Best gangster movies from the 1930s and 1940s?

I was sitting on the couch watching Bugs Bunny with two of the little Gooses, and it was the cartoon with the two gangster guys, the short little one with the hat over his eyes, and the tall fat one. And I was trying to explain to the two little Gooses how this was a take-off or “satire” on certain gangster movies from the 30s and 40s, but I couldn’t think of which ones, offhand.

So in order to educate my children about this essential component of American culture, I need to go down to the public library and look in their extensive video collection for the movies that comprise the genre known as “gangster movies from the 1930s and 1940s”. What titles should I look for? All that springs to mind is Little Caesar, but I know there must have been more. Scarface? The original one, not the Al Pacino remake.

And does anyone know precisely which characters in which movie this cartoon is parodying?

I always liked The Roaring Twenties. Checking IMDB seems to confirm my opinion…

Rocky (in the Bugs Bunny film) was just a general parody of a gangster.

Now, where to start. There were a lot of great gangster movies in the 30s & 40s, so it’s hard to know where to begin. Here are a few of the best:

“Scarface” – Great performance by Muni, as well as a fascinating subtext on incest (i.e., Scarface and his sister).

“The Public Enemy” – made James Cagney a star. Great performance, good story, nice death scene (a must in any good gangster film).

“Little Caesar” – not quite as good as the two above, but Robinson’s performance it top notch. Great final line.

“The Roaring Twenties” – Cagney and Bogart as good and bad gangsters. Second best death scene of all (dying on the steps of a church).

“High Sierra” – a different type, with Bogart as a gangster whose past catches up with him. (BTW, this was the first film Bogart ever filmed on location.)

“White Heat” – Cagney again, as a psychopath with a mother fixation. Best death scene yet. “Top of the world, ma!”

Just about any of the James Cagney and some of the Humphrey Bogart films. “Public Enemy” comes to mind.
Also check into films with Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet.

As to the second part of your question, I don’t know who the two cartoon characters as suppose to be. James Cagney was short, and he did usually wear his hat slouched over one eye, and Sidney (Sydney?) Greenstreet was a big guy, so maybe…

Very true. And gangsters and gangster movies were soooo common in the '30-'40’s. Like action-adventure heros now.

But I think Rocky- the voice anyway- was particularly Edward G. Robinson. So “Little Casear” would be good.

(RE: Parody of Edward G. Robinson, see also Chief Wiggum)

I’ll gladly second “White Heat.” Cagney’s role was probably the most twisted and disturbing portrayal in American cinema of the Thirties. Not only is the final scene memorable, but the prison cafeteria scene when he’s informed of his mother’s death is unforgettable. The guy absolutely short-circuits.

At least in the Thirties and Forties, the psychotic nature of that character is rivaled only by Richard Widmark’s psycho hitman (can’t recall the movie, late 40’s) who pushes a screaming, pleading, wheelchair-bound old lady down a staircase.

That movie was Kiss of Death (1947). Widmark’s debut!

There’s The Big Sleep (1946) or Angels with Dirty Faces (1930), too :slight_smile:

Sorry, boys. ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES was 1938, WHITE HEAT was 1949.

The former is a good one for kids…you get Cagney as a gangster, Bogart as a shyster lawyer, and Pat O’Brien as a sanctimonious priest, all in one flick.

The latter is a bit too disturbing for the wee ones; that guy who catches the live steam in the face is a bit tough to forget at bedtime.

You’re right, 1938… I was looking at my database and misread it. :slight_smile:

“Brother Orchid” with E.G. Robinson and Bogart is a great gangster movie to watch with children. If any of you have ever seen it, you know why “Heartwarming” and “Gangster” are not mutually exclusive. I was able to obtain it through my (King County, WA) library system, so it’s possible your library may have it as well.

Sorry if this is a hijack - but are there any good 30’s & 40’s gangster movies that were made by a studio other than Warner’s? That would explain why you didn’t see them parodied as much in MGM cartoons like Tom & Jerry.