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,”
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.”
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.”
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.