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The Roaring Twenties (1939)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 23 October 1939 (USA)
3:28 | Trailer

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



(screen play), (screen play) | 2 more credits »
1 win. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nick Brown
Elisabeth Risdon ...
Mrs. Sherman (as Elizabeth Risdon)
Edward Keane ...
Henderson (as Ed Keane)
The Sergeant - Pete Jones
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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


1920 . . . Bootleggers, Jazz, Babe Ruth, Speakeasies, Jack Dempsey, Dames, Molls, Easy Living - Quick Dying . . . the torrid . . . blazing . . . wild . . . lush . . . lurid - ROARING TWENTIES ! ! ! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

23 October 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The World Moves On  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Eddie Bartlett refers a couple of times to a "gilpin". This is a slang term for a stupid or gullible person, mostly known from the 1930s rather than 1919 when Eddie first uses it in the film. See more »


When the gangsters hurl bombs at a storefront from the car, watch the prop explosives bounce off the building and roll into the street before the blast. Furthermore that same footage was seen in the film 'Angels with Dirty Faces'. See more »


The Sergeant: When you get an order in the army, buddy, you jump!
George Halley: You mean like you did when you worked for my old man and he caught you stealin' nickels?
The Sergeant: I ain't workin' for him now and I ain't workin' for you.
George Halley: Yeah well you might be. I'm gonna give you a break. I'm gonna let you stand behind the bar with all your medals on and tell all the drunks how you won the war.
See more »


Referenced in Malcolm X (1992) See more »


It Had to Be You
(1924) (uncredited)
Music by Isham Jones
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Sung by Priscilla Lane at the club
Also played when Eddie and Jean are listening to the radio on the headphones
See more »

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User Reviews

Vintage Warner Brothers of the thirties
2 August 2005 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Not as well remembered as "Little Caesar" or "Public Enemy," "The Roaring Twenties" is the culmination of a decade's worth of Warner Brothers gangster films. It was also James Cagney's last tough guy role at the studio for almost a decade.

Cagney is criticized by some in this one for not packing the cinematic punch he did in "Public Enemy" or "White Heat." But this film was the brain child of former Broadway columnist Mark Hellinger and was written as almost an ode to the Damon Runion-like characters Hellinger knew when he prowled the great white way during the 20s. Hellinger was a regular at the famous El Fey club and friend of Texas Guinan, the wild saloon hostess who personified the twenties. Cagney's good/bad guy character, Eddie Bartlett, was in fact based on Larry Fay, the cab driver turned bootlegger who opened the El Fey and hired Guinan as his hostess. Fay is also believed to have been one of the inspirations for F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." Bartlett is meant to symbolize,not a psychotic criminal, but more the social confusion that resultedfrom the passage of a highly unpopular law meant to regulate character,which wound up having the absolute opposite effect, spawning an era of lawlessness.

Although Cagney dominates every scene he is in, the more ominous gangster in the film is played by Humphrey Bogart in one of his best performances prior to assuming character roles in the late 40s. His trigger happy hood was probably fashioned after Owen "Ownie the Killer" Madden, the bootlegger who bought into Harlem's Cotton Club and formed a loose alliance with Fay.

Strong supporting work comes from Gladys George, who plays Panama Smith, the Texas Guinan character.

This picture is slick, well produced, uniformly well acted under the direction of action specialist Raoul Walsh and features some great Cagney stick. When he exploded on screen, there was no one like him.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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