City Streets (1931)

City Streets is a 1931 American Pre-Code film noir directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Gary Cooper, Sylvia Sidney and Paul Lukas.

Based on a story by Dashiell Hammett, this Pre-Code crime film is about a racketeer’s daughter who is in love with a shooting gallery showman. Despite her prodding, the showman known as The Kid has no ambitions about joining the rackets and making enough money to support her in the lifestyle she’s accustomed to. Her father implicates her in a murder and she’s sent to prison, after which her father convinces The Kid to join the gang to free his daughter.

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Sylvia Sidney and Paul Lukas in a scene from the film.

Nan Cooley (Sylvia Sidney), the daughter of racketeer Pop Cooley (Guy Kibbee), is in love with The Kid (Gary Cooper), a shooting gallery showman. Cooley tries to urge him to join the gang, in order to earn enough money to support her in the lifestyle she is accustomed to, but The Kid refuses. Soon her father kills bootlegging chief Blackie (Stanley Fields), at the urging of Big Fella Maskal (Paul Lukas), because Blackie was against Maskal’s involvement with Blackie’s gun moll Aggie (Wynne Gibson).

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Early gangster flick a pleasant surprise

2 April 2007 | by nnnn45089191 (Norway) – See all my reviews

Clearly patterned after the first gangster movies that Warner produced the same year,Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931),this gangster movie is one of the better efforts I’ve seen. Although not quite in the same league as the previous mentioned classics, it has a powerful performance by young Sylvia Sidney.She’s magnificent and delivers her lines more natural than perhaps anyone did at the time.Gary Cooper is better than usual at this stage in his career and shows signs of what would follow the next few years when he rose to the top. The movie has some fascinating villains in Paul Lukas (never seen him this detestable) and Guy Kibbee (what a shock to see him act the hoodlum).The direction of Rouben Mamoulian is very inventive,probably the first voice-over to show a persons thoughts appear in this movie. If you get the chance to see this little gangster flick, don’t let the chance go by.

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Not a Minute Wasted!

10/10
Author: JohnHowardReid
17 July 2008

I thought I’d witnessed every wrinkle the crime/gangster flick had to offer, but the Garrett-Marcin-Hammett combination pull off some genuine thrills and surprises here, thanks to the inventively forceful direction by Mamoulian, the atmospheric photography by Lee Garmes, plus remarkably sharp film editing and flawless special effects. Brilliant acting helps too. Coop gives one of his most convincing performances as the reticent hayseed-turned-fearless bootlegger (the sort of character progression he was to repeat in other roles such as Sergeant York). Miss Sidney (pictured center) in her first major role is also an eye-opener. The principals receive great support from Paul Lukas, Wynne Gibson and Stanley Fields as the heavies, and even from Robert Homans’ hard-as-nails detective. The movie has obviously been realized on an extensive budget which is brilliantly deployed in its realistic, crowd-filled sets.

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A MUST for grit and noir fans!!!!!!!!!

8/10
Author: Gloede_The_Saint from Norway
1 September 2009

If it had been made 2 years later it would have been BANNED! The number one MUST SEE recommendation of the day!. The best Rouben Mamoulian film I have seen this far (have but have not yet seen J+H).

There’s no wonder why this film got less than 200 votes. A bigger greyzone that could not care less about what’s proper would not be seen again until the 60’s. As morally ambiguous and dark as 70’s grit but with a certain charm as well. Of course this had to lay low in the later 30’s and sadly it does not appear to have been re-discovered.

Seriously. This got it all. Great actors: Gary Cooper, Sylvia Sidney and the this time not so lovable Guy Kibbee. And a mighty good director. This far I haven’t been RM’s biggest fans but I have liked his films a lot and with this he steps into a new league. One of the best 30’s films I have ever seen! This is something I never thought even existed! 9.5/10
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Stranded In The City, He Takes Up a Life of Crime

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
21 September 2010

I was lucky indeed to come up with a copy of this classic that is sadly not available. This was Rouben Mamoulian’s first screen hit after the critical misfire of his first film Applause.

This was Gary Cooper’s one and only film in the gangster genre though he did run into a few gangsters in Ball Of Fire. Of course his western persona is not one you would think would fit into the gangster film, but his character of a rodeo cowboy who was stranded in the big city and was now making a living at a shooting gallery, presumably in Coney Island rings true enough.

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Coop’s skill as a marksman is noticed by his girlfriend Sylvia Sydney who tries to interest him in going into the beer racket. But her own stepfather Guy Kibbee gets her involved in the murder of Stanley Fields and she takes a two year fall as an accomplice. In the meantime while Sylvia ponders the error of her ways in the joint, Cooper who was reluctant when she was out has now joined with Kibbee and is now a confidante of the big boss Paul Lukas.

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Lukas is a suave and menacing gangster in one of his earliest sound roles. Guy Kibbee who usually played buffoons in later films at Warner Brothers and MGM will be quite the revelation as a really slimy character. Later on Kibbee was so typecast he could never have been given a part like this which he performs so well.

Mamoulian gets top flight performances from his whole cast. Cooper and Sydney are great in the leads. Mamoulian had great help from Dashiell Hammett who wrote his only original screenplay for City Streets. And special phrase must also go to Wynne Gibson who plays Lukas’s moll and when she’s scorned, she takes a terrible vengeance.

Paramount was not a studio known for gangster films, later on they did get their own gangster star in George Raft and Gary Cooper was not known for this genre. But in this case Paramount gave him one of his best early sound features. Do not miss this and demand that TCM broadcast it.

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Love, Lust and Beer lead to issues within a racketeering gang

8/10
Author: Fred S. (fredschroeder-63011) from Troy, NY
21 September 2016

The movie is an absolutely wonderful piece. It was a great show of the truth behind the time period, including the degradation of women at the time. The emotion of the characters wasn’t shown solely through the skills of the actors, but also the orchestrated soundtrack playing throughout. The sound effects of everything going on in the movie would have been relatively new technology at the time of filming, increasing the overall quality of the production. Lighting and camera angles also made many great shots possible, including the one of convoy barreling down the street(driving over the camera). Another is the shot in the prison where she could watch her cell mate get to the car to go home, that was an amazing shot that emphasized distance very well. All around the movie was excellent, especially knowing that many of the issues faced by the characters can be easily compared and likened to current gang and crime families.

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Where’s the love?

8/10
Author: John Seal from Oakland CA
20 February 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Gary Cooper stars as a carny turned wise guy in this forgotten, unavailable on home video should-be-classic directed by the great Rouben Mamoulian. Based on a story by Dashiell Hammett, the film features Coop as The Kid, operator of a sideshow shooting gallery. Gal pal Nan (Sylvia Sidney) urges him to join the mob so he can earn some easy money, but The Kid isn’t interested — even though Nan’s father (Guy Kibbee, playing against type brilliantly) is a big-time hood who could make life easy for him. When Nan is arrested whilst trying to dispose of a murder weapon, however, The Kid has second thoughts: she’ll need a lot of money to pay for an expensive lawyer. What, Dad won’t pony up for his own child? The Kid takes the bait, only to find out that Nan liked him better when he was straight. City Streets is visually stunning from start to finish thanks to cinematographer Lee Garmes, and compares favorably to Josef von Sternberg’s silent classic Underworld (1927). Mamoulian’s next film was the since unsurpassed Fredric March version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but this film is even better.

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Stanley Fields

Good Gary Cooper film

8/10
Author: Emma Faulkner from United States
12 May 2016

I enjoyed this mob movie because it seemed a little different than other mob movies. In this movie the woman gets accused of murder and gets mad at the kid for not being racketeer like her step dad to make some money whos involved with the mob because he was just working in the circus but was really good with a gun. The woman gets accused of murder and gets put in prison even though she thought and was told that the mob would get her out. While she is in prison The kid comes to visit her and she sees him in this nice fancy coat he tells her he’s in the mob now telling her how much he loves it and thinking she would pleased. But she is actually very unhappy about it because she knows something bad could happen to him, and the mob does try to get him. I wanted to see this movie because I saw that it had Gary Cooper in it, I have not seen any of his movies before but I have heard about it him and how great his movies were. And it was pretty good but not what I expected from a Gary Cooper film.

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