"In the Gay Nineties New York had grown up into bustles and balloon Sleeves ... but The Bowery had grown younger, louder and more rowdy until it was known as the 'Livest Mile on the face of...
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Georg Wilhelm Pabst
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"In the Gay Nineties New York had grown up into bustles and balloon Sleeves ... but The Bowery had grown younger, louder and more rowdy until it was known as the 'Livest Mile on the face of the globe' ... the cradle of men who were later to be famous." The scene opens in a saloon named "Nigger Joe's" ...Written by
Michael Crew <email@example.com>
In his new 20th Century Pictures Corporation which was at the time releasing its product with United Artists, Darryl F. Zanuck almost had an MGM trifecta for his stars. Wallace Beery and Jackie Cooper came from MGM and Clark Gable almost did. But according to the biography of George Raft from James Parrish, Raft wanted very much to do this film and Zanuck accommodated him and got him from Paramount.
It was a wise move on Zanuck's part because Steve Brodie of the Bowery was a part Raft was born to play. And why not since Raft grew up in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York and knew the scene well.
As did Raoul Walsh who was born and raised in Rockaway Beach, New York and also knew the red light areas of the city well. The best thing that The Bowery has going for it was is the incredible detail in terms of creating the atmosphere of the Gay Nineties in one of New York's most colorful areas. In fact so much detail was presented that the film is rarely seen today for all the racial epithets it has. But that would be true of the era. Racial and ethnic stereotyping was the rule of the day. In fact Ragtime is also quite graphic in that, the difference being the point of view that film takes.
What The Bowery has in atmosphere with its sets, dialog with the idioms of the day, and costumes, it loses in accuracy. Set in 1897-98 before the Spanish American War it has the legendary Steve Brodie doing his jump off the Brooklyn Bridge at that time. In point of fact it was in 1886.
Raft as Brodie and Beery as Chuck Connors are a pair of friendly if caustic rivals of The Bowery area in lower Manhattan. The two are forever trying to top each other and that is given as the reason for Raft doing his famous dive off the Brooklyn Bridge and living to tell about it. Actually there is cause in real life to think Brodie never did the deed. And in fact some question is raised in Beery's mind which leads to the climax of The Bowery.
Jackie Cooper's well known antipathy to Beery has been documented, but in the Parrish book on Raft during a fight scene Beery got a little rougher than the script called for. Raft then responded with what is described as a roundhouse right into the family jewels. Beery reacted normally as one does when one is hit there.
If one values political correctness than do not see this film. But otherwise it is an all too accurate a look on a bygone era.
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