The Roaring Twenties (1939)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  23 October 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 8,866 users  
Reviews: 73 user | 37 critic

Three men attempt to make a living in Prohibitionist America after returning home from fighting together in World War I.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeffrey Lynn ...
Paul Kelly ...
Nick Brown
Elisabeth Risdon ...
Mrs. Sherman (as Elizabeth Risdon)
Edward Keane ...
Henderson (as Ed Keane)
Joe Sawyer ...
The Sergeant - Pete Jones
Joseph Crehan ...
George Meeker ...
Robert Elliott ...
First Detective
Eddy Chandler ...
Second Detective (as Eddie Chandler)


After the WWI Armistice Lloyd Hart goes back to practice law, former saloon keeper George Hally turns to bootlegging, and out-of-work Eddie Bartlett becomes a cab driver. Eddie builds a fleet of cabs through delivery of bootleg liquor and hires Lloyd as his lawyer. George becomes Eddie's partner and the rackets flourish until love and rivalry interfere. Written by Ed Stephan <>

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Biggest of all the Cagney smashes! (Trade Paper ad) See more »


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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

23 October 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The World Moves On  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


A montage features a shot of gangsters bombing a storefront. This shot is actually an alternate angle of the bombing of a store in The Public Enemy (1931), and the same shot is notably also used in a similar montage for Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). See more »


The film is full of classic songs from the 1920s, but the arrangements and vocal styles are those of 1939. No attempt is made to reproduce the actual sound of 1920s dance music. See more »


George Halley: [the men are taking cover in a bombed-out farmhouse, shooting at German soldiers somewhere off-screen. Lloyd takes aim at a German soldier, but hesitates, then lowers his rifle] Whatsa' matta', "Harvard," did you lose the Heine?
Lloyd Hart: No... but he looks like a kid, about 15 years old.
George Halley: -
[Aims his rifle and without any hesitation shoots the young German soldier]
George Halley: He won't be sixteen.
[Seconds later, a fellow soldier rushes in to tell them the war is over, the Armistice has been signed]
See more »


Referenced in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 50 Years of Magic (1990) See more »


Ain't We Got Fun
(1921) (uncredited)
Music by Richard A. Whiting
Played during the initial speakeasy montage
Also played at the club the night Jean makes her debut
See more »

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User Reviews

One of the Best of Warner's Gangster Films!
22 February 2005 | by (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

"The Roaring Twenties" more or less marked the end of Warner Bros. gangster films popular during the 1930s. For the next few years WWII would form the backdrop of their action films.

This one is full of action and memorable characters due largely to the presence of legendary director Raoul Walsh and its stellar cast.

Three soldiers meet on the WWI battlefield in 1918. One is the all good lawyer Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn), one the thoroughly bad George Hally (Humphrey Bogart) and the third, an everyman named Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney). Eddie is smitten with a girl, Jean Sherman (Priscilla Lane) who has been corresponding with him from home.

When the war ends Eddie returns to New York and hooks up with buddy Danny Green (Frank McHugh) who is a Gabie. Eddie goes to meet Jean but is disappointed to learn that she is just a teenager. Unable to find work, Eddie is forced to share the driving of Danny's cab. In the meantime, prohibition takes effect and Eddie discovers that bootlegging is the way to get rich. At the onset he meets saloon girl Panama Smith (Gladys George) who turns out to be his only friend.

Fast forward to 1924 and Eddie re-discovers Jean in a chorus line and decides to take a hand in her career. Eddie is now hopelessly in love with Jean much to the dismay of Panama. Jean however, is in love with Lloyd who has turned up as Eddie's lawyer. One night while hijacking a load of booze from rival gangster Nick Brown (Paul Kelly), Eddie meets up with George Hally (what are the chances of that?) who works for Brown. Hally decides to double cross Brown and throw in with Eddie. All the while Eddie is buying up taxis until he has immersed a fleet of 2,000 cabs.

Everything is running smoothly until Hally begins to get his own ambitions and sets up Brown to Murder Eddie. The plot fails. Meanwhile Jean leaves Eddie and runs off with Lloyd and Eddie begins to drink. At the same time come the stock market crash of 1929 and Eddie is ruined. Hally however, didn't play the stocks and buys out Eddie's cab business for a small figure and leaves Eddie with but one cab for himself.

Eddie hits the skids along with the ever faithful Panama until Hally threatens Jean and Lloyd and.............

Cagney as usual dominates the picture. He is his usual cocky Irish tough guy but with character flaws. His love for Jean ultimately is what destroys him. Lane contributes a couple of classic songs (in her own voice) as Jean. Bogart as the thoroughly evil Hally gives us a preview of the Bogart tough guy image to come in the 40s. Gladys George almost steals the picture from Cagney as the tragic Panama and McHugh is sympathetic as Danny.

Oddly enough, for a gangster picture, there are no major characters in respect of crusading cops or district attorneys. All of the action is between the gangsters.

Cagney would not appear in another gangster film for ten years until "White Heat" (1949).

10 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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