Very useful introductions to the gangster genre are provided in a number of books that either offer introductions to cinema or film studies or which provide a wider survey of film genres. In the case of introductions to film studies, offers a survey of key themes in gangster films and studies the gangster film by reference to the notion of the “film cycle.” In texts focusing on genre study, and have produced surveys of the gangster film by reference to genre in Hollywood film-making, while and provide accounts related to genre theory but linked to social aspects of the gangster film.
Originally titled “The Gangster/Crime Film” in the first edition of Cook’s classic anthology of film studies essays, this article is an excellent short introduction to the study of key themes through an account of positions adopted by important critics of the gangster film.
Although gangster films may mold themselves to fit into a certain cultural era, they still stay deeply tied to the foundations of the genre and its historical relevance to the american dream....
As such, by the subject matter they cover, Gangster films are restricted to portraying the negative aspects of society, as shown by the culture of criminality they project and the lax morals of the film’s protagonists....
While Hollywood was still in an adolescent stage, a certain genre caught the eye of a United States eager for trendy entertainment: the “gangster” film.
Pulp Fiction is labeled as a gangster film; however gangster films follow very precise generic elements such a death, contraband’s, violence, wealth and strong family loyalties.
Films are being produced across the world, from the low budget gangster films of Britain's "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and Australia's "Chopper" to the French 'art cinema' of "L'aventura" and the German action offering of "Run Lola Run".
Consistently ranked as one of the top three films by the American Film institute, this gangster film sits among the likes of Citizen Kane (1941), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and the more recent Schindler’s List (1993) (American).
Schatz emphasizes the classic gangster cycle of the early 1930s and films from the immediate postwar period as canonical forms to argue that the key concerns of the genre are the internal conflicts within the gangster between desire and duty, between individuality and the common good, and between savagery and morality.
If so, how does the filmmaker use film form to develop a criticalposition vis à vis the first film or the genre as a whole (think, here, of howGodard turns the gangster movie into a film about women in French society andgender)?
Schatz, Thomas. “The Gangster Film.” In Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System. By Thomas Schatz, 81–110. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981.
After that, you are ready to go.
Title: "A Song is Born"
Year: 1948, Color
Run Time: 113 minutes
Genre/Sub/Mix: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Era: Golden Era
Grade Category: Mainstream
Cast: Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Benny Goodman, and LouisArmstrong
Director: Howard Hawkes
Plot: A naive Professor of Music (Kaye) falls in love with abeautiful bar singer (Mayo), and that creates trouble for him because her boyfriend is agangster.
Offers an excellent survey of the main strains of criticism that have been used to interpret the gangster film, identifying key theorists and their creation of a meta-narrative of generic codes, while also tracing a history of key forms and subgenres from the silent ear to the 1980s.
Mayo winds up falling for Kaye, and it's up toKaye and his professor friends (includes Goodman and Armstrong) to help foil the gangster'sintentions.
Critique: The film is very funny.