Directed by William A. Wellman • 1931 • United States
Starring James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods
An explosive James Cagney created his career-defining role in William A. Wellman’s landmark gangster movie, which set the standard for the genre for decades to come with its gut-punching grit and shocking brutality. From his childhood corrupted by the beer hall, pool parlor, and false friends, to his adulthood as a henchman for a ruthless bootlegger, Prohibition-era mobster Tom Powers (Cagney) rises to the top of the heap, with all the accoutrements of success: custom-tailored tuxedoes, fancy cars, and glamorous girlfriends (including original bombshell Jean Harlow). But for the vicious, fast-living Powers, success comes with an expiration date as the violence he has helped unleash comes back to haunt him.