This is a partially true gangster melodrama from the pen of Mark Hellinger. As a seasoned Broadway columnist Hellinger well remembered the dizzy times that gave birth to such illegal hot spots as the Hotsy-Totsy, Dizzy, Black Bottom, etc. Above all, he had intimate knowledge of the El Fay, the Del Fey and the Guinan clubs, and the Texas Guinan-Larry Fay operation thereof. He has thinly disguised them as the central figures of this yarn, in a good many instances spilling some inside facts, but the blow-off (for the sake of better picture entertainment) is certainly fictionized.
Because of James Cagney and the story’s circumstances, The Roaring Twenties is reminiscent of Public Enemy. Story and dialog are good. Raoul Walsh turns in a fine directorial job; the performances are uniformly excellent.