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Jimmy the Gent

Jimmy the Gent (1934) is a comedy-crime movie directed by Michael Curtiz, starring James Cagney and Bette Davis. It's considered an American Pre-Code film, which means it precedes the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines, also known as the "Hays Code," and so the sexual innuendos and suggestions of violence are more blatant that what moviegoers would experience in the years ahead (the code had been around for a couple years but its enforcement would come just around the time Jimmy the Gent was in theaters).

The title is also the nickname of real-life gangster Jimmy Burke, who Robert De Niro plays in Goodfellas (1990). On a side note, Burke was also called "The Irishman," but "The Irishman" De Niro plays in Scorsese's 2019 film The Irishman is a different real-life baddie, it's Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran—to clear that up, for me anyway.

Jimmy the Gent is only 67 minutes long, and it accomplishes a lot of laughs and resolves a pretty convoluted narrative in that time. Even one of the characters admits he doesn't know what's going on, and Cagney's character assures him it doesn't really matter, which made me feel better. Cagney plays the gangster role brilliantly, I thought, despite his small stature (height: 165 cm), and he can easily be included in the best-gangster-actor club with De Niro and Pacino. The first few minutes are interesting too because we're given a series of intense stock shots of disasters involving boats, two trains, an airplane, and race horses (something like this I highly doubt would start off a modern-day comedy). Also, the characters and the actors playing them are introduced posing individually, which I can't recall seeing in other films. All in all, Jimmy the Gent is entertaining with some great slang and tough-guy accents and seemingly endless one-liners.


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