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An episode of The Yellow Kid, a TV program dramatizing the exploits of notorious Chicago con man Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil, who is purported to have swindled $8 million in his lifetime. In this episode, Weil (Everett Clark) and fellow con artist Billy Wall (James Andelin) trick wealthy businessman Mr. Fetterman (Stanley Gordon) in an elaborate con involving horse racing.
Note: this work is comprised of three 35mm negative image reels and three optical sound reels that have been digitally combined for viewing.
The episode begins in medias res, with Joseph Weil on the phone telling Billy Wall that he's "just cut into a fat mark" who's "going for the Gold Wire." Weil tells him they'll pull "the old brother-in-law dodge" and hangs up. A narrator announces "You have just witnessed a scene from this week's exposé of the life of The Yellow Kid. The true story of swindles worked on rich and poor alike by Joseph Weil, who took more than $8 million from unsuspecting citizens and who became notoriously known as 'America's Master Con Man.' Our hope is to inform you of con games by which you may be victimized even today; get-rich-quick schemes such as this one, The Gold Wire."
After a commercial break, the story continues with Weil at the bar of a "prominent buffet" in Chicago, eavesdropping on a conversation between Mr. Fetterman and a well-dressed woman named Agnes (Jane Brooksmith). Agnes claims to have heard that Fetterman "made a killing in the market last week," which Fetterman says is an exaggeration. When Agnes walks off in a huff, Fetterman strikes up a conversation with Weil at the bar. Weil mentions that he is looking for an investor for a business opportunity that offers a 300% profit on a 24 hour investment. Fetterman expresses interest, and Weil explains that his brother-in-law has gotten himself into financial troubles. He tells him that his brother-in-law is a telegrapher for Western Union on "the Gold Wire": he receives the race results from Eastern horse racing tracks and sends them to the local bookmakers. Weil suggests that if Fetterman loans his brother-in-law $2500 to get out of a jam with some loan sharks, he would return the favor by giving Fetterman the race results before they are reported to the bookies, enabling Fetterman to "bet on a sure thing."
The phone conversation from the beginning of the episode repeats; Weil sets up a meeting between Billy Wall and Fetterman at the Western Union and instructs Wall to pretend to be his brother-in-law. Now at the meeting place, Wall pretends to be unsure about the plan but ultimately agrees to give Fetterman the name of the winning horse, and asks him to place his $2500 loan on the horse as well. Through a series of mishaps constructed by Weil and Wall, Fetterman repeatedly botches the wagers, losing $40,000 on three races. The con artists stage a fake police raid on the betting parlor; when Fetterman runs away, it is revealed that everyone in the parlor was in on the scam and they split the $40 grand.
At the conclusion of the episode, the real Joseph Weil appears on screen, smoking and assuring the audience that crime doesn't pay. He poetically describes the misery of his time in prison, his sleepless nights, and the “shame of [his] sins.” He concludes: “There’s no punishment so excruciating, no pain so severe, as that inflicted when you stand alone accused in the courtroom of your own conscience. What will it profit man, if by nefarious and unscrupulous depredation, he enriches his purse with ill-gotten gold and defiles his conscience and sacrilegiously desecrates his soul?”
25 min 24 sec
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