You gonna’ take me? You’ll need a
fu*#ing army if you gonna’ take me!
Gangster and Western Genre
Films for Public Libraries
Presented by Charles Burkart
West Virginia University
History of Hollywood Gangster Films
o The dark side of the American Dream.
o Illegal quest for wealth, fame, happiness.
o Gangsters born from Prohibition, the 18th
Amendment and the banning of Alcohol.
o Great Depression (1929-1945) made crime
and bootlegging a way out of poverty.
o Gangsters became romantic heroes in the
o Hollywood drew on historical gangsters for
Little Caesar (1930)
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
o Based on Al Capone and Sam
o Rise and fall of Italian American
gangster Rico Bandello
o No Italian-Americans among the
cast of Little Caesar
o No mention of Mafia or Cosa Nostra
o Start of Edward G. Robinson’s
o Beginning of gangster cliches and
stock characters, banquets, costly
funerals, final shootout, famous last
Public Enemy (1931)
Directed by William Wellman
o Irish-American Tom Powers rise from
small town hoodlum to bootlegger
o Made Jimmy Cagney a tough guy
icon and popular movie star.
o Uses unusual camera angles and
stylish Cinematography that influenced
“Film Noir” gangster films of the forties
o Scenes have become cultural icons:
grapefruit scene with Mae Clarke,
Cagney’s shootout in the rain, Final
“taken for a ride” scene.
Scarface: Shame of a Nation
Directed by Howard Hawks
o Loosely based on career of Al Capone.
o Gangster, Tony Camonte seizes control of
the rackets by violence and intimidation only
to fall victim to an incestuous love for his
o Starred Paul Muni who was not
subsequently type-casted as a gangster.
o Scarface was thought to glamorize
gangsters, which lead to the Hays Production
o Was remake again in 1983 with Al Pacino
as Tony Montana. This film reached new
levels of violence and profanity.
Hays Production Code