If you’re into British crime cinema, this is one you should seek out quickly.
Cinema has long been fascinated with gangsters, whether real or fictitious.
From Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in Scarface to the Krays (Tom Hardy) in Legend, we’ve explored the lives of so many criminals and crooks on the screen as they go from rags to riches and riches to rags.
Tony in Brian De Palma’s 1983 classic was simply a character, but of course, the Krays were very much real, baring a very renowned and notorious reputation. There are so many memorable screen gangsters that are based on real people, and now thanks to Once Upon a Time in London, audiences who were previously unaware will learn the name of Jack Comer.
The biopic comes from British filmmaker Simon Rumley, who has previously helmed the unsettling The Living and the Dead and 2010’s extremely violent but criminally underrated Red, White & Blue.
Once Upon a Time in London on Netflix
That’s right – it’s on Netflix!
The 2019 crime film centres in and chronicles the rise of organized crime figure Jack Comer in the 1930s. Exploring the domination of London at the hands of the Italian Sabinis and English White family, we learn how Jack – nicknamed “Spot” – rose to power, while also turning a lens to Billy Hill.
It’s been fairly well-received by audiences so far, and currently boasts an IMDb audience score of 6.7. There’s a great story here for Simon to bring to the screen with a stellar cast, but who exactly is the gangster at the core of it all?
Remembering gangster Jack Comer
According to The JC, the London gangster was born in the East End and was the youngest of four children of immigrant Polish Jews, who was given the nickname ‘Spot’ because of a facial birthmark.
Jack was a powerful figure in the criminal underworld throughout the 1930s and onwards into the 1950s, building connections and securing further authority as he learned to navigate in numerous ventures and rackets.
They suggest that he joined a gang from the young age of seven; the Jewish kids would create a rivalry of sorts with the Catholic kids on the street. There are many stories surrounding Jack’s life as a gangster, and while historians have disputed the legitimacy of some of his claims (ie. his involvement in the Battle of Cable Street), his power at the time is undeniable.
The same source notes that writer-producer Terry Stone said of Jack: “He thought of himself as the Einstein of crime but he ended up getting almost murdered and finished his life as a penniless greengrocer in North London, dying without his wife and kids.”
He was almost killed when confronted by “Mad Frankie” Fraser and a gang of men, going from seemingly untouchable into a decline which continued throughout his life. Once Upon a Time in London doesn’t glamourise the man, rather than paint a portrait of tragedy both compelling and uncomfortable. He died in 1996 at the age of 83.
He’s played by Terry Stone!
British actor Terry Stone helped write, produce and even starred as Jack Comer himself.
According to IMDb, he first appeared on screens as a debt collector in the TV series My Family back in 2003, subsequently appearing in Eastenders as Nick.
However, most audiences will recognise him from the Popular Rise of the Footsoldier film series (he played Tony Tucker). Throughout his screen career, he has also appeared in the 2009 horror-comedy Doghouse (he played Sergeant Gavin Wright) starring Danny Dyer, Jack Said (The Fixer), Shank (Papa), Anuvahood (Terry) Get Lucky (Kramer) and more.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Once Upon a Time in London on Netflix!
In other news, have people missed the point of Joker‘s door lock scene?