The American Gangster Genre
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  • 1. The American Gangster Genre
  • 2. Crime and Gangster Films
    • Developed around the sinister actions of criminals or gangsters, particularly bankrobbers, underworld figures, or ruthless hoodlums who operate outside the law, stealing and murdering their way through life.
    • Crime stories in this genre often highlight the life of a crime figure or a crime's victim(s). Or they glorify the rise and fall of a particular criminal(s), gang, bank robber, murderer or lawbreakers in personal power struggles or conflict with law and order figures, an underling or competitive colleague, or a rival gang.
  • 3.
    • Gangster/crime films are usually set in large, crowded cities, to provide a view of the secret world of the criminal: dark nightclubs or streets with lurid neon signs, fast cars, piles of cash, sleazy bars, contraband, seedy living quarters or rooming houses.
    • Film gangsters are usually materialistic, street-smart, immoral, meglo-maniacal, and self-destructive.
    • They rise to power with a tough cruel facade while showing an ambitious desire for success and recognition, but underneath they can express sensitivity and gentleness.
  • 4.
    • Gangster films are morality tales: Horatio Alger or 'pursuit of the American Dream' success stories turned upside down in which criminals live in an inverted dream world of success and wealth.
    • Although they are doomed to failure and inevitable death (usually violent), criminals are sometimes portrayed as the victims of circumstance, because the stories are told from their point of view.
    • There is a sense that the gangster is a Robin Hood –type figure. Especially in the early years of the genre, the gangster was appealing to the working class culture…30% of which was unemployed. The gangster was a character who refused to play by society’s rules and confronted ‘the establishment’.
  • 5. Hays Production Code on Gangster Films:
    • . The censorship codes of the day in the 1930s, the Hays Office, forced studios (particularly after 1934) to make moral pronouncements, present criminals as psychopaths, end the depiction of the gangster as a folk or 'tragic hero,' de-glorify crime, and emphasize that crime didn't pay. It also demanded minimal details shown for brutal crimes.
  • 6. Hays Production Code on Gangster Films:
    • Prior to this time there were no controls over movie content and / or what was being represented.
    • The code was largely adhered to between the 1930-60s.
    • Go to this site and write down three points that you think would have had a direct effected on the Gangster genre AND one point that you think was interesting.