WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The Roaring Twenties

I think the film communicates the message that despite our transgressions we can be redeemed. This idea is mainly presented through the events and actions of James Cagney’s character. After climbing the ladder of success in organized crime, Cagney loses everything during the crash of 1929. But he sees the error of his ways and confronts his former partner in crime. In the process, Cagney loses his own life. This final action stands as a selfless attempt to atone for his sins.

The scenery/art direction helps communicate this theme too. One particular scene depicting the height of his nefarious collaboration with Humphrey Bogart takes place in the exterior of a stark and cold looking warehouse.  But the redemptive theme is most highlighted by the “pieta tableaux” on the church steps in the climax.

There are other themes about greed, the American dream, and Post WWI American Society, but I believe these are all secondary to the aforementioned theme.


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