Classic Film Guide

Roaring Twenties, The (1939)

This is an excellent film about three World War I Army buddies whose lives change dramatically when they return from the war and get involved in crime, to varying degrees. Eddie (James Cagney) initially works as a cab driver sharing his old friend's (Frank McHugh) taxi. But, through a speakeasy owner, a woman named Panama (Gladys George), Eddie gets involved in the illegal alcohol business (e.g. during Prohibition). Initially, George (Humphrey Bogart), another of the soldiers, is his "first lieutenant" in the criminal enterprise, but later he becomes a rival racketeer. The third former soldier, Lloyd (Jeffrey Lynn), becomes a lawyer who, through Eddie, helps Panama beat a rap. Priscilla Lane plays Jean, a young girl Eddie corresponded with during the war when, unbeknownst to him, she was still in high school. Later, when Eddie's become "successful", he funds her singing debut, held in Panama's establishment. Though Eddie wants Jean for himself, she has eyes for "honest" Lloyd ... much like Panama has eyes for Eddie. These intrigues as well as the conflicts between Eddie and George make for an exciting picture which ends unforgettably! Directed by Raoul Walsh, this Mark Hellinger story was adapted by Jerry Wald, Richard Macauley, and Robert Rossen.

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