The Gangster Film Analysis

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Introduction

With exception of war, no event has caused as much upheaval to American security, and its way of life than that of the Great Depression. Following the stock market crash of 1929, and spanning the entire decade of the 1930’s, this period saw at its height, a quarter of Americans out of work, with many barely able to feed themselves or their families. This period also saw many businesses that once flourished, shut their doors forever. However, one industry that still managed to survive during the 1930’s, and in fact was entering its golden age, was that of Hollywood. And while the American film industry was not completely immune to the economic hardships that were facing the nation, the film studios managed to respond in kind to
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The notion that society was creating such individuals with greater regularity and public’s fascination with them was not lost on Hollywood. Hollywood’s answer to both the public’s fascination with those who broke the law, and deteriorating opinions about the government was the invention of a new genre, the Gangster film. The first film to be released in this new genre was Little Caesar (1931). The film tells the story of small time crook Caesar Enrico Bandello who moves to Chicago and rises to become the crime lord of Chicago’s north side. Ultimately however he is undone by his actions and killed by law enforcement. Little Caesar was a rousing success for Warner Bros. and other studios would find gold by copying and refining this formula again, such as in Scarface (1932). Which followed the story Italian immigrant Antonio “Tony” Camonte’s rise to kingpin of Chicago’s Southside, only to declare war on a rival Irish gang on the north side. Much like Caesar, Tony is eventually cut down as a result of events he set into motion. In The Public Enemy (1931) we see the familiar formula play out again. With the rise of Irish gangster Tom Powers, however unlike gangsters in other pictures Tom does not meet his end by the hand of the law, but instead by rival gang members. This slight break from the established formula can be seen as a continued deterioration of the public’s confidence in the government. It’s this notion that audiences were both disenfranchised with the status quo, and maturing as viewers that Hollywood was keenly aware during this period. With all the films in this genre, unlike the morality tales of the silent era individuals are unrepentant for their actions to the very end, and the

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