Tragic Gangsters and Duality

For my final project in American Gangster, I’m analyzing the relationships between the original Scarface, all three Godfather films, and the popular TV series Breaking Bad. Each piece of media explores America’s fascination with gangsters and their stories in surprisingly similar ways, largely keeping the core structure of the tragic gangster narrative. All the films share the aspects of an […]

“Baby Face” (1933)

(I highly recommend this movie if you haven’t seen it, and this post contains some spoilers.) A few nights ago I made the excellent decision of watching Baby Face (1933), a classic pre-Code film starring Barbara Stanwyck in a shocking role, even by today’s standards. Stanwyck plays Lily, the daughter of a speakeasy owner in a working […]

Catholicism, Hollywood Censorship, and “The Godfather”

In 1930, two high-ranking Catholic figures assisted Will Hays with the drafting of the Motion Picture Production Code. In doing so, these figures sought to instill Christian values in movies that were becoming increasingly scandalous with their content. This was, in large part, a response to the growing popularity of gangster and crime films that […]

The Public Enemy: A Convincing Anti-Gangster Narrative

(For some context, I’d suggest reading my previous post on Scarface). Wellman’s The Public Enemy (1931) chronicles the life story of Tom Powers, from his childhood in New York’s Irish slums to his peak as a successful gangster. As expected from a pre-1934 gangster film, it has all the elements required by censors in the Hays Office: the […]

Scarface (1932)

Because I’m writing my research paper about early Hollywood censorship, I’ve been watching a lot of old gangster films lately. Typically, I’m not a fan of old movies, but I’ve found myself thoroughly enjoying these films. They’re pretty entertaining albeit tame by today’s standards. My favorite one so far is Scarface. No, not the one with Al […]

Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby

During promotion of his 2013 film The Great Gatsby, director Baz Luhrmann described his work as a “great, tragic love story with action, passion, [and] drama.” And F. Scott Fitzgerald rolled over in his grave. In my opinion, Fitzgerald’s literary exploration of class, consumerism, and organized crime is too complex to be watered down into its romantic […]