City Boys: Cagney, Bogart, Garfield

Overview

Beginning with The Public Enemy, produced by Warner Bros. in 1931, James Cagney established a new cultural type on the American screen and in the world's imagination. That "type," later developed by Humphrey Bogart and John Garfield, was the urban tough guy - small, wiry, savvy, and street-smart. Often presented as a gangster, newspaper reporter, or private eye, the "city boy" seemed the quintessential product of urban America, although he was more a model for his audience than a mirror of social actuality. While...
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Overview

Beginning with The Public Enemy, produced by Warner Bros. in 1931, James Cagney established a new cultural type on the American screen and in the world's imagination. That "type," later developed by Humphrey Bogart and John Garfield, was the urban tough guy - small, wiry, savvy, and street-smart. Often presented as a gangster, newspaper reporter, or private eye, the "city boy" seemed the quintessential product of urban America, although he was more a model for his audience than a mirror of social actuality. While blending the stories of the professional and political lives of Cagney, Bogart, and Garfield into one fascinating narrative, Robert Sklar probes the cultural forces that produced this vivid cultural icon and examines its power over masculine self-definition. Cagney and Bogart, whose legends have grown over time, and Garfield, whose work has been unfortunately neglected, are portrayed here in relation not only to their films and their screen personas but also to their working environment. Sklar gives a real sense of the intensity with which each of them struggled to control his own work in the face of the power of Warner Bros., whose effort to produce socially conscious movies did not prevent the company from exploiting its stars. The book also describes the involvement of the three stars with political causes and their response to attacks mounted by powerful right-wing elements against "leftists" in the entertainment industry. Moving beyond conventional film criticism, which has largely ignored the importance of performance, City Boys reveals the inseparability of actors' professional lives, American societal struggles, and media representations.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is less an account of the lives of these three actors than it is a ``biography'' of their screen personas. In alternating segments, Sklar (cinema studies, New York Univ.) compares and contrasts the careers of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, and John Garfield. They were the archetypes of the ``city boy''; i.e., rebellious, individualistic, sometimes antisocial if not criminal, and rooted in modern big cities. All three were nurtured, sometimes mishandled, by Warner Brothers and at times felt they were being exploited. However, they probably could not have achieved the same level of fame at any other studio. Sklar effectively details the evolution of their personas against the background of the momentous social and political events of their era. Sklar's accessible style recommends this for most libraries.-- Roy Liebman, California State Univ. Lib., Los Angeles
From the Publisher
"Robert Sklar's portrait of these three Warner actors cum stars is more than just simple biography. It is a well-considered vehicle for looking at the studio system from its zenith in the '20s, '30s, and '40s to its nadir during the HUAC hearings of the late '40s and '50s."—Toni L. Kamins, Variety

"Sklar weaves a wondrous fabric through the lives and art of Cagney, Bogart and Garfield that energizes their performances, their failures and successes, and the failures and successes of Warner Brothers itself."—Jerome Charyn, The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691047959
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/1992
  • Pages: 332
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Pt. I City Boys Go National
1 A Society of Ragamuffins 3
2 Roughneck Sissy and Charming Boy 11
3 The Private Enemy 29
Pt. II City Boys as Hollywood Types
4 Baby Face 57
5 The Studio Labyrinth 76
6 Pushcarts and Patriotism 104
Pt. III City Boys in War and Cold War
7 Heroes without Uniforms 133
8 Ordinary Guys and Private Eyes 153
9 American Dopes 177
Pt. IV City Boys Grow Older
10 A Street Boy's Honor 203
11 He Didn't Stand Still 227
12 Top of the World 252
Acknowledgments 279
Abbreviations Used in Notes and Sources 281
Notes 283
Sources 291
Index 299
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