8 Classic Movies That Inspired Scenes From ‘Public Morals’ (PHOTOS)

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Bullitt, Public Morals
Left: Warner Bros/The Kobal Collection. Right: Jojo Whilden/TNT
When casting Muldoon’s cousin and protégé, Sean (Austin Stowell), the director wanted a tough “Steve McQueen type” reminiscent of the rebel cop McQueen portrayed in 1968’s Bullitt. Appropriately, Sean isn’t the refined type—as proved by the damage he does to the car of a gent he thinks is sleeping with his lady.
Public Morals, Harper
Left: Niko Tavernise/TNT. Right: Everett Collection
For Sean’s NYPD frenemy, dapper newbie Shea (Brian Wiles), Burns went for a calmer, cooler, and more collected Paul Newman look (like the one from Harper). Shea’s only bona fides are the strings his high-ranked cop dad pulled, but don’t judge him just yet. “As the show goes on, the one you think is going to be bad will be more of a good guy,” Burns says about Sean and Shea. “And vice versa.”
Public Morals, The French Connection
Left: Jojo Whilden/TNT. Right: ©20th Century Fox/Everett Collection
The French Connection
Muldoon’s partner Charlie Bullman (Michael Rapaport), a big-hearted German-American widower, is outfitted to resemble The French Connection’s NYPD detective Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman). No, Charlie doesn’t get into a high-speed chase under an elevated train. But the African-American all-girls singing trio at the underground casino he attends is modeled after “The Three Degrees” from the movie's Copacabana scene.
Mean Streets, Public Morals
Left: Everett Collection. Right: Niko Tavernise/TNT
Mean Streets
What’s good for one reckless young hood, should be good for another, right? Very bad boy Richard Kane (Aaron Dean Eisenberg) causes trouble throughout the city in a black hat similar to the one worn by the self-destructive Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets.
The Hustler, Public Morals
Left: Niko Tavernise/TNT. Right: Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
The Hustler
Public Morals’ production team couldn’t find the right pool hall to serve as home base for psychopath Mafia scion Rusty (Neal McDonough) and his partner in killing, Uncle Red (Fredric Lehne), so they reconstructed the Ames billiards hall from The Hustler. Burns also wanted the establishment to have the same name, and getting the look just right took a little cinematic trickery. “When [a henchman] gets out of a car, there’s a shot that cranes up the building,” Burns says. “We re-created the original sign using effects.”
Public Morals, The Godfather
Top: TNT. Bottom: Everett Collection
The Godfather
Citywide upheaval and his own impending retirement force Hell’s Kitchen mob boss Patton (Brian Dennehy) to call a meeting of New York’s top capos just like in The God­father. And also like their cinematic forefathers, the dons are greeted with quite a spread. “The Godfather had a fruit bowl, so we had a fruit bowl,” Burns notes. “These are the things most people would never notice but that we knew cinephiles, once they were told to look for them, would get.”
Public Morals, Belle de Jour
Left: Jessica Miglio/TNT. Right: Paris Film/Five Film/The Kobal Collection
Belle de Jour
Not all references in Public Morals are to American films. To dress struggling hooker Fortune (Katrina Bowden, left), Burns and his costume director looked at the fashions worn by Catherine Deneuve’s prostitute in Spanish director Luis Buñuel’s Belle de Jour. Burns’s on-screen wife, Christine (Elizabeth Masucci), also takes a few clothing cues from Deneuve, but her look adds inspiration from a more wholesome ’60s icon, Jacqueline Kennedy.
Raging Bull, Public Morals
Left: Everett Collection. Right: TNT
Raging Bull
Home is definitely where the heart is. Burns has always cited Martin Scorsese as one of his major inspirations, and he references the New Yorker’s films more than once in Public Morals. The most prominent is the Muldoon family’s Hell’s Kitchen apartment (right) which harks back to Jake LaMotta’s abode at the beginning of Raging Bull.
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By Aubry D’Arminio

New York City, 1960s: The lights are bright, the bars are inviting and the line of hookers stretches down Broadway as far as the wandering eye can see. Vice cops are aplenty, but arrests are rare. In the new TNT drama Public Morals, the NYPD doesn’t police “victimless crimes,” like gambling and prostitution. Instead, Officer Terry Muldoon (Edward Burns) and his squad regulate them alongside the local mob. The factions have an uneasy bonhomie that’s kiboshed after a vicious brawl inside a Mafia-run pool hall—which cinephiles might notice looks a lot like the one in The Hustler.

Any filmmaker worth his weight in popcorn can name a Paul Newman flick. But Public Morals creator Burns can also tell you who plays his nemesis (in The Hustler, it’s Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats) and where they face off (the Ames billiards hall). Burns’s first TV series was bound to be full of movie references. “I had 30 years of obsessions and a place to finally show them,” the writer-director-actor says. “I looked for ways to give little winks to the films that made me want to make movies. You can’t do that in a film, because you’d just be copying other movies. But with a 10-episode television series, you have the license to say, ‘We’re doing an homage.’” In the photo gallery above, see a sampling of those many tributes.

Public Morals, Series premiere, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 10/9c, TNT