Documentary searches for truth in Al Capone’s rumoured Saskatchewan history

By Alyssa McDonald
Metro Regina
Published on August 28, 2013

Feeding off swirling rumours and passed-down stories about Chicago gangster Al Capone’s bootleg operation in the Canadian Prairies, a Saskatchewan documentary film crew is going deep — literally — to search for proof behind the prohibition tale.

Finding Al director Kelly-Anne Riess talks with host Leon Willey
Photo by Thomas Bartlett
The documentary, titled Finding Al, involves historical data and assorted tales surrounding the iconic mobster’s rumoured experiences and appearances in and around Moose Jaw, Sask., in the 1920s. “I’ve been to the Tunnels (of Moose Jaw) many times, and I just wanted to investigate it,” director and producer Kelly-Anne Riess told Metro in Moose Jaw — nicknamed Little Chicago by some — on Tuesday, referring to passageways below the city’s downtown streets that were turned into a tourist attraction in 2000 with Capone-themed tours and costumed characters.

“Everyone is really curious about Al Capone, and whether or not he was in Saskatchewan.”

Because of extremely limited paper documentation, Riess has focused on information, accounts and hearsay passed through generations.

Tunnels of Moose Jaw
Photo by Thomas Bartlett
“I wasn’t prepared at first for all the stories that were coming from across Saskatchewan,” Riess said. “We’ve just been following the trail.”

The crew is also travelling to North Dakota and then to Chicago in hopes of “connecting the dots where all these people have stories” and following a rail line that Capone allegedly used.

Riess had planned to visit Capone’s great-niece Deirdre, who has written a book about her family story. But the 73-year-old ended up coming to Saskatchewan from her Florida home to be featured in the documentary.

“There is no one else that can (tell the story),” Deirdre Capone said after taking a guided tour of the Tunnels.

“He was a mobster, but not a monster.”

Capone didn’t let on to her relation to the infamous crime figure during the tour, even whispering to a Metro reporter, “I wonder what these people would say if they knew who I was.”

Riess pointed out that her favourite Saskatchewan story on Capone comes from a Weyburn-area home where Deirdre’s great-uncle would allegedly host firearm-filled parties once a year for his men and local farmers.

“It’s our own Saskatchewan thing,” Riess said. “I just like the idea of bootlegging mobster farmers."