The Big Operator (1959 film)

The Big Operator (a.k.a. Anatomy of the Syndicate) is a 1959 crime/drama film starring Mickey Rooney as a corrupt union boss, with Steve Cochran, Mel Torme and Mamie Van Doren as co-stars. The film is a remake of Joe Smith, American (1942) with labor union thugs replacing Axis spies.

The Big Operator
Directed byCharles F. Haas
Produced byAlbert Zugsmith
Red Doff
Written byPaul Gallico
Allen Rivkin
Robert Smith
StarringMickey Rooney
Steve Cochran
Mamie Van Doren
Ray Danton
Mel Tormé
Music byVan Alexander
CinematographyWalter Castle
Edited byBen Lewis
Albert Zugsmith Productions
Fryman Productions
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • August 1959 (1959-08)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$680,000[1]


Ruthless labor official "Little Joe" Braun is about to face questioning from a Senate committee. The night before, he sends a hit man, Oscar "The Executioner" Wetzel, to kill a witness named Tragg and steal incriminating documents in Tragg's possession at a factory.

Plant workers and friends Bill Gibson and Fred McAfee are accidental eyewitnesses to Wetzel's presence at the crime scene. Braun pleads the Fifth Amendment during his Senate testimony and vehemently denies knowing the mob enforcer Wetzel. But with a perjury charge facing him, Braun is made aware that Gibson and McAfee could potentially put him behind bars.

A reign of terror against the two men begins. They are harassed at work and then fired on false grounds. McAfee is set afire and nearly dies from the burns. Gibson and wife Mary panic after their son Timmy is taken captive.

Gibson, who had been blindfolded in Braun's car, recreates and retraces with great difficulty the way to a hideout where Timmy is being held. He and the authorities can't find Braun or the boy and are about to give up when they spot Braun's cigar, still burning in an ashtray. They find him cowering in a closet with the boy, then drag him away to jail.


Box office

The film earned $330,000 in the US and Canada and $350,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $253,000.[1]

See also


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
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