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The Guilty Generation (1931)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 19 November 1931 (USA)
A Romeo and Juliet love story between the son of a brutal Italian bootlegger and the daughter of his bitter ex-partner, who is engaged in a blood feud with his one-time friend.



(from the play by), (from the play by) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Maria Palmero
Marco Ricca
Joe Palmero
Tony Ricca
Nina Palmero
James Wilcox ...
Don Morley (as Jimmy Wilcox)
Elliott Rothe ...
Benedicto Ricca
Phil Tead ...
Fred Howard ...
Bradley (as Frederick Howard)
Eddie Boland ...
Victor - Mike's Butler
Ruth Warren ...
Nellie Weaver


John Smith is a young architect who changed his name from Marco Ricca when he realized that being a notorious bootlegger's son was not likely to help his career. Maria Palmiero's father is also a bootlegger, and she's finding that the high society circles she wants to move in are not very welcoming to her. Naturally, John and Maria's fathers are waging a brutal gang war back in New York, and naturally John and Maria fall in love. The premise mirrors that of "Romeo and Juliet," but the plot doesn't, although the bodies do pile up. Written by Cameron Majidi <cmaj@prolifics.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

19 November 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Culpa dos Pais  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The $25,000 reward put up by the newspaper for the killer of the two kids would equate to nearly $400,000 in 2016. See more »


LaRusso - Mike's Lawyer: [to Mike] Mike Palmero, you're a disgrace to your nationality! I'm through with you!
See more »


Referenced in Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film (2008) See more »


Pop Goes the Weasel
English nursery rhyme/folk song
[Played by party band]
See more »

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User Reviews

The Petit-Princes Of Prohibition And Gangland Warfare
23 January 2007 | by (New Haven County, Connecticut) – See all my reviews

While it is true that this interesting crime drama has a few significant "holes" in it -- like casting Boris Karloff with his crisp enunciations as an Italian-immigrant mobster -- the film stands as a persuasive cultural document indicting the whole Prohibition Era. For those who do not know anything about our true American history, there was about fifty-two years of social agitation behind what was known as The Temperance Movement, culminating in a Constitutional amendment and "the Volstead Act." In a curious tandem movement, the long-running "Suffrage" movement for women to have the vote became intertwined and then interlocked with "Temperance." What began as a local issue, restricting or banning the sale of alcoholic beverages at a time when nearly all adult men drank beer, whiskey or gin, eventually morphed into statewide legislation. The problem was complex, however, as "dry counties" competed with "wet counties" inside of states, and then across state boundaries, as dry states conflicted with wet states.

When Congress proposed the "Prohibition" amendment in December of 1917, the country had been involved in the Declared War that T. Woodrow Wilson campaigned against in his 1916 re-election bid, since April of '17. As tens of thousands of U.S. troops were training for and shipping out for the battlefields of France, where they would learn to enjoy French wines, cognac and champagnes, their Congress was moving to provide Prohibition of drinking alcohol from sea to shining sea. The amendment as proposed achieved ratification on January 29th of 1919 and its provisions took effect one year later.

Thirteen years and twenty-one days later, Congress moved to repeal the Prohibition Amendment and this counter-amendment was ratified by December of 1933, or nine months into the new administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In those thirteen years and nine months, the structure and integrity of American society was wholly changed and radicalized. Minor criminal gangs in the major cities blossomed into full-fledged crime syndicates, as the taste for liquor and beer among the people wholly overwhelmed the legal reality of Prohibition.

Thus, the "Roaring '20s" was a time when stock market speculations and easy money rode the same horses as did "bootlegging" or the illegal importation or illegal manufacture of beer and hard liquors ... in every part of the country. Thousands of men -- and some women and children -- were killed in the revolving battles between bootlegging gangs in the major cities, and the violence only got worse as the profits from "speakeasy" saloons and "rum-running" grew larger and larger. Municipalities and county governments were suborned. Governors were bribed, and Customs officials bought or intimidated into silence.

The background of this movie is that history: the two gangs, seeming to be from Chicago although not specifically mentioned as such, are the Ricca and the Palmero, whose leaders were formerly partners and whose families were formerly friends.

As the movie unfolds, the violence between the gangs escalates into killing each others' operatives, each others' cousins, and then each man's sons. And against this hideous background, even if played at a lower key, the daughter of Palmero meets and falls in love with the second son of Ricca, who has been raised abroad and who has changed his name to "Smith." No, it's not "Romeo & Juliet" at all but there are some similarities.

Others have commented on how this fledgling romance comes across as being "sappy" or syrupy. That's right. But that's what movie going audiences wanted in the middle of the early years of the Depression. The violence described in this film is not shown specifically, but it lurks in the shadows like a Kabuki puppet.

Leo Carrillo and Boris Karloff do very well in their roles, and the absence of any background music makes this film more intensely visual, although there are scenes where music is played in a club or for a party. The lavish life style of the Palmero family, in their Florida mansion, is another element in the fictional "testament" of just how warped the social order of the United States had become under Prohibition, and under the tyranny of these petit-princes of the Prohibition Era.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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