• City Streets is a welcomed entry into the early 1930s prohibition gangster genre.
  • It is not to be confused with 1931’s City Lights from Chaplin of course
  • based on an original story by Dashiell Hammett

6-minutes into the film Rouben Mamoulian starts with a striking close-up of Sylvia Sidney (who makes the most of her chance to replace Clara Bow here in the lead after Bow’s breakdown) using a gun (which turns out to be a squirt gun at a game), and brilliantly pulls back the camera. This shot choice would be repeated often in the film as a nice bit of stylistic form.

  • Gary Cooper plays The Kid. He is co-lead with Sidney. Cooper is 30 years old and strikingly handsome here (this is the year after he made a slave out of Marlene Dietrich in Morocco). He is still about ten years from his massive 1941 (Ball of Fire, Meet John Doe, and most notably from a star-making standpoint, Sergeant York) here when becomes one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

early in the the film Cooper and Sidney are captured in a great cinematic photograph as the sun sets on the water

  • Cooper and Sidney are supported by a strong cast. Paul Lukas casts a big shadow, Wynne Gibson plays Agnes with great desperation, and Stanley Fields certainly looks and sounds like a gangster as the Blackie character.
  • Mamoulian does not just point and shoot. He is not an all-time great auteur but he is relentlessly inventive. In 1935, he is at the helm for the groundbreaking Becky Sharp, he is behind the makeup achievement and technically deft Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (also 1931). He is only one year away from 1932’s Love Me Tonight which is nothing less than a landmark for sound film.

In an inspired section of the film, Mamoulian intercuts these porcelain cats to help reveal (and foreshadow) the duplicitous Agnes (Wynne Gibson’s character).

At the 24-minute mark Mamoulian shoots Guy Kibbee (playing Pop Cooley) as a silhouette off the wall.

  • There is even more creativity with the use of lighting at the police station as they question Sidney.
  • It is not quite Hitchcock’s Young and Innocent in 1937, but there is a nice floating crane shot at the club (used as a sort of establishing shot) at the 52-minute mark
  • Recommend/ Highly Recommend border–leaning HR