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Dec. 6th, 2005 09:13 pm 70 Year old Gangster movies resonates with today's headlines

Warner Brothers has released their classic gangster
series, "Little Caesar," "The Public Enemy" and "The
Petrified Forest," three films that made stars out of
Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart,
respectfully. Each actor provides a charismatic
performance as symbols of the Anti-American Dream.
Though these films are 70 years old, there is truth
that resonates as a modern day parable. Given his
behavior while on trial, one sees the self-destructive
arrogance of Robinson, Cagney and Bogart in manner of
Saddam Hussein.

In 1938, Cagney and Bogart teamed up for the first
time in "Angels with Dirty Faces," costarring Pat
O'Brien and the Dead End Kids. Cagney portrays Rocky
Sullivan, a career criminal who returns home to find
that he is the hero of the Dead End Kids, a gang of
under privileged teenagers. The local Priest
(O'Brien) encourages Rocky to go straight and suggests
that the gangster try to be a role model to the
teenagers. Rocky's criminal past comes back to haunt
him and the Priest wonders if he did the right thing
by asking Rocky to be a mentor to the Dead End kids.
Cornball? Unrealistic? Perhaps Stanley "Tookie"
Williams used Rocky Sullivan as his role model when he
formed the Crips gang in Los Angeles.

6 comments - Leave a commentPrevious Entry Share Flag Next Entry


Date:December 10th, 2005 11:06 pm (UTC)

Angels with Dirty Faces

A very powerful scene in Angels with Dirty Faces was James Cagney pretending to be a coward as he went to the electric chair in accordance with Pat O'Brien's request.

Was Cagney's character really pretending? I like to believe he started out pretending, but then he actually did become terrified as the final seconds approached.

North Star
Date:December 11th, 2005 02:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Angels with Dirty Faces

Thanks for reading North Star :)

I think answer is a combination of both. Rocky went yellow for father Jerry, but who knows what happened in "the moment?"

The audio commentary is quite good on this subject. The last image of Rocky is Cagney's mask of death, a face the actor used quite chillingly in "The Public Enemy."

After Rocky enters the chamber, it is all shadows and audio, worthy of German expressionism.
Date:December 12th, 2005 01:05 am (UTC)

Re: Angels With Dirty Faces

You are welcome cinemadave. Portions of Angels With Dirty Faces powerfully reminded me of the great German cinema, especially Peter Lorre's shattering performance in " M ".

North Star
Date:December 12th, 2005 01:13 pm (UTC)

The Public Enemy

I have not seen The Public Enemy in quite a while but I believe portions of this riveting film were made in Chicago. It has been called Cagney's breakthrough role.

I live in the Chicago area and some of the oldtimers tell me that Cagney's character was partly based on Chicago gangster Dion O'Banion. Several depictions in The Public Enemy were taken from real Chicago gangster events.

http://mafia.blogs.sapo.pt/arquivo/dion1-thumb.gif - Dion O'Banion Photo Link

North Star
Date:December 13th, 2005 07:18 pm (UTC)

Re: The Public Enemy

Thanks for the link to Dion.
I believe that is what the voice over said on the DVD with regards to "The Public Enemy" and Dion.

I could not help but think about "Angels with Dirty Faces"
when I heard that "Tookie" Williams met his maker this morning in California.
Date:December 13th, 2005 11:00 pm (UTC)

Re: The Public Enemy

You are welcome to the Dion O'Banion photo link. If you go to Google or any other of your favorite search engines, and search images with Dion O'Banion's name typed, it leads to many photos of him, and some strongly resemble James Cagney.

I do not have the DVD that has the O'Banion information you mentioned but I would like to purchase it soon.

O'Banion was a strange combination of saint and sinner. He was a bootlegger who did not drink. He attended church nearly every Sunday of his life and had been a Catholic altar boy in his youth. In his flower shop he personally and skillfully constructed complicated and artistic religious floral arrangements for funerals of law abiding citizens and his fellow gangsters. O'Banion had an excellent Irish tenor's singing voice and enjoyed singing religious and sentimental songs. He is also believed to have personally murdered at least 25 men.

Although the Angels With Dirty Faces film goes back nearly 70 years it remains in many ways very similar to the current Tookie Williams story. Sometimes the only new history is the old histoy we have forgotten.

North Star