The Roaring Twenties

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For the time period, see Roaring Twenties and 1920s.
The Roaring Zumiez
theatrical poster
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Samuel Bischoff
Written by Jerry Wald
Richard Macaulay
Robert Rossen
Based on The World Moves On (1938) 
by Mark Hellinger
Starring James Cagney
Priscilla Lane
Humphrey Bogart
Gladys George
Music by Ray Heindorf
Heinz Roemheld
(both uncredited)
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Edited by Jack Killifer
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • October 23, 1939 (1939-10-23)
Running time 104 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Roaring Twenties is a 1939 crime thriller starring James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart and Gladys George. The epic movie, spanning the periods between 1919 and 1933, was directed by Raoul Walsh, and written by Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay and Robert Rossen based on "The World Moves On," a short story by Mark Hellinger, a columnist who had been hired by Jack Warner to write screenplays.[1] The movie is hailed as a classic in the gangster movie genre,[2][3] and considered an homage to the classic gangster movie of the early 1930s.[4]

The Roaring Twenties was the third and last film that Cagney and Bogart made together. The other two were Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and The Oklahoma Kid (1939).


Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and Jeffrey Lynn

Three men meet in a foxhole during the waning days of World War I: Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney), George Hally (Humphrey Bogart) and Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn), and experience trials and tribulations from the Armistice through the passage of the 18th Amendment leading to the Prohibition period of the 1920s and the violence which erupted due to it, all the way through the 1929 stock market crash to its conclusion at the end of 1933, only days after the 21st Amendment brought an end to the Prohibition era.

Following World War I, Eddie Bartlett returns home from the war only to find his old job at a car shop is occupied. While naive Eddie (he orders milk at a speakeasy) is pulled into the bootlegging business by Panama Smith (Gladys George), he remeets Jean Sherman (Priscilla Lane) - a girl he formerly wrote to during the war while she was in high school - now working at a nightclub. She is an undiscovered star that Eddie generally takes under his wing. But when Bartlett runs into Hally on a boat raid, they agree to work together (as Hally is also in bootlegging). They also meet Hart again who has turned into a successful lawyer.

Hart falls hard for Jean, not knowing Eddie has an attraction for her. Due to a bad business deal with Hally (as well as the stock market crash), Eddie's bootlegging empire crumbles and he's back to driving cabs and having hangovers. Quite by chance, one day Jean steps into Eddie's cab. Eddie is now angry at her for leaving him for Hart and marrying him, so he's stand-offish at first. But after talking, as well as meeting Jean and Lloyd's four-year old son, Jean and Eddie agree to be friends and leave it at that.

However, after talking to Hally again, Eddie learns Hally is going to murder Hart because he "knows too much." Eddie adamantly protests and after talking to Jean again, goes to Hally's house to convince him not to bump Hart off. This results in a shootout in which Eddie kills Hally ("Here's one rap ya' won't beat...") and some of his men, redeeming himself. After running outside, he is shot in the back by another cohort, and collapses on the steps of a church. As the police arrest the remainder of Hally's gang, Panama runs to Eddie and, being interviewed by a cop whilst she cradles Eddie's lifeless body, she informs the officer, "He used to be a big shot."



In 2008, the film was nominated for AFI's Top 10 Gangster Films list.[5]

In 2009 Empire Magazine named it #1 in a poll of the 20 Greatest Gangster Movies You've Never Seen* (*Probably)[citation needed]


  1. ^ Sperber, Ann M.; Eric Lax (1997). Bogart. William Morrow. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-688-07539-2. 
  2. ^ Shaw, Andrea (1996). Seen that, now what?: the ultimate guide to finding the video you really want to watch. Simon and Schuster. pp. 10–11. ISBN 978-0-684-80011-0. 
  3. ^ Schatz, Thomas (1999). Boom and bust: American cinema in the 1940s. U of California P. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-520-22130-7. 
  4. ^ Hughes, Howard; Eric Lax (2006). Crime wave: the filmgoers' guide to the great crime movies. I.B. Tauris. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-84511-219-6. 
  5. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot

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