The Roaring Twenties (1939)

“He used to be a big shot.” Based on Mark Hellinger’s short story, “The World Moves On,” this fast-paced crime drama has a nostalgic, documentary-style feel and was directed by Raoul Walsh (High Sierra). The film stars James Cagney as “Eddie Bartlett,” a disillusioned World War I veteran who joins the bootlegging business with the onset of the Prohibition Era. Eddie soon joins forces with former war buddy and now ruthless gangster “George Hally” (Humphrey Bogart). He also carries a torch for naïve nightclub singer “Jean Sherman” (Priscilla Lane) but she only has eyes for his other war buddy “Lloyd Hart” (Jeffrey Lynn), now a successful lawyer. Eddie loses everything after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and he has to resort to driving a cab and also becomes a heavy drinker. However, when Eddie learns that George plans to murder Lloyd, who is now a district attorney and married to Jean, he reluctantly steps into the middle of the fray with tragic results. The cast includes Gladys George as “Panama Smith” (based on legendary nightclub hostess Texas Guinan), Frank McHugh as “Danny Green,” George Meeker as “Harold Masters” and Paul Kelly as “Nick Brown.” Walsh and Cagney would team up a decade later in another classic gangster flick, White Heat (1949). Cagney and Bogart only made three films together, the other two being Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and The Oklahoma Kid (1939).

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