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10 Real-life Crimes That Became Fictional TV Episodes


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Presidential Assassination Attempt
President Franklin D. Roosevelt tips his hat while sitting in the back of a car with former President Herbert Hoover at the inauguration Janurary 1933 in Washington, D.C.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt tips his hat while sitting in the back of a car with former President Herbert Hoover at the inauguration Janurary 1933 in Washington, D.C.
American Stock Archive/Getty Images

Set in the Prohibition Era, the late 1950s and early '60s television show "The Untouchables" fictionalized the real-life experiences of Prohibition agents who went after the likes of Al Capone. One episode depicts the real-life but little-known assassination attempt of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In the second of the two-part episode "Unhired Assassin," our heroes successfully foil an assassination attempt on the the Mayor of Chicago. But they weren't figuring on a deranged man by the name of Giuseppe Zangara to step onto the scene. Though the writers took liberties with the other plot line, the one about Zangara was very true.

An immigrant from Italy, Zangara was a naturalized citizen living in Miami. He was mentally unstable, possibly driven mad by his persistent abdominal pains, and spoke of wanting to assassinate "all capitalist presidents and kings" [source: Oliver]. He had hatched plans to kill the King of Italy and President Herbert Hoover. But after Roosevelt was elected to succeed Hoover, Zangara took advantage of an opportunity when the president-elect happened to be giving a speech in Miami.

On Feb.15, 1933, after Roosevelt spoke to the crowd, Zangara stood on his wobbly chair, screamed "Too many people are starving to death!" and fired several shots. Though he missed the president, Zangara did hit Chicago's mayor, Anton Cermak, who was there to support Roosevelt and make amends for not supporting him at the Democratic National Convention. Cermak died from his wound a few weeks later, and Zangara was executed.


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