Liotta, the New York hood in "Goodfellas," adapted from the book "Wiseguy."
News comes today of the death of Henry Hill, the real-life gangster-turned-informant who was the lifeblood of "Wiseguy" and Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas." He was 69.
Nicholas Pelleggi's book chronicled Hill's rise from a pint-sized thug to a big-time mobster who participated in a multimillion-dollar theft from Lufthansa at JFK airport and assorted other crimes. With the authorities closing in, he became an informant and entered the witness protection program, testifying against his former bosses. (He also continued to run afoul of the law, including parole violations.)
If you aren't hooked by the first graph of "Wiseguy" -- a startling list of Hill's alleged transgressions from theft to gun-running to murder -- you must be a capo yourself.