Books and Movies Reviews

Gangster Films of the 1930s

The Popularity of the American Gangster in the 30s
"You can dish it out, but you got so you can't take it no more."Caesar Enrico Bandello
"I ain't so tough." Tom Powers
"Do itfirst. Do it yourself. And keep on doin' it." Anthony Camonte
By the time the American gangster film arose, the country was already well into the heart of the Depression. Millions of formerly prosperous citizens were plunged into lives of degradation and despair. Official reports put unemployment at 15 percent; a realistic yet conservative estimate shot that figure up to over a third. (http://stats.bls.gov/) Wherever Americans turned, they saw the jobless, starving, and homeless. It seemed as if Americans had lost their spirit when bewildering forces beyond one's control thwarted the individual trying to make a living at every turn.
Meanwhile, the familiar institutions seemed to have their heads stuck firmly in the sand. President Herbert Hoover has been known to have said that, in fact, some people were benefiting from the Depression. Radio programming and newspaper stories followed suit, blaring promises of false economic hope while stashing real-life stories of failure in the last minutes or the back pages.
Into this hypocrisy strode the figure of the screenland gangster. Brash and loud, he made it to the top the old-fashioned way, eliminating those above them who were "soft" and grabbing everything, including the girl, for himself. When the national mood was characterized by apathy, disorientation, and insecurity, movie gangsters fulfilled a fantasy of the traditional rags-to-riches "American Dream" for viewers with little or nothing productive to do in their own lives. These screen heroes made no attempt to camouflage their greedy motives, and viewers loved them for what they saw as honesty. In the figure of the gangster, the audience saw a man who was able to do what they…

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