Cover image for Bullets over Hollywood : the American gangster picture from the silents to The Sopranos
Bullets over Hollywood : the American gangster picture from the silents to The Sopranos
McCarty, John, 1944-
Personal Author:
First Da Capo Press edition.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
viii, 325 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1995.9.G3 M34 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The gangster, like the gunslinger, is a classic American character-and the gangster movie, like the Western, is one of the American cinema's enduring film genres. From Scarface to White Heat , from The Godfather to The Usual Suspects , from Once Upon a Time in America to Road to Perdition , gangland on the screen remains as popular as ever.In Bullets over Hollywood , film scholar John McCarty traces the history of mob flicks and reveals why the films are so beloved by Americans. As McCarty demonstrates, the themes, characters, landscapes, stories-the overall iconography-of the gangster genre have proven resilient enough to be updated, reshaped, and expanded upon to connect with even today's young audiences. Packed with fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes and information about real-life hoods and their cinematic alter egos, insightful analysis, anda solid historical perspective, Bullets over Hollywood will be the definitive book on the gangster movie for years to come.

Author Notes

John McCarty is an adjunct professor of cinema in the Department of Theatre at SUNY, Albany.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

According to McCarty, Americans admire the antihero gangster because he's an unbound character who goes where he wants, does what he wants and "takes no bull from anybody." The author conveys the appeal of these reckless outlaws, personified in film by such icons as Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, through concise analyses of key crime films and well-drawn personal histories of the genre's central stars, directors and writers. McCarty, who's written some 30 books (The Fearmakers; etc.), astutely charts the inextricable link between gangster movies and westerns to a point where one mobster film, High Sierra (1941), was reshaped for cowboy fan consumption via Colorado Territory (1949), then underwent a gangster remake as I Died a Thousand Times (1955). McCarty kicks off with 1915's Regeneration and shoots through White Heat (1949), The Godfather (1972) and Chicago (2002). He credits D.W. Griffith for making the first gangster picture of any importance, The Musketeers of Pig Alley. He applauds Silky Jane Greer for her haunting, indelible portrayal of Kathy Moffat in 1947's Out of the Past and brings Richard Widmark vibrantly alive as the psychopath who pushes wheelchair-bound Mildred Dunnock down a flight of stairs. The book's most telling line powerfully indicates how vital gangster movies have been by citing George Raft-"gangster movies... taught gangsters how to talk"- and concludes that real-life criminals now define themselves by the mob images they've seen in The Godfather, Goodfellas and The Sopranos. Photos. Agent, Joy Tutela. (July 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

McCarty provides an expansive look at the history of the gangster film in Hollywood, and indeed his discussion ranges over a wide number of films from Griffith to the present, including films not generally available. Some readers will value his inclusion of a filmography of more than 1,200 films for reference; the appendix listing award nominations and winners will undoubtedly prove of interest to fans and historians of the genre. Nevertheless, readers seeking readings of the films or the tradition will find the book of limited use. This reviewer particularly regrets that McCarty makes almost no reference to the rich critical heritage (particularly on film noir or on genre) that has been assembled on many of these films. He argues, for example, that there is an important relationship between gangster films and westerns, but the argument offered in the first chapter is brief and perfunctory with no reference to the substantial body of criticism assembled on the western genre. The discussion of individual films and of movements within the gangster tradition itself is conceptually much thinner here than in a work such as James Naremore's More than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts (CH, Apr'99). ^BSumming Up: Optional. Extensive collections serving upper-division undergraduates through faculty. K. S. Nolley Willamette University

Table of Contents

Prologue: Gunslingers to Gangstersp. 1
Part 1 The Devil's Triangle
1 Mean Streetsp. 13
2 Archetypesp. 26
3 The Mobster of a Thousand Facesp. 46
4 A Landscape of Night and Shadep. 64
5 Molls, Twists, Babes, and B Girlsp. 76
Part 2 The Hoods
6 The Shame of a Nationp. 109
7 The Green-Eyed Mobsterp. 135
8 "Made it, Ma! Top o' the World!"p. 151
9 Bustin' Outp. 177
Part 3 The Family
10 Once Upon a Time in New Yorkp. 203
11 An Offer Hollywood Couldn't Refusep. 222
Epilogue: Through the Looking Glassp. 241
Acknowledgmentsp. 247
Appendix I The Oscars--Major Award Nominations and Winners, 1927-2003p. 249
Appendix II The American Gangster Picture (Feature Length)--A Selected Filmography, 1915-Presentp. 264
Notesp. 301
Selected Bibliographyp. 311
Indexp. 315
About the Authorp. 325