Gangster film Genre
Reading number one-Developed around the sinister actions of criminals, gangsters, particularly bank robbers and underworld figures who operate outside of the law stealing and murdering their way through life. Crime stories in this genre usually highlight the rise and fall of one of these leading individuals. And the personal power struggle between these gangster and officials of the law. Gangster films are usually set in large crowded cities, to provide a view of the secrets of the criminals world Film gangsters are usually very street smart, immoral, materialistic, and self destructive Hays Censorship Codes of the 1930’s, the Hays Office was whom wrote these codes, forced studios particularly after 1934 to make moral pronouncements, pronounce criminals as psychopaths, de-glorify crime and show that crime doesn’t pay. It also demanded minimal details for brutal crimes. Before this time there was no code on what could and couldn’t be shown during films The code was largely adhered to during the 1930’s and 1960’s
Criminal/gangster films date back to the early days of film during the silent era One of the first to mark the start of the gangster/crime genre was D. W. Griffith's The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912) about organized crime. It wasn't the first gangster movie ever made, but it was the first significant gangster film that has survived. Josef von Sternberg's gangland melodrama Underworld (1927) with George Bancroft and Clive Brook, often considered as the first modern gangster film, had many standard conventions of the crime film - and it was shot from the gangster's point of view. It won the Best Original Story Award for Ben Hecht - the first Oscar ever awarded for an original screenplay, and the first of Hecht's two Oscar wins (among six writing nominations during his career). [The first 'gangster' pulp had the same title, Underworld, a breeding ground for many crime thriller plots.] It wasn't until the sound era and the 1930s that gangster films truly became an entertaining, popular way to attract viewers to the theatres, who were interested in the lawlessness and violence on-screen. The events of the Prohibition Era (until 1933) such as bootlegging and the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929, the existence of real-life gangsters (e.g., Al Capone) and the rise of contemporary organized crime and escalation of urban violence helped to encourage this genre. Many of the sensationalist plots of the early gangster films were taken from the day's newspaper headlines. The allied rackets of bootlegging, gambling and prostitution brought these mobsters to folk hero status, and audiences during that time vicariously participated in the gangster's rise to power and wealth - on the big screen. They vicariously experienced the gangster's satisfaction with flaunting the system and feeling the thrill of violence. Movies flaunted the archetypal exploits of swaggering, cruel, wily, tough, and law-defying bootleggers and urban gangster The perfection of sound technology and mobile cameras also aided their spread. The first "100% all-talking" picture and, of course, the first sound gangster film was The Lights of New York (1928) - it enhanced the urban crime dramas of the time with crackling dialogue and exciting sound effects of squealing getaway car tires and gunshots. And Tay Garnett's violent Bad Company (1931) was the first picture to feature the gangland massacre on St. Valentine's Day. Warner Bros. was considered the gangster studio par excellence, and the star- triumvirate of Warners' gangster cycle, all actors who established and defined their careers in this genre, included:
Edward G. Robinson
Others who were early gangster stars included Paul Muni and George Raft. (1) Mervyn LeRoy's Little Caesar (1930) starred Edward G. Robinson as a gritty, coarse and ruthless, petty Chicago killer named Caesar Enrico (or "Rico") Bandello (a flimsy disguise...
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