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King of the Roaring Twenties

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King of the Roaring Twenties (1961) starring David Janssen, Mickey Rooney, Dianne Foster
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King of the Roaring ’20s: The Story of Arnold Rothstein (1961) starring David Janssen, Mickey Rooney, Dianne Foster

King of the Roaring Twenties. Moving from one scam to another Arnold Rothstein quickly becomes rich, and settles into the life of owning big-town gambling joints. Along the way he falls in loves and marries, makes a life-long enemy of a cop on the take, and gradually becomes hardened even to his closest friends.


King of the Roaring Twenties is a well-done, well-acted film. It deals with the rise and fall of Arnold Rothstein. He’s a cold man, that rarely shows emotion. A brilliant, calculating man as well. Kudos to David Janssen for his excellent portrayal. Rothstein is a man for whom money isn’t a means to an end. Money is the end. Rothstein is obsessed with accumulating more and more of it, regardless of the cost.

Kudos also to Mickey Rooney for his portrayal of Rothstein’s childhood friend and former partner. He’s the only actual friend that Rothstein had. Even so, when he comes to Rothstein for money to leave town, Rothstein refuses. He begs … and Rothstein still refuses. For two reasons. First, he spoke to the press about another underworld figure — against Rothstein’s advice. And second, Rothstein uses his old friend’s life — and death — in a live chess game, to take out that underworld figure. A hated rival.

Dianne Foster does a wonderful job as Rothstein’s wife. She refuses his advances … at first. She falls in love with him, but unsure of how the stoic man feels about her. As she says in the film, she gambled … and lost. She becomes a very unhappy woman.

Cast of characters

  • David Janssen (Cult of the Cobra, Marooned) as Arnold Rothstein. The cold, brilliant man who builds a gambling empire.
  • Dianne Foster as Carolyn Green Rothstein. The young actress, who against her better judgement, marries Arnold Rothstein. But he invests no time or effort into their marriage. Or her.
  • Diana Dors (From Beyond the Grave) as Madge. Carolyn’s world-wise friend, who warns her against marrying Rothstein.
  • Jack Carson (The Strawberry Blond) as Timothy W. ‘Big Tim’ O’Brien. The crime boss who initially refuses Rothstein & Burke. But keeps an eye on the eager young man, and eventually brings him into his criminal enterprises. An excellent performance by Jack Carson. He comes across as truly intimidating … and dangerous.
  • Dan O’Herlihy (The Last Starfighter) – Detective Phil Butler. A corrupt police officer, who rises in the criminal ranks to become a thorn in Rothstein’s side. And who murders Burke.
  • Keenan Wynn (Neptune’s Daughter) as Tom Fowler. A lawyer, whom Rothstein uses to make sure that Butler is found out, convicted, and executed for his crimes.
  • William Demarest (The Jolson Story) as Henry Hecht. One of Rothstein’s right-hand men. But Rothstein doesn’t trust him. Of course, he doesn’t trust anybody.
  • Mickey Rooney (Requiem for a Heavyweight) as Johnny Burke. Rothstein’s close friend and partner since childhood. But that’s not enough for Arnold to save his life.

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