Friday, March 8, 2013


I'm going to review my all time favorite James Cagney gangster movie...

The film tells the story about a bootlegging gangster named Tom Powers (James Cagney). He and his friend Matt (Edward Woods) go from doing small crimes as kids to becoming big shot gangsters. Tom's brother Mike (Donald Cook) is against him from taking a life of crime, while his Mother (Beryl Mercer) worries about him. Tom has a girlfriend named Gwen (Jean Harlow), works for the powerful crime boss Paddy Ryan (Robert Emmett O'Connor) and the great thug Nails Nathan (Leslie Fenton) as he wants to settle a score with his old friend Putty Nose (Murray Kinnell).

James Cagney is at his best in this film. He does it all, he's loose cannon, he kills, he steals, harasses and punches fast woman, beats people up, insults and threats people and he's just plan intimidating. While he does all this we still love him because he's loyal to his friends, loves his Mother and tries to help his family including his stubborn brother. What's also interesting about his character is we get to follow him from childhood, to a petty criminal to a cold blooded gangster and I think we're more closer to Cagney's character then we were in his later films such as "Angels With Dirty Faces", "The Roaring Twenties" and "White Heat". He also gets an ending worse than his future gangster film endings.

All the characters are just as likable and memorable as Cagney is. His partner in crime Matt is just as tough and likable as Tom is. His Brother Mike is the one who does the right thing and the feud between him and Cagney is great. Who can also forget Cinemas early mother character actress Beryl Mercer as Tom's Mother. The fast woman played by Jean Harlow, Mia Marvin and Joan Blondell are really pretty and seductive. The gangsters such as Nails Nathan, Paddy Ryan and Putty Nose are all perfect for their roles and are really good tough guys.

The violence is really realistic but most of the deaths happen off screen in a realistic way, best scene is when he takes care of a traitor. Even the climatic shoot out with Cagney happens off screen but we hear the sounds. In most scenes Cagney is hitting people, one of the most violent scenes in the film is when he ends a relationship with a girl by pushing a grapefruit in her face. Oh and there's some sexual themes and of course a lot of sex in this film for an old film. In the breakfast scene for example, you can hear Matt and his girl making love. The film got some pretty big controversy for it's time and watching this film still amazes about the violence they showed in a time when violence is censored...for the most part.


I guess I might as well point out that the film is based on real gangsters. Cagney's character is based off Earl "Hymie" Weiss. He also survived a machine gun ambush and in reality through an omelet instead of a grapefruit at his girl.

He's also based on the bootlegger and Al Capone's rival Charles Dion "Deanie" O'Banion.

Oh and audio animatronic of James Cagney, can be seen on "The Great Movie Ride" quoting lines and threats from the film. You can also find a poster of the film and see the grapefruit scene in the montage at the end.

Overall this is one of the best Cagney gangster films of all time and yes I recommend it to you gangster fans.


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