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The Roaring Twenties

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  1. “The Roaring Twenties” is a gritty and realistic film which takes as its theme, the “dark side” of the fabled “Jazz Age” era in America and the fallout from this era during the Depression of the 1930’s. While the film seeks toe examine the characters fist and foremost, it is through this examination of personalities and character development that the social commentary of the film emerges. While there are many “threads” of themes, such as the unforseen boost to crime which Prohibition created and the changing sexual and social mores of America during the fluent and dangerous “Jazz Age.” As such, the film is undoubtedly intended to stand as an historical piece as well as a character study. The film’s statement of theme is roughly that America’s innocence was lost during the Jazz Age and the following Depression. The film marks and ending in American social history and the beginning of what we would later come to understand as the “modern” age.
  2. By combining electric performances from Bogart and Cagney (the lead roles in the film) with a realistic visual representation of the era, the film is able to realize both the historical adn emotional impact of the story-line. This is a crucial balance because the film veers toward a documentary-style presentation at time and without a dynamic and passionate performance from both of the l;lead players, the film might impact less as drama and more as simple historical chronicling. Because the lead characters are dynamic and believable it allows for true “color” to enter the stark realism that the film presents and this is an exciting combination.
  3. The narrative form is mostly linear in “The Roaring Twenties.” The linear narrative is used to show a progression in American society and the evolution of the society. By showing the events in linear order there is an implied cause and effect which is important for the movie’s themes. For example, the movie opens during World War One and tries to show how the carnage of the war moved through the Jazz Age and manifested itself in tye brutal world of gangsters.
  4. The lead characters in the film are dynamic characters who transform from innocent and law-abiding hard-workers to ruthless gangsters in control of a criminal empire. The progression is meant to demonstrate, also, the changing face of American society. The film relies on the dynamic performances to articulate its social themes.
  5. The cinematography in “The Roaring Twenties” is complex and mainly shades from a realistic/documentary style tone to an intimate and personal dramatic tone. This contrast provides a sort of “frame and picture” correspondence where the realistic detail and documentary-style cinematography forms a frame of historical reference for the viewer and the character-studies, based in a  more intimate style of cinematography, gives the “portrait.”
  6. The editing of the film off-sets its epic scope by establishing a brisk narrative pace which moves quickly from one scene to another. This is important because it thematically demonstrates that vast, sweeping changes were happening in America during the time of the film’s story, but that they also happened very quickly, almost too quickly to understand. This corresponds to the plot in that the characters in the movie are also overcome by the changing times which radically alter their destinies. Instead of heroes, they become gangsters, but their plight is seen by the viewer as heroic because of the uses of irony in the film.
    Most of the art direction scenic construction and make-up effects are meant to give a gritty and realistic visual tone to the film. Other scenes are meant to demonstrate the human factor of the story and so show the characters in a more romantic light. In some scenes, riches and good times are represented but there is sense of things being out of control. The action sequences are meant to startle and many of them take place in public settings, showing the impact of crime on society.
  7. The scenes alternate between character interplay, such as the scene between Panama and Eddy which begins the characters’ descent into crime. It is a “quiet” scene with incredibly important resonance. By contrast the overt action and violence scenes show the director’s style by admitting a realistic portrayal of violence alongside the more studied scenes of character development. The idea is to show “two Americas” and how these two Americas live in all the citizens of the US. The freedom of American society gives citizens a sense of individuality and personal power, but the financial and political realities of America during the Depression seemed to constrict ideas of personal freedom and liberty. Lack of opportunity caused many to turn to lives of crime which in the film becomes and ironic expression of the “American dream.”
    4. I liked the film and saw it as a requiem for America’s innocence. I think that the magnitude of the film is both as an historical record and as an example of two of the greatest lead-male actors of the age. This film deserves accolade and praise for its unflinching portrayal of an America which many of us would rather not admit is an important part of our history.

            Another important aspect of the film is its combination of cynicism and optimism. I think that one of the underlying messages of the film is that dreams and ambitions are important aspects in everyone’s lives and that by placing barriers in front of these dreams those who are shut-out become resentful and would resort to doing things they would not otherwise do. In many ways this message is applicable to America as a whole and not just the individuals in it; the idea that the dream of liberty and freedom has been obstructed by wars and other political realities has made America itself, less innocent, but no less ambitious or less willing to exert its influence and control over the rest of the world.

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