The Roaring Twenties (1939)

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Published on: 2009.08.13

Compared to violent crime dramas of today, The Roaring Twenties (1939) stands up very well. Sure, there have been advances in special effects, but apparently very few advances in acting, filmography, or story-telling.

This film is filled with excellent examples of all those.

The special effects fall short during a scene when James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart are only boats at night. The boats are obviously models in a tub, filmed with macro lenses. But that was the only cheesy effect. The fight scenes rival many that are filmed in modern times, and one car wreck jarred even a jaded film-goer like myself.

The plot in a nutshell:

Three main characters, played by James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Jeffrey Lynn, meet near the end of World War I. Their character attributes are quickly established without wasting time.

When the men return to the States after the war, the go their separate ways, one becoming a lawyer, one going into crime, and another (Cagney) looks for his old job. Unable to find a job, and after months of searching, Cagney finally gets into the world of illegal booze (it’s during Prohibition).

As Cagney’s character becomes richer and more powerful, he’s still unable to win over the heart of the girl he’s had a crush on for years.

The three main characters continue to have dealings with each other throughout the film, including the final scenes, which are pretty stark.

I was surprised that the story moved along at a quick pace, after watching a lot of really slow-moving old films. This one doesn’t have many gaps, and is well-edited.

If you haven’t seen a crime drama made in the 1930s, or if you’ve been disappointed with others, I recommend this one.

The violence in the movie is bloodless, and there is of course no strong language or sex, so I can recommend it for family viewing.

IMDb: The Roaring Twenties
Wikipedia: The Roaring Twenties
Rating: ?
(organized crime violence)
Length: 104 min (1:44)
Director: Raoul Walsh
Genre: Crima / Drama
My Rating: 8 of 10
Family Friendly: Yes
James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart, Gladys George, Jeffrey Lynn, Frank McHugh, Paul Kelly

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