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Americans may proclaim their devotion to law and order but crime has been an irresistible lure at the box office for virtually the entire history of motion pictures Criminal behavior has been so pervasive in movies that readers are referred to the following genre articles for a fuller understanding of crime in film thriller action suspense mystery detective prison and film noir This study of crime as a genre focuses on the gangster film with a look at two important sub-genres which emerged in the 1950s the caper or heist film and the juvenile-delinquent film As with so much else in American cinema the first landmarks of the crime genre come from the great writerdirector DW Griffith His short The Musketeers Of Pig Alley 1912 examined urban violence and lawlessness the poverty of slum life and police corruption In the modern story of his epic masterpiece Intolerance 1916 -- released independently in 1919 as The Mother And The Law -- Griffith again showed how the citys poor are drawn into crime Raoul Walsh a Griffith protg who would later direct many outstanding crime films also examined the gangsters slum origins in The Regeneration 1915 But apart from action-filled serials and melodramatic exposs of white slavery and opium dens silent films steered clear of the mobsters who were flourishing in 20s America thanks to Prohibition The gangster film as weve come to know it -- featuring a violent rapacious anti-hero whose challenge to society ends in death -- emerged at the end of the silent era with director Josef Von Sternbergs Underworld 1927 Written by Ben Hecht and starring George Bancroft and Clive Brook the film codified genre staples such as the gangsters moll and the climactic shoot-out with police Other silent gangster films include The City Gone Wild 1927 directed by James Cruze Von Sternbergs The Dragnet 1928 with William Powell Dressed To Kill 1928 Forbidden Faces 1928 with Brook and Powell and Romance Of
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