Most people are familiar with The Untouchables either through the television series starring Robert Stack or the Brian DePalma film starring Kevin Costner. Both of these vehicles give inaccurate information about the Untouchables as well as the leader of the group of men, Eliot Ness.
In the film, Eliot Ness is played by Kevin Costner. He is seen as a family man with two biological children and a wife named Katherine. He has a daughter and his wife is pregnant and later in the film gives birth to a son. First big error is that Eliot Ness had three wives, but none of them were named Katherine. He never had any biological children although his third wife and he adopted a three year old boy.
Ness never killed anyone as is seen in the movie. Nor did he, even for a moment, trust the police in the city of Chicago where Al Capone had everything in his pocket. Ness pursued Capone with a vengeance, but never confronted him at the Lexington Hotel.
The Untouchables were nicknamed after they refused to take a bribe. It was at this time when the name Eliot Ness became known to the public in Chicago. Prior to that, they were a covert operation. Ness and his team of ten men, each handpicked for the job, worked from the Transportation Building. They did not associate with the police nor were introduced to the police department as they worked as a covert team that was associated with the Treasury Department.
In the television series, Robert Stack plays Ness and is more realistic in his depiction, although much older than the man he is portraying. Stack is often seen as angry and in his office quite a bit. His wife is Betty in the TV program and he has a son. He is closer to the real life person of Elliot Ness than in the movie as he is rarely seen at home and he and his men are often seen working until all hours of the night. Rarely does the telephone ring in the office when Stack does not pick it up.
Creative license has been taken with Eliot Ness since his death in 1957 and even prior. When his biographer, Oscar Fraley was writing his book, Ness failed to mention the fact that he had been divorced twice nor did he remember much about his Chicago days of chasing Al Capone. Fraley made the entire persona up that lives on to this day.
A biography of the prohibition agent details his downfall but gives very little insight as to the man he was as by the time the biography was published his wives and close friends were dead. Some fiction books have taken more liberties with the person he was by basing some of their writing on the biography that was written in the late 1990s.