The Roaring Twenties

1939 film by Raoul Walsh

The Roaring Twenties is a 1939 film about three men who attempt to make a living in Prohibitionist America after returning home from fighting together in World War I.

Lobby card
Humphrey Bogart as George Hally, James Cagney as Eddie Bartlett, and Jeffrey Lynn as Lloyd Hart
Look George, there's a new kind of setup you don't understand. Guys don't go around tearing things apart like we used to. People try to build things up and that's what Lloyd's tryin' to do. In this new setup, well, you and me just don't belong, that's all.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. Written by Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay, Robert Rossen, based on the short story "The World Moves On" by Mark Hellinger.
America's Most Colorful Era! (taglines)


  • Back in this country, the boys who had returned from overseas begin to find out that the world has moved on during the time they spent in France...Everywhere, things have changed but particularly in New York. The old Broadway is only a memory. Gone are many of the famous landmarks, for already, America is feeling the effects of Prohibition. There is a concentrated effort at readjustment to normal peacetime activities, but unemployment coming in the wake of the wartime boom is beginning to grip the country and the soldiers find their return to face - on a different front - the same old struggle, the struggle to survive.
  • And so the Eddie of this story joins the thousands and thousands of other Eddies throughout America. He becomes a part of a criminal army - an army that was born of a marriage between an unpopular law and an unwilling public. Liquor is the password in this army. And it's a magic password that spells the dollar sign as it spreads from city to city, from state to state. The public is beginning to look upon the bootlegger as something of an adventuresome hero, a modern crusader who deals in bottles instead of battles. And so, because of a grotesque situation, this new kind of army grows and grows, always gaining new recruits who care nothing about tomorrow just so long as money is easy today.
  • 1924. By now, America is well-launched into an era of amazing madness. Bootlegging has grown from small, individual effort to big business embodying huge coalitions and combines. The chase after huge profits is followed closely by their inevitable partners: corruption, violence, and murder. A new and horrible tool appears - the tommy - a light, deadly wasp-like machine gun, and murder henceforth is parceled out in wholesale lots.
  • 1929. As the dizzy decade nears its end, the country is stock-market crazy. The great and the humble, the rich man and the working man, the housewife and the shopgirl, all take their daily flyer in the market. And no one seems to lose. Then like a bombshell comes that never-to-be-forgotten Black Tuesday, October 29, confusion spreads through the canyons of New York City's financial district and men stare wild-eyed at the spectacle of complete ruin. More than sixteen and a half million shares change hands in a single day of frenzied selling. The paper fortunes built up over the past few years crumble into nothing before this disaster which is to touch every man, woman, and child in America.
  • Finally comes the national referendum on repeal. Tired of years of violence, corruption, and loss of personal liberty, Americans go to the polls and overwhelmingly rout the dry forces. After thirteen years, Prohibition is dead, leaving in its wake a criminal element used to wealth and power but unable for the most part to cope with a new determination by an aroused public that law and order should once more reign.

George Hally

  • I always say, when you got a job to do, get somebody else to do it.


George Halley: [In the shell hole, battle raging overhead] What's a matta' kid? Ya' scared?
Lloyd Hart: Yes I am.
George Halley: [Chuckles unsympathetically] No heart, huh?
Lloyd Hart: I'm beginning to think so. At least I haven't got any heart for this. I thought this business would be over with before I got here.
George Halley: What, are you a college kid?
Lloyd Hart: I just finished law school.
Eddie Bartlett: Oh, a lawyer, huh? Can you think of anything that can get us out of this hole?
George Halley: Aw, he wouldn't if he could. He's one of them guys that cheer the loudest back home, and then when they get over here and the goin' gets tough they fold up.
Eddie Bartlett: [Annoyed] Shut up...
George Halley: I'm talkin' to him...
Eddie Bartlett: And I'm talkin' to you. I don't like heels or big mouths. We're all scared, and why shouldn't we be? Whaddya' think they're usin' in this war, water pistols? [to Lloyd] You're all right, kid. I like guys who are honest with themselves. Stay that way.

Panama: You've been nice to me. You took a rap that I couldn't afford to take. It would have put me out of business. And I'd hate to see someone like you banging his head against a stone wall. Now the liquor business is gonna grow big and it's gonna grow fast. So get in line, buster. Hack drivers are a dime a dozen.
Eddie: But you gotta know people.
Panama: I know people.
Eddie: It takes money.
Panama: Oh, I can get it - if you start small.
Eddie: Tell me, what's in this for you? What's your take?
Panama: Nuthin'. That story about the guy in the cell was a sad one. I'd hate to have somebody tell me that about you.
Eddie: Why?
Panama: I once knew a soldier like you who went to France. He never came back. I never got over it. That's why.
Eddie: Is that all of it?
Panama: If you don't like that story, I'll try to think of another one.
Eddie: That'll do for now.

Panama: [about Jean] What's this kid got on you?
Eddie: Oh, I don't know. Whatever it takes to get a guy like me, she's got.
Panama: Does she know about this?
Eddie: No, I'm gonna tell her after the show.
Panama: You might be movin' too fast, Eddie. Sometimes you get over these things and you're sorry.
Eddie: I don't think I'll ever get over this one.
Panama: You're battin' out of your league, buster. You're used to traveling around with - dames like me. You sure got it bad. Suppose she turns you down.
Eddie: Turn me down? Why should she turn me down?
Panama: Suppose you tell me about that later.

Jean: They seemed to like me, didn't they?
Eddie: You're stallin' me, Jean.
Jean: You've been awfully good to me.
Eddie: I improve with age. You want the Brooklyn Bridge, all you gotta do is ask for it. If I can't buy it, I'll steal it. Well?
Jean: Eddie, I don't know.
Eddie: Whaddya mean, you don't know?
Jean: I haven't had time to think about it.
Eddie: You've had plenty of time. I didn't have to tell you the way I felt about you. You must have seen it in a million ways.
Jean: I have.
Eddie: Well?
Jean: I don't know, Eddie, I just don't know.
Eddie: But don't you know the way you feel about me, whether you like me or whether you don't?
Jean: Oh, I do like you, but...I just can't tell you.
Eddie: I know what's botherin' you. Maybe Panama was right. Maybe you and me don't play in the same league. Yeah, that's it. You don't like the racket I'm in. You don't like the people I know or the things I do. It's not me, it's what I stand for, am I right?
Jean: Why I...
Eddie: Yeah, I am right. Well, I'm not gonna let this stand between you and me, not the way I feel about you. I'll get out. A few more years in this business, I'll have enough we can settle down and forget all this. How does that sound to ya?
Jean: Why, it sounds all right.

George: [about Lloyd and Jean] I'll lay ya eight to five right now - that's kid's gonna move in on your gal.
Eddie: I hope you know what you're talkin' about.
George: Sure I do. Listen Eddie, I'm tryin' to steer you right. Listen, gals like her go for guys like that, you know, with all that Joe College stuff. He's gonna take her to football games, fraternity dances, all that rah-rah stuff. A kid like him can't miss.
Panama: Calm down, Eddie. Maybe George is right. If he is, there's nothing you can do about it.
Eddie: Shudd-up. I trust my friends. [Eddie leaves]
George: You know, he's a sucker. I don't trust mine.
Panama: It's mutual, chump. They don't trust you either.

George: [about Lloyd] This guy's got enough on us to...
Eddie: He won't talk.
George: He better not. [to Lloyd] Now listen, Harvard. You came into this racket with your eyes open. You learned a lot and you know a lot. If any of it gets out, you go out with your eyes open, only this time, they'll have pennies on them. All right, now scram, get out of here, go on home and chase ambulances.

Panama: Eddie, I'm gonna tell you something you won't like. Jean's quit the club, gave her notice.
Eddie: Quit, what for?
Panama: Do I have to draw you a diagram?
Eddie: Now look, you're tryin' to say somethin'. Get it off your chest and say it.
Panama: Jean's in love.
Eddie: Well, now you're bein' full of news. Sure she is, with me.
Panama: Eddie, this is gonna be kinda hard to take and I don't want ya to get mad. Jean was never in love with you. She went hook, line, and sinker for that Lloyd guy the minute she saw him. And she's been seeing him every time your back was turned. I tried to give you the steer, but I guess I didn't get it over. Everybody knew it but you. Now look, Eddie, as far as Jean is concerned, you've been...
Eddie: Shudd-up.
Panama: Okay.

Lloyd: The days of the rackets are over.
Eddie: Don't you kid yourself about that. They'll always be guys tryin' to get up there quick - and I'm one of 'em. Oh, I know you take your job very seriously and I want to give you some good advice. I see by the papers that the district attorney's office is building up a case against our old friend George.
Lloyd: It's already built up.
Eddie: You remember what George said about what would happen if you talked?
Lloyd: I remember.
Eddie: So does he.

Eddie: Yeah sure, it's his duty. It's George's duty to stop him. I'd do the same thing in George's place.
Jean: Eddie, please, for my sake...
Eddie: The same old story, the same old story. Any time she wants anything, she comes to me. I suppose that's all I ever meant to you anyway...Maybe a patsy once but never twice.
Panama: Well, I don't see how it's gonna do any harm to talk to George.
Eddie: Talk? There's only one language George understands. And do you think I'm gonna walk into an ambush just because that big, dumb, good-lookin' husband of hers doesn't know enough to keep his trap shut? You're crazy. No dice, Jean, no dice.
Panama: Look Eddie, you've got to do something for them. She's got something to look forward to.
Eddie: So have I.
Panama: What?
Eddie: I'll be up there again.
Panama: Eddie, you're kidding yourself. The race is over. We're both finished out of the money.
Eddie: Maybe for you, but not for me.
Panama: It's over for all of us: you, me, and George. Eddie, something new is happening, something you don't understand.

Eddie: I came up here to talk to you about Lloyd.
George: There ain't nothin' to talk about.
Eddie: I think there is.
George: Get him out of here, Lefty....
Eddie: Now wait a minute, George, you know that if you get rid of Lloyd, there'll always be somebody to take his place, you know that.
George: I'll worry about that when it happens.
Eddie: But they got a kid.
George: Oh. Still carrying a torch for that dame, huh?
Eddie: I suppose I am.
George: Then what are ya beefin' about? I'm doin' ya a favor by knockin' 'em off. I want him to keep his mouth shut.
Eddie: But he can't. Look George, there's a new kind of setup you don't understand. Guys don't go around tearing things apart like we used to. People try to build things up and that's what Lloyd's tryin' to do. In this new setup, well, you and me just don't belong, that's all.
George: Maybe you don't. I do all right, anytime, anyplace.

Panama: [identifying a body] This is Eddie Bartlett.
Cop: Well, how are you hooked up with him?
Panama: I could never figure it out.
Cop: What was his business?
Panama: He used to be a big shot.


  • America's Most Colorful Era!
  • The land of the free gone wild! The heyday of the hotcha! The shock-crammed days G-men took ten whole years to lick!
  • 1920 . . . Bootleggers, Jazz, Babe Ruth, Speakeasies, Jack Dempsey, Dames, Molls, Easy Living - Quick Dying . . . the torrid . . . blazing . . . wild . . . lush . . . lurid - ROARING TWENTIES ! ! !


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