Harry Grey

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Harry Grey
BornHerschel Goldberg
(1901-11-02)November 2, 1901
Odessa, Russian Empire
DiedOctober 1, 1980(1980-10-01) (aged 78)
Manhattan, New York, United States
OccupationAuthor, writer
Notable worksThe Hoods
Mildred Becker
(m. 1932)

Herschel Goldberg (November 2, 1901 – October 1, 1980), better known as Harry Grey, was a Russian Jewish-American writer. His first book, The Hoods (1952), was the model for the 1984 film Once Upon a Time in America by Sergio Leone, where his part was played by Robert De Niro. [1] The book was one of the few autobiographies of real gangsters. It is believed that the real name of the author was Goldberg and that his memoir, partially factual, partially subconsciously altered, and partially fictional, was written when Goldberg was incarcerated in the Sing-Sing prison.


After The Hoods, Grey published two more books, Call Me Duke (1955) and Portrait of a Mobster (1958), also based on his experience as a gangster, but these had much less success. A "Golden Palm Star", part of the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, was dedicated to Grey in 1999. [2]


Grey's real name was Herschel Goldberg. Born in Kiev, Russia (now Kyiv, Ukraine) in 1901, son of Israel and Celia Goldberg, emigrated to the United States in 1905 and dropped out of school in the seventh grade. He was the brother of Hyman Goldberg, a syndicated columnist and food critic for the New York Post and author of several books including "Our Man in the Kitchen", a compilation of recipes from his column as "Prudence Penny".

In 1912, Goldberg's father became seriously ill and had to be taken to hospital for an operation. During his stay in hospital, Celia began cooking meals for men in the neighborhood who were saving money to bring their families to America from Europe. When Israel came out of hospital he found that Celia had a flourishing business and Israel started a restaurant. All the children, including Harry and Hyman, helped out.

In 1932, Grey married Mildred Becker, a college graduate and had three children, Beverle, Harvey, and Simeon. After being hospitalized by an accident in his fifties, Harry decided to write about life in the twenties and thirties and the syndicates that controlled businesses in New York. To protect himself and his family he changed the family name to Grey.

Grey died in October 1980, shortly before filming of Once Upon a Time in America began.

In December 1999, Harry's son Simeon sponsored a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars for his father under the name of Harry "Noodles" Grey. Biographical details are attached to this star. [3]


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1910 NY Census [4]
1915 NY Census [5]
1920 NY Census [6]
1925 NY Census [7]
1930 NY Census [8]
1940 NY Census part a [9]
1940 NY Census part b [10]
Death index [11]
Obituary [12]

  1. Vincent Canby (June 1, 1984). "Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in America". The New York Times . Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  2. Palm Springs Walk of Stars: By Date Dedicated Archived December 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  3. "Palm Springs Walk of Stars dedication" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 14, 2016. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  4. 1910 NY Census
  5. 1915 NY Census
  6. 1920 NY Census
  7. 1925 NY Census
  8. 1930 NY Census
  9. 1940 NY Census part a
  10. 1940 NY Census part b
  11. Death index
  12. Obituary