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The Roaring Twenties VHS
Three doughboys--played by James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and Jeffrey Lynn--meet in a foxhole in Europe just as World War I is ending. When they return to the States, they are forgotten men, and after Eddie (Cagney) tries in vain to get his old job back, his pal Danny (Frank McHugh) lets him drive his cab at night. A fare asks unwitting Eddie to deliver bootleg liquor, but Prohibition is in full swing and Eddie is arrested and thrown in the slammer. Gallant Eddie won't rat out the woman to whom he delivered the hooch, speakeasy owner Panama Smith, (whiskey-voiced Gladys George). She bails him out and carries a torch for him for the rest of the movie, but he only has eyes for sweet little Jean (Priscilla Lane). Panama introduces Eddie to a life of crime, staking him in the bootleg business. Eddie's grit and bluster suit him perfectly for this existence, and he's soon a success, so he hires Army buddy Lloyd (Lynn) as consigliere, then teams up with George (Bogart), a liquor smuggler who plays a much dirtier game. Racketeering and murder are his methods, and he drags Eddie down with him. When Prohibition ends and the stock market crashes, Eddie loses everything and takes to the bottle himself.
The film is a bit schematic. The three stars are archetypes: Cagney the good boy gone bad, Bogart the bad boy who stays bad, and Lynn the good boy who stays good. Still, it packs quite an emotional wallop--Cagney shows extraordinary range, going from green boy to swaggering gangster to broken man, and Bogart has rarely seemed more purely evil than he does here. He kills for the sheer pleasure of it; it's truly frightening to see. The final scene is a stunning shootout between Cagney and Bogart. With lesser actors this film could be pure hokum. With Cagney and Bogart, it attains catharsis. --Laura Mirsky
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Bartlett is a returning vet from World War I who is unable to find employment once he returns to the states. Sharing taxi duties with his roommate and with Prohibition in full force, he unwittingly ends up getting arrested on a bootlegging charge and taking the rap for nightclub owner Panama Smith (Gladys George), who was really distributing the booze. Once she bails him out she gets the ball rolling to help him out in the bootlegging business, thus starting him down the road to crime. He meets up with two former comrade-in-arms from the war, lawyer Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn) who becomes his legal eagle for a time and George Hally (Humphrey Bogart) an already established bootlegger himself. Bartlett's associations with both men will have unfortunate consequences, both on a personal and professional front.
On the personal side, Bartlett falls head over heals in love with Jean Sherman (Priscilla Lane), a young woman who had written letters to him while he was fighting in France. Unfortunately she does not return his affections despite the fact he managed to find employment for her as a singer at Panama's nightclub and falls for straight arrow Lloyd instead.
Bartlett's shaky partnership with Hally comes to a bitter end after Hally double crosses him to the very man Hally helped Bartlett screw over (how's that for irony?). However the crash of 1929 gives Hally the upper hand for a short time as Bartlett is forced to sell his business (the taxi cab 'company' he was using for a front for his bootlegging gigs) at a loss to Hally.
Now down and out, Bartlett finds himself right back where he was before he went off to fight the war. After having lost everything he turns to the booze but a personal appeal from Jean to save Lloyd (they are now married and have a son at this point) from Hally (who now wants to kill Lloyd since Lloyd is ready to prosecute Hally for his past crimes) makes him pull himself together and (SPOILER ALERT) have one last confrontation with Hally, a confrontation to the death for both of them.
Great movie, Cagney is great as always (even though as I said, he was sick of the gangster genre by this point), but so are Bogey, Lane, George and the rest of the supporting cast. If you love gangster movies, this is one that is definitely not to be missed.
I loved it. Hadn't seen it in a long time. But time has not dull its greatness. Cagney is at his best as always. He starts out innocent, a war vet, then gets sucked into crime (can't find a job) and finally dies helping a woman who never returned his love. Sensational!
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