City Streets (1931) Review

Director: Rouben Mamoulian

Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Romance

Runtime: 83 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The great Gary Cooper is probably best known for his roles in western and war movies, but did you know that he once played a big-city gangster? Yes, that’s right, and the film was City Streets from 1931. A man simply known as “The Kid” (Gary Cooper), who runs a shooting gallery at the circus, is recruited by the mob after his girlfriend, Nan Cooley (Sylvia Sidney), is sent to prison for assisting in a murder.

The most striking aspect of City Streets is its ahead-of-its-time cinematography. It probably won’t wow most modern viewers, but, if you’re accustomed to the often creaky production values of early 1930s cinema, it’s nice to see. Gary Cooper is a delight here, as expected. He looks like a pro slinging around those shooting gallery pistols.

Even though it was named one of the ten best films of 1931 by the National Board of Review, I don’t think that this is one of the stronger mobster movies out there. The Public Enemy (1931), starring grapefruit-swinging James Cagney, was released the same year, and, even though it didn’t make the National Board of Review’s list, it is certainly the more entertaining picture. The problem with City Streets is its anti-climactic ending, which I won’t spoil the details of here.

Sent to theaters during the Pre-Code era of Hollywood (before the enforcement of the Production Code), this flick doesn’t really have very many “goodies” associated with the time period for modern audiences. Overall, it’s a passable crime-drama, but why settle for “passable?” The only real draw for it nowadays is seeing Cooper play a member of organized crime.

My rating is 6 outta 10.

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