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Celluloid Gangsters

Hollywood has enjoyed a long love affair with the Mob, and many actors, from Edward G. Robinson to Al Pacino, have cemented their reputations by portraying gangsters. Here are some of our favorites.
Shandana A. Durrani
From the Print Edition:
Francis Ford Coppola, Sept/Oct 03

James Cagney as William "Rocky" Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
Cagney is known for playing tough guys with an edge of pathos. In Angels, Cagney portrays gangster Rocky Sullivan. After getting out of jail, Rocky returns to his boyhood home. There he reunites with his former partner in crime, now a priest bent on reforming the neighborhood kids—who, unfortunately, admire the gangster.

 

Mickey Rooney as Lester "George Nelson" Gillis in Baby Face Nelson (1957)
Playing against type, Rooney shines as the cherubic but maniacal machine gun-wielding killer with a serious Napoleon complex. As part of John Dillinger's infamous band of outlaws, Nelson shows no remorse in killing anyone who gets in his way. Based on the true story of the smooth-faced killer who was public enemy number one in the 1930s.

 

Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface (1983)
Pacino is Cuban refugee Montana, who reinterprets the American Dream by becoming a Miami drug lord, not through hard work, but through murder and mayhem. As his power rises, so does his drug addiction, paranoia and rage, which all lead to an inevitable bloody conclusion. A remake of the 1932 film.

 

Edward G. Robinson as Vincent Canelli in Black Tuesday (1954)
In this gem, Robinson plays an about-to-be-executed gangster who escapes prison with a fellow death-row inmate played by Peter Graves. The cops give chase as the duo tries to find money stashed by Graves before his encarceration. Robinson's wicked and utterly ruthless Canelli is a forerunner to the ultraviolent and amoral Mob characters of today's films.

 

Warren Beatty as Bugsy Siegel in Bugsy (1991)
Beatty portrays the notorious gangster in this film, which was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. The movie follows Siegel's attempts in the 1930s and '40s to create a gambling oasis in the Nevada desert. Today that oasis is Las Vegas. Beatty's future wife, Annette Bening, played mobster moll Virginia Hill in the

 


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