image  PUBLIC ENEMIES,THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE GANGSTER FILM is a very good TV documentary which looks at the popularity of the Gangster movie in the 1930’s and 40’s,during and after Prohibition.

Film makers, in particular Warner Brothers, had a world of speakeasies and bootleggers and dialogue straight out of the pulp magazines of the time – “When I get in a tight spot, I shoot my way out of it”, or “Take him for a ride!”.

Aside from lots of good film clips, the magic of this documentary is the use of interviews of several directors and stars of the period.

Edward G Robinson: “Little Caesar was designed for entertainment. it was melodramatic, topical. It had a good deal of longevity. I often wondered why.”

He added, “People had an idea that I talked out of the corner of my mouth ,that I packed a gat and I knocked off Humphrey Bogart every morning before breakfast!”

Director William Wellman persuaded Darryl Zanuck to make The Public Enemy,saying “I’ll make it the toughest one of all – the thing that made it successful was one word – Cagney,”

William Wellman

William Wellman

imageRobinson and Cagney were co-starred in Smart Money in 1931,but it was the only time they were teamed. They didn’t really belong together.

Joan Blondell: “Jack Warner was a joy as far as I was concerned. In making films then,it was overpowering team work – the director, Mr Zanuck, Mr Warner, the cutter,the lighting guy,the cameraman – it was a glorious time.”

 Raoul Walsh (director of High Sierra,The Roaring 20’s,White Heat):  “Cagney and Bogart are two of the finest actors who have ever appeared on the screen.They were the only two actors that you could kill off in the end and have a hit picture – they played their parts to perfection.”

Raoul Walsh

Raoul Walsh

Walsh also said,”In the picture,High Sierra,it was originally written for George Raft. They sent it to him, he read it and turned it down  – I went over to see George and he said he read the script but I’m not going to die in the end – I told Warner you’ve got a fella on the lot that’s coming up like wildfire – Humphrey Bogart.”


Howard Hawks: “I have a theory that the camera likes some people. Bogart was not a good looking man.Everything he did you seemed to know why he was doing it.”image

Howard Hawks

Howard Hawks

Virginia Mayo: “Working with Jimmy Cagney was an inspiration. I’d never worked with anybody quite as powerful. Really, he was wonderful.”


To listen to these Hollywood icons is so interesting and I only wish we had seen more of the interviews.

2 responses »

  1. Robinson was far from a polished actor in LittLe Caesar. You will see more of a polished actor in his gangster/type/spoof films. Brother Orchid, Larceny Inc. and A Slight Case Of Murder are just three of many I can reccomend.

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