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Bullets over Broadway

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Getting Rid of Olive

By Amir Faress • 12/25/19

It is not easy to make sense of the scene in which Cheech broaches the idea of killing Olive, the mob boss’s lover.

The scene is premised on a misunderstanding, causing the two parties – Dave, a playwright, and Cheech, a mob henchman - to talk at cross-purposes. While Cheech is talking about murder, David (we know with hindsight) wrongly thinks Cheech is discussing firing Olive from the play.

Here’s the problem: if David actually believed Cheech was simply talking about dismissing Olive, one would expect him to have the opposite reaction; he should embrace this heaven-sent opportunity. David had only agreed to have Olive on the show as part of a quid pro quo deal with the mob to finance his play. Fear of reprisal on the part of the mob had thus far prevented David from firing Olive. Firing her was indeed never an option, as it would have practically meant suicide. But now that the suggestion comes directly from Cheech, it would strain credulity for David not to explore what Cheech has in mind about how they could avoid the obvious (and deadly) repercussions.

Cheech could not possibly be asking David to write his own obituary by dismissing Olive. If David actually believes that Cheech was making this proposition (which he was not), he could have only interpreted it as Cheech knowing how they could go about Olive’s dismissal without arousing the mob boss’s ire. It, therefore, defies the logic of the story for David to reject the idea out of hand.

I think the movie takes a wrong turn in the third act. Instead of Cheech proposing to have Olive assassinated (which David misunderstands as a request to have her fired from the play), it would have made more sense for the initiative to have come from David (perhaps after seeing the understudy’s brilliant performance in the matinee). Cheech, after all, did not need David’s approval or assistance. David could have innocently asked Cheech if there was a way to dismiss Olive without infuriating the mob boss. Cheech could have then taken the suggestion to a whole new level and had her killed, or better yet, killed the mob boss himself. The mob boss’s henchmen would then take revenge by killing Cheech, which would have made a lot more sense than killing him under the false premise that he was carrying out an affair with Olive.

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