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The Roaring Twenties (1939)

Roaring20s

WWI veteran Eddie Bartlett cannot find employment after his homecoming and soon has to realize that he is a “forgotten man”. Will he be able to keep his integrity as a human during his struggle for survival?

James Cagney, one of Hollywood’s greatest “tough guys”, gets support by the legendary Humphrey Bogart (who was selected by the AFI in 1999 for being US cinema’s greatest male star) at the beginning of his career.

Also starring Priscilla Lane, Gladys George and Jeffrey Lynn, the film is directed by veteran director Raoul Walsh – former assistant, editor and actor of D.W. Griffith for his controversial masterpiece “The Birth of a Nation” (1915).

Cagney about actors: “Without you, they have an empty screen. So, when you get on there, just do what you think is right and stick with it.”

He was strongly admired as one of the greatest actors of all time by many famous film professionals, among them Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, Stanley Kubrick, Clint Eastwood and Malcolm McDowell.

Warner Bros. produced a number of other significant gangster films during the Thirties that have distinct themselves from the usual escapist entertainment of that period: Little Cesar (starring Edward G. Robinson, 1930), The Public Enemy (with James Cagney, 1931), Scarface (with Paul Muni, 1932), I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (with Paul Muni, 1932), The Petrified Forest (with Humphrey Bogart, 1936) and Angels With Dirty Faces (with Cagney and Bogart, 1938) which is considered to be the last of the series.  Ten years later, James Cagney returned one more time to the portrayal of a gangster for Warner Bros. and director Raoul Walsh in the classic film noir “White Heat” (1949).

IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031867/

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27 responses to “The Roaring Twenties (1939)

  1. Richard Specht ⋅

    This movie was really awesome! I enjoy gangster movies a lot. I always find them very interesting. This movie gave off a very good gangster vibe too. Because it was old fashioned and everybody talked in those thick New York accents to give it that extra gangster feeling. The plot was very good. Using Cagney as a WWI veteran and coming home to an economy that is continously getting worse and Cagney turning to a life of crime solely to survive the hard times. I have always felt if things were that bad that I would have no problem hustling with the Mafia and blackmarketing things. Haha, but let’s hope that it never comes to that. I found it pretty wild that even though this film was made during the period when films were pretty strict with content, that the movie still managed to portray murder and other gangster scenarios. For being a film made in 1939, the quality was very good. I’m very interested in seeing another James Cagney film now that I have seen this film and was very interested in it.

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  2. Jordan ⋅

    I actually enjoyed this film much more than I thought I would. The whole war vet coming home to a world thats changed is a little trite, although I’m sure that theme/plotline held a little more meaning during the time of this films release. One specific thing I noticed that I really enjoyed was the slightly shift in tone towards the conclusion. The movie started out more or less like a typical romantic comedy, something fun and light, but with meaning, something akin to Roman Holiday. Towards the end, the film changes genre and tone slightly into a gangster film. I’m typically not interested in gangster/action/crime stories, but for the most part I still felt the story to be exciting and relatable. Also, this shift in tone felt natural, and I found it to be quite exciting and not awkward. The social commentary about alcohol and prohibition was extremely interesting, it’s odd to me to imagine that it actually happened in real life. Overall I think the film was well done, the script and production were tight and the story progressed quickly enough to hold attention.

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  3. hanaji0 ⋅

    The action scenes in this film are very simple. The film starts with a battlefield scene. Although the scene contains several bombing scene, it is more comical than serious. That is because the battlefield setting looks like an arranged setting in filming studio. I could understand that people did not have more items for the battle scene and an available technique is so much different from the one we have today. However, another fighting scene makes me wonder if the technical issue is really the cause of this funniness. At the last fighting scene when Eddie kills Hally and escape from his house, the fighting actions are too unnatural and easy to beat for Eddie as if it is arranged and the actors know what they have to do during the scene. This consciousness can disturb viewer’s concentration on the story itself. Moreover, the fighting scenes should be the most exciting part of the film since it is considered as the first gang movie. On the other hand, we can see the improvement we have made over time if we compare this film to other action films created today.

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  4. Hosta Mahogey ⋅

    The Roaring Twenties is a true gangster epic. Coming home from the war, the protagonist Eddie Bartlett finds himself in a pretty bleak situation. There were simply no jobs to be had. From there, the plot goes to Eddie being the top dog of a very lucrative (and very illegal) moonshine business, to him being busted and in an even worse situation that when he started.

    The sheer scale of the film is what impressed me the most. The fact that Twenties covered so much action over the course of so many years, while maintaining a steady pace, is quite the feat. Aside from that, I found the relationship between Eddie and Panama the most interesting aspect of the film. I respected how the film didn’t make the relationship black and white. Also, the acting was a product of the time, but still good.

    And although protagonist Eddie seemed to be the “bad guy” at times, I always found myself rooting for him. This is coincidentally similar to the television show Breaking Bad, which follows a similar rise and fall of the protagonist. No matter how many bad things the main character does in both entities, I still want them to succeed. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for the anti-hero.

    Overall, The Roaring Twenties took me on a roller-coaster of ups and downs. It is a seemingly formulaic rise and fall story done very well. I really enjoyed this film.

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  5. Tim ⋅

    The Roaring Twenties is a film full of action and great characters, directed by the renowned Raoul Walsh, featuring top-notch performances led by the one and only, James Cagney.

    Yet despite all my admiration for Cagney, I think that he is not really a “gangster-type”, just seems, sort of, too soft/polite/intelligent? Plus in this film we see him constantly questioning the morality of his actions. It was also funny to see the total absence of any kind of romantic scenes; and those “violent” scenes, where there was no blood visible at all; The gangster language of the period was also quite amusing to hear.

    Even though The Roaring Twenties is fictional in its story, it seemed very much a documentary about the Gangster Era and Prohibition to me. My favourite character has to be Gladys George’s Panama Smith – her acting was brilliant and I recon that she was the most real-looking/believable character in this film. Panama’s personality was all that flamboyant and outgoing, and yet behind her eyes you could see that she is scared and worried about Eddie (Cagney). I particularly liked the scene at the very end, where Panama delivers the final line of this film and putting Eddie’s life into perspective – “He used to be a big shot”.

    Overall a very enjoyable film, and I definitely would watch it again.

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  6. The Roaring Twenties is a gangster film directed by Raoul Walsh, starring James Cagney. The film was shot very well and the plot was very much intriguing. It did a very fine job portraying the difficulties returning soldiers had in finding a job. With Cagney’s character, Eddie, Walsh showed the audience these difficulties by showing how Eddie ran to the dark side of society. Cultivating a large scale business of selling fake alcohol during the prohibition period, Eddie was a man with a lot of power in town.

    While the production scale was impressive, I was not a very big fan of the movie. It seemed very much predictable and I did not enjoy the characters all too much either. Though, I did find Panama quite entertaining at times. And it was probably the only part of the film that did not exactly pan out the way I expected it to.

    Maybe it is because I do not quite enjoy watching gangster films, I just did not like this film. I was unable to gain any interest in it, though I will agree that it did a good job at portraying the rough and tough times during that decade.

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  7. satchi ⋅

    We first see the main character, Eddie, as a rather upstanding young man in the military who arrives home in the image of the American hero only to find that there are no jobs for him to start back up from. From this and the result of the ban of alcohol in these times, he ends up joining the underground forces selling the now banned alcohol to the thirsty public. Although he started off selling rather innocently as it was a big market and he was rather desperate for money, it was how Eddie’s personality suddenly changed that really surprised me when I watched this film. In the beginning he seemed to have such strong morals, and almost as soon as he began peddling the liquor I feel like his personally changed drastically. He became very caught up in the shady business, which is apparent through the rest of the film, as his actions seem to become more and more violent and reckless at times.

    Although he did sort of repent at the end of the film, I still feel as if he was portrayed as more of a anti-hero. It was also interesting learning about the times behind this film as well. I liked how the actual film incorporated this by making some of its shots have a sort of documentary feel to them. Looking back, It was also quite interesting how they were able to pull off a gangster film in the “Breen” era of self-censorship. When I first watched this, I felt as if some of the fight scenes were rather off and avoided….now I know why and I believe that they did a great job with trying to work with what little they could.

    Overall, I didn’t like this film as much as the first two, but I think I would watch it again if I got the chance.

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  8. Chaitea ⋅

    Roaring twenties was made in 1939 after first World War and showed the period of time when there was prohibition of alcohol in United States. First, it was interesting for me to note that Second World War started in 1939, same year this movie was released. I couldn’t help but think of the people who watched this and how they must have felt during the beginning scenes, seeing the soldiers fighting. It must have been very realistic for them with the Second World War all around them.
    I wonder whether there was reluctance in the part of people, having to go to war after seeing the possible outcomes for soldiers who go to war – coming back home to a place that has forgotten them and moved on.
    As discussed in class the characters of the two army officers who are together with Eddie shows a contrast between good (when the soldier with a law degree stopped and put down his gun when he was confronted with the option of shooting an enemy who looked to be 15 years old) and evil (when the other soldier shot the boy who was 15 and commented with a carefree smile that “he won’t be 16) while Eddie is placed in the middle.
    I was confused about how the girl Jean found Eddie’s information to contact him while he’s in the military without meeting him before. Made me wonder whether there was some kind of wife finding or dating/matchmaking network those days working like social media networks today for the military men stationed abroad.
    It was funny to hear that women’s skirts are becoming shorter as “alarming news”- I couldn’t help but think if there was a time machine and they got to come to 20th century, what an alarm THAT would be!
    This movie was the first time I really got to hear a lot about the prohibition period in America. I’ve randomly heard of it before but didn’t really know much about its effect before watching this movie… It was interesting to see how the lack of alcohol legally made it a thriving product in the black market and made gangs who dealt in selling it wealthier.
    I felt that Eddie was so nice and humble in the beginning of the film compared with what he became later when he started earning with the selling of alcohol.
    I felt like Panama was the turning point for Eddie- bringing him to the “dark side”. Later, in his hurry to get out of the selling fake liquor business, in order to be with Jean, Eddie became even more involved in dark business – including killing people and stealing.
    The film didn’t show violence very obviously: example, when the police/security at the storehouse was knocked down, it was done behind a wall so the audience cannot see the actual violent act but gets the impression it was done.
    At the end when Eddie lost his best friend and at the same night lost his girlfriend, I actually started feeling sorry for him. Especially when he didn’t do anything to the man who got Jean except one punch. It really made Eddie a character to whom we could sympathize with.
    I was really impressed by the visual effects used to show the crash of the stock market in Wall Street. Thought it was very creative. Also, it was interesting how even though Panama brought Eddie into the crazy under-world (black market and gangs), she was the only person who sticks with him till the end, which was also interesting as he ended up going to a church before dying, as if to seek forgiveness for the wrong he’s done.

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  9. ken032192

    Though I never really watched any gangster-type films before, this one was actually quite enjoyable and kept me quite entertained. The story focusing on World War I veteran Eddie Bartlett where he returns home after the war only to discover that the economy in is home is in shambles was very much interesting for me. Though he appeared to be a kind and well-meaning man to me at first, I was a bit thrown off at how he later changed his attitude to being a more rash and violent as the story progressed, which makes him sort of an anti-hero in a way. He did at least seem to regret a bit for his actions since joining that suspicious business deal, so that makes him seem like his intentions weren’t completely negative.

    I also found the romance between him and Jean to be quite cute, though a bit questionable in how the woman even liked Eddie in the first place: did she honestly fall in love with him ever since she’s heard of him from the war or something? Doesn’t sound like a plausible reason, but nevertheless the two make quite an interesting couple. I also liked how she stuck to Eddie until the very end of the film, even though he was quite immoral and violent later on. Quite a strong, inseparable relationship if I do say so myself, especially in the ending where she kneels to Eddie’s dead body and said “He used to be a big shot.” Sums up her apparent interest and awareness of his unstable personality, yet adored him until the very end. If more romantic relationships were like this nowadays, then I suppose even men that are as violent and immoral as Eddie himself can be admired by other women, though I find it to be very unlikely to happen for real.

    Lastly, I found the scenes with the narrator commentating and showcasing the moments of the people going through events like prohibition, women wearing shorter skirts, and giving people the right to drink as much alcohol as they wanted to be quite hilarious and entertaining. The delivery just sounded very convincing enough, and even the voice was remarkably funny as well. They were definitely some of my favorite moments of the film, and those scenes were so memorable in that they made me laugh quite a bit too.

    Overall I find this movie to be quite entertaining, and another one worth watching more than once as well. Gangster films really aren’t my cup of tea much, but after seeing this film, it probably made me consider of wanting to see some other ones out there sometime. Had I not seen this film before, I would have had no idea how enjoyable gangster films like this may have been after all.

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  10. Marya ⋅

    I recall as a child flipping through daytime TV and they sometimes broadcasted re-runs of old gangsta films, and every time I’d see them they always have a scene where the gangsta shoots people with tommy guns as they smoked a cigar (they were probably films made way after this one). However, this film was fairly different to what I had in mind, a bloody shooting scenes. when the film was produced the film industry was under very strict regulations and self-censorship I think the film successfully portrayed the image of gangstas despite the regulations.

    I very much liked the dramatic twist of this film where the life of a righteous veteran ends up working for an organization that broke the law of prohibition in order to survive during the economical downfall. The film illustrates the protagonist, Eddie’s succession in the alcohol black market and his gradual change in his character as he gets sucked in by the desire of greed. I liked how the film ended with Eddie dying in front of a conveniently located church, which I thought had a very deep symbolic significance of how the protagonist finally finds a place of sanctuary and peace after everything in his life had crumbled. The film skillfully molded the storyline around morality and also religious aspect.

    Overall I enjoyed the film, not only did it have elements of action, criminal acts it also had the elements of romance and complicated love triangle which of course is always interesting to watch.

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  11. maiorengi

    The film portrays the time when there are no jobs available for soldiers after war. The story started with rather slow since it begins with Eddie turning down Jean since she was a bit too young for him. It was not that easy for me to figure out how the story was going to flow. The film cover photo shows a woman and two men beside her so I could not figure out whether the woman is Panama or Jean until Jean appears on the screen as a grown up lady.
    The story goes along with showing the sequence of historical events such as prohibition era or crash of the stock market in 1929. In fact, the image seems to be realistic as if it were recorded on the spot. Showing the layers of images of historical events incessantly strengthen the story to make it more convincing. The production of alcohol was quite interesting. Indeed, the factory made a tremendous amount of bottle of alcohol or so called pseudo-alcohol including using the methanol as a substitute.
    The relationship between Panama and Eddie is vaguely shown throughout the film. Panama invited Eddie to do bootlegger job, which ultimately led Eddie’s death in the end, but what if Eddie had never met her? He was born to be an innocent man as we can tell by his behavior such as ordering a milk at speakeasies while everyone else orders an alcohol even a woman. He was never to be the type of involving in criminal. In fact, he even tried to stop Hally killing the guard man; he never liked a gun or killing as a gangster. It seems to me that Panama feels guilty for Eddie towards the end since she is the one that took him over to her side of performing illegal activities. Perhaps, it was the sign of affection for she was too in love with Eddie.

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  12. Kris ⋅

    Good but not great. At least the transition to modern day cinema style is becoming more evident as compared to the last two films. This can be seen with the numerous dolly shots of the camera throughout the film. It seems that with the last two films the focus was on the technical side of things. However when this film was made, major advances with camera technology and lenses made it possible to produce a much more cinematic experience very easily. Specifically. Lens technology improved drastically allowing for the very hot, very harsh lighting to be done down a bit. The lighting in Twenties is much softer and more more even compared to Diggers. It seems what film makers are focused on in the time of Twenties is the story and acting. Again the acting and directing is far from the stagey type of acting seen in Diggers. It’s much more fluid and the actors seem to act for the camera and not an audience. However, there are still some areas that are lacking. The acting is a bit stiff and a bit “overacted”. I don’t have the film in front of me or I would pinpoint scenes, however watching the film it’s hard to miss.

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  13. nemokenza ⋅

    The Roaring Twenties was a refreshing look into the gangster underground of 1920’s America. I feel that it did a great job depicting the dire strains that actually pushed some men into bootlegging. The society of the 1920’s was ripe with issues that would turn other wise mild mannered men into gangsters. Issues such a lack of job opportunities upon returning from war as well as prohibition made the situation a hot bed for criminal activity. This movie was able to really draw the audience in and make them sympathize with the main characters. Eddie Barlett is a character that anyone could like out of the three main men. While Lloyd Hart represented that good ole college educated kid, there was something more obtainable and relatable about Barletta. Humphrey Bogart shined in his role as George Hally, the character that was the quintessential antagonist of the era. Barlett however occupies the space between good and bad, he’s a grey character. The incidents of his surroundings more or less justify his actions and the fact that he acts with a certain sense of honour helps take the sting out of his work. All in all I think this was a fine film, with a great story.

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  14. Janey ⋅

    Why Eddie? Why? I really didn’t want him to die, but I guess there was no better ending.

    The Roaring Twenties was quite entertaining as well as informative. I found the newspaper inserts and voice over narration parts to give the movie more of a documentary feel, which did well for this film.

    I found the violence in this film to be quite humorous. One scene that particularly sticks out to me is when Eddie goes to talk George out of hurting Lloyd, and it results in a fight and Eddie simply kicks one of the henchmen from the top of the stairs.

    Despite Eddie’s turn from the honorable war soldier to the gangster smuggler, I felt that he was lovable throughout the entire film. I felt bad for him when he was rejected by Jean and lost everything in the end.

    I also really wished that Eddie would have acknowledged Panama, for staying by his side through it all. Her character really made this film a good one, I believe.

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  15. Yuki ⋅

    The Roaring Twenties was the first gangster movie I’ve ever seen. The story was very enjoyable.

    I found it was cool that the main character, Eddie, never drank alcohol until he got really upset about Jean. In the scene he first stepped into the speakeasy with Panama, he ordered milk. This character setting well emphasized that Eddie considered alcohol as a product, not like something he enjoyed.

    The film looked like a documentary film in the scenes which had voice-over. These scenes were very helpful since we were secondary audience and, especially me, not really sure what was the background which the characters had at that time. Many techniques of editing such as overlap, dissolve, were used only in these scenes and I felt it successfully distinguished between these explanatory scenes and other scenes. The voice of voice-over represented the popular voice of those days I thought. In the recent films, I felt that many voice-overs tend to be done by characters who are in the films. This film, however, the guy who did the voice over never appeared on the film I guessed. That might be another reason why I felt these scenes looked like a documentary.

    Over all, I enjoyed the film very much. Great story and great characters.

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  16. Overall I enjoyed this film, even though I developed quite a distaste for the main character. The acting was well done and the intense scenes had the right amount of tension and suspense to make them very exciting to watch. In terms of films we have watched so far in this class I would probably rank this one second in my opinion, with “Golddiggers” coming in first and Sunrise last.

    One thing I found particularly interesting about this film was the lack of depth of the love interest character girl, whereas the friend seemed to be a much deeper character. Or at least the way the girls were portrayed made her seem much deeper than the other girl.

    It was a good film though, on a subject that I knew about but hadnt seen much on aside from other films that may have included allusions to the prohibition years such as Seabiscuit and a few others.

    One thing I enjoyed about the film was the narrator voice over. It was very dry and humorous in a condescending and almost bitter way and I found that a good guide to the nature of the film itself.

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  17. michi1st

    The Roaring Twenties is an interesting film to watch. It takes something as heroic as World War I Veterans and turns them into outlaws who partake in illegal business. Furthermore, this movie came out around World War II when war efforts and “pro America” sentiment was a big deal. A lot of the “violence” in this film was masked in all sorts of ways. Most of them cheap and forced. The scene that stuck out to me the most was when they robbed the government building. Any sort of physical contact with the officials was masked audibly and visually—with either music, shadows, or just vague implication. The use of guns and types of guns were ineffective for the type of violence the film was trying to portray (not that I know anything about guns). If this movie was made today, it would probably look a lot different in terms of the “battle” scenes. The betrayals would be more open, the violence and “action scenes” would be drawn out. There would be much more going on in terms of all that “bad” stuff that wasn’t permitted to be shown during that time. If I recall correctly, in terms of mise-en-scene, there was almost never an open bottle of alcohol ever shown. It was either closed or bagged.

    This movie, just from a personal opinion standpoint, was actually fun though. I personally have some (extended) family history with the mafia (not going to specify past that) and every time I see a glorified gangster movie I always wish that my relatives (who are beyond scary) were that cool. There is this false, suave, gentlemen feel to all of these gangster movies that is just really attractive. It draws you into the world and makes you want to stay there even though in your head you know you would be as good as dead if you actually were there. It’s really enticing. I wonder if movies like this influenced young people back then into “gang” life. Though I guess that idea is similar to the movie and videogames causing people nowadays to be violent argument. Movies make gang life look incredibly attractive though. The way that it’s presented makes you feel sort of “uncool” for not being there with the characters. It’s almost hilarious trying to imagine what parents must have done back then to keep their kids away from these sorts of movies. I am not sure if that actually happened but I definitely could picture my own parents trying to shelter me from these movies if this was the late 1930s.

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  18. Tatsuya ⋅

    The Roaring Twenties is old fashioned American gangstar movie and I really enjoyed watching it. It has a old taste of gangstar how they live back in the 20’s. The society was, at that time, lose but it also had its vast economic power in the 20’s. Many things changed at this decade in a good way.

    The plot was very organized and camera work was very smooth in black and white films. The movie starts when WWI was ending and the soldiers went back home for the first time in a long time. Eddie became a driver and also started importing (making) illegal alcohol. It was really a huge scucess for him. There are many scenes that symbolize the era of 1920’s.

    The background of the scenes is very obvious that the United States had faced to the time that everythig was changed and became the biggest economic country with no rivals in the world.

    Overall, the quality and te story of the film are very good and it has lively images of 1920’s in the United States.

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    • First off, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. From the overly-exaggerated fighting to the cliche ending. It’s a pity that the films of this era were not allowed to show criminal activity in a positive light, I think the story could have really been more enjoyable to me if this were the case.
      Coming from a military background, this story was something that I could relate to, not in the sense that when I got out I became a gangster or anything, just the rough transition into the civilian w not the easiest thing to transition from military life to your old life, especially when you just fought in a world war.
      Eddie was told by his boss that he would be able to get his old position back at the garage, but after two years, his job was already filled by another skilled mechanic. It seemed to Eddie that the world has left him behind. His cousin (I think) let him borrow his taxi on his time off, which allowed Eddie to become a taxi driver.
      Eddie got wrapped up in the underworld that was the sales of alcohol during prohibition. Rising through the ranks of the criminal world, he gained more and more power, until he somewhat became drunk on the newly acquired power. He then got his military lawyer friend into the racket to act as his personal lawyer.
      Eventually he met up with his friend George, and I think this is when things started going downhill for Eddie. George ends up shooting a police officer that also served with them in the military. Now Eddie was dealing with murder within his criminal activity.
      After Eddie loses everything; his power, money, and the girl he was smitten with, he turns to the thing that made him, which was alcohol. He redeems himself in the end of the film by giving himself up as somewhat of a sacrifice to pay for all his sins in his life. This saves the life of his lawyer friend.
      Nothing really stuck out in this film to me. It was sort of a stereotypical bad guy film. Good guy turns to crime to make a living, rises up, becomes greedy, then loses everything, and then finally dies. But after all this, I still enjoyed it.

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  19. Roger Murdock ⋅

    Lying on the steps, Eddie Bartlett, played by James Cagney, dies a peaceful death after a procession of violent events. Director Raoul Walsh paints a wonderful depiction of the twenties in the United States, where a well-intentioned WWI soldier is pigeon holed into ditching a law abiding life in Prohibitionist America when there are no more jobs available to the servicemen. In his journey in becoming a gangster, Cagney gains the confidence and poise that a 1920’s gangster should have as he rises up the ladder until his world comes crashing down when he begins to play out of his league with Humphrey Bogart, who provides a wonderful role as a sternly wicked gangster incapable of humane sympathy. To wash his sins away after he becomes a “junkie”, Cagney dramatically sticks up for the girl who would not fall for such a corrupt man by killing Bogart to save the girl’s lover and his ex-partner. Throughout a life of Corruption, Cagney finds himself capable to do leave as an honorable man who fights for the just, as he did before the war. Throughout the story, Walsh paints a believable image of how Cagney almost had no choice in the matter and acted no differently than could be expected for a man in his position, giving good character depth to follow.

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  20. I’m a pretty big fan of gangster movies and The Roaring Twenties was just that. The earliest gangster film that I have seen before this film was Bonnie and Clyde. That movie is clearly iconic and known all over the film world. The Roaring Twenties almost came out thirty years before that movie, so it was a good experience to watch such an early film in that genre. Personally I enjoyed the film and its plot. The plot was perfect for its time. The real world could relate to Eddie with his struggles coming out of WWI. There were no jobs anywhere for the veterans of that war. Not to mention WWII was starting in the year this movie came out. At first I was kind of bored with the movie and tried to predict what was going to happen. It seemed like it was just a simple film. I figured it was going to end up with his girl leaving him for someone else and knew at the end he was going to end up helping her. That was an easy prediction. What I didn’t predict was that Eddie was going to end up becoming the head of the booze business or that he was going to be killed off at the end. This movie surprised me and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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  21. Honestly I don’t usually watch gangster movies. It’s not one of my favorite genres. That being said, I do think that it is a great film. The film really reminded me of breaking bad. We see these characters come back as war heroes. They don’t have the best of luck, then they turn to crime to make a living. Throughout the film they are always changing. It has great character development.
    I was a bit confused about what was really happening in some of the relationships. Because of the time period, I supposed it was impossible to explicitly show what going on between the character and the two women.
    Some of the action was pretty good. At least it was better than most at they time.

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  22. Tad ⋅

    There is definitely a stark difference in the portrayal of the women in The Roaring Twenties and The Gold Diggers. The women in The Roaring Twenties were a lot more “in their place” and even panama who was the equivalent of the main female characters from The Gold Diggers was a lot more meek when trying to talk some sense into Eddie.

    I also enjoyed the differences between this gangster movie and the modern equivalents. Especially the end of the film when George wants to Lloyd to keep quiet. In The Roaring Twenties George sends his lackeys to intimidate Lloyd’s wife and they tell her that he has to drop his case that he’s prosecuting or they’ll murder him. While the more likely scenario in a modern gangster movie would have been that the mobsters would kidnap Lloyd’s wife or threaten to kidnap/murder them instead of threatening the wife they were going to murder Lloyd.

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  23. Pingback: The Roaring Twenties (1939) | timneath

  24. tbrenji

    This movie touches on an issue that still exists today. Just like today, veterans back then had problems earning a living while reentering society. In the sequence during the war the men speak about the goals they aspire to achieve when they return home. Eddie even talks about returning to the shop he once worked at. The narration and montage style used in the throughout the film but especially in the opening sequence and after the end of the war reminded me of old propaganda ads promoting the government. The characters portrayed in the film seemed to have a sense of wholesomeness in the beginning of the film even considering they’ve just been through war. Even though they seemed to be down on their luck, the characters always look clean cut and proper. This was even more true in regards to Eddie as he was the shown as the good soldier boy, even going as far as to order a glass of milk during his first visit to the “Speak Easy”. The only signs of hard times displayed after returning was the difficulty of finding stable work. The way Eddie was swindled into getting arrested for bootlegging was very believable. It was a very simple way to introduce him into a world he didn’t know or understand which made it very acceptable by the audience. I felt a bit of sympathy for him as he was being taken advantage of. Throughout the film the basic drive of each character was the need to earn money. This was the overall theme and the film depicted this through almost every character. Eddie constantly needed money for various reasons. Even his friend who drove a taxi, chose a fair over giving his friends a lift saying “business before pleasure”. Another example of this when through the narration itself. The narrator explains about the unpopular law and an unwilling public gave birth to a new kind of army, but what was significantly said about this army was that they did not care about tomorrow, “so long as money was easy today”. Later on in the film, Eddie starts to show signs of ruthlessness in the way he acts and speaks. Before this, Eddie’s beginning in the bootlegging business is less like a gangster and more closely to a hussler. Eddie was no longer recognized as the once wholesome man who returned from the war.

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  25. Carl ⋅

    “The Roaring Twenties” gangster movies are always a great way to escape reality. Being that I was previously in the military, I was able to relate to Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) as for he was WWI vet. Coming home from the war and seeing things change substantially. For this being somewhat of a gangster film, I didn’t really enjoy the action scenes. I feel that the actions scenes were a bit cheesy and rated g. I understand at the time, there weren’t that much freedom in what a director could do in his/her’s film, however it was very obvious. At that time, moonshine was a very lucrative and dangerous business to deal with. However there weren’t many establishing roles in which translated that. Warner brothers at the time were behind many of the gangster films that were released, such as “The Public Enemy” and “I am Fugitive” in which I felt did a better job at displaying a gangster theme compared to “The Roaring Twenties” Overall the film wasn’t the best film I’ve viewed in class. In conclusion, I do not recommend this film to anyone, but if you will like to get a feel of the moonshine illegal business, then it may be a good movie to gather references.

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  26. Chroma ⋅

    You can never go wrong with a gangster-era flick. There are enough underground, mafia-type happenings that prod the curiosity. It was quite intriguing to see how the film progressed from beginning to end – starting out light, then gradually transitioning into a tale that’ll leave you feeling sympathetic toward Eddie at the end, with a roller coaster of ups and downs in between. Then again, from the beginning, it couldn’t be helped but to feel bad for the soldier coming home from war to an unstable economy with little hope of financial security.
    I found it quite believable that Eddie would fall into the life of crime in order to make money; back then, that was the best way to make a buck, regardless of the high risks involved. 
    For a film produced in 1939, it was well-done; as much as it was created to entertain audiences, I think “The Roaring Twenties” serves as a look into the dangerous world of gangster life & the moonshine business during the prohibition era. 

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