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American through Film Essay Sample

American through Film Pages
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Introduction

Even though movies and films are good source of entertainment for many Americans, it is evident that most movies are produced based on the chronological events and the situations that the generations are facing. The writers of specific movies try to give and address the chronological accounts of events and situations at a particular time. Even though the stories and that actions may sometimes be characterized by exaggerations the deeper accounts of real happening and situations in the society remains upheld in the theme of the movies. By critically analyzing the movies, it is very possible to clearly understand the surrounding environment when the movie was created and the personal opinion of the producers on the situations

American gangster despite being one of the famous movies in America holds an important account of events in American society. Generally, gangster movies give an account of world in conflict with the legitimate society. For many years, gangsters have been viewed differently. Others have to the negative side of events viewed gangsters as deviant individuals coming up together with intentions to cause havoc in the lives of other members of the society. On the other hand, other people have had a positive view of gangsters as a way of living and addressing the challenges that a particular group of people are facing.[1]

The prohibition in the early 1920 led to the emergence of a new era of gangs who created criminal empires who created cartels for supplying illegal drugs and alcohol. The films of the 1930 gave a picture of criminal minded individuals willing to go the furthest level possible to create their world of criminal operations in order to acquire material possessions and power. The film glorified the genuine of the individuals who were willing to adopt the system that was controlled by corrupt businesspersons and government officials.

Public enemy of 191 is an excellent example of early gangster films in 1931.The public enemy gives an account of prohibition gangster from childhood through murderous, bootlegging adulthood and sudden sobering downfall. The film based on a 300 page draft of unpublished novel titled “beer and blood” written by two former street gangsters john Bright and Kubec Glasmon. Bright and Glasmon were Bright witnesses of gang rivalry in Chicago and witnessed series of Al Capones murderous actions.

During this time, the stock market had crushed and people were struggling in the best way possible to meet their daily needs and make ends meet. The national unemployment levels skyrocketed and it was very difficult to root for protagonists who did whatever it takes to make their survival possible. During the great depression, denoting gangsters as heroes symbolized the decay of American societies as well as the paranoia that the traditional values would not survive the economic crisis.[2]

In various ways, the public enemy clearly expresses the psyche of the America, which rejects the qualities, and the demands of the modern life .gangster films are socially antagonistic traditions directed to lower class and socially marginalized groups in America.

In the 1933, National committee for study of social values published their findings that gangster movies gave convicted criminals their early education .Increased censorship in the 1930s almost resulted to the departure of the gangster film, they did not disappear but however changed considerably after 1935. “Hollywood movie production system was not very certain on how to present gangster in the light of the hays office moratorium on the gangster movies.” Gangsters began converting to good people.

Many Americans identified with the film in various ways. Life had become very difficult for many Americans especially the minority groups during this time. Many Americans had resulted to gangs as surviving means. The worst was that despite joining and the emergence of gangs in America, there was competition among the gangs often resulting to gang rivalry. The most powerful gang would survive.

The director of the film in his mind giving a chronological account of a gangster who rises to power but then drastically ends in despair wanted to give the audience the picture that despite how you thrive to power through gangs , the government will always bring you down

High sierra presents a bridge from the classic gangster to the alienated protagonists. The film is acknowledged as one of the gangster pictures for the style and moral complexities. The film was created in the early 1940. The film marks the waning of the 30s gangster’s protagonists in the forties as the film begins. In the late 1940s and the early 1950s, high sierra romanticizes the classical gangsters the classical gangster of the previous decades. He lives by code and still has an honor and integrity in the society.

High sierra was the last major film made before the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the United States to the light of World War II. The post-World War II introduce a new era of gangsters. The film gives chronological accounts of the influence of greed and corruption. During this time in America, outlawed heroes and larger than life lawmen appeared and were being looked by the public in response to certain situations. Such situations included unjust government regulations, concentration of wealth on the hand of the particular few and widespread poverty.

During the great depression, United States witnessed unjust government regulations while wealth concentrated on few individuals while the larger populations languished in poverty. In the early years of depression, the government imposed a ban on alcohol in what was known as prohibition years. At the same time, very small percentage of American population controlled a large portion of wealth in America. Due to extreme depression, many middle class families succumbed to extreme poverty for the first times in their entire lives. On the side of the workers, early ages of depression brought with it desperation and conflicts .various riots and unemployment protests arose. At the beginning, the government seemed incapable to solve many problems that affected the lives of ordinary middle class citizens.[3]

In the middle of great depression, challenges with economic difficulties and desperations, American societies needed heroes to outsmart the government ban on alcohol. To respond to this call, ethically organized gangs in the ghettos, which were associated with criminal activities, organized themselves and began to supply the drugs. The organized gangs became powerful and by the middle 0f 1930s and early 1940s, the outlaws in the Midwest began robbing banks. The role of the federal government during this time was not only to deal with economic programs but also to enforce laws. The violent occurrences such as gangs’ rivalry, food riots in the streets of America were the hallmarks of the great depression.

The film high sierra psyched many Americans in various ways. On the surface of the film, high sierra seems like a straightforward crime Humphrey Bogart is Roy Earle, a tough criminal trying to pull one last job. In the deeper sense, the film high sierra is about a man’s failure to redeem himself and eventual acceptance of tragic destiny. The film depicts the cruel unforgiving nature of the society. The tough guy façade is something that Roy Earle develops as a result of the cruel harsh conditions around him and in this sense he represented many of the American men who have found themselves into criminal platforms simply due to the harsh environmental situations trying to provide a cold and lathery exterior to guard themselves from the pains and hart breaks of daily life challenges. Roy’s weaknesses here represent weakness of all men. His weakness is the desire to love and be loved in return even though Bogey has the sharp and sultry Ida Lupino he still wants Velma the virgin , the innocent whom he can truly start a new life

The movie has a wonderful feel. Roy seemed headed to emotional if not literal death and the joy relies in watching him trying to change his fate. Crime and gangster films are created along the sinister actions of criminals and gangsters, they include; bank robbers, underworld figures and hoodlums operating against the law, stealing and killing their ways through life. A new type of crime thriller In the 1940s emerged, very dark and cynical. Criminal and gangster films fall under the category of post-world war film noir due to the similarities. Crime stories of this kind often give a life account of crime figure or crime victims. They further glorify the rise and fall of particular criminal of gangster in personal power struggle with the society and the law by giving an account of the rise and fall of a gangster. [4]

The forces of evil. During this time cold war was intensifying. Various events had plunged America and Britain into cold war with there was the fall of Czechoslovakia and berlin crisis. Communism is regarded as the real enemy and counterfeiters and smugglers were aiding the real public enemies. The film presents a statement about ones needs to preserve or regain personal integrity. Finding a balance between free speech and being labeled. The film was an exposes on the number rackets but censorship prevented the film from showing how the racket worked. Twenty minutes footage was cut before the film release. The number rackets fed on the nickel and dimes of the little people. Illegal clandestine “banks” operated the racket and were scattered throughout the big cities. In the film, Hollywood production code prohibited glamorizing the gangster legend

Two bothers Joe and Leo are great criminals but Leo’s lack of ambitions really frustrate Joe. Leo seems not ready to join the larger outfits, he has certain degree of respect for the little people and eventually meets his death .On realizing the murder of his brother, Joe decides to seek revenge. In this case, the film highlights the struggle between the little guy and the soulless big business that is taking over. The film creators were questioned about their beliefs. The producer John Garfield appeared before the committee in 1951 .it was an experience that took its toll on his health. He died the following year. The director Abraham Polonsky was blacklisted and did not direct another movie for twenty years

Forces of evil presents a world hooked in corruption. Director Martin Scorsese refers to the film as his own gangster dramas seminal influence. The movie star John Garfield is a corrupt lawyer whose face represents moral conflict Garfield is a Wall Street lawyer who is selfish and grew up on the streets. He is a product of Bronx street gangs but has had the opportunity and chance to rise to the place of undeniable importance. Garfield’s “office in the clouds” was a result of criminal mob that practically use him as their brains in a plot to gain control of the city’s smalltime illegal gambling trade. Fixing the July 4 gambling racket so that the popular bet of 776 comes the winner. Joe and Ben Tucker plan to drive all the minor numbers racketeers out of business when they are in capable of paying out winning bets

Abraham Polonsky bitterly compares between the money-oriented corruptions undertaken by lawyers such as Joe with more explicit graft of mobsters like Tucker. both of them refers to people who are not include in their scam as “suckers” and casual dismissal of ordinary people is seen in the film’s opening overhead shot of pedestrians

Joe’s single attempt to reach out to the little man fails and results in jeopardizing the entire plan. Joe’s older brother who is sick operates a minor racket and Joe is determined to bring him into scheme of Tucker before his office is whipped out with the rest of the small change money rackets. Leo on the other hand has nothing to do with the scheme. The two brothers draw a line on the sand that leads to bloody battle between the two brothers finally leading to disastrous bloody consequences

According to Polansky, the film was an examination of the sick souls of the modern man living within the political system. Capitalism cause major rifts between individuals in the human society. The capitalist system drives people into corruption in order to stay alive. The forces of evil is American business symbolized by Wall Street. Leo’s conversation with his wife stress the point “I have been business man all my life and honest. I do not know what business is” Leo. “Well you have a garage, you had a real estate business” Sylvia “…. real estate business. Living from mortgage, stealing credit like a thief and the garage-that was a business. Three cents over charging on every gallon of gas, two cents for the chauffer and a penny for me. Penny for one thief an two cents for the other” Leo.[5]

It did not matter whether the business was small or big they were all corrupt. Doris is an example of that. At first, she is innocent and resists Joe’s advances. He becomes greatly impatient and tries his best to demean her. deep down her she have the same desires and it only takes a little pushing for those desires to surface and she breaks out of the shell.

The telephone in the film plays a symbolic meaning. It represents the connection between different worlds. These worlds can communicate with each other. The film has very little actions and departs from the typical shoot them up gangsters. It shows the connections between business and politics, business and crime.[6]

During this period, various events had plunged Britain and United States into cold war with Russia. Stalin had ensured that the communist governments had come to power in all the countries of Eastern Europe by “salami statistics“. Russia said that Winston Churchill had declared war on them. In February 1947, President Truman began paying for the soldiers fighting to prevent Greece from turning to communist nation. In March 1947, he clearly said that it was barely American responsibly to contain communism. American general George marshal convinced the congress to aid the fight to stop Europe from turning into communism by giving 17 billion dollars. When communists took power in Czechoslovakia, Stalin responded by setting up conform. Tension was growing between America and Russia even at the Yalta conference. The conference seemed successful, on the surface, but afterwards, Churchill wrote to Roosevelt that Soviet Union was becoming a threat to the free world

In July 1945 during the Potsdam conference, arguments openly emerged. Stalin had arrested the non-communist polish leaders. America on the other hand knew that President Truman was very determined to resist Russians. In 1947, Stalin made sure that communist governments came to power in all countries in Eastern Europe. Russia took control over Albania, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania and East Germany. On witnessing the Russian expansion, President Winston Churchill gave a speech on which he said that the countries of Eastern Europe should cut off by an iron curtain -were subjects to Soviet influence, totalitarianism and governments. The Russian response on the other hand was that Winston had staged war against them. It was certain that there was a great rift between Russia and America. By the time the film forces of evil was produced, there was increased tension between communist Russia and he capitalist America.

During the early 1940s, American psyche was dominated by the total war effort and all the contradictory feelings that come along with war times. The film evil forces contained classic noir crimes and moral ambiguity, were marked by its stylistic stark shadows, and sense of claustrophobia- a mod that echoed the darker side of America at war.[7]

Many people identified with the film. Many people at this time with the expanding battle between communism and capitalism wanted to hold on their beliefs. On the other hand, America had just come out of the great depression and people were beginning to enjoy increased wages. With the expanding capitalism. Many people who had come from poor background embarked on wealth accumulation. The strategy of accumulating wealth involved competition among people. Corruption was one of the major characteristics of capitalization of wealth in capitalistic states. On the other hand, the heated arguments between the capitalistic America and the socialistic Russia had created an intense enmity in the hearts of many Americans.

In conclusion, gangster films give chronological accounts of particular people who through violence and illegal ways maneuver their ways in life. Crime stories of this kind often give a life account of crime figure or crime victims. They further glorify the rise and fall of particular criminal of gangster in personal power struggle with the society and the law by giving an account of the rise and fall of a gangster.

References

Mason, Fran. American gangster cinema; from “little Ceaser” to “pulp fiction” Basingstoke, Palgrave, Macmillan, 2002

Minntz, Steven and Randy Roberts. Hollywood’s America; twentieth century America through film. Chichester; Willey Backel, 2010.

Munby, Jonathan. Public enemies, Public heroes: Screening the gangster from little Ceaser to touch the evil. Chicago, University of Chicago press,2009 ebook library.

Rafter, Nicole Hahn. Shots in the mirror: crime films and society. New York: Oxford University press, 2006.

Roso, Eugene. Born to lose: the gangster film in America. New York, Oxford university press, 1978.

Shadoian, Jack. Dreams dead ends: the American gangster film. Oxford. Oxford University Press, 2003.

[1] Fran, Mason, American gangster cinema; from “little Ceaser” to “pulp fiction” (Basingstoke, Palgrave, Macmillan, 2002).

[2] Munby Jonathan, Public enemies ,Public heroes :Screening the gangster from little Ceaser to touch the evil, Chicago , university of Chicago press,2009 e book library web 21 October 2014

[3] Minntz, Steven and Randy Roberts , Hollywood’s America; twentieth century America through film, Chi Chester; Willey Backel , 2010.

[4] Rafter Nicole Hahn, Shots in the mirror: crime films and society. New York: Oxford University press, 2006

[5] Jack, Shadoian Dreams dead ends: the American gangster film, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003).

[6] Jack, Shadoian Dreams dead ends: the American gangster film, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003).

[7] Roso Eugene, Born to lose: the gangster film in America, (New York, Oxford university press, 1978).

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