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August 18, 2009

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DVD of the Week – Disc Commentary Track for The Roaring Twenties (1939)

by NIR SHALEV

The Roaring Twenties is a classic and expertly made gangster film from the great director Raoul Walsh (High Sierra, White Heat).  Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney), George Hally (Humphrey Bogart), and Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn) are three American soldiers during WWI who become friends.  Once the war is over and each goes his separate way, Eddie finds out what had happened to his country during the past couple of years.  His buddy finds him a job driving his cab part time for a while, but then he begins a lucrative career in bootlegging during Prohibition.

Eddie eventually meets with his army buddies again.  George has become a rich, tough gangster and Lloyd is a proficient lawyer with a pure heart.  Twists and backstabs eventually abound, for this is a gangster film after all.

The DVD’s commentary track features film historian Dr. Lincoln Hurst and we gather from the get-go that this picture is a personal favorite of his.  He claims that he’d seen it roughly 25 times through the years. This is an informative commentary in terms of learning about the 1930s cinema in general and about its great actors, and it’s also a great history lesson on the Prohibition era.

Hurst discusses the relationships that the actors had with one another and with Raoul Walsh and that Hal B. Wallis, a powerful Executive Producer working just under Jack L. Warner was having a tough time agreeing with Walsh and Cagney. He also names almost every single actor that you see in the film, adding details of their variously long and short-lived careers.

The DVD can be purchased separately, but I own it as part of a boxed set titled “Warner Bros. Pictures Gangsters Collection.”  Other extras on the DVD are a featurette called “The Roaring Twenties: the World Moves On” and Leonard Maltin Hosts Warner Night at the Movies, which contains newsreel footage from 1939, a musical short, a comedy short, a short cartoon, and theatrical trailers.

New releases this week: Hannah Montana: The Movie, Julia, The Last House on the Left, Tyson


2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 18 2009

    I love The Roaring Twenties – of the the Cagney films it is easily the best.

    BTW if you like the characters and a good alt. history read check out the alternate version of their return from WWI in the book Back in the USSR.

  2. Nir Shalev
    Aug 18 2009

    Thanks for the info. I’ll check it out.

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