28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2005
In 1939 the world was moving on. Warner Brothers, the Hollywood studio that owed its existence to Prohibition and the Volstead Act, was slowly weaning itself from gangster movies. The genre's greatest star, James Cagney, was heartily sick of playing gangsters - How many ways can you hit a guy, anyway?
THE ROARING TWENTIES, from the story "The World Moves On" by popular Broadway columnist Mark Hellinger, was `a memory' of the era Warners mined so successfully, and profitably, in the thirties. It stars Cagney as Eddie Bartlett, a more-or-less good guy who fought in World War I only to return to a country that didn't quite know what to do with all of her returning soldiers. Bartlett's two army buddies figure prominently in his eventual rise and fall - the slimy George Hally (Humphrey Bogart) and golden boy Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn). Bartlett's first touch of the Big Bottom occurs early on after his return. The job he'd thought was waiting for him when he got home is filled by someone else, and soon enough he sees and grabs at the opportunities presented by Prohibition. Bartlett's ascent begins when he begins to manufacture his own bathtub gin. Along the way Barlett enlists the services of old foxhole buddies Hally (right-hand gunsel) and Hart (legal advisor). Bartlett goes into the speakeasy business with Panama Smith (Gladys George) and falls hard for pretty young Jean Sherman (Priscilla Lane). Of course it's lonely at the top, and with treacherous associates like Hally and rivals like Nick Brown (Paul Kelly), precarious as well.
Cagney may have been sick of playing gangsters by 1939, but it's hard to tell that from his performance. There's just something right about everything he does with a character who has to travel, convincingly, from the gutter to the penthouse, and then back again to the gutter. It's a consummate performance, and director Raoul Walsh, best known as an action director, handles the intimate moments with delicacy and sensitivity. Barlett's forlorn love for good-girl Jean, with good-boy Lloyd lurking around in the background, is doomed from the start, and Walsh and Cagney explore it to good effect. Gladys George's Panama's miscast affections are also delicately painted. Walsh balances the quieter moments with action scenes that would have fit comfortably in the later-day gangster films of Coppola and Scorsese. In fact, the shootout in Nick Brown's diner is an obvious template for a similar scene in The Godfather.
THE ROARING TWENTIES is a masterpiece. The transfer print is in very good condition - I was so wrapped up in the story I really didn't notice any flicks or flacks. Warners has loaded this one with fun extras. There's a twenty minute feature titled "The Roaring Twenties: Time Moves On" featuring director Martin Scorsese and film experts Lincoln Hurst, Alain Silver, Mark Viera and Andrew Sarris. The theme is the end of the gangster movie cycle and Cagney's and Bogart's careers. The other special feature is Warner Night at the Movies, which opens with a trailer; a 1939 newsreel ("Worlds of Tomorrow"); a charming Lloyd French directed "All-Girl Revue" that features a young June Allyson as `mayor for a day' singing the forgettable "We've Got to Make the City Pretty"; a Grouch Club entry titled "The Great Library Misery"; and a color cartoon, "Thugs With a Dirty Mug."
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2007
A breakthrough for director Walsh, this classic boasts electric performances from both Cagney and Bogie. Consistent with most Bogart portrayals from the thirties, his George Hally is a low double-crosser who puts the screws to honorable (in his way) Eddie. Consistent with most Cagney roles, Eddie gets his revenge. "Twenties" is a worthy swan song to the glory days of the gangster picture--and just wait for that immortal closing line of dialogue.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2001
That's the symbolism at the end of "The Roaring Twenties", my all-time favorite James Cagney movie. What a joy to watch Cagney as he plays Eddie Bartlett, a doughboy who can't get a job after WWI, and who stumbles into the racketeering world by accident. It's a world about tuxedo clad toughs who pack heaters and gats, and speakeasies raided by cops on the make, two-timing ingenues and shady ladies with hearts of gold. And ultimately, a world set right by truth, justice, and the repeal of Prohibition. Supporting Cagney's gangster protagonist is a wonderful ensemble cast. Gladys George has been around the block, but gets stuck on Eddie; Priscilla Lane is the baby face that Eddie's ga-ga about, who sings "Melancholy Baby", "It Had to Be You" and other great songs of the period; Frank McHugh is Eddie's sidekick from the trenches to the big time; and Humphrey Bogart is the rat fink who chisels and kills with very little effort or remorse. "The Roaring Twenties" is a great movie about a good boy who fell in with the wrong crowd, expertly put over by that prince of the gangster movies, James Cagney. Take it out for a little ride back to your VCR.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2005
This movie - the pluperfect example of the Warner gangster film - seems a better film today than at the time it was released. Directed with flair by Raoul Walsh, it moves at a cracking pace and is especially well cast with a gallery of Warner Bros regulars. Cagney dominates the picture with one of his most likeable and poignant performances, always full of humour and above all humanity. The attention to period detail is outstanding and especially, with regard to its music score - a brilliant collage of contemporaty popular songs woven into a marvellous dramatic score by that unsung genius, Ray Heindorf who also provides the knockout orchestrations.
The finale is pure magic, as Cagney dies in the arms of Gladys George, on the steps of a large church (one of the most ubiquitous standing sets on the Warner Lot - Bette Davis runs up those steps at the start of Deception (1946) and it stood in as a Court House in a dozen films). Bogart makes a great ratfaced crook and his verbal sparring with Cagney is a delight.
The DVD is all one could ever wish for - a sparkling restoration with terrific sound and a host of extras to delight the most discerning of buffs. My only quibble - for some weird reason, my copy lost synchronisation bewween sound & picture for about 15 minutes (Reel 2?). However, I have seen other copies and it was fine.
Bravo Warners! This great film is now immortally preserved and its stature can only grow with each passing decade.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2003
One of my all-time favorite gangster movies. The Roaring 20's features James Cagney at his best as a returning WWI vet who has lost his job , turns to bootlegging and muscles his way to the top. Cagney is at his wisecracking tough guy peak in this and he is given a run for his money by Humphrey Bogart as his WWI buddy turned partner turned rival.
The movie traces these characters through the tumultuous speakeasy days. Cagney's character falls for a young singer who is in love with a young straightshooting attorney. Eddie(Cagney) has one loyal admirer in Panama Smith an aging speakeasy manager who is played flawlessly by Gladys George. She delivers the most memorable line in the movie "Get a Victrola- Jughead".
The story culminates with Eddie being ruined financially and having a showdown with Bogart's character that results in the death scene to end all death scenes. Cagney's staggeriing down the street and collapsing on the church steps after being shot has been often imitated but never duplicated.
A great movie and a piece of film history that stands up to repeated viewings.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2003
They just don't make 'em like this anymore and the primary reason is because there simply aren't stars around like Jimmy Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. Not only were these two huge superstars, they were both phenomenal actors with rare screen presence. This is their best (and last) movie together and it works because of their dual performances, especially Cagney in the lead role. Try and take your eyes off him throughout the fil, it's practically impossible.
The script contains many instances of unintentional humor and the lingo used throughout is typical for the gangster formula of the 30's. Words like dame, broad, chintzy, dough and palooka are sprinkled liberally throughout and Cagney delivers them with his typical bravado which is so charming and so unique to him. He is a true treasure and his gangster persona reaches its apex here as the good guy gone wrong. Bogey, on the other hand, is pretty sadistic throughout and there's nothing to love about him. But hey, it's Bogie, so you love him in spite of yourself. Priscilla lane is excellent as the girl Cagney loves but who doesn't love him back. One wonders whether her character had a set of eyes: what woman in their right mind would turn down Jimmy Cagney?
Though predictable and dated in spots, the movie holds up very well and is still enjoyable to watch. Don't expect any great surprises or any deviation from the Warner Bros. gangster formula, but Cagney has rarely been better and turns in a riveting, memorable performance.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Warner Bros. Pictures presents "THE ROARING TWENTIES" (1939) (106 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Starring James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart, Gladys George, Jeffrey Lynn & Frank McHugh
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Based upon an idea by Broadway columnist Mark Hellinger, The Roaring Twenties opens during World War I as Eddie Bartlett (Cagney), Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn) and George Hally (Bogart) discuss what they will do when the war is over. Bartlett wants to go back to repairing cabs, and Hart yearns to be a lawyer, but it becomes clear that Hally has less reputable plans in mind for himself. Come the end of the war, things are not as easy for veterans like Bartlett as they should be. He is unable to get his old job back and ends up driving a cab for little money. One night he is asked to deliver a package (which turns out to be whiskey) to an address that turns out to be a speakeasy. This starts him on a life of crime, as he gets deeper involved as a bootlegger. Things are not made easy by a rival bootlegger who turns out to be Hally. The two join forces and prosper. Hart shares in their prosperity, as Bartlett engages him to take care of his legal matters.
Bogart's portrayal was interesting as we watched him coldly murder an ex-army sergeant who had given him a rough time in the service
It is impressive the capacity of the screenplay writers and director Raoul Walsh in developing a complex and magnificent dramatic story of crime and romance, supported by historic events.
Cagney, whose energy gave him a panerotic sexual magnetism, was very evident with his two relationships which both tend to increase our valuation of Cagney as a person as are the two ladies involved: Priscilla Lane and Gladys George who both had feelings for him.
Fabulous in every way - a Warner Bros tour de force - Cagney & Bogie: the combination is dynamite!
1. Raoul Walsh (Director)
Date of Birth: 11 March 1887 - New York, New York
Date of Death: 31 December 1980 - Simi Valley, California
2. James Cagney [aka: James Francis Cagney]
Date of Birth: 17 July 1899 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 30 March 1986 - Stanfordville, New York
3. Humphrey Bogart
Date of Birth: 25 December 1899 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 14 January 1957 - Los Angeles, California
4. Priscilla Lane [aka: Priscilla Mullican]
Date of Birth: 12 June 1915 - Indianola, Iowa
Date of Death: 4 April 1995 - Andover, Massachusetts
5. Gladys George
Date of Birth: 13 September 1900 - Patten, Maine
Date of Death: 8 December 1954 - Los Angeles, California
Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]
Total Time: 106 min on DVD ~ Warner Bros. Pictures ~ (01/21/2005)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The 1930s was the decade of the gangster film - it began with Edward G Robinson's "Little Caesar" and Jimmy Cagney's "Public Enemy" and ended with Cagney and Bogart in "The Roaring Twenties" (1939). It was the last film in which Cagney and Bogart both appeared. Prior to this, Bogart had played second fiddle to Warner's biggest star (e.g., "The Oklahoma Kid", "Angels with Dirty Faces", "Dead End"), Jimmy Cagney, but in 1941 Bogart starred in "High Sierra" and "The Maltese Falcon" and from that point onward, Bogart became a big name star, eventually surpassing Cagney in 1943 on the tail of his performance in "Casablanca".
The film is based on real life bootlegger Larry Fay, who was shot to death in 1932 by a doorman at his nightclub. But unlike Fay who was over 6 feet tall, diminutive Jimmy Cagney starred. Cagney was one of the biggest stars of the 30s, was nominated for an Oscar for his work in "Angels with Dirty Faces" in 1938 and won for his 1942 portrayal of George M Cohan "Yankee Doodle Dandy". "Roaring Twenties" was Cagney's pen ultimate gangster role, waiting more than 10 years for his finale in "White Heat" (1951). But while he is best known for his gangster roles, the majority of Cagney's screen appearances were not as a gangster - he played an insurance salesman ("The Millionaire", 1931), en engineer ("Other Men's Women", 1931), a boxer ("Winner Take All", 1932), an auto racer ("The Crowd Roars", 1932), a Broadway producer ("Footlight Parade", 1933), etc. Indeed, Cagney often appeared in comedies (e.g., "Here Comes the Navy", "Hard to Handle", "Jimmy the Gent"), although it was his gangster films that earned the really big bucks.
The Roaring Twenties follows the lives of 3 WW 1 veterans from the end of the war through the end of prohibition. Cagney and Bogart play gangsters and Jeffrey Lynn plays their friend who goes straight. Priscilla Lane plays the girl that Cagney and Lynn both love, and ultimately, Cagney sacrifices himself for Lane's happiness.
Priscilla Lane was part of a sister singing act popular in the 30s. They appeared in several films, including "Four Daughters" (1938), "Four Wives" (1939) and "Four Mothers" (1941). Since she was a singer, Raoul Walsh had her perform 3 songs in the film - "It Had to be You", "Melancholy Baby" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry."
Despite the success of the film her career floundered as she was particular about what types of films she appeared in. Warner Brothers already had enough trouble with stars like Bette Davis and Jimmy Cagney, and didn't look kindly on a B level actress asserting herself. She was assigned roles in minor films and Warners terminated her in 1944.
Broad faced Jeffrey Lynn was in the Lane sister films. He lost out to Leslie Howard as Ashley in "GWTW" but got good reviews for "Roaring Twenties" and went on to successful roles in "The Fighting 69th (1940) with Cagney again, "Butterfield 8" (1960) with Elizabeth Taylor and "Tony Rome" (1967) with Frank Sinatra.
Raoul Walsh directs with his usual Warner's panache. By 1939 Walsh was already an old hand at the gangster film. His 1915 silent film "The Regeneration" is the oldest surviving feature length gangster film and Walsh, in his auto-biography, claims it was the first. It was Walsh's idea to combine the good and bad elements that had been separate in the Western film hero and villain, into a single person, the gangster, who would both attract and repel the viewer.
"Roaring Twenties" was a big success and Walsh went on to even greater fame with such major productions as "Dark Command" (1940) with John Wayne (Walsh had discovered Wayne in 1930), "They Drive By Night" (1940) and "High Sierra" (1941) with Bogart, "They Died with Their Boots On" (1941) with Errol Flynn, and "White Heat" (1949) with Cagney. He declined noticably in the 50s after he left Warner Brothers, but his 50+ year career made him one of Hollywood's most memorable directors, and his work in "The Roaring Twenties" showcases Walsh at his fast paced best.
The film did well at the box office and had good reviews ("great hunk of entertainment") but wasn't nominated for any awards as it appeared in the same year as "GWTW", "Stagecoach", Wizard of Oz", "Goodbye Mr. Chips", "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", "Drums Along the Mohawk", etc . It launched a nostalgia craze on radio programs and in both "Life" and "Look" magazines. The final line of the film, "he used to be a big shot" was repeated for decades
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2000
The Roaring Twenties came at the end of the gangster cycle of movies in the Thirties, and it's a fitting end. The film takes sort of a documentary approach to the era of Prohibition, from its beginning to its finish after fourteen years. At the same time, it chronicles the rise and fall of a gangster played by James Cagney, who becomes a big shot, only to lose it all. Cagney is, as usual, riveting in his role, with some great scenes at the end of the movie. Priscilla Lane is the idealized love of his life who can never return his love because of her dislike for his lifestyle. Gladys George is excellent as Panama Smith, a speakeasy hostess who really is Cagney's soulmate, even though he doesn't realize it. Humphrey Bogart has another one of the bad guy gangster roles that he had a lot of in the Thirties. The movie is well directed and moves along quickly, and although it doesn't really offer anything new to the gangster film genre, it does give the viewer a good overall look at the era, with a finale that is truly memorable. It's worth seeing.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 1998
Humphrey Bogart & James Cagney give sterling performances as rival gangsters in this great film. They sure don't make 'em like this anymore; and if you decide to add this to your collection of classic films, be sure to get it in the original black & white version-it is a real "crime" to colorize all the wonderful old classics! END