How far do representations of UK/ Hollywood gangsters present a glamorous and attractive lifestyle? The Liotta statement clearly outlines how organised crime has been represented in the American film industry in the last ten years. The statement followed a close narration of Hill’s life and at its peak, he had extreme power of his community that represented the power of the president as every institution from the post office to taxi firms were under his “family’s” control. This statement is key to answering the question as to whether British and American institutions represent crime in a glamorous light and whether it differs between them.
There is a clear argument to state that the American organised crime rings are portrayed in a positive manner as opposed to that of the British ones, and several examples can support this theory. This study aims to decipher between the common representations of organised crime of the American and British film institutions and assess several different examples in terms of this. The “gangster” genre was spawned from the earlier “Film Noir” genre that depicted the underbelly of society, crime and espionage and gradually developed as the mafia became more prolific and influential.
The mafia has various connotations throughout society from ruthless, violent criminal to the successful entrepreneur. It’s the accompaniment of this ‘myth’ that the mafia creates and the excessive violence that the vast audiences flock to see films like Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs and Swordfish. Although a lot of films throughout the 1990s did not allow their characters to evade the law or other severe losses, they still presented the lifestyle itself positively. The British institutions tend to present the organised crime scene in a less glamorous light than that of the American ones.
Council estates, “greasy spoon” cafes and run-down warehouses contribute to the unprofitable lifestyle of the British organised criminal and almost completely juxtapose the representations in the American films. The Long Good Friday, Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels and, more recently Snatch are all good examples of how British institutions represent the gangster scene. Glamour in Hollywood has always been controlled since 1920s. The early 20s saw an increase in salacious content in Hollywood film and it was feared that the mass audience would be swayed away from such content through censorship.
With the increase of Hollywood scandal, censorship was essential to regulate the industry, so the Motion Picture Producers Association of America (MPPAA) was established in 1922. They guaranteed to the public that the industry could be controlled through the document entitled “Don’ts and Be Carefuls. ” In 1925 through research of common omissions in all American states. The “Don’ts” contained eleven items that could not be shown in Hollywood cinema such as white slavery, sexual perversion and ridicule of the clergy.
The “Be Carefuls” outlined the subjects that required extreme caution when being represented including international relations, murder, arson and excessive and lustful kissing. In theory, this system could be successful, but in practice the Association’s chairman Will Hays regarded an enforcing body as “repugnant” so cried for voluntary cooperation. Religion had a huge influence on the development of Hollywood censorship. Martin Quigley, a catholic and writer of the Motion Picture Herald and Daniel A.
Lord, a Jesuit priest developed Hays’ ideas and produced the Motion Picture Code in 1930 which was supported by Hays who urged members of the MPPAA to adopt it. This time it was enforced by the Studio Relations Committee that worked directly with producers from writing scenes to final editing. Between 1932-33 the post Wall-Street (1929) depression was at its worst. Films’ content was becoming more and more explicit, however and the question was begged: Was the Production Code a reflection of the public’s demands?
The Catholic Church was most outraged and formed the Legion of Democracy in 1934 in an attempt to boycott offensive pictures until the code was adequately enforced. The LOD’s membership peaked at eleven million, which led to economic pressure due to loss of box office numbers caused by the boycotts. It was crippling the industry so they had to act. On 1st July 1934 Will Hays produced the new Production Code and the Production Code Administration to enforce it. Subsequently all pictures had o meet the code and would achieve Hays’ seal of approval. Without it, studios would receive a twenty-five thousand dollar fine.
This resulted in the church easing off their protests and allowed Hollywood a second chance to self-censorship. Tony Balio believes that “The Code was a moralistic document, yet defeated its own purpose by making it impossible for pictures to treat sex naturally and honestly. ” This was also relevant to the crime aspects as Hollywood did not have the freedom to represent gangsters in a realistic for. I. e. they were not allowed to evade the law as crime was not allowed to “pay” according to the code. This did not stop glamour being a feature of the gangster’s lifestyle, for example Scarface (1936)
There is only really one perfect example of how crime can be represented glamorously in the contemporary American film industry. Swordfish (2001) is a film where the narrative centres on a group of terrorists led by Gabriel Shear (John Travolta). Shear, an extremely wealth criminal, enlists the help of convicted hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) to hack into a bank’s computer to extract nine billion dollars. Stanley is however forbidden to even touch a computer, by law, but is allured by the promise of enough money to legally gain custody of his daughter and get his life back on track. Meanwhile, Agent A.
D. Roberts (Don Cheadle) attempts to discover why Stanley Jobson has returned to Los Angeles. The ending is cryptic and relates directly to a quote from Travolta at the start. “How did Harry Houdini make an elephant disappear in front of a live theatre audience? Misdirection. ” It also explains why throughout the films Travolta speaks as though he is wearing false teeth: he is. His real teeth were fitted to a dummy that was placed in the exploding helicopter while he escaped, leaving the dental records to prove his death. Glamour is a frequent theme throughout this movie’s portrayal of computer crime.