Throwback Thursday Review: “The Roaring Twenties”



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Posted July 13, 2017 by

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At the end of World War I, America entered an era of violence that was brought on by economic collapse and the enactment of prohibition. Millions of people lost their livelihoods and their homes, and were not allowed (legally anyway) to turn to the bottle to deal with their despair. Thousands of American soldiers returned home, to find that they could not find a job or afford a suitable life. Many of them turned to the new wave of organized crime known as bootlegging.

In “The Roaring Twenties”, Eddie Bartlett (Cagney) and George Hally (Bogart) are soldiers who find themselves in such a situation. Unable to find work that is steady or profitable, Eddie and George each follow separate paths that lead to the same destination: bootlegging. Smokey speakeasies, loose women, and more money than they can count are just the reward these two down-on-their-luck boys have so desired.

Soon, the power, and money, and even love begin to erode the comfortable gangster life that Eddie has been living. As quickly as he climbed, he falls, and now he needs George’s help if he is going to once again become the king of New York.

I am ashamed to admit that this is the first James Cagney film I have ever watched. As a kid, my mother exposed me to many a old black-and-white film, but they were generally along the lines of something less violent and adult, like Abbott and Costello’s “Hit the Ice” or a Marx Brothers flick. I am sure glad I stumbled on this one, though, as it features wonderful performances from both Cagney and Bogart (who’s work I am much more familiar with).

Along with the fine performances from its two stars, “The Roaring Twenties” features stunning set pieces, some nice musical numbers, and a great script. This is how movies are supposed to be made, ladies and gentlemen! With attention to detail, actors at the top of their craft, and a story that grips the imagination. Man… Hollywood used to be so great. Needless to say this is not the last Cagney film I will be watching, and I strongly suggest you see it for yourself.




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