18 November 2012 Film Review: Angels with Dirty Faces, USA 1938
The film I have chosen to review and analyse under the theoretical frame Genre is Angels with Dirty Faces, a gangster film directed by Michael Curtiz starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. In Andrew Tudor’s book “Theories of Film”, he argued that genre is “what we collectively believe it to be”. I believe that when Tudor says “we” he means the audience. Audiences have an expectation of what they assume a film to be like and this is down to genre. According to Jill Nelmes, “Genre is a fundamental means by which we communicate”. Characters, setting and events are made predictable to assist the audience in fulfilling their expectations. The study of Iconography also has a lot to do regarding genre and how such things like props, costumes and settings can tell the audience what genre a film is supposed to be in. When films are placed in certain genres, recurring events and characters are expected. The likes of Al Capone and James Cagney were recurring actors on contract used for the gangster genre in the Hollywood Studio System around the 1930s and this entertained the audiences as they knew what to expect from their idealised actors from the roles they played.
Angels with Dirty Faces epitomises the gangster genre during the 1930s. Made in 1938, the Michael Curtiz film followed rules and conventions that were expected of the genre around that time. The gangster film emerged from the Great Depression and the First World War, as gangsters of America, and more precisely New York began to “run” urban cities. In “A World History of Film”, Robert Sklar wrote: “These [Gangster] films responded to the changes in urban crime as a result of the post-World War 1 amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, or sale of alcoholic beverages. Prohibition fostered powerful criminal organizations that supplied illegal liquor, their highly
Cited: Angels with Dirty Faces. Dir. Michael Curtiz. Perf. James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, Humphrey Bogart. Warner Bros, 1938. DVD. Sklar, Robert. A World History of Film. Ed. Katherine Rangoon Doyle. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002. Print. Hollows, Joanne, and Mark Jancovich, eds. Approaches to Popular Film. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. Print. Nelmes, Jill, ed. An Introduction to Film Studies. 2nd Ed. New York: Routledge, 1999. Print. Kipp, Jeremiah. “Angels with Dirty Faces”. Rev. of Angels with Dirty Faces, dir. Michael Curtiz. Slant Magazine Online: 2 Feb. 2005. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. Tudor, Andrew. Theories of Film. New York: Viking Adult, 1974. Print. Schatz, Thomas. Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, 1981. Print.