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Author Topic: OUATIA: The Begining - Public Enemy - and the 1930's Warner Gangster Cycle  (Read 7073 times)
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« on: November 21, 2005, 07:03:20 AM »

Watched this fantastic film again last night. Thinking about it, I love the way the film throws you into the deep end and bombards you with images and characters that you have to actively discover to understand their meaning and their posistion in Noodles life. I also love the inter-textual referances to the Warners 1930's Gangster Cycle, such as Public Enemy, (with just one example being the use of the flashback to the begining of the century with the two friends making their way through crime)  Angels With Dirty Faces (Again the flashback and one of the two friends disagreeing with the other about elements of their life)and The Roaring Twenties (with the look, montage and presentation of the Prohibition era and the speakeasys.)
  Infact watching this again has inspired me to do a repeat viewing of the the excellent Warner boxset Warners Gangster Collection which contains the films Little Caesar, Public Enemy, The Petrified Forrest, Angels With Dirty Faces, The Roaring Twenties and White Heat.

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« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2005, 05:07:51 PM »

Public Enemy & The Roaring Twenties are great, Little Ceasar too, Angels With Dirty Faces, Dead End, also High Sierra, and be sure to check out Paul Muni in Scarface.

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« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2007, 03:13:35 PM »

Earlier in the week, TCM had a few Bogart films on.  Unfortunately could only watch one....got a chance to see Angels With Dirty Faces.  I enjoyed it very much.  James Cagney was impressive in his performance as Rocky Sullivan.  It was a good role for him providing a wide range of dramatic situations.  The Dead End Kids were quite good as well.  Although the film is definitely of that era and had quite a sentimental approach to the youth gone bad / turned gangster character, I thought it was very good.  On the OUATIA site in the library, allusions- gangster films section, it cites Angels With Dirty Faces as a reference for the gangster returns to old neighborhood theme.  There were definitely a lot of references for OUATIA in AWDF.   In AWDF, just before the two characters are about to break into a freight train car as boys, they talk about going to Florida and going swimming.  In OUATIA there are two references to swimming which are used as sort of "relief" scenes after Noodles and Max have words.  After the hit on Joe Minaldi, Noodles drives the car into the water so they can take a swim.  Also after the disagreement in Jimmy's hospital room, Max goes after Noodles and suggests he accompany Noodles to Florida for a swim.  The swimming in OUATIA also refers back to the fall in the water when the gang were boys fishing the liquor out of the harbor.   I think that AWDF spent some time depicting the experience of the Dead End Kids in their neighborhood as youths susceptible to the influence of various gangster characters.  This somewhat recalls the youth/gangsters segment of OUATIA.  There were two other similarities I was thinking about.  The James Cagney character ends up taking the rap for the attempted theft of the freight car and goes to a reform center.  His incarceration definitely affects his growth; contributes towards his progression to a life of crime.  This has similarities to Noodles' experience.  Also that AWDF tells the story of two childhood characters, one that stays in a life of crime and one that turns good becoming a priest....has similarities to Max and Noodles.  Max would be the character that "maxes" out and wants to get deeper and deeper in organized crime to achieve his personal agenda.  Although Noodles would not be a character turned good in any sense....he basically wants to stay small time and has concern for the consequences of greater involvement with the Mob and how it affects the welfare of each member of their small childhood gang.

I thought this post fit with this existing thread since AWDF was part of the Warner Gangster Collection.   Hope that was okay.  I wasn't aware of that collection.  Quite outstanding.  Would love to see the other films and try to relate them back to OUATIA as well.

« Last Edit: April 28, 2007, 05:59:11 PM by Noodles_SlowStir » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2007, 05:45:05 PM »

Track down the Warners Tough Guy Collection as well Noodles. Another great gangster collection.

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« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2007, 07:25:25 PM »

thanks for the info Afro

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« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2007, 07:55:28 PM »

Yes...thanks LA....will look into that one as well.  Smiley

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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2007, 09:16:56 PM »

I found a copy of Little Caesar (1930).  Enjoyed it very much.  It’s quite a remarkable film for an early picture with sound.  Like Angels With Dirty Faces, the film is elevated by the charismatic performance of its lead actor.  This powerhouse performance by Edward G. Robinson would create one of the early gangster archetypes in film.  There are references to Robinson’s intelligence, however he seems to be driven more by his thirst for power and his own narcissism.  In contrast,  I think the Cagney gangster type is portrayed as being more resourceful, thoughtful and intelligent.  Rico is first presented with his partner Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr) in a diner.  Joe tells Rico he wants to get out of the life and become a dancer, while Rico reads a newspaper article about how a crime boss is honored by his gang.  Rico decides he must take action to achieve this end for himself.  With Joe, Rico leaves his small town roots and gas station knockovers in order “ to become somebody”.  More than the money, he longs to be in a position of authority like the gang leaders he reads about in the newspaper.  He wants to give the orders.  Once he takes over the lead of Sam’s gang, he plots his way to supplant Diamond Pete and eventually “the Big Boy”.  We’re given many memorable scenes which depict the vanity of Rico.  The scene in which he primps in front of the mirror in his “monkey suit” preparing to meet with Big Boy.  The eventual meeting scene is a terrific display of Robinson’s ability, he very skillfully presents a Rico socially uncomfortable and self conscious in Big Boy’s elegant surroundings, and at the same time in awe of the material objects (paintings and furniture) found at the top.  Big Boy will offer Rico cigars and brandy before offering him the northside territory of Diamond Pete.  Rico having “learned” his lesson well in his “monkey suit” will repeat the same meeting ritual with Joe Massara later in the film.  There’s a classic scene in which Rico approaches Joe and Olga with his piece in hand from Joe’s point of view.  Robinson walks toward the camera until his face fills the frame from end to end.  The viewer is able to look into Rico’s eyes as they glaze over and he’s unable to shoot Joe.  The camera will track Robinson as he backs away.  The close up shot is quite similar to a Leone close up.  The film contains many classic lines and phrases:  “You can dish it out but you can’t take it”, “you’re yellow”, “nobody ever quit on me” and “you’re all through”.  Of course the film is remembered for Rico’s final line.  Flaherty determined to take down the “swell headed” Rico will appeal to Rico’s pride and vanity and flush him out of hiding through the newspapers.  The film provides a caption, “Rico’s career had been like a sky rocket starting in the gutter and returning there.....”  After the death of Otero, his right hand man, and the arrest of his gang, Rico goes into hiding in a flop house. Whereas he never would drink before, he is shown rundown and reclining on a cot guzzling down a pint of liquor.  Rico calls Flaherty angrily refuting his newspaper claim that he is yellow and ....able to dish it out but unable to take it (using his own words against him).  Rico remains on the line long enough for Flaherty to trace the phone call.  Eventually Rico will be taken down in a shootout uttering the classic line..... “Uhhh, mother of mercy is this the end of Rico?”  I did find some of the dramatic sequences in the film weak.   I’m thinking about the scene with Tony and his mother and some of the scenes between Joe and Olga.    I think that one has to watch the film and take the era into account.  I found that the actors at times were kind of over emoting and was thinking it was an indication of how the acting style of early talking films went through a transition period to catch up with the new sound technology.  I definitely don’t hold this against the film at all.  It’s quite understandable why this film was a sensation in its time. The film’s plot and script are tight, it’s ably directed by Mervin LeRoy,  and overall has held up very well. 

Allusions in OUATIA and similarities:

Opening of Little Caesar  has a page with a quote from Matthew 26.52  “For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”.  Leone will use a variation of this, “your youngest and strongest will fall by the sword” on a plaque over the entrance of the prison and the mausoleum.

Rico’s boys give him a pocket watch at the banquet honoring him.  The platinum and diamond pocket watch was stolen by his gang.   In OUATIA, Noodles and gang take the pocket watch of the drunk.  Max will hold on to the watch and take it out in the final scene with Noodles.   

Newspapers document the exploits of Rico, his gang and other gangsters.  In OUATIA in the scene when Noodles returns after his opium binge, the gang reads the newspaper accounts of their efforts to help the steel worker’s union.  They get a kick out of the variations of how they’re portrayed in print.
   
Rico admires Big Boy’s desk and furnishings during their meeting together and comments on how much it must of set him back.  I found this very reminiscent of Max and the Pope’s throne he purchases.  He answers Noodles questions concerning the throne and points out how much he spent on it.

Duplicity within the gang.  Rico hits gang member Tony in front of the church for turning  yellow.  The gang gives a lavish funeral for Tony because he “deserved it”.  When the gang talks about the upcoming banquet to honor Rico, Rico remarks that it’s too bad Tony won’t be there. Rico took over control of the gang from Sam.  Initially the two are shown in a power struggle.  In the banquet program, Sam has well wishes for his “pal” Rico.  This duplicity is similar to that of Max with the gang and Noodles.

Rico shares same view of women as Max.  Women are dames and molls.  He has no interest in women.  “What does it ever get ya?”  He sees Olga, love interest of Joe, as a threat to his business.  In his view, once in a gang one can never leave.  Furthermore, Joe cannot be a member of a gang and have a relationship with a woman.  In this way the Rico/Joe relationship mirrors the Max/Noodles relationship.  Eventually it’s Olga that calls the police and confirms that Rico shot the crime commissioner which sets into motion Rico’s downfall.

LeRoy seems to depict Rico as being unfulfilled and empty after achieving his superficial goals.  He commands his own gang, he has the fine clothes and jewelry, and he has the “admiration” of his boys....yet there’s something missing.  The emptiness seems to increase his appetite for more.... setting his sights on becoming the next Big Boy.  Big Boy is portrayed as being above the law, and untouchable.  Neither Rico or Max can ever obtain Big Boy status.  Like Rico, Max’s lifetime pursuit of power and wealth brings about his own downfall and results in a meaningless, empty life.

« Last Edit: May 27, 2007, 09:20:13 PM by Noodles_SlowStir » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: May 28, 2007, 05:08:33 AM »

Glad you enjoyed it Noodles and thanks for the excellent comparisons. Have you tracked down a copy of The Public Enemy? Most certainly worth a look with Cagney absolutely brilliant.

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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2007, 08:27:36 AM »

One becomes a priest, the other a bandit in AWDF.  Like Tuco and Pablo as well, that's what I first thought of when hearing that from Pablo in GBU.

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« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2007, 09:42:13 AM »

Glad you enjoyed it Noodles and thanks for the excellent comparisons. Have you tracked down a copy of The Public Enemy? Most certainly worth a look with Cagney absolutely brilliant.

Thanks LA.  You're right, need to check out The Public Enemy.  The copy of Little Caesar I watched had a foreward at the very beginning which made comparisons between Rico/Little Caesar and Tom Powers/The Public Enemy.  It was one of those public appeal type statements pointing out the necessity of addressing the problems that the two characters represent to society.  Little Caesar came out in 1930.  The Public Enemy came out the following year.  The foreward must of been tacked on a little bit later maybe while Little Caesar was still showing in the theaters.  Would you know anything about that?

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One becomes a priest, the other a bandit in AWDF.  Like Tuco and Pablo as well, that's what I first thought of when hearing that from Pablo in GBU.

Cusser I didn't make that association with GBU.  Thanks for your observation.

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« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2007, 01:44:00 PM »

Very nice analysis, you must also check out SCARFACE with Paul Muni to round out your explorations.

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« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2007, 02:07:39 PM »

CJ thanks for recommendation.  I'll check it out.

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