I’d welcome expert input as to whether or not NYC street gangs were as multicultural as they were in this low-budget, entertaining Cagney vehicle.
This seems like Hollywood liberal, The House I Live In wishful thinking to me, but I invite corrections.
Pre-dating a convention later seen (and made fun of) in WW2 films, the gang in the extremely Warner Brothers The Mayor of Hell consists of a black kid, a Jewish kid, a couple of Irish kids, an Italian, and lesser characters who aren’t as well fleshed out.
It’s possible that in disease ridden NYC slums of the day, “sickly” was an ethnicity of its own, and a key character has a persistent, TB-like cough.
When people say “This movie could never be made today,” they are usually wrong.
The difference between Blazing Saddles and any random Wayans Brothers comedy is negligible.
However, The Mayor of Hell isn’t supposed to be a comedy (although it includes welcome comic relief) so I doubt you could get away with many of the scenes now.
Amusingly, during the reform school’s elections, a WASP and an Irish kid are elected Mayor and Chief of Police. When Cagney calls for nominations for Treasurer — “the guy who’ll look after the money,” he explains — the camera cuts to the Jewish boy, who puffs himself up and is clearly assured the job is his. Sure enough, later we find him running the school store.
In the (real life) courtroom scene at the start of the movie, each parent walks up to the judge and makes his case (or not) for his son’s innocence, in stereotypical fashion.
Not surprisingly, the black father’s character is particularly cringe inducing, although he gets the last laugh at a lawyer’s expense — and hey, at least he’s there.
Although, particularly true to life, one by one the parents insist that their son is “a good boy” and has simply fallen in with the wrong crowd, i.e. all the other boys in the room.
Weak mothers are the common denominator, as per the pop psychology of the day.
and The Mayor of Hell is no exception, although in this film he’s not the one speaking it.
One exchange in The Mayor of Hell goes on at length; the only word I could make out was “gonif.” (See below.)
Raised in the Lower East Side, Cagney was naturally fluent in Yiddish. Legend has it that this came in handy when he was dealing with Jewish studio heads during negotiations…
After the latest round of corporate downsizing, is it more insulting to call your (former) boss a shlemiel, a shmegegge or a schmendrick? — jms
Sorry to have to tell you this, JMS, but if you’re the one who has been downsized after years of devoted service to the company, then you’re the shlemiel, the shmegegge, the shmendrik – the hapless patsy who staked his or her whole future on the idea of continued employment. The boss who did the downsizing could be described as a putz, a shmuck, a paskudnyak (roughly, S.O.B.), a mamzer (bastard), a ganef (a thief) voos hot dikh gekoylet oon a meser, who slaughtered you without a knife. These are all pretty insulting. The Yiddish for unemployment insurance is pushke.
Question: I know “putz” and “schmuck” both mean literally “penis.” But how does their common usage differ? It is worse to call someone a schmuck or a putz? — Judah Greenblatt
Think of putz as a shmuck rampant; it’s definitely worse. While both can mean fool or jerk, putz also has a sense closer to “s.o.b.”or the more pejorative meanings of George Carlin’s favorite twelve-letter word. While a shmuck can be a jerk, he can also be a poor fool. He can even be you. The downsized shemgegge in the post above could well describe himself as a shmuck: “Like a shmuck I didn’t even bill for my overtime.” You can have pity for a shmuck: “The poor shmuck got fired two days after buying a house.” A putz is always vicious and always someone else.