×

Hollywood’s Always Had a Crush on Gangsters

Long before Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” (2006) won the best picture Oscar, Academy voters had a soft spot for bad fellas. From the first Academy Awards, voters have taken crime tales and gangster yarns seriously. In 1929, “The Racket” was “best picture, production” nommed, and Ben Hecht won the screenplay award for “Underworld.” In 1931, the classic James Cagney-starrer “The Public Enemy,” competed in the original screenplay category, while Edward G. Robinson’s iconic “Little Caesar” competed for the adapted screenplay award.

In 1935, the gangster film not only won its second Oscar (for original screenplay for the Clark Gable hit, “Manhattan Melodrama”), but that movie became part of American crime lore when John Dillinger met his fate at the hands of the G-men’s Tommy guns when he made the mistake of escorting a certain lady in red to a screening of the picture in Chicago.

As evidence of the genre’s respectability back in that era, perhaps no “serious” actor from stage was more sought for movie roles in the early sound era than the great Paul Muni. A star of Yiddish Theater in New York and then Broadway, here’s how Variety described his first major role on the New York stage in 1926:
“Muni, as the aged father (he was 30 at the time!), registers with a memorable and inspired performance. From Yiddish legit, as are most of the rest of the cast.

Popular on Variety

There’s no question but that those Yiddish legits know how to troup. Similar histrionics from a Lambs’ clubber would place (him) among the theatrical Immortals.”
In 1932, the same year that Muni appeared in Howard Hawks’ massively

influential “Scarface,” Muni was nominated for the lead actor Oscar for “I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang.” By 1935 he had scored Hollywood’s highest honor for his role in “The Life of Louis Pasteur” and went on to score four more lead actor Oscar noms before his passing in 1967.

For Muni, crime obviously did pay, and as evidenced by the kudos and views for Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” it still plays.

More Film

  • Spike Lee

    Spike Lee to Lead Cannes Film Festival Jury

    Director and activist Spike Lee will serve as jury president of the 73rd edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Lee succeeds Alejandro G. Iñárritu, whose 2019 jury awarded the Palme d’Or to Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” which won a Golden Globe and was just nominated for six Oscars. The Brooklyn-based director has had a [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho Golden Globes

    Korean Media Celebrates Oscar Nominations for ‘Parasite’

    Mainstream Korean media gave pride of place to Monday’s unprecedented haul of six Oscar nominations for Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite.” The dark satire was nominated in categories including best international feature film, best screenplay and best picture. Digital editions of The Korea Herald newspaper made “Parasite” its front page lead. The story was accompanied by a [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    5 Reasons Why Jennifer Lopez's Oscar Snub Is Bad for the Academy Awards

    After a year at the movies that broke so many barriers for women and diverse filmmakers, the Oscar nominations on Monday morning felt in some ways like they were still stuck in the past. And the Academy, which has been slow to embrace change, missed multiple opportunities to celebrate truly deserving artists while also making [...]

  • BTS: Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) Director/Writer

    Backlash Grows as Oscars Snub Women Directors Yet Again

    Hollywood’s outcry is growing over Oscar nominations in the best director category, which again ignored women filmmakers on Monday. Instead of recognizing Greta Gerwig for “Little Women,” Lulu Wang for “The Farewell,” or Marielle Heller for “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences opted to honor five male [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho 'Parasite' Director

    Bong Joon Ho Says 'Parasite' Series Would Expand World of His Film - Not Remake It

    Bong Joon Ho has more to say when it comes to “Parasite” and he believes a limited television series is the way to do it. Moments after the Academy Awards announced four nominations for “Parasite” (original screenplay, foreign language film, best director and best picture) the director hopped on the phone with Variety to discuss [...]

  • Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) in

    'Morbius' Trailer: Jared Leto Transforms Into Vampire for Marvel

    In the first trailer for Marvel’s “Morbius,” Jared Leto sheds his “Joker” persona as he transforms into the vampiresque super villain. Based on the comic books created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in 1971, the antagonist’s origin story follows Michael Morbius (Leto), a biochemist in search of a cure for his rare blood disease. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content

久久影院-官网