Compelling dramas like Breaking Bad owe more than a passing nod to the legacy left by the 1971 Oscar-winning film, “The French Connection” (starring Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider). The global high-fashion retailer? Harder to say.
According to the American Film Institute, TFC is one of the top 100 American films of all time. (Interestingly, only eight of their top fifty have come out since 1970. One could use that slim fact to springboard into a rollicking, speculative and generally subtle commentary on 1970 as a major tipping point for all kinds of things we take for granted today... but better to wait for my novel.)
The French Connection film is based on a non-fiction book with the same title (and still in print) by Boston-raised, Harvard-educated, WWII vet and author, Robin Moore. TFC concerns a vast international heroin smuggling and distribution ring, and one particularly colorful, determined guy (NYC cop, Eddie Egan) who risked his life to crack it, in 1962. The bust was the largest up to that time. Egan played a role in the film (not as himself; Hackman did that, as “Popeye Doyle”) but his high profile did not serve him well, as this 1975 People article attests. (One lesson: Check your royalty agreements. Carefully.)
Garnering far less notice is this 2012 documentary about African-American drug kingpin Frank Matthews (a.k.a., “Black Caesar”) who operated in 21 states in the 1960s and early 70s, picking up where TFC left off. Matthews jumped bail in 1973 with $15 million, fled the country (it is believed) and is presumed still alive... somewhere. He would be 75. That era continues to reverberate.