This was a student publication created in 2003 by Chuck Holmgren for the American Studies MA program at UVA.
Prohibition and the Hays Code each served as an attempt by morally driven religious groups to censor the leisure activities of the ethnic, urban, working class. In bucking the established, constitutionally enacted moral law of prohibition, the gangster effectively stymied the attempt of the nativists to regulate the cultural habits of America's immigrants and revitalize the tradition of the self-made man. The Crash and resultant Great Depression forced the nativists to realize the limitations of their social control on the United States. The Catholic Church took up the role of moral guardians and worked from within the system, instead of through the old nativist method of political legislation, to regulate the glorification of violence on film. However, the talking gangster film, in highlighting both the Horatio Alger-like rise to prominence of the gangster and promoting his refusal to conform to the cultural standards of established American society, became a cultural hero for the disenfranchised masses of newcomers to America. Yet the gangster movie, in perpetually shifting to the social whims of "authentic" American cultural arbiters, survived the onslaught of censorship in the thirties to become one of the most popular genres of film today.
|Public Enemy Little Caesar Scarface||
Prohibition - The Self-Made Man - The Business of Crime
The Ethnic, Urban, Working Class - Sound and the Gangster
Censorship and the Hays Code - Conclusion