So I was discussing with cj how much I love Gangster Movies, and that i wanted to discuss them here; he suggested that we make individual threads about each movie, which he will then compile into a Gangster Film Index. If you're a fan of Gangster films, please join the discussion and make new threads for each gangster film, then PM cj to add it to the index
Well, what better movie to start with than the one that IMO is the first great gangster film The Public Enemy (1931) 10/10 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0022286/
The classic story of the rise and fall of a gangster in Prohibition-era Chicago.
James Cagney ... Tom Powers
Jean Harlow ... Gwen Allen
Edward Woods ... Matt Doyle
Joan Blondell ... Mamie
Donald Cook ... Mike Powers
Leslie Fenton ... Nails Nathan
Beryl Mercer ... Ma Powers
Robert Emmett O'Connor ... Paddy Ryan (as Robert O'Connor)
Murray Kinnell ... Putty Nose
IMO this is the best of all the 30's-40's gangster films.
Cagney is my favorite movie gangster ever (in addition to The Public Enemy
, I'm thinking of Angels with Dirty Faces
, The Roaring Twenties
, and White Heat
Jean Harlow's performance here is also legendary, and who can forget Cagney smashing a grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face (surprisingly, imdb says that Clarke's was an uncredited performance). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4R5wZs8cxI
Later in the decade, especially once the Production Code began to be enforced, many of the gangster films began to become more "socially-conscious"). Eg. Dead End
and Angels With Dirty Faces
try to explore how a child goes off, and even in The Roaring Twenties
, the Cagney character is basically a good guy who just finds it impossible to get a job after returning from World War I.
But The Public Enemy
has no such concerns. Tom Powers is not a good guy, and at no point does the movie sympathize with him. The movie begins with scenes of Tom (and his buddy Matt) as children, but only to show us how they were rotten from the start; and Tom's father dying young sure didn't help. But ultimately, these boys just want to make the big time, quickly and easily, and that's what it's all about. As Tom says about his older brother, "he's going to school, so he can learn how to be poor!" These boys want what they want, and that's all there is to it.
You'll notice that in the scenes as children, the taller boy is Tom and the shorter one is Matt; initially, Edward Woods was supposed to be the lead and Cagney the supporting actor; but they realized at some point, I guess early on in the shoot, that Cagney was a star, and switched the roles, and Cagney became Tom Powers.
The Tuco in the Gunshop scene in GBU was a quotation from the equivalent scene with Tom in The Public Enemy
. Also, of the many parts of The Hoods
that were ripped off of gangster movies, a few are from here: Tom visiting his mother but getting into a fight with his brother who despises his criminal activity, one of the gang getting killed on a job and the boys attending his funeral...