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The Roaring Twenties(1939)

Former newspaperman Mark Hellinger drew on his knowledge of real-life gangsters like Larry Fay, Moe Snyder and Hymie Weiss to create the story for what would be the glorious conclusion of Warner Bros. run of gangster films produced in the 1930s. The picture traces the friendships of three men — played by James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Jeffrey Lynn — who meet in a foxhole during World War I and go on to play major roles in 1920s bootlegging in New York City. Cagney is the reluctant gang leader, who ends up with a speakeasy and a corner on the illicit liquor market. Bogart is a saloon keeper who switches to bootlegging, and Lynn is the lawyer who starts out representing Cagney but winds up working for the D.A. Director Raoul Walsh keeps the action moving quickly and allowed the actors to improvise, which Cagney felt added depth to the script. The two would reunite for arguably Cagney’s best crime picture, White Heat (1949). Walsh would also play a key role in elevating Bogart to stardom, directing him as the aging hood in High Sierra (1941). The film popularized the label “roaring twenties” and kicked off a wave of nostalgia for the era that still captures audience’s imaginations today. (d. Raoul Walsh, 106m, Digital)

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