The Roaring Twenties (1939)

‘The Roaring Twenties’ refers to the period post-WWI and the events during the 1920s in North America and other parts of Europe.

The recession hit America is not able to find jobs for the war veterans who return from Europe. Eddie Bartlett, George Hally, and Llyod Hart meet and become friends towards the war’s end.

Jean Sherman, played by Priscilla Lane, becomes a big fan of Eddie Bartlett for his heroics at war and sends him her photograph and letters during his stay in Europe.

Upon return to America, they find jobs hard to secure. Llyod Hart goes to practice law. George Hally, played by Humphrey Bogart, enters into bootlegging. The same would be Eddie Bartlett’s path, who becomes one of the members to have a bootleg business.

American prohibition law at that time prevented the manufacture, selling, import, and export of liquor. So this was taken as an opportunity to trade alcohol illegally.

He builds a fleet of cabs by selling bootleg liquors and hires Llyod Hart as his lawyer.

Eddie helps Jean Sherman to get a job in a speakeasy run by Panama Smith. Eddie is in love with Jean, and she is under obligation because of all the favours done to him.

The plot thickens when George becomes the partner and sets about killing the rival gang to regain supremacy.

Love debacle when it becomes clear that Jean Sherman and Llyod Hart are in love, his breakout with George and subsequent fall of share market doesn’t go well with Eddie. He spends some time in prison for his activities.

Eddie starts afresh by driving a cab, meets Jean Sherman after few years. Llyod Hart, happily married to Jean Sherman, has a home, a kid and a good work position. His life is under threat since Llyod is out to enforce specific legal laws that would ruin his business.

The final part is one of the defining moments when Jean Sherman asks Eddie to save her family. Eddie and George are having a confrontation resulting in gunshots and both being dead.

The character of Eddie Bartlett is inspired by the life and career of bootlegger Larry Fay. This movie also turned out to be one of the last action films James Cagney featured in before he set out to venture into other character roles.

Released in 1939, The Roaring Twenties was directed by Raoul Walsh. Look out for scenes where Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney share the space. It’s a viewer’s delight.