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 <email@example.com>
The post-WWI montage shows a poster announcing the heavyweight championship fight between champion Jess Willard and challenger Jack Dempsey. This bout took place on July 4, 1919 in Toledo, Ohio. The 6'6", 245 pound Willard was knocked down 7 times in the first round by the 6'1", 187 pound Dempsey, leading some to accuse Dempsey of cheating, specifically that he used what were termed "loaded gloves." However, this theory was denied by several eminent authorities, among them boxing historian J.J. Johnston, Ring Magazine founder Nat Fleischer, and sportswriter Red Smith. See more »
The head-shot photo of Eddie Bartlett shown in close-up on his New York City Taxi License card, seen by Jean when she gets into his cab, is obviously a still photo taken during the filming of that scene, with the card closeup edited in later. He is wearing not only the same cap in both the scene and the ID photo, but also the same crooked tie, the same facial expression, and a vertical seam from the back seat upholstery is visible behind him. See more »
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.
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