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Real Oscar Stories: American Hustle

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Sony Pictures

Thanks to an opening title screen that says, “Some of this actually happened,” we begin to wonder right from the get-go  just how much of American Hustle occurred in real life. And much like the actual Abscam operation of the 1970s and ‘80s on which the movie was based, the answer is a little muddy. (Beware, spoilers ahead.)

The Movie

For those who need a little refresher, here’s what went down in director David O. Russell’s Hollywood version:

Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale), a scam artist with a comb-over that makes Donald Trump’s look reasonable, falls in love with the beautiful former stripper Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) and, after a steamy afternoon of playing dress-up in the back of Rosenfeld’s dry cleaning shop, she agrees to help him with his various fraudulent dealings. When they get busted—which, inevitably, they do—the crooked couple signs on to help the FBI in a sting operation in exchange for dropped charges.

In the sting, Rosenfeld and Prosser help overeager (and over-caffeinated) FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) eventually bring down a handful of elected officials, most notably the sympathetic mayor of Camden, New Jersey, by getting them to accept bribes. Somewhere along the way, DiMaso finds himself infatuated with Prosser, who, by the way, has been impersonating a fictional British aristocrat, Lady Edith Greensly—you know, because investment scams are way more believable when the backer is a mysterious woman with an exotic accent.

From here, things quickly spiral out of control as Rosenfeld enlists an associate to impersonate a wealthy sheikh, the mob gets involved, DiMaso assaults his superior (Louis C.K.) with a telephone, and—well, you’ve seen the movie, right?

And let’s not forget Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), Irving’s wildcard neurotic wife, who almost blows his cover a couple of times because she’s feeling neglected.

What Really Happened

The Scam: The real-life Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser were convicted con artists Melvin Weinberg and Evelyn Knight (who actually was British), and the sting operation is known today as Abscam. In 1978, Weinberg, Knight, and the FBI created a fake foreign investment firm—which they said was funded by Middle Easterners—called Abdul Enterprises (the FBI claims “Abscam” is a contraction of “Abdul” and “scam”). The FBI used Abdul Enterprises to elicit bribes from U.S. politicians.

While elements from several of the FBI agents involved in the sting were used to create the curler-wearing character of Richie DiMaso, agent Tony Amoroso—who reportedly acted as a consultant on the film—seems to be Richie’s heaviest influence. (There’s no evidence to suggest that Amoroso ever smashed a telephone into his boss’ face, but considering that he was a consultant on the film, it makes you wonder if the thought didn’t cross his mind a time or two.)

Ultimately, Abscam led to the arrest and prosecution of seven United States Congressmen, Camden mayor Angelo Errichetti, and a handful of lower-ranking government officials. Mayor Errichetti—called Carmine Polito (and played by Jeremy Renner) in the movie—wasn’t exactly the guilt-free guy represented on film, though, and Weinberg didn’t try to finagle a reduced sentence for him. They were friendly, but not that friendly.

The Relationships: Weinberg did indeed have an affair with Knight and Knight did represent herself as “Lady Evelyn” to help with Weinberg’s faux investment firm London Investors, Ltd, which lured people into making fake investments much the same way Abscam did. However, in reality Knight had nowhere near as much to do with Abscam as American Hustle leads us to believe.

Evelyn also never had an affair or relationship with an FBI agent and Mel’s wife Marie wasn’t involved with any mobsters; those torrid love triangles were invented by David O. Russell and screenwriter Eric Warren Singer strictly to add plot tension (and one fabulous disco scene) to the film.

The Ending: Angelo Errichetti served nearly three years in prison for accepting bribes. He died at the age of 84 last May and never regained the political footing he had before he got involved with Weinstein and his fake sheikhs.

Just like their silver screen counterparts, Weinberg and Knight eventually got married. But it wasn’t happily ever after. They later divorced, and Weinberg recently told the Telegraph that “Lady Evelyn” refuses to speak to him these days.

In the movie, Rosalyn also gets her happy ending: she moves on from Rosenfeld with a mobster who adores her and she happily shares custody of her son with Irving and Sydney. In real life, Marie Weinberg hanged herself in January 1982. “My sin was wanting to love and be loved, nothing more,” her suicide note read. “I haven’t the strength to fight him anymore. Everything I have attested to is the truth.”

Just like Russell promised, some of American Hustle actually happened.

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Everything That’s Leaving Netflix in October
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NBC - © 2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Netflix subscribers are already counting down the days until the premiere of the new season of Stranger Things. But, as always, in order to make room for the near-90 new titles making their way to the streaming site, some of your favorite titles—including all of 30 Rock, The Wonder Years, and Malcolm in the Middle—must go. Here’s everything that’s leaving Netflix in October ... binge ‘em while you can!

October 1

30 Rock (Seasons 1-7)

A Love in Times of Selfies

Across the Universe

Barton Fink

Bella

Big Daddy

Carousel

Cradle 2 the Grave

Crafting a Nation

Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest

Daddy’s Little Girls

Dark Was the Night

David Attenborough’s Rise of the Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates (Season 1)

Day of the Kamikaze

Death Beach

Dowry Law

Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief

Friday Night Lights (Seasons 1-5)

Happy Feet

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Hellboy

Kagemusha

Laura

Love Actually

Malcolm in the Middle (Seasons 1-7)

Max Dugan Returns

Millennium 

Million Dollar Baby

Mortal Combat

Mr. 3000

Mulholland Dr.

My Father the Hero

My Name Is Earl (Seasons 1-4)

One Tree Hill (Seasons 1-9)

Patton

Picture This

Prison Break (Seasons 1-4)

The Bernie Mac Show (Seasons 1-5)

The Shining

The Wonder Years (Seasons 1-6)

Titanic

October 19

The Cleveland Show (Seasons 1-4)

October 21

Bones (Seasons 5-11)

October 27

Lie to Me (Seasons 2-3)

Louie (Seasons 1-5)

Hot Transylvania 2

October 29

Family Guy (Seasons 9-14)

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Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in October
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Netflix

While October means self-curated horror movie marathons for many people, the biggest thing happening on Netflix just might be the return of Stranger Things. But that's not happening until October 27, and there’s a lot more happening outside the city lines of Hawkins, Indiana on the behemoth streaming network this month (like the premiere of David Fincher's Mindhunters and the return of Schitt's Creek). Here’s every new movie, television series, comedy special, and documentary making its way to Netflix in October.   

October 1

88 Minutes

A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song

Before Midnight

Blood Diamond

Boogie Nights

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Cleverman: Season 2

Death Sentence

Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood

Eagle vs. Shark

Eyes Wide Shut

Generation Iron 2

Ghost Patrol

I Love You, Man

Ice Guardians

Lockup: Disturbing the Peace (Collection 1)

Made of Honor

Miss Congeniality

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

Must Love Dogs

Never Let Me Go

No Reservations

Penelope

PJ Masks (Season 1)

Set Up

The Reaping

Tokyo Idols

Tommy Boy

Vanished

Veronica

October 2

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown

Sleeping with Other People

October 3

13 Demons

Rodney Carrington: Here Comes The Truth

Cult of Chucky

The Survivalist

October 4

Raw

October 5

Bonus Family (Bonusfamiljen) (Season 1)

Schitt’s Creek (Season 3)

The Fosters (Season 5)

October 6

ID-0 (Season 1)

Skylanders Academy (Season 2)

Suburra (Season 1)

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Word Party (Season 3) 

October 7

Chris Brown: Welcome To My Life

Middle Man

October 10

Christina P: Mother Inferior

The Skyjacker’s Tale

October 11

Donnie Darko

October 12

Fe de Etarras

October 13

El Especial de Alex Fernández

Kingdom of Us

Mindhunter (Season 1)

Super Monsters (Season 1)

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

The Babysitter

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)

Voltron: Legendary Defender (Season 4)

October 15

Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses

Lego: City (Season 1)

Money

OtherLife

She Makes Comics

West Coast Customs (Season 6)

October 17

Patton Oswalt: Annihilation

Slasher: Guilty Party

October 19

Wedding Unplanned

October 20

1922

Haters Back Off (Season 2)

One of Us

Smurfs: The Lost Village

The Day I Met El Chapo: The Kate del Castillo Story

Wheelman

October 23

Meet the Robinsons

While We’re Young

October 24

Wanted (Season 1-2)

The Mist (Season 1)

October 25

The Hateful Eight

The Final Master

La Querida del Centauro (Season 2)

October 26

Strange Weather

October 27

Stranger Things 2

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

October 28

Pup Star: Better 2Gether

October 30

Judah Friedlander: America Is The Greatest Country In The United States

October 31

Zumbo’s Just Desserts (Season 1) 

 

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