In order to explain why Warner Brothers Made a series of gangster films in the thirties it is important to understand the cinematic and social situation at that time, as these films were heavily influenced by political, financial and social affairs. I shall outline all the major contributing factors that led to Warner Bros producing this cycle of films. I will then discuss how they were received both publicly and critically, and what effect this had on the movement itself.
The late 1800's and early 1900's was a very important period of growth in the United States, economically, industrially and technologically. This period was known as the 'progressive era', partly because of the technological advances and also because of the rapid growth in population. During the first fifteen years of the twentieth century, thirteen million immigrants arrived in the US, leading to one third of the population being foreign or of direct foreign descendance (www.usonline.com/gov/history). .
This spell of growth and development was reflected by the film industry. Thomas Edison's kinetograph, unveiled in 1891, was the first contraption capable of exhibiting a moving image. By the turn of the century purpose built exhibition outlets had emerged and films were being produced in several countries. By 1910 some films had grown to over thirty minutes in length, leading to film-makers producing films with more complicated narratives.
In the US by the mid-twenties a hand full of film production studios had emerged, each studio competing for the ever-increasing viewing market. Often smaller film production companies merged to create larger, more financially dominant studios. Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) were created through this premiss and with commercial successes such as The Sheik (1921, George Melford, Paramount) and The Big Parade (1925, King Vidor, MGM) they continued to expand financially.