The End of "The Sopranos"
Posted: Jun 11, 2007 10:59am ET
Alas, poor Frank, I knew him.
As I write this, about 12 hours have passed since the last episode of “The Sopranos.” At the heart of the show was a mob hit, the final hit in a long stream of gangland executions that defined the series since its inception.
(I think everyone on the planet knows what happened, but if you didn’t see the show and you want to be kept in the dark, stop reading this blog.)
The hit in question was on Phil Leotardo, the head of the New York crime family that was warring with the Soprano family in New Jersey. Leotardo is a perpetually grouchy character who seems to have been slighted by just about everyone who has come in contact with him. He even carries a grudge against the people at Ellis Island who bastardized his family name, changing it from the original Leonardo.
Leotardo, played beautifully by cigar-loving actor Frank Vincent, had set up the show’s climax by ordering the hits on Tony Soprano and the leaders of his family. As last night’s show began, Bobby Bacala lay in a coffin, Silvio Dante was in a hospital bed, and Soprano himself was on the run. Things looked grim.
But then the Soprano crew caught up to Leotardo. Right after the white-haired don says “bye bye” to his infant grandkids strapped into the back of his very, very heavy SUV, he gets shot in the head while telling his wife to pick up a prescription. She screams, leaving the very, very heavy car in drive. It starts rolling. The wheel turns, and the tires head toward Leotardo’s head, which turns into a makeshift speed bump. Let’s just say there won’t be an open casket at the funeral.
I met Frank Vincent about a year ago when I wrote a profile on him for Cigar Aficionado magazine. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew he loved cigars, and I knew he played tons of mob roles. As it turns out, he’s a friendly guy with a great sense of humor, and he’s much quieter than the bombastic killers he plays on screen. People, he says, confuse him with his characters.
“I’m not a wiseguy—I’m an actor,” he told me over steak and cigars one day. “This is entertainment.”
My story focused on Frank’s death scenes. If you’re a mob movie fan, you know that Frank Vincent has been killed on screen quite a bit, and often in a creative way. In Goodfellas, he’s kicked nearly to death, shoved in the spacious trunk of a ‘70s car, then stabbed with a butcher’s knife and then shot for good measure when he starts making too much noise. In the movie Gotti he takes a bullet through the back of the head that exits his eye and takes out his raised espresso cup. In a small budget flick he was even shot while using the can. In terms of dying on screen, Frank Vincent has done it all before.
I’m sure David Chase, who wrote and directed the final episode, knew Vincent’s history when he created this particular death scene. And I’m sure he wanted the final Sopranos whack to be memorable. I’d say he succeeded. In terms of the actual end to the show, where the screen turns black mid-song? I thought my cable failed. I chuckled, but most people I’ve spoken to aren’t happy about it.
I always enjoyed the show, especially when I would light up a cigar and puff away while watching. Last night, my smoke of choice for the show was a La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Chisel. I’m sad to see the Sopranos go. How about you?
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