City Streets (1931) - Rotten Tomatoes

City Streets (1931)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

City Streets Photos

Movie Info

Dashiell Hammett penned the screenplay for this stylish crime melodrama that tells the story of a traveling carnival worker who gets in over his head when he falls in love with the daughter of a big city gangster.
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Paramount Pictures


Sylvia Sidney
as Nan Cooley
Gary Cooper
as The Kid
Paul Lukas
as Big Fellow Maskal
Guy Kibbee
as Pop Cooley
Stanley Fields
as Blackie
Terry Carroll
as Esther March
Robert E. Homans
as Inspector
Willard Robertson
as Detective
Hal Price
as Shooting Gallery Patron
Ethan Laidlaw
as Killer at Prison
George Regas
as Machine Gunner
Bob Kortman
as Servant
Leo Willis
as Henchman
Bert Hanlon
as Baldy
Matty Kemp
as Man Stabbed With Fork
Edward J. Le Saint
as Shooting Gallery Patron
Norman Foster
as Extra on Midway
Bill O'Brien
as Waiter
Kate Lawson
as Prison Matron
Nick Thompson
as 5th Henchman
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for City Streets

All Critics (5) | Top Critics (2)

This atmospheric gangster classic, from 1931, is based on a story by Dashiell Hammett; it offers a terse visual translation of his prose as well as of his cold-blooded view of Prohibition-era underworld wiles.

Full Review… | June 16, 2014
New Yorker
Top Critic

Gary Cooper, in a fine, gangly performance as a saintly bootlegger, is worth watching.

Full Review… | April 11, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Mamoulian's inentive crime-gangster film of the early sound era stars the young, handsome Gary Cooper in atypical role, before he became a movie star.

Full Review… | March 22, 2012

Quite the wry gangster sonata

Full Review… | May 4, 2011

A romance story cloaked in the garb of an outdated crime drama.

Full Review… | October 26, 2004
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for City Streets

This film is likely the first thing I've ever seen Gary Cooper in, and he's charismatic enough, but most of what I recall about the film is how casually the racketeer father of Cooper's love interest allows her to take the fall for him and do ACTUAL TIME in jail, which is just freaky to think a parent could be so callous. Worth a rental.

Bill Bryant
Bill Bryant

City Streets (1931) Gary Cooper as an urban gangster? Yep! It's hard to believe, but City Streets is a gangster picture with a very young Gary Cooper. If you get a chance to see this pre-code movie, catch it, because, it hasn't been released on DVD yet. The movie is based on a Dashiell Hammett story. Nan Cooley (played by beautiful Sylvia Sidney, in her first film) is the daughter of bootlegger under-boss Pop Cooley (Guy Kibbee), who works for Big Fellow Maskal (Paul Lukas). Nan has enjoyed the extravagant gangsta lifestyle, and has gotten accustomed to covering for Pop. Nan has fallen in love with a young carnival worker who works at a shooting gallery. The Kid (Cooper) used to be a circus cowboy, and is content with his small-change (but honest) life, where Nan wants him to work for her Dad and afford the big cars, nice clothes, etc. She knows that The Kid is a crack shot and would be good at it. Then one night Nan gets caught with the murder weapon that her Dad used and has to go to prison. Pop tells the Kid that he needs his help to afford to get Nan out of prison early. All the time, a reforming Nan is thankful that she didn't talk The Kid into this life of crime. Director Rouben Mamoulian, did an excellent job of filming this with artful camera angles, close-ups, and even an inner (voice-over) monologue that was revolutionary for its time. While Nan ponders her life of crime and the fact that The Kid is now in "the Beer Business" you're thinking and worrying along with her. This is an excellent little movie, and I highly recommend it.

Rick Rudge
Rick Rudge

When you think of 30's gangster films and the actors who starred in them...Gary Cooper would probably be the last actor you would think of. With his hayseed screen persona and slow delivery, Coop just doesn't lend himself to one's idea of the tough gangster. Cooper may have been too handsome for his own good because I just do not see the evilness that one can perceive, say behind James Cagney's snarling mug in THE PUBLIC ENEMY or Edward G. Robinson's scowl in LITTLE CAESAR. Cooper too fails miserably at the punch - here giving an awkward looking roundhouse swing (akin to a baseball pitch - with the requisite leg-lift, for goodness sakes) that you would never catch former boxer Cagney doing. But all kidding aside, the young Gary Cooper is adequate in CITY STREETS, a story penned by Dashiell Hammett - which works more as a kind of "morality tale". I don't think Cooper's character was meant to be a gangster anyway. Cooper here plays "The Kid" - the cash-strapped boyfriend to Nan (Sylvia Sidney). Nan was raised by her step-father, "Pop" Cooley (Guy Kibbee), a seemingly jovial underling to succesful beer racketeer "Big Fellow" Mascal (Paul Lukas). Nan is conditioned to the ways of a racketeer by her step-dad, who would go so far as to reward her for keeping secrets - something which will come in handy when "Pop" later becomes prime suspect in a shooting. "The Kid" is employed at the local carnival shooting gallery, but is himself very proficient with the pistols - and pleased to show off his marksmanship to potential customers - a talent not lost on Nan. She tries to persuade "The Kid" to quit the carnival and join up with her "Pop"... but "The Kid" wants no part of the dark side. He is proud of making an honest living: Nan: "We can't even afford to get married." The Kid: "If you love me, you'd marry me anyway." Nan, disappointed: "Yeah...and live in a tent." The Kid: "Why not?!?" Nan: "I don't like tents..." The Kid: "It isn't the tents. It's me..." * MILD SPOILERS TO FOLLOW * The above romantic scene was nicely shot at a moonlit beach by cinematographer Lee Garmes who takes full advantage of the use of light and shadows in this film...but, I think this is merely a warm-up for Garmes, who would use the same techniques to much better results in SCARFACE (1932). Director Rouben Mamoulian eschews the showing of graphic violence here - opting instead for off-camera killings...something that may disappoint some viewers - especially the climactic scenes, which comes off as possibly too non-confrontational for modern audience (referred to as hokey, or out-dated by some reviewers I've read). But I think it's very well in keeping with Dashiell Hammett's story of a couple trying to break free of the circle of violence created by the racketeers in this story. I too laughed at first, but "old fashioned" as it may seem - "The Kid" being able to disarm his adversaries without the use of violence is actually refreshing, now that I think about it...and plays very well with the morality of the story...and shows us that the ends doesn't necessarily have to justify the use of the "means" (if ya get what I mean...heh heh) and thus Mamoulian shows us the soaring birds to symbolize true freedom. Hmmmm...there are actually other "bird" references sprinkled throughout this film but I'll let you discover them for yourself. Of special note and interest to trivia buffs is the use of voice-over narration in this film. Filmmakers were still experimenting with sound at the time and Rouben Mamoulian and actress Sylvia Sidney would be credited with the first use of this story-telling technique here... 8

bernard anselmo
bernard anselmo

City Streets Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss City Streets on our Movie forum!

News & Features