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EDITORIAL: Might have to rethink phrase, 'Dead as Dillinger'

Might have to rethink that phrase August 3, 2019 at 3:00 a.m.

When you're watching a movie, and the good guys get the bad guy, there's generally a sense of relief at the end. Phew, the day was saved, thanks to Bruce Willis or Batman.

When the credits roll, and you know the villain is behind bars, it's end of story, right? Maybe in the movies. In real life, however . . . .

During the Great Depression lived Public Enemy No. 1, also known as John Dillinger. He and his gang were accused of robbing dozens of banks. Thanks to his courting of publicity, several papers ran exaggerated accounts of his misdeeds, painting him as a man with great bravado and a colorful personality, as if he were some sort of Robin Hood.

But John Dillinger wasn't Johnny Depp. (Mr. Depp played him once.) John Herbert Dillinger was a murderer. He didn't just rob banks, his gang robbed police stations. He was such a bad guy that the government formed the FBI, in part, to fight him and his ilk. This guy wasn't Butch Cassidy, or even Paul Newman's version of Butch Cassidy. Dillinger was a killer.

So why all the talk about a dead gangster? Well, his body is about to be exhumed because his family doesn't think it's really him in the casket. Here's more from CNN:

"Mike and Carol Thompson say in the affidavits that they are Dillinger's nephew and niece, respectively. They claim to have evidence that the person shot at the Biograph Theater in Chicago on July 22, 1934, 'may not in fact have been' Dillinger. The affidavits say that several of the man's physical attributes, including eye color, fingerprints, anterior teeth, ears and head shape, did not match Dillinger's."

Mr. Dillinger's death is a famous historical moment if you're familiar with the infamous "Woman in Red" who helped betray him. The New York Times reported the gangster was shot dead outside a Chicago movie theater on July 22, 1934. Through some twist of ironic fate, he was killed only two months after Bonnie and Clyde. It was as if an occult hand had shaped that year to see these criminals dead.

Mr. Dillinger's nephew and niece are sure the man killed that night wasn't their uncle. The FBI denies this. Who knows? Word around the campfire is that, once upon a time, John Dillinger had plastic surgery to keep him hidden.

But, if he did get away, could he still be out there somewhere?

It's doubtful. Mr. Dillinger was born in 1903, and supposedly the world's oldest confirmed man is a German by the name of Gustav Gerneth. He was born in 1905.

Does it make much of a difference if the corpse in Mr. Dillinger's grave isn't him? Not really. Some history books will have to be rewritten, a few FBI files updated. But before we put too much energy into this, we need to find that Hoffa guy. Priorities, people.

Editorial on 08/03/2019

Print Headline: Dead as Dillinger?


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