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I am hardly a fan of national film critics, but they are right on the
money with this one - it stinks.
One major objection is having David Janssen playing the gangster Arnold Rothstein. What kind of casting is that? He couldn't be less credible in that role. Other cast members don't fit in here, either. The whole thing is a mess.
The first half hour of this movie doesn't exactly grab your attention, but when the romance sets in, it really puts you to sleep....and really never recovers. "King of the Roaring Twenties" sounds like an interesting, exciting gangster film but is just the opposite. Don't waste your time.
With a screenplay by Jo Swerling, this should have been a dynamite
movie. However, with direction by Joseph M. Newman, it winds up being a
pointless B movie. No action, no movement, not even really any clear
Given a desire to portray an enigmatic character, David Janssen was a potentially perfect choice for the role of Arnold Rothstein, boss gambler and the man who may have fixed the 1919 World Series. Janssen had a striking ability to show an intelligent character clearly engaged in the moment even as he evaluates the situation disinterestedly, an acting ability that he used to perfection on the small screen in both THE FUGITIVE and HARRY O. Yet, except for his scenes with Mickey Rooney (who finally got the chance in this movie to stretch himself in a real acting assignment and comes off as the best in the cast), we get little of that. Instead we get a movie in which each plot point is mechanically foreshadowed and then shown in a rather dull fashion.
There are a few standout performances: Dan O'Herlihy as the corrupt cop is great, but all he does is make you wish the movie is about him. What's going on in his mind and why? Joseph Schildkraut handles his couple of scenes with dignity and care. Jack Carson slides through his role as the head gangster in his typical bluff, understated manner. But the center of this movie starts nowhere, leads nowhere and takes no advantage of any of the strengths of the talents involved.
When I first started going to the movies, I found many actors who had such charisma, I found I was overwhelmed with their persona. Thus it was when I came to select, David Janssen as my all time favorite star. I have seen every movie he has ever made. The good, the bad and the ones I believe, he should have passed by. This is one such film. I so admire Janssen that he is super cool as a private detective, like Richard Diamond, crafty as O'Hara Treasury Agent and he is ultra believable as the innocent escapee, in the TV series, The Fugitive. But although he portrayed 1920's gangster Arnold Rothstein, he is far from threatening enough to personify the infamous double dealing, backstabbing hoodlum who became notorious during the age of the flapper. Furthermore, his sidekick Johnny Burke (Mickey Rooney) played his role as an ignorant stooge and thus garnered more sympathy, than admiration. Finally there was Dan O'Hererlihy, terrific as many an Irishman, but overbearing as a corrupt cop. Ultimately, the story of Arnold Rothstein, social criminal and despicable character, will have to wait until, Hollywood finds somebody, deplorable enough to be hated for what he really was. That surely was not my favorite thespian. **
Although Arnold Rothstein was a great deal older than David Janssen
when he portrayed Rothstein in King Of The Roaring Twenties, he does
deliver a good performance as the rather bloodless Rothstein who had
the heart of a calculating machine. He came by that personality by
being a mathematical genius as a child and deciding to apply his
talents in the best way calculated to make money. Rothstein in real
life and Janssen on the screen spent their lives calculating.
In fact the title is something of a misnomer because Rothstein being born in 1882 to a respectable middle class Jewish family with father played in the film by Joseph Schildkraut, started his career way before the Roaring Twenties set in. His most famous exploit, the fixing of the 1919 World Series is certainly before the Twenties, but when Prohibition came in, Rothstein saw the possibilities.
The characters in the film are mostly fictional and in some cases pseudonyms are used. Jack Carson's farewell big screen role as Tammany politician Tim O'Brien is more than likely based on Jimmy Hines, later convicted by Thomas E. Dewey. Carson is always good in any film he's in.
The two supporting players who stand out are Dan O'Herlihy as a fictional rogue cop who was taking payoffs back when Janssen was a kid and Mickey Rooney who was the best in the film as Rothstein's boyhood pal who meets a tragic end. The women in Rothstein's life are Dianne Foster and British bombshell Diana Dors who do well as typical Roaring Twenties flappers.
The film has the look and feel of The Untouchables TV series which spawned a revival of the gangster films, this time using the real names of the public enemies. The smartest one of them all Arnold Rothstein might well have been called, King Of The Roaring Twenties.
the verdict on this picture seems to be that it's a fizzle because of Janssen's performance as Rothstein, the most interior portrayal of an organized crime figure this side of John Garfield in Abe Polonsky's magnificent FORCE OF EVIL. Well, Janssen's no Garfield and KING OF THE ROARING TWENTIES is no FORCE OF EVIL, but this Allied Artist's spin-off of the popular "Untouchables" series with Robert Stack deserves a few more props from the peeps at the IMDb website than it has already gotten. It's not quite as droll as Boetticher's very similar looking RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND (which came out at about the same time) but the director, Joseph M Newman, is an underrated dude who, (like Joseph H. Lewis), is long overdue for cultish discovery. The scene in this picture where Mickey Rooney pleads to his childhood buddy, Rothstein, for his life is proof alone of how good he was with actors. Newman worked extensively in television, especially on the ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS series. One episode in particular, titled SEE THE MONKEY DANCE starring Efrem Zimbalist and Roddy McDowell is a marvelous example of what can be done within the imperatives of a weekly commercial format. His work deserves a little more recognition than it's been given thus far.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sometimes actors do quite well on the small television screen. With
their features filling 225 square inches, every blink, every
jactitation, every fleeting suggestion of a smile registers like an
earthquake. Then, when the actor appears in feature films, lamentably,
we get to see that there isn't that much behind the momentary
disarrangement. That's what seems to have happened to David Janssen.
Not that he may have been anything other than a nice guy in real life,
but that he had only two or three notes on his instrument.
"King of the Roaring Twenties" has a script by a Hollywood craftsman but it's as dull as some bent piece of old pewter found in a dark attic corner, and much of the responsibility is Janssen's. After all, Arnold Rothstein was a monumental figure in the world of gambling and organized crime. He was the Louis B. Mayer of the syndicate, larger than life. Michael Lerner turned him into an unforgettable figure in "Eight Men Out." And what do we get from David Janssen. A kind of nice, polite, quiet guy who has a habit of looking up shyly from his lowered head, whose voice hardly rises above a tranquil and reasoned moderato. He gets no help from the director, Joseph M. Newman. A viewer feels that if Janssen could do it, he'd actually erase himself from the screen, leaving a small hole behind. The other actors all walk through their parts except for the thumotic Mickey Rooney.
The story, anyway, borrows from all the other stories of the rise and fall of gangster figures. The protagonist must sacrifice his old childhood friend on the altar of his megalomania; the young cop who warned him early in his career must go on to plague him as an adult; and, if possible, the guy must be assassinated, and preferably in some public place.
As irritating as anything else is the kind of attention paid to wardrobe and the musical score. This is the early years of the 20th century -- Rothstein was at his peak in 1916 and died in 1928 -- yet the characters wear modern suits, except, in a nod to period fashion, the suits generally have vests and the hats sometimes bear a family resemblance to a derby.
Franz Waxman must have been asleep at the switch when he wrote the music. It's all undemanding modernistic jazz, with not a tango or a Charleston in a cartload.
What a terrible bore.
Two points out of respect to David Janssen and his good track record.This movie is so boring I had to fast forward a lot.It's boring because of a lack of action and to much time is spent on the uninteresting subject of a mobster's love life.Not sure but someone wanted to dwell on Rothstein's gambling problem.Hello..a mob boss makes money because other persons have a gambling problem.As in other gangster movies it makes more sense that a mob boss is having a good time spending the losers money not gambling.Don't know if Janssen is part of the problem or not.Has anyone ever witnessed the private life of a mob boss to judge that Janssen didn't do a good job portraying Rothstein.More than likely Janssen is just a victim of this misguided script.This movie looks like a stinker that couldn't sell so someone named it the Arnold Rothstein story to take advantage of the interest in gangster movies at the time.One of the worst parts was having Mickey Rooney begging,horrible treatment to an outstanding actor.Someone compared this movie to The Untouchables..PUHLEEZE,in no way shape or form did I find this movie resembling one of my all time favorite shows except for both of them being filmed in black and white.For the person that wants to test their capacity for boredom this is the movie for them.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
****SPOILERS*** A robotic looking as well as acting David Janssen plays
big time gangster Arnold Rothstein the man with the "Big Bankroll" who
broke his father Abraham's, Jeseph Schildkraut,-An observant and
synagogue going man of the Jewish faith-heart by not studying to become
a rabbi or cantor and even worse later marrying a "Shiksa"-A woman not
of the Jewish religion-Carolyn Green, Dianne Forster, who to add insult
to injury refused to convert to Judaism. But the biggest and baddest
thing that Arnold did was getting involved with the mob in becoming its
major bag-man and financier that had him end up losing every thing he
had, including his life, by the time the movie ended.
We get to see Arnold work himself up the ladder of organized crime since he was a teenager with his good friend "Irish" Johnny Burke, Mickey Rooney, whom he later set up to get rubbed out by the mob. That by Arnold tricking him to testify against corrupt cop Let. Phil Butler, Dan O'Herlihy, who's been a pain in Arnold and Johnny's butts since they were teenagers running numbers for the local mobsters. It's later that he had Butler who was behind Burke being rubbed out get arrested indited convicted as well as executed, all within a 24 hour period, by getting those he hired to knock Burke off to testify against him. With his wife Carolyn having nothing at all to do with him Arnold soon found out that all the palaces of interest his was involved in, gambling dens speakeasies and whore houses, were closed to him leaving him out in the cold.
****SPOILERS**** Finally finding a crap game that he was invited into Arnold was set up to be knocked off by his fellow card players who plugged him under the table as he finally got the hand of a lifetime-A Royal Flush-that eluded him all his life. Still even when shot Arnold was impeccably dressed and groomed-without even as much as a strand of his hair out of place-without his clothes mussed up or stained by his blood as he staggered out of the room and was hospitalized where he died, still in perfect and pristine condition,the next day.
The movie concentrated so much on Arnold's love life as well as double-crossing his friends and associates that it completely overlooked his biggest crime that almost destroyed organized Baseball the infamous 1919 "Black Sox" scandal. You never really get to see and appreciate just what a big man in the world of crime that Arnold Rothstein really was. He comes across as a petty crook who never gets beyond running a second rate gambling den which is always getting raided instead of him being the big time operator that he really was.
P.S The movie "King of the Roaring Twenties" turned out to be actor Jack Carson's-As "Big Jim" O'Brian-last movie appearance.
By 1961, splatter guns, bouncing flappers, and real gangsters of the
1920's were a hit on TV, especially with The Untouchables (1959-1963).
So it's not surprising the formula would find its way into the movies.
Real life gangster Arnold Rothstein (Janssen) gets the treatment here,
except there're no splatter guns or much action, but there is lots and
lots of talk. Spread out over nearly 2-hour time frame, that's a tough
challenge for any 20's crime film. Then add Janssen's turn that's
notably low-key and generally emotionless, and the upshot is a
disappointingly listless crime film.
I guess the film is best taken as a character study built around a favorite Hollywood theme of one man's rise and fall on the ladder of success. The narrative's mainly about how slickly Rothstein maneuvers through the echelons of urban crime. There's some interest in his conniving, but the account gets draggy with too much slow pacing and mechanical editing. Then too, Dianne Foster's role as AR's ladylove further stretches out the narrative. It's like the producers are also using the movie to promote her career.
Anyway, Janssen was soon to star in that classic chase series The Fugitive (1963-67), where his thespic skills could really shine. On the other hand, I'm not sure what the producers were reaching for here, perhaps an abrupt departure from the Cagneys and Robinsons of old. But what they got instead was a sluggish result that now dwells in well-deserved obscurity.
You would think that it might be difficult to make a dull movie about
the "roaring" twenties. This movie succeeds in spades. The lead actor
(TV"s The Fugitive) is as stiff and flat as any ever seen on the big
screen. Most of the performance involves staring down and looking up
once in awhile with a half smile.
In fact only big little Mickey Rooney shows any life and thus through contrast steals the shallow show where the most exciting scene involves the transportation of a racehorse.
Of all the The Untouchables rip-offs of that era this is the worst. There is very little violence, except a punch thrown now and then, and very little else worth watching in this slow as sludge, talky, unconvincing Biography.
What we are left with is a TV looking widescreen film that has nothing in its scope. This movie is so bad that maybe we should turn our binoculars around just to get a laugh.
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