History of the Gangster Film: 1930s to 1950s

Step through the door of the speakeasy to a time when gangsters ruled the streets with fast cars, Tommy guns, and lousy attitudes. We will investigate the origins of the gangster movie genre and how the genre changed over time as a result of shifts in American culture. From Prohibition, through the Great Depression, to World War II and its aftermath, the class will cover the rise of the Mob during the early 20th century, the censorship of the Production Code, and the Hollywood Blacklist during the Communist Red Scare. We will explore how the gangster films of the 1930s evolved into film noir and the heist film after World War II. Screenings will include such iconic films as The Public Enemy (James Cagney), Key Largo (Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall), The Killers (Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner), and On the Waterfront (Marlon Brando).

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