Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)

Starring Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon
based on the book "Boardwalk Empire" by Nelson Johnson
Steve Buscemi
Born: December 13, 1957
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Enoch "Nucky" Johnson
Born: January 20, 1883
Birthplace: Smithville, New Jersey, USA
Death: December 9, 1968, Northfield, New Jersey, USA (natural causes)
Shea Whigham
Born: January 5, 1969
Tallahassee, Florida, USA
Alfred "Alf" Johnson
Born: March 17, 1878
Birthplace: New Jersey, USA
Death: February 19, 1958, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA (lingering illness)
Michael Stuhlbarg
Born: July 5, 1968
Long Beach, California, USA
Arnold Rothstein
Born: January 17, 1882
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Death: November 6, 1928, New York City, New York, USA (shot)
Stephen Graham
Born: August 3, 1973
Liverpool, Merseyside, England, UK
Alphonse "Al" Capone
Born: January 17, 1899
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Death: January 25, 1947, Palm Island, Florida, USA (cardiac arrest)
Vincent Piazza
Middle Village, New York, USA
Charles "Lucky" Luciano
Born: November 24, 1897
Birthplace: Sicily, Italy
Death: January 26, 1962, Naples, Italy (heart attack)
Anthony Laciura
Born: September 27, 1951
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
Louis Kessel
Born: 1888
Birthplace: Russia
Dabney Coleman
Born: January 2, 1932
Austin, Texas, USA
Louis "Commodore" Kuehnle
Born: December 25, 1857
Birthplace: New York City, USA
Death: August 6, 1934, Atlantic City, New Jersey (complications after appendix operation)
They are doing their best to do historically accurate fiction. - author Nelson Johnson

Questioning the Story:

Is Margaret Schroeder based on a real person?

Margaret Schroeder and Florence Osbeck
Like Margaret Schroeder (left), Florence Osbeck (right) was Nucky's second wife, but that's where the similarities end.
Margaret Schroeder, who is portrayed by Kelly Macdonald on the Boardwalk Empire TV show, is primarily a combination of two individuals, Nucky's second wife, showgirl Florence Osbeck (pictured) who was 25 years his junior, and Mary Ill, a housewife and boardinghouse maid who fell upon hard times and requested a meeting with Nucky. Mary's husband, a part-time baker's helper, had gambled their food money away. Nucky gave Mary Ill some money and ensured her that her husband would no longer be allowed in local gambling halls. Like Margaret, Mary was also active in local politics and charitable organizations. It is unclear whether she was Irish and there is no evidence that Nucky had her husband killed like he does to Margaret's on the show. -Boardwalk Empire Book

Nelson Johnson Boardwalk Empire Book
Nelson Johnson's book
inspired the HBO series.
Did Nucky really have a first wife who died?

Yes. On the show, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) alludes to having lost his first wife. The Boardwalk Empire true story reveals that Nucky Johnson's first wife was his childhood sweetheart Mabel Jeffries. They both had enrolled at State Normal School College in Trenton, New Jersey. Nucky left after a year to begin an unpaid law clerkship. He eventually quit to work as a clerk at the office of his father, the sheriff.

After Mabel Jeffries graduated and began work as a teacher, the two married on September 12, 1906. Their marriage ended with her death in 1912 of tuberculosis. It was at this time that Nucky began to live a fast life. Decades later, following an engagement that lasted three years, he married Florence "Floss" Osbeck, a thirty-three-year-old showgirl, on August 11, 1941 before entering prison for tax evasion. -Nucky: The Real Story of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Boss by Frank J. Ferry

Did Nucky have any children?

No. On the HBO TV show, Nucky adopts Margaret Schroeder's two children around the time that Margaret and Nucky marry. In researching The Boardwalk Empire true story, we discovered that the real Nucky Thompson (Nucky Johnson) never had any children. His brother, who is depicted as having a rather large family on the show, also never had any kids.

Boardwalk Empire T-Shirts
Boardwalk Empire T-Shirts
celebrate fan favorites including the purely fictional character Richard Harrow.
Is Jimmy Darmody based on a real person?

Yes. James "Jimmy" Darmody, portrayed by Michael Pitt, is to some degree based on Jimmy Boyd (Business Insider). Born November 5, 1906, James H. Boyd worked closely with Nucky Johnson and has been called his "right-hand man" by their lawyer Frank J. Ferry. It is rumored that Boyd got his start as a bellhop at the Ritz and was able to work his way up. Ultimately, he became a part of the Atlantic Board of Freeholders (county legislators) for almost forty years. He was also the executive chairman of the Fourth Ward Republic Club for two decades and served in the army during World War II (Jimmy Darmody was a WWI veteran). By now you've probably guessed that the real James Darmody (Jimmy Boyd) was not killed by Nucky Johnson. He died more than five years after Nucky in April 1974. -Atlantic Cape Community College

Did the real Nucky Thompson actually live at the Ritz-Carlton?

Yes. Nucky Johnson leased the entire ninth story of the Ritz-Carlton, as well as other properties. While being investigated for tax evasion, it was noted that his daily expenditures included such food as lobster, steaks and caviar. Although he treated himself well, spending large amounts on clothes and cars too, he also spread his wealth to charities, impoverished areas and workers.

Real Babette's Nightclub and the Boardwalk Empire Babette's
Ship-shaped bar of real Babette's nightclub (top) and the TV show's ship-shaped bar (bottom).
Is Babette's nightclub based on a real location?

Yes. Babette's was an actual Atlantic City nightclub that existed from the 1920s through the 1940s. It was originally called the Golden Inn and was owned by Dan Stebbins. He changed the name in the 1930s after marrying singer and performer Blanche Babette, who had come to Atlantic City in 1920. Babette's was indeed known for its unique d├ęcor, which included a ship-shaped bar (pictured) similar to but not as extravagant as the one Martin Scorsese insisted on having created for the show. Like on the TV show, the real Babette's saw it's fair share of illegal activity, including backroom gambling and horse-race betting, which caused it to become the target of a federal investigation in the 1930s.

Did Nucky really wear a red carnation in his lapel?

Yes. Like on the TV show, the real Enoch Thompson (Enoch Johnson) wore a fresh red carnation in his lapel daily. It was his personal trademark. -The Press of Atlantic City

Did the real Nucky have a pale, scrawny appearance like actor Steve Buscemi on the TV show?

No. The real Nucky swam almost every day of the week to keep in shape. He was a tall, muscular, formidable man who weighed roughly 225 pounds and stood over six feet tall. He also did not have a somewhat high-pitched voice like actor Steve Buscemi. He had a forceful and outgoing personality and he was almost always seen wearing glasses.

Boardwalk Empire Set Tour and Related Video

Join Bob Shaw, the Production Designer on the HBO Boardwalk Empire TV show, as he offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Boardwalk Empire sets, including the replica Atlantic City Boardwalk that was constructed exclusively for the show. Also, watch the trailer that was used to promote the HBO TV series.

 Boardwalk Empire Sets: Designing An Empire

Boardwalk Empire's Production Designer, Bob Shaw, takes us on a tour of the Boardwalk Empire sets, including an enormous, life-size replica of the Atlantic City Boardwalk built in Brooklyn, Babette's nightclub, and Nucky Thompson's office.

 Boardwalk Empire Trailer

Watch the Boardwalk Empire trailer for the HBO TV series starring Steve Buscemi as Enoch 'Nucky' Thompson, the treasurer and ruler of Atlantic City during the 1920s and 1930s.

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