In the 1930’s and 40’s, Warner Brothers had the largest group of film tough guys in the movie business. Among these were James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, and George Raft. While none of these movies are considered classics, they are entertaining and would be a welcome edition to any film buffs library.
Warner Brothers has already released The Warner Gangsters Collection, but since the studio made numerous gangster films, they have culled together the Tough Guys Collection.
Ballots or Bullets from 1936, stars Edward G. Robinson as an undercover cop and Humphrey Bogart as a mobster. The film is a rather predictable but fast paced story about racketeering.
City for Conquest from 1940, starring James Cagney and Ann Sheridan, is the story of a boxer and the various sacrifices he makes. Cagney’s performance here makes the viewer care about him.
Each Dawn I Die from 1939, starring Cagney and George Raft, is a prison film that’s too over-the-top for today’s tastes. But again, Cagney makes the film viewable.
G-Men from 1935, also stars Cagney as a government agent.
San Quentin from 1937, stars Pat O’Brien as the warden of California’s infamous prison. Humphrey Bogart portrays one of the infamous inmates. This picture seems a bit fake and terribly outdated. San Quentin is the weakest film in The Tough Guys Collection.
My favorite film in the Warner Bros. Tough Guys Collection is A Slight Case of Murder from 1938, starring Edward G. Robinson in a kind of parody of his gangster roles. The film begins as prohibition ends in 1933. Robinson plays mobster Remy Marko.
During prohibition, Marko and his gang run one of the biggest distilleries in the country and make a fortune selling beer. When prohibition ends, he decides to go legit and continue selling his brew; only he doesn’t drink so he doesn’t know how bad it tastes, and none of his gang have the guts to tell him. After four years, Remy is facing bankruptcy because nobody is buying his beer.