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The gangster, like the gunslinger, is a classic American character-and the gangster movie, like the Western, is one of the American cinema's enduring film genres. From Scarface to White Heat, from The Godfather to The Usual Suspects, from Once Upon a Time in America to Road to Perdition, gangland on the screen remains as popular as ever.In Bullets over Hollywood, film scholar John McCarty traces the history of mob flicks and reveals why the films are so beloved by Americans. As McCarty demonstrates, the themes, characters, landscapes, stories-the overall iconography-of the gangster genre have proven resilient enough to be updated, reshaped, and expanded upon to connect with even today's young audiences. Packed with fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes and information about real-life hoods and their cinematic alter egos, insightful analysis, and a solid historical perspective, Bullets over Hollywood will be the definitive book on the gangster movie for years to come.
According to McCarty, Americans admire the antihero gangster because he's an unbound character who goes where he wants, does what he wants and "takes no bull from anybody." The author conveys the appeal of these reckless outlaws, personified in film by such icons as Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, through concise analyses of key crime films and well-drawn personal histories of the genre's central stars, directors and writers. McCarty, who's written some 30 books (The Fearmakers; etc.), astutely charts the inextricable link between gangster movies and westerns to a point where one mobster film, High Sierra (1941), was reshaped for cowboy fan consumption via Colorado Territory (1949), then underwent a gangster remake as I Died a Thousand Times (1955). McCarty kicks off with 1915's Regeneration and shoots through White Heat (1949), The Godfather (1972) and Chicago (2002). He credits D.W. Griffith for making the first gangster picture of any importance, The Musketeers of Pig Alley. He applauds Silky Jane Greer for her haunting, indelible portrayal of Kathy Moffat in 1947's Out of the Past and brings Richard Widmark vibrantly alive as the psychopath who pushes wheelchair-bound Mildred Dunnock down a flight of stairs. The book's most telling line powerfully indicates how vital gangster movies have been by citing George Raft "gangster movies... taught gangsters how to talk" and concludes that real-life criminals now define themselves by the mob images they've seen in The Godfather, Goodfellas and The Sopranos. Photos.