Being an immigrant import, the gangster is hardly an all-American phenomenon—except as defined by movies. He evolved from the silent Hollywood programmer's black-suited jackanape and soon bloomed into an iconic hippogriff, sporting an executive's fashion instinct, a WW I vet's weary code of honor, a thug's amorality, a bankrupt gambler's desperate ardor for windfall, and an anarchist's loathing of the social code. This is where "cool" came from, but the myth of the gangster, one of cinema's more inventive dissociative-fugue states, also functioned as an expression of proletarian dissent. "The gangster," famously wrote critic Robert Warshow in 1954, "is the 'no' to the great American 'yes' which is stamped so big over our official culture and yet has so little to do with the way we really feel... More >>>