Public Enemies, Public Heroes: Screening the Gangster from Little Caesar to Touch of Evil
In this study of Hollywood gangster films, Jonathan Munby examines their controversial content and how it was subjected to continual moral and political censure.
Beginning in the early 1930s, these films told compelling stories about ethnic urban lower-class desires to "make it" in an America dominated by Anglo-Saxon Protestant ideals and devastated by the Great Depression. By the late 1940s, however, their focus shifted to the problems of a culture maladjusting to a new peacetime sociopolitical order governed by corporate capitalism. The gangster no longer challenged the establishment; the issue was not "making it," but simply "making do."
Combining film analysis with archival material from the Production Code Administration (Hollywood's self-censoring authority), Munby shows how the industry circumvented censure, and how its altered gangsters (influenced by European filmmakers) fueled the infamous inquisitions of Hollywood in the postwar '40s and '50s by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Ultimately, this provocative study suggests that we rethink our ideas about crime and violence in depictions of Americans fighting against the status quo.
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Public enemies, public heroes: screening the gangster from Little Caesar to Touch of EvilUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Beginning in the early 1930s, argues Lancaster University lecturer Munby, gangster films reflected the urban masses' discontent with the Horatio Algeresque conservatism of Depression-era America. By ... Read full review
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1930s gangster film aesthetic American AMPAS argued Asphalt Jungle attempt audience Blackie Cagney's capitalist Catholic censors censorship cinema civic classic Code's concerns context crime cycle criminal cultural Depression Dillinger Doorway to Hell dramatic economic encoded ethnic urban exile fear film analysis form film form film industry film noir film's filmmakers Force of Evil Fritz Lang gang gangster film gangster narrative gangster-syndicate gangsterdom genre ghetto groups Hays Holly Hollywood HUAC HUAC's Ibid ideals ideological industry's interest James Cagney Joseph Breen Key Largo Lang's liberal consensus Little Caesar Manhattan Melodrama mass modern moral Motion Picture nativist old-stock PCA file PCA's played police political popular problem Production Code Administration Prohibition Protestant Public Enemy realm representation Richard Maltby Robert Siodmak role Scarface screen significant Siodmak social society sociocultural ster story Street studios talking gangster film tion tradition transformation underworld Weimar woman