The Roaring Twenties - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Roaring Twenties Reviews

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February 2, 2019
The best gangster movie ever made!
½ October 21, 2017
Kind of a must-see for film fans - with classic casting. One wonders though, how did James Cagney break-out as a Hollywood star? But it happened. Priscilla Lane was one not seen before. Nice, as the nice girl. "Roaring ..." is a good compendium of the films of the era being depicted - before, during, and after Prohibition, and the lot of returning WW1 vets. Good show. | - Norm de Guerre
½ December 16, 2016
Cagney, Bogart and Jeffrey Lynn (yawn) meet during WWI. Back in civilian life, Cagney has trouble finding work and stumbles into bootlegging as a profession. He later hooks up with Bogart, who's the bad bootlegger to Cagney's good bootlegger. Lynn (yawn) is Cagney's do-gooder lawyer pal, who steals his "girlfriend" Priscilla Lane, who despite the film's efforts to paint her as a good girl, comes off as ridiculously deceitful. The stock market crash ruins Cagney and he turns into a drunkard, only to bounce back and save Lynn (yawn) from Bogart. A decent gangster flick that largely recycles a lot of tropes from better films, but can't help but be entertaining given it's cast. Frank McHugh and Gladys George round out the cast.
September 11, 2016
The Roaring Twenties is a rise-and-fall gangster saga in the mold of Goodfellas. If Goodfellas had been made in 1939 and stared James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.
½ July 25, 2015
The Roaring Twenties has one thing going for it that most gangster films don't have, it starts the story far enough back that we can see the main character before his life of crime and start out with a baseline of liking him and rooting for him. This is rare in the genre, and it helps us see how someone so nice and innocent could turn to a dishonest life when faced with adversity. Aside from that opening sequence, this film was fairly flat and by-the-numbers. I was never surprised, shocked, or even all that emotionally involved. As with any gangster film, I started to lose all interest in the protagonist's plight and stopped rooting for him because he lived a despicable life. I've said before these films do not resonate with me and, despite the background that originally had me on Eddie's side, eventually I fell into the same kind of apathy. The acting performances were all quite good, and I can never complain about a good performance from Humphrey Bogart, but I just like him better as a hero rather than a villain. I also wasn't particularly entertained by the news reel format of transition from one scene to the next. Overall I thought The Roaring Twenties was just an average film that didn't do much to impress or disappoint me. Not exactly the most ringing endorsement.
½ March 26, 2015
Now this one was better than The Public Enemy and just underneath White Heat. Good character collaboration, development, and evolution (or opposite of evolution).
½ October 20, 2014
I was really impressed and entertained by Walsh's fine gangster film, starring both Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney. It's one of the best of the fine run of gangster films Warner Brothers made in the 30's. Priscilla Lane and Gladys George were particularly good as the gangster molls Cagney wanted and ended up with, respectively. Hugely recommended for fans either of the genre or the two huge stars.
½ August 26, 2014
Perfectly encapsulates the struggle of the average man in the great depression era, providing impressive gangster action stringed along the way.
August 21, 2014
WB revisits the gangster genre from that magical year, 1939.
January 27, 2014
Steeped in character development and ambition, The Roaring Twenties is an excellent gangster drama.

Unable to find work after the war, Eddie Bartlett decides to bootleg alcohol and becomes a big shot kingpin. He has to deal with underworld rivals and the sweeping changes of the times and society during the 20's.

Cagney is at his finest. He's most known for his hotheaded tempered characters, but in his quiet and reflective moments, Cagney shows he is an incredible actor.

With plenty of shooting and drama, The Roaring Twenties really does roar.
July 8, 2013
Gangster films were all the rage in the 1930s, and 'The Roaring Twenties (1939)' is another excellent Warner Brothers addition.While there were a lot of gangster films made by Warner Brothers in the 30s and very early 40s, this stands out as perhaps one of the very best. Part of this is due to the pairing of Cagney AND Bogart, as there is so much energy and excellent "thuggish" acting that it's hard to get bored watching it. About the only negative at all is that as Humphrey Bogart was not yet a breakout star, it's rather predictable what will happen in a showdown with Cagney. But despite this, watch the movie. It's got all the ingredients of a fine gangster flick--excellent acting, writing, a breezy pace and the Warner Brother's trademark of both quality and action designed for the common man. "The Roaring Twenties", though fictional in its story, is very much a historical document, inasmuch as real events drive the script's overarching themes, and steer characters into choices and situations they find themselves in. Regrettably, this film is not in the National Film Registry. It should be.
½ May 23, 2013
Now this one was better than The Public Enemy and just underneath White Heat. Good character collaboration, development, and evolution (or opposite of evolution).
½ May 13, 2013
Cagney goes from WWI trenches to driving a cab to running a bootlegging operation and then back down again as times change in America. This rags to riches to rags to death story is a staple of the gangster genre (thanks to the Hays Code) and the cast gives it a good rip this time. Bogie plays second fiddle to Cagney as a no good double-crossing heavy but the role sits uneasily on his shoulders (he's got better things to come but he does get to say "keep your shirt on"). Cagney is his usual bundle of nervous energy but doesn't scale the peaks that he reached in the Public Enemy or later White Heat. In fact, the plot does feel a bit of a retread, with its limp romantic subplot set alongside the bootlegging action. A big hit in its day.
April 29, 2013
Arguably, The Roaring Twenties is one of James Cagney's best gangster role in Hollywood cinema.
March 24, 2013
Cagney plays the tough but ultimately decent gangster Eddie. Bogart plays the sadistic gangster George. Lane plays the rather inspid ingenue Jean and object of Eddie's affections. Gladys George plays the quick witted tart-with-a heart Panama Smith. Eddie zig zags between nice guy, asshole, big shot, saviour, and loser. If his moral compass goes slightly wonky at times, in the end he always manages to do the right thing (like plug Bogart's character). Excellent.
Super Reviewer
March 22, 2013
The Roaring Twenties charts the rise and fall of prohibition racketeer James Cagney from the trenches of the great war to the stock market crash of 1929. It's amazing that only 8 short years separate The Roaring Twenties and the simplistic moralizing and two dimensional characterisation of The Public Enemy. It is probably the blueprint for the modern gangster movie and is the equivalent of the likes of The Godfather or Goodfellas for its time. Cagney is at his very best as the morally "grey" but inherently decent mobster who finds himself caught up in the booze hungry fervor of the prohibiton years after returning from fighting for his country as part of a forgotten generation, unable to find any other way to earn a living. Things take a sinister turn when he makes an uneasy partnership with a brilliant Humphrey Bogart who makes such a fantastic asshole you end up wishing he played the bad guy a bit more often. A rather bland Priscilla Lane aside the cast are all spot on, and with the addition of some energetic shoot outs and a brilliant climax when Cagney finally has it out with a sneering Bogie, all set in historical context of the America at the time, you have a timeless crime classic.
January 21, 2013
Decent gangster flick, elevated by Cagney and Bogart and an excellent Gladys George as nightclub hostess Panama.
December 20, 2012
An excellent crime film on an epic scale, a forgotten classic.
December 7, 2012
Very powerful narrative on prohibition era with strongly acted by both cagney & bogey. Poignant but fast paced docu like storytelling on high production value by Raoul Walsh.
½ November 20, 2012
James Cagney's character, "Eddie" is tragic anti-hero. "Eddie Bartlett; he used to be a big shot"
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