The Hays Code, Gangsters, and Prohibition: How did 1934 change Hollywood?


Edward G. Robinson and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in Little Caesar (1931)

1934 was a pivotal year for the United States. Americans were enduring the fifth year of the Great Depression and the rural population was in an extreme state of suffering that had begun prior to the stock market crash in October 1929. Urban citizens fared little better, yet those who had a nickel to spare spent it at the moves. Particularly popular throughout the decade were gangster films. The films of this genre criticized many aspects of society and portrayed the gangster as a victim of the system. Moviegoers were able to identify with film gangsters as they too were stressed by the task of financial survival.[1] Audiences were enthralled by the characters on screen that were living freely and without responsibility. Due to the great success of these films, primarily shot at Warner Brothers Studios, actors such as James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and newcomer Humphrey Bogart became movie stars. Read more at

Categories: Film History

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1 reply

  1. We think this article about gangster films and the effect of the Motion Picture Production Code is fascinating. We too are interested in the difference in content between pre-Code films and films during Mr. Breen’s supervision. Please look at our column. Keep up the good work.

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