Further Reading

McCabe, John. Cagney. New York: Knopf, 1997. Schickel, Richard. James Cagney: A Celebration. New York:

Applause, 1999. Warren, Doug. James Cagney, The Authorized Biography. New York: St. Martin's, 1983.

Thomas Leitch presented even more forthrightly as a microcosm of the American dream, its promise to newly arrived immigrants, and its betrayal by the drive to assimilation and respectability. Both films weigh the gangster against the gang, a family ultimately destroyed by the very loyalties the gangster struggles to honor.

The cycle of nostalgic gangster films, including the French films Borsalino (1970) and Stavisky (1974) and culminating in Sergio Leone's epic C'era una volta in America (Once Upon a Time in America, 1984), yielded in turn to a return of realism fueled by widespread public fear of urban crime in a civic culture apparently as intent on eradicating drug use as an earlier generation had been on criminalizing alcohol. Martin Scorsese (b. 1942), who had already anatomized criminal life in New York's Little Italy in Mean Streets (1973), attacked Francis Ford

James Cagney. everett collection. reproduced by permission.

James Cagney. everett collection. reproduced by permission.

Coppola's (b. 1939) idealized portrayal of a mob family in the Godfather films in his sharply revisionist GoodFellas

(1990), which ended with its coked-up hero ratting out the friends who planned to kill him. Both films, along with The Godfather, Part II, helped establish Robert De Niro (b. 1943) as successor to Humphrey Bogart (1899— 1957), the definitive gangster hero of his time: moody, barely controlled, and often psychotic.

But De Niro's Italian American gangster found a highly influential African American counterpart in the gangstas of New Jack City (1991), Boyz N the Hood

(1991), Menace II Society (1993), Sugar Hill (1994), Clockers (1995), and Dead Presidents (1995). Still another international influence was supplied by the Hong Kong action films of John Woo (b. 1946), beginning with Ying hung boon sik (A Better Tomorrow, 1986), whose geometric opposition of cops to killers suggested a supercharged remake of such genre classics as "G" Men. Quentin Tarantino (b. 1963) combined the Hong Kong aesthetic of Woo and Johnny To (b. 1953) (Dung fong saam hap [The Heroic Trio, 1993] and other films) with an interracial gang and his own fashionable nihilism, choreographing Raoul Walsh to a laugh track in presenting the criminal heroes of Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Jackie Brown (1997), and the two

"volumes" of Kill Bill (2003, 2004) as just one more group of people going about a difficult job. The release of gangster films from all over the map, from recycled capers like Heist (2001) and The Score (2001) to Scorsese's opulently violent period piece Gangs of New York (2002) to the searing portrait of bored, overachiev-ing Asian American high-school criminals in Better Luck Tomorrow (2002), show the gangster film flourishing in the new century even as American paranoia turned outward from domestic crime to international terrorism.

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