Gangster films

Open, general discussion of classic sound-era films, personalities and history.
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Scar Face

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Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 12:07 am

Hey what do you hear what do you say,

I love gangster films, especially pre-code ones and specifically from 1931. Gangster pictures from this time are the best examples of movie making there will ever be. The films of this era are so raw, but towards 1935 and 1936 films started to become more and more cheesy. The use of musical score along with the censor boards really ruined film. The corny story lines and the goopy strings to tell you what you should feel and when. I still like some of the later thirties gangster pictures like Angels with Dirty Faces, Roaring Twenties, High Sierra and the Big Shot but they seem to be exceptions. After a long time towards 1950 there was a second wave of raw gangster films again like White Heat, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, The Enforcer and Black Tuesday which are almost as good the pre-codes. I'm always discovering new gangster pictures and when I find one that's good I can't understand how it's been off my radar until then. I was hoping to compile a list of the really awesome gangster films, especially the lesser known ones.

I am watching Born Reckless now and I can't believe I haven't seen it before. It's really sharp for 1930, it's like the opposite of The Pay Off with Lowell Sherman. Lot's of scenes of gangster's hanging out talking, great costumes, it ticks all the boxes for a gangster classic. It's awesome, one of the best pictures I've seen from 1930. Warren Hymer is fantastic as a gangster sidekick. It's not Scarface and Edmund Lowe isn't great, but it's definitely good and I can't believe I hadn't heard of it. Know of any other's like it?

I recently saw Leo Carrillo in the Guilty Generation and I thought he was a bad ass gangster, has anyone here seen Homicide Squad from 1931? Or Spencer Tracy in the Mad Game 1933? I have also been trying to track down a copy of Night Ride 1930 starring EGR. Has anyone seen this or know where I can watch it/get a copy? Is Under-Cover Man the Raft picture from 1932 a real gangster picture worth buying a copy of? I've also been trying to track down the Finger points for a long time. Is Dance Fools Dance a real gangster picture? I can't seem to tell from the reviews

Some of my favorite gangster pictures that arent' as popular as Public Enemy, Scarface and Little Caesar are

Picture Snatcher
Secret Six
Quick Millions
City Streets
Bad Company
Thunderbolt
20,000 Years in Sing Sing
Lady Killer
Blonde Crazy
Smart Money
Whole Towns Talking
Whipsaw
Each Dawn I Die
Up the River
Manhattan Melodrama
Doorway To Hell
Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Yours for the Asking
You & Me
He was Her man
Night after Night
Beast of the City
Now I'll Tell
Angels with Dirty Faces
Roaring Twenties


Anyone know of any really good gangster pictures I might not have seen, especially pre-codes?
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barry byrne

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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 5:33 am

Don't know how up to date your taste for gangster movies will run to but the relatively recent "The Long Good Friday" starring Bob Hoskins is worth watching
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Scar Face

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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 5:50 am

Not a fan of that one at all haha. I am watching the Racket from 1951 from a suggestion I saw on an old thread here though
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R Michael Pyle

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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 6:04 am

Gotta begin with the silent "Underworld" (1927)
Then go to "The Racket" (1928) - the original
How about "Alibi" (1929) - Yes, Regis Toomey's death scene is over-the-top because of the background music
"Gentleman's Fate" (1931) with John Gilbert
"The Last Parade" (1931) with Jack Holt (Holt's a favorite of mine, mostly forgotten now)

These are some early ones you'd appreciate, I think...
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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 6:08 am

R Michael Pyle wrote:Gotta begin with the silent "Underworld" (1927)
Then go to "The Racket" (1928) - the original


I have seen Underworld and I will watch the original Racket someday but I havent acquired a taste for silents. Someday I'm sure I will but I am a huge fan of 30's crime films

Nice1 I haven't seen Alibi but I've been looking for it although I have a link to Corsair saved ready to watch. I will def check out the others you mentioned I havent seen them. Thanks!
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Scar Face

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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 6:16 am

Obey the Law is another Leo Carrillo gangster flick I'd like to see from 1933
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wingate

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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 7:08 am

Yesterday I watched Racket Busters 1938,Humphrey Bogart heals of a protection racket and George Brent as the trucker who busts him.A typical Warners film.
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Scar Face

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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 1:12 pm

wingate wrote:Yesterday I watched Racket Busters 1938,Humphrey Bogart heals of a protection racket and George Brent as the trucker who busts him.A typical Warners film.


I was eager to see this one since Bogart's as monbster Czar Martin sounded very menacing, but when I caught it I wasn't that impressed with the film. Beast of the City is a really good one
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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 03, 2016 9:48 pm

I saw Public Hero #1 recently on TCM. I actually thought it was pretty good for 1935 crime picture. Like Whipsaw from 35 the hero is a good guy but he's undercover to find a criminal mob's hideout. It has a very good shoot out scene, one of the best I've ever seen. Anyone seen Public Enemy's wife? Is it any good...I like Romero as a gangster like in Show Them no Mercy
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Re: Gangster films

PostSun Sep 04, 2016 11:44 am

Watching Roadhouse Nights on Archive...lots of racist slurs but good gangster talk
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Scar Face

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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 07, 2016 12:57 am

I guess there is not too many gangster film fanatics here. I've recently seen 20,000 Years in Sing Sing, which I don't understand how i could possibly not have known about along with Now I'll Tell and Whipsaw, Man's castle and Looking for Trouble. Not a gangster film per say but looking for trouble was good. Whipsaw was awesome and 20k was classic. Tracy as a gangster character belongs right there with cags. egr and muni for this and quick millions. In fact he really looks like a convincing chicago irish gangster perhaps more than cagney. Whipsaw i liked a lot even though he's a good guy.
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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 07, 2016 5:00 am

Don't Turn 'em Loose (1936) is a gangster film that pleads for fewer paroles of prisoners, a sharp turnaround from all those social-conscious prison movies that depict the harsh realities. In this one, Bruce Cabot is a thug who gets parole and that same day knocks off a company payroll, killing the old man cashier. The twist in this one is that he uses an alias and he's really the son of a mild school superintendent (Lewis Stone) and comes from a genteel upper middle class family. As Bat Williams, he's a thug; as Robert Webster he's an engineer who works around the world and sends postcards to his folks. He actually dispatches a stooge to faraway places to mail the postcards! Things get sticky when Stone is appointed to the parole board after Cabot has been locked up again. Co-stars Nella Walker, Betty Grable, James Gleason, Addison Randall, Grace Bradley, Frank Jenks, Gordon Jones.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 07, 2016 7:33 am

I guess there is not too many gangster film fanatics here. I've recently seen 20,000 Years in Sing Sing


Well, I'm a fan of that one...

Image

though I bought the poster (an original stone litho) more for the typography, I admit. I admired the graphics, very different from the usual big heads poster.
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s.w.a.c.

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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 07, 2016 8:42 am

Recently caught The Guilty Generation (1933) on TCM, gangster version of Romeo & Juliet, with Robert Young (w. a moustache!) and Constance Cummings as the young lovers, and Leo Carillo and Boris Karloff as their warring mob dads. What's not to love? Also look for Willie Best and future Frankenstein Glenn Strange in bit parts. Nice of TCM to show a Columbia pre-code, would love to see more!

Also thanks to TCM finally saw Night After Night (1932), notable as Mae West's screen debut, but starring George Raft as the manager of a speakeasy, with Constance Cummings, Allison Skipworth, Roscoe Karns & Louis Calhern, among others, plus Wynne Gibson as the gal Raft throws over for Cummings, and almost pays the ultimate price for it when she snaps. Brisk Archie Mayo direction, 73 minute running time. Gotta love pre-codes. This one's from Paramount, but I believe TCM put it out on DVD, in partnership with rights owner Universal.
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Scar Face

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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 07, 2016 1:44 pm

s.w.a.c. wrote:Recently caught The Guilty Generation (1933) on TCM, gangster version of Romeo & Juliet, with Robert Young (w. a moustache!) and Constance Cummings as the young lovers, and Leo Carillo and Boris Karloff as their warring mob dads. What's not to love? Also look for Willie Best and future Frankenstein Glenn Strange in bit parts. Nice of TCM to show a Columbia pre-code, would love to see more!

Also thanks to TCM finally saw Night After Night (1932), notable as Mae West's screen debut, but starring George Raft as the manager of a speakeasy, with Constance Cummings, Allison Skipworth, Roscoe Karns & Louis Calhern, among others, plus Wynne Gibson as the gal Raft throws over for Cummings, and almost pays the ultimate price for it when she snaps. Brisk Archie Mayo direction, 73 minute running time. Gotta love pre-codes. This one's from Paramount, but I believe TCM put it out on DVD, in partnership with rights owner Universal.


I love these two, especially Night after Night!
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Scar Face

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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 07, 2016 1:46 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:
I guess there is not too many gangster film fanatics here. I've recently seen 20,000 Years in Sing Sing


Well, I'm a fan of that one...

Image

though I bought the poster (an original stone litho) more for the typography, I admit. I admired the graphics, very different from the usual big heads poster.


That is awesome! I love it, 20k is an incredible name for a move and that poster is amazing
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Scar Face

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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 07, 2016 1:46 pm

drednm wrote:Don't Turn 'em Loose (1936) is a gangster film that pleads for fewer paroles of prisoners, a sharp turnaround from all those social-conscious prison movies that depict the harsh realities. In this one, Bruce Cabot is a thug who gets parole and that same day knocks off a company payroll, killing the old man cashier. The twist in this one is that he uses an alias and he's really the son of a mild school superintendent (Lewis Stone) and comes from a genteel upper middle class family. As Bat Williams, he's a thug; as Robert Webster he's an engineer who works around the world and sends postcards to his folks. He actually dispatches a stooge to faraway places to mail the postcards! Things get sticky when Stone is appointed to the parole board after Cabot has been locked up again. Co-stars Nella Walker, Betty Grable, James Gleason, Addison Randall, Grace Bradley, Frank Jenks, Gordon Jones.


thanks i'll have to catch this one!
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Scar Face

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Re: Gangster films

PostSat Sep 10, 2016 5:31 pm

Are there any really raw gangster films of the 40's and 50s besides White Heat, Black Tuesday and KTG? I just watched Dillinger, had been wanting to see it for a while and it was ok, not sappy like a typical 40's gangster picture. The three are mentioned are super raw, there must be more from this period. The Enforcer is great as well
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Re: Gangster films

PostSun Sep 11, 2016 1:28 pm

The rawest you'll find from this era are the noir films that have gangster ties:

Out of the Past, 1947
The Glass Key, 1942
The Big Heat, 1953
Kiss of Death, 1947
The Killers, 1946
D.O.A., 1950
Criss Cross, 1949
The Asphalt Jungle, 1950
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Re: Gangster films

PostSun Sep 11, 2016 1:55 pm

Mitch Farish wrote:The rawest you'll find from this era are the noir films that have gangster ties:

Out of the Past, 1947
The Glass Key, 1942
The Big Heat, 1953
Kiss of Death, 1947
The Killers, 1946
D.O.A., 1950
Criss Cross, 1949
The Asphalt Jungle, 1950

"Kiss of Death", ala "Battleship Potemkin", has one of the cruelest scenes in the history of film in it. All in the rest of the list are EXCELLENT!!
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Re: Gangster films

PostSun Sep 11, 2016 2:47 pm

Farewell my lovely aka Murder My Sweet.The Dick Powell version.
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Re: Gangster films

PostMon Sep 12, 2016 12:01 pm

New York Confidential (1955) is definitely a raw gangster film. I saw it this weekend and reviewed it in this thread. Nothing sappy in it at all other than Broderick Crawford's mother wanting him to get out of the crime business (he won't). Richard Conte is excellent as a hit-man, and a young Anne Bancroft is also good as Crawford's daughter who wants to escape from her family.
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Re: Gangster films

PostMon Sep 12, 2016 3:36 pm

Some more from that postwar era:

The Big Combo
Underworld USA
The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond
The Street With No Name and its remake House of Bamboo
Force of Evil

etc.

During the war, gangsters seemed to mostly be played for comedy; maybe that was residual effect of the 30s discouraging them, but it also was probably that gangsters seemed like small fry next to The Hitler Gang.
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Re: Gangster films

PostTue Sep 13, 2016 6:12 pm

Brother Orchid (1940) is a good gangster movie with Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and Ann Sothern. I also like King of Alcatraz (1938) with Lloyd Nolan, J. Carrol Naish, and Gail Patrick which takes place on board a cruise liner.

Crime Over London (1936) is enjoyable for its plot, a New York City gangster who moves across the pond to conduct his activities. Not bad at all for a UK film on American gangsters, with Margot Grahame, Basil Sydney, and Paul Cavanagh.
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Re: Gangster films

PostTue Sep 13, 2016 10:13 pm

Sinners' Holiday (1930) is a pretty good one that's most notable for being James Cagney's film debut. I think Warren Hymer was better as a serious gangster here than he was in Born Reckless but everyone's acting in that film seemed a bit off and awkward, in my opinion.

Hold 'Em Yale (1935) is a rarely seen but really fun Paramount film based on Damon Runyon's short story of the same name. William Frawley, Warren Hymer (I can do a post just about his gangster films alone), George E. Stone, Andy Devine and Cesar Romero as a gang of shady characters who are out to bilk spoiled heiress Patricia Ellis out of her family's fortune.

A Slight Case of Murder (1938) is another Damon Runyon comedy with Edward G. Robinson, Allen Jenkins, Harold Huber and Edward Brophy as a bunch of gangsters going legitimate but never quite getting the hang of it.

All Through the Night (1942) is a fun one with Humphrey Bogart, William Demarest, a very young Jackie Gleason, Peter Lorre, Lorre's future wife Kaaren Verne and Conrad Veidt. The criminal aspects of the gangsters' lives are played down to adhere to the Code but it's basically Gangsters Vs. Nazis.

And one of my all-time favorite Lon Chaney Sr. films The Penalty (1920) is a superb gangster film, with Lon's "Blizzard" as the legless lord of the San Francisco underworld. As well as both versions of The Unholy Three.

Brighton Rock from 1947 is a great British noir gangster film with a very young Richard Attenborough and William Hartnell before his greatest role as Doctor Who.

Coincidentally, I just bought the Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies book about the Gangster pictures off of eBay. Really looking forward to reading that one.
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s.w.a.c.

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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 14, 2016 10:48 am

WarrenHymersMoll wrote:Hold 'Em Yale (1935) is a rarely seen but really fun Paramount film based on Damon Runyon's short story of the same name.

And it also explains the title of Wheeler & Woolsey's Hold 'Em Jail.

Speaking of Runyon, finally saw The Big Street for the first time, with Henry Fonda as busboy Little Pinks, pushing showgirl/gangster's moll Lucille Ball in a wheelchair from New York to Florida. Worth seeing for a great supporting cast (Barton MacLane, Eugene Pallette, Agnes Moorhead, Ray Collins etc.).
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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 14, 2016 12:11 pm

Please do a post on Hymer's gangster films!
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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 14, 2016 1:01 pm

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WarrenHymersMoll

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Re: Gangster films

PostWed Sep 14, 2016 10:59 pm

s.w.a.c. wrote:Speaking of Runyon, finally saw The Big Street for the first time, with Henry Fonda as busboy Little Pinks, pushing showgirl/gangster's moll Lucille Ball in a wheelchair from New York to Florida. Worth seeing for a great supporting cast (Barton MacLane, Eugene Pallette, Agnes Moorhead, Ray Collins etc.).


I'd really like to see that one because I'm just getting into Runyon's short stories and I'm reading Warren G. Harris's book about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and he talks about The Big Street prominently when discussing Lucy's film career.

Scar Face wrote:Please do a post on Hymer's gangster films!


Warren Hymer started his career playing serious villains which included serious gangsters, especially during the pre-code era (Born Reckless and Sinners' Holiday are prime examples). A short time before the code but definitely afterward, he was called upon to play comical goofball gangsters usually with a sweet side. But at times he could play a buffoonish gangster with a dark, mean side.

Last night I was watching We Have Our Moments, a Universal comedy from 1937. Warren played a quirky gangster named "Smacksey" who has a penchant for taking frequent baths and getting himself into humorous situations. But he is also capable of turning on a dime and being quite intimidating and threatening, even to defenseless Sally Eilers. Love is a Racket from 1932 has him playing a similar role where he intimidates Douglas Fairbanks Jr but then plays mean practical jokes on him while holding him prisoner. A few other Hymer gangster roles of note are Midnight Mary, I Love That Man, 36 Hours To Kill and You and Me. It's not surprising that real life gangsters, including Al Capone, were big fans of his.

There really is too much to write *just* about Warren Hymer's gangster films because he did so many of them and would bring something unique to each one.
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Re: Gangster films

PostThu Sep 15, 2016 2:07 am

WarrenHymersMoll wrote:
s.w.a.c. wrote:Speaking of Runyon, finally saw The Big Street for the first time, with Henry Fonda as busboy Little Pinks, pushing showgirl/gangster's moll Lucille Ball in a wheelchair from New York to Florida. Worth seeing for a great supporting cast (Barton MacLane, Eugene Pallette, Agnes Moorhead, Ray Collins etc.).


I'd really like to see that one because I'm just getting into Runyon's short stories and I'm reading Warren G. Harris's book about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and he talks about The Big Street prominently when discussing Lucy's film career.

Scar Face wrote:Please do a post on Hymer's gangster films!


Warren Hymer started his career playing serious villains which included serious gangsters, especially during the pre-code era (Born Reckless and Sinners' Holiday are prime examples). A short time before the code but definitely afterward, he was called upon to play comical goofball gangsters usually with a sweet side. But at times he could play a buffoonish gangster with a dark, mean side.

Last night I was watching We Have Our Moments, a Universal comedy from 1937. Warren played a quirky gangster named "Smacksey" who has a penchant for taking frequent baths and getting himself into humorous situations. But he is also capable of turning on a dime and being quite intimidating and threatening, even to defenseless Sally Eilers. Love is a Racket from 1932 has him playing a similar role where he intimidates Douglas Fairbanks Jr but then plays mean practical jokes on him while holding him prisoner. A few other Hymer gangster roles of note are Midnight Mary, I Love That Man, 36 Hours To Kill and You and Me. It's not surprising that real life gangsters, including Al Capone, were big fans of his.

There really is too much to write *just* about Warren Hymer's gangster films because he did so many of them and would bring something unique to each one.


I'd love a list of his gangster films if you have time, i know he's in a lot of films i've tried to figure out all the real gangster ones but like i just discovered confidential for the first time. I love born reckless, the ending is silly but hymer is a perfect gangster character
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