THE ROARING TWENTIES

(1939)
With James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart, Jeffery Lynn, Gladys George, Frank McHugh
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

"Whattaya mean 'prohibition'?  I want a beer!"     THE ROARING TWENTIES is a coda to the great Warner Bros. gangster films of the '30s.  Like many that came before it -- such as LITTLE CAESAR, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, and ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES -- it was another variation on the rags-to-riches-to-rags saga of a young mug lured into the criminal life.  This one had a feeling of closure, however, as its tragic denouement suggests not only the end of an era, but the end of a genre as well.  Cagney delivers another astonishing performance as Eddie Bartlett, a World War I vet who turns to bootlegging in a postwar world that offers few opportunities.  Eddie is one of Cagney's most multi-layered of such characters, a somewhat kindhearted guy with a lack of ego, but who will stop at nothing to remain at the top of his empire.  Bogey is also outstanding in one of his best early roles as Eddie's comrade-turned-rival.  The near-equal in every respect to the great ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, the film to which it is often compared, THE ROARING TWENTIES is a slightly less violent and slightly more thoughtful classic of its kind.   - JL

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