Dreams and Dead Ends: The American Gangster Film
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Dreams and Dead Ends provides a compelling history of the twentieth-century American gangster film. Beginning with Little Caesar (1930) and ending with Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead (1995), Jack Shadoian adroitly analyzes twenty notable examples of the crime film genre. Moving chronologically through nearly seven decades, this volume offers illuminating readings of a select group of the classic films--including The Public Enemy, D.O.A., Bonnie and Clyde, and The Godfather--that best define and represent each period in the development of the American crime film. Richly illustrated with more than seventy film stills, Dreams and Dead Ends details the evolution of the genre through insightful and precise considerations of cinematography, characterization, and narrative style. This updated edition includes new readings of three additional movies--Once Upon a Time in America, Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, and Criss Cross--and brings this clear and lively discussion of the history of the gangster film to the end of the twentieth century.
qualities, partially mourned, were emblematic of a period put behind. Or he became an object of parody, humor, and sentimentality. Lloyd Bacon’s Brother Orchid (1940) is representative. All the genre’s serious matter is turned into a joke. Notwithstanding the vivacity of the performances—the direction is anonymous—the ﬁlm is just a time waster, something concocted for momentary pleasure and diversion. A spirit of affectionate ridicule prevails, a far cry from the gloom and viciousness of the
honest, good folk evilly driven off their land, are seen as weak, corruptible opportunists. Only Pa is real and shrewd (Ma is appealing too, but she is not well developed). He is the oldest and therefore has his roots laid deep in the expansive past his family is in the process of disremembering. They are, it is true, pitted against the ﬁlthy rich like Pfeiffer who come to live it up in towns like Tropico Springs, and their struggle to survive merits sympathy. All the scenes with the Goodhues,
alien yet familiar. Our involvement with the gangster rests on our identiﬁcation with him as the archetypal American dreamer whose actions and behavior involve a living out of the dream common to most everyone who exists in the particular conﬁgurations and contradictions of American society, a dream in conﬂict with the society.1 The gangster’s death is a rude awakening. The world closes in; we see it close in. We can back away, break the identiﬁcation pattern. But this does not mean the dream
unconventional and frantic exploits. In “Enlightenment” 105 all three ﬁlms, women become real women (not symbols or metaphors or even “stars”) that men can turn to for help and sustenance. They become centers of meaning, they pose an alternative to the way things are. If the problem is how one can remain human, they are an important part of the answer. Gun Crazy puts less strain on our credibility because the breakthrough of its characters, however valid, is shown to be self-destructive. Kiss
plantar wart.) The nurse gives him a queer look, as though Bigelow had no business getting poisoned. Frank Bigelow is a modern Everyman who assumes the burDreams & den of confronting a true knowledge of the world and its people; he pays for Dead Ends the knowledge with his life. 158 As a view of what goes on in America beneath its legitimate facades, D.O.A. is most unsettling. The cultured front of the photographer’s studio is provided by an articulate foreigner (German?) who, nonetheless,