The Roaring Twenties (1939)

Raoul Walsh directs James Cagney, Priscilla Lane and Humphrey Bogart in this prohibition gangster flick following Cagney’s demobbed hard man rising and falling as a bootlegger through all they key events of the era.

A fine period piece of brute glamour and pinstripe tumble. Cagney races through a decade of outrageous fortunes – rejected by society, seduced by crime, falling for a good girl who isn’t interested and ignoring the bad girl with a heart of gold (an outstanding Gladys George as Panama Smith.) As time marches on skyscrapers melt and Cagney’s mind falls apart. It is the kinda of destruction of a man that doesn’t really need the studio mandated death in the gutter to close the film, though they one they give him here is the most iconic I’ve seen. Bogart plays one of his very last third banana tough guy role, his ascending star is becoming obvious by this point… but he never steals Cagney’s limelight. The script is sharp, the direction fluid.


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